Aware - Science Behind Mindfulness Meditation
Aware is a mobile application that guides you through the day with mindfulness meditation, helping you achieve balance and clarity for a healthier and happier YOU. Spend just 10 to 20 minutes a day with our guided sessions to calm your mind, achieve more and become better.
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science-behind

Mindfulness can briefly be described as a purposeful attention towards events and emotions occurring in the present in a non judgmental manner. The growing body of research in mindfulness suggests that its benefits span across many domains, such as improving focus and creativity, relieving clinical depression and anxiety, and significantly reducing stress among others.

CREATE A MIND PALACE

Creativity is seen as an asset no matter what field you are working in. Anything from solving a mathematical equation to creating artwork, creativity is the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’. The rising body of research shows that regular practice of mindfulness helps to boost creativity and think in new ways to solve problems.

How does mindfulness help?

In 2011, a group of scientists from the Zhejiang Normal University, China investigated the effect of mindfulness on creativity. In this study, two groups were given problems to solve in a test; followed by one group that received 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation before the test. The group that took up mindfulness meditation was able to solve significantly more problems than the previous groups, which points to mindfulness helping in gaining insight in problem solving. (1)

Moreover, in 2012, a study showed that mindfulness practice improved the ability to look at novel and adaptive ways of responding to problems, both in and out of the clinical setting. This showed that mindfulness promotes ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, or more commonly known as divergent thinking (2). The same results were achieved in another study done in 2012 at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where divergent thinking correlated with mindfulness meditation (3).

No matter what you do or who you are, creativity always helps you achieve an edge, and the best step to take would be to sign up for our mindfulness foundation course and see the benefits yourself!

References

1. Meditation promotes insightful problem-solving by keeping people in a mindful and alert conscious state.
Sci China Life Sci 2011 Oct 29;54(10):961-5. Epub 2011 Oct 29.
Jun Ren, Zhihui Huang, Jing Luo, Gaoxia Wei, Xiaoping Ying, Zhiguang Ding, Yibin Wu, Fei Luo

2. “Mind the trap”: mindfulness practice reduces cognitive rigidity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22615758

3. Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3328799

CAN’T FOCUS?

Are you having trouble concentrating and finishing tasks? Are you constantly distracted? Your ability to succeed and to focus may go hand in hand, and for any new learning to be retained, focus is extremely important.

A MIT neuro-scientist Earl Miller says that our brains are not wired to multitask well. When people think they’re multitasking, they actually just switch from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.

Improving focus not only helps us with the task at hand but its effects ripple out to improve our ability to control our distractions, emotions and impulses and help to achieve long term goals.

Success and Focus

A study done by Duckworth and Seligman in 2005 (1) showed that childrens’ ability to focus is a better predictor of academic success than IQ. Moreover, children who were able to focus generally showed more success in quality of life in the future: including more satisfied relationships, lower criminal records and drug use and significantly lower BMI as adults (2).

How does mindfulness help?

In 2012, researchers led by a team from the University of Washington examined the effects of meditation training on multitasking in a real-world settings and split a group of HR professionals into three groups: the first group was assigned to an eight-week mindfulness meditation class, the second group only read about mindfulness;

The only group to show improvement from their initial performance was the one assigned mindfulness training. They showed significant decrease in negative emotions at the terminal of the assignment, and also their ability to concentrate improved significantly. They could remain on task longer and they switched between tasks less frequently (3).

Working under pressure

Researchers have discovered that those who practice mindfulness regularly perform better than non-meditators on tasks that have time constraints. So, working under pressure could be a lot simpler when mindfulness techniques can be used (4).

Pressure also causes stress, which reduces the ability to think optimally. A study explored how mindfulness training would impact U.S soldiers and results showed that the mindfulness trained soldiers performed better than the untrained soldiers in their working memory, which means that they were able to retain and manipulate their thoughts better even under stress (5).

Focusing better can lead you to success, and through regularly practicing simple mindfulness meditation, you can be one step closer to success. Take our foundation course to get started!

References

1. Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents 
https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/PsychologicalScienceDec2005.pdf

2. A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety 
http://www.pnas.org/content/108/7/2693.full

3. The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information
https://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/pubs/gi-12.02.pdf

4. Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training
http://jtoomim.org/brain-training/Zeidan2010_Mindfulness_Meditation.pdf

5. Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience 
http://www.amishi.com/lab/wp-content/uploads/jha_stanley_etal_emotion_2010.pdf

ANXIOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE?

Do you constantly find yourself worrying too much?

Worry is a normal phenomenon but when it takes over your entire train of thought, it becomes disruptive. Constant worry, sometimes even when you don’t know why, can be termed as anxiety. With rapid urbanization has come increasing anxiety in the population, and research recently suggests that 1 in every 6 young people suffers from anxiety (1).

Handling anxiety with mindfulness meditation has shown extremely positive results, and has become a preferred treatment over prescription drugs for many people.

Why worry?

Our brain was designed to check the environment for threats and predators more than looking for something positive, say flowers or food. This bias towards negative threatening information was handy when we were surviving in the wild, and has been passed down through evolution. Even though we don’t live in the wild now, the brain is always checking the environment for threats.

How can mindfulness help?

Khoury et al’s study compared 209 already existing studies on mindfulness and found that mindfulness is especially effective to alleviate anxiety when compared to traditional therapy and medications (2).

Mindfulness works by regulating breathing, reducing heart rate, dropping blood pressure and calming the body down after a fight or flight response is activated. It activates the ‘rest-and-digest’ part of the brain. Once mindfulness is practiced regularly, this activation becomes easier and more prolonged with passing time.

Just like in stress, the amygdala controls the fight or flight response that tends to make anxiety worse. Regular mindfulness has proved to reduce the size of the amygdala in the long run.

In a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine review, results show that a mindfulness based program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder (3).

References

1. Anxiety UK, Young People and Anxiety
https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help-now/anxiety-information/young-people-and-anxiety/

2. Mindfulness Based Therapy: A comprehensive Metanalysis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796855

3. Meditation programs for Psychological stress and well being: A systematic review and metanalysis
http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1809754

“I’M SO STRESSED!”

Stress is a reaction to events that put pressure on us, causing both psychological and bodily reactions. It can occur with bad events as well as good events. A little bit of stress here and there might give us that extra ‘zing’ to work better, but too much stress can damage our body and mind in the long run.

Most people do not deal with stress right away. It may build up over time, and bad coping methods, such as binge eating, drinking alcohol, taking drugs may add to the already existing damage. It is important to realize that there are many positive ways of dealing with stress, and research has proved that mindfulness is one of the best methods available.

How does stress work?

When an event occurs, it puts pressure. Take for example an approaching deadline. The mind knows that there is limited time and goes into overdrive to make sure the work will be completed. At this time, the brain releases chemicals that are normally released when the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode is activated, such as running away from a predator in the wild. This helps you to work faster and better because you have extra faculties, but you get strung out easily too.

Sometimes though, stress is absolutely useless, like when you forget to bring that important document and realize a few minutes before a meeting and stress out.

In a 2012 survey, 20% of Americans said they were experiencing extreme levels of stress. And while 64% said that it is extremely important or very important to manage stress, only 37% felt they were actually doing an excellent or very good job at managing theirs (1).

In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health (2).

The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2014/15 was 9.9 million days. This equated to an average of 23 days lost per case.(2)

What happens when I get stressed?

When the “fight-or-flight” system gets activated, it keeps only the essential parts of your body running, like muscles tensing up, heart rate increasing, breathing getting faster and the slows down of your digestive system (you don’t need to eat if you’re running away), immune system and your reproductive organs.

If you are constantly faced with stress, these systems may get affected; you may develop heart problems, stomach ulcers, fall ill more often and sleep less.

How does mindfulness help?

Mindfulness meditation aims at getting your body response back to its equilibrium after a fight-or-flight response. It relaxes your body by reducing heart rate, dropping blood pressure and breathing better among other functions. Research has consistently shown that regular mindfulness practice helps to significantly reduce stress in the long term as well as forming new ways to cope with stress as it shows up in the future.

Mindfulness has shown to reduce the size of the amygdala, which is responsible for the fight or flight response (3).

Moreover, studies have found increased grey matter in the pre frontal cortex, which helps in planning, problem solving and emotional regulation.

References

1. American Psychological Association
http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/impact.aspx?item=2

2. Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain
http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf

3. Mindfulness meditation training alters stress-related amygdala resting state functional connectivity: a randomized controlled trial http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~creswell/papers/Taren%20et%20al%20(2015),%20mindfulness%20training%20amygdala%20resting%20state%20functional%20connectivity,%20SCAN.pdf

COULD MEDITATION IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

When you’re in a relationship, your partner becomes a huge part of your life. A happy relationship equals happy you, but a turbulent relationship can affect you negatively. As someone’s partner, you want the other to be happy and vice versa, but all relationships have their ups and downs and trying times may strain you as well as your partner.

Mindfulness meditation has been seen to improve quality of relationships, be it romantic or otherwise. Through opening up your mind and helping you to achieve a new perspective, regular mindfulness has shown to positively affect many domains such as acceptance and comfort, which helps you to feel better about yourself in general.

Who says?

Mindfulness expands to positively affect many areas of a relationship. For example, a recent study conducted by Wachs and Cordova (2007) found that Loving Kindness Mindfulness Meditation
has shown to improve the quality of communication between romantic partners (1).

Mindfulness also helps to control stress and anger, which means couples are able to have a better rapport in their relationship and do not just react but try to understand.

Through increased awareness and understanding, couples may have a healthier and more fulfilling relationship through regular practice of mindfulness meditation.

The impact that mindfulness exerts on our brain is borne from routine: a slow, steady, and consistent reckoning of our realities, and the ability to take a step back, become more aware, more accepting, less judgmental, and less reactive.

Another study explored how mindfulness affects couples that were already in a happy relationship, and individuals reported seeing improvements in their intimacy and closeness even 3 months after the program had completed (2).

A 2007 study by researchers at The University of Rochester revealed that mindfulness practice was associated with greater relationship satisfaction. It was also related to better communication quality during relationship discussions (3).

References

1. Mindful relating: exploring mindfulness and emotion repertoires in intimate relationships
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Journal+of+Marital+and+Family+Therapy.+33%2C+4.+464+-+481.+Barnes%2C+S.+et+al.%2C+(2007)

2. Mindfulness based relationship enhancement http://www.mindfulnessmalta.com/user_files/2/mindfulness-and-relationships.pdf

3. The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress http://portal.idc.ac.il/he/main/research/aware/research/documents/social/attachment/the_role%20_of%20_mindfulness%20_in%20_romantic.pdf