HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

November/December 2011

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Meditating Away Holiday Stress

Connecting to Your Soul

In a world that operates at a frantic 24/7 pace, many people are looking for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Or as spiritual counselor Jonathan Parker puts it, “Our society today offers very little guidance for how to utilize what the soul has to offer in daily life.” The Soul Solution: Enlightening Meditations for Resolving Life’s Problems (New World Library), is Parker’s effort to fill that void. The meditations he offers center on restoring connections between the body and the soul to encourage moving into a place of healing and greater spiritual depth.

Parker says, “Imagine what your life would be like if everything you thought, said and did were guided by your pure, enlightened soul.” The Soul Solution presents a way to find that calm place within.

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Transformational Living

If you’ve always wanted to meditate but thought the whole idea somewhat intimidating, you may want to start with Simple Meditation: A Spiritual Connection to Transforming Your Life (Meditation Resources).

Author Curt Remington starts with a very basic exercise: Sitting quietly and letting your thoughts flow by without being distracted by them.

From there, he discusses meditative techniques that include connecting with nature (something many would associate with a meditation practice) and with other people (which many people may not).

“Through meditation you can begin to feel more relaxed, content and happy,” says Remington. Simple Meditation provides an easy-to-follow blueprint for the meditative life.

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Seeing the Big Picture

If you have dabbled in meditation and now want to take a more comprehensive approach, Meditation: An In-Depth Guide (Tarcher/Penguin) may be what you’re looking for. Written by Ian Gawler, who has studied the subject extensively, and psychotherapist Paul Bedson, this book is presented in two parts. The first provides an overview of what the authors call “mindfulness-based
stillness meditation.” The second shows how meditation can be applied to specific uses, including learning how to blunt pain and other mind-body applications.

“The real gift of meditation is that it helps us to get to know ourselves better,” say Gawler and Bedson. Meditation: An In-Depth Guide provides a detailed map of how to get there.

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Step-By-Step Meditation

Are you someone who likes being organized about everything, including a meditation practice?

Then Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Rodale) might appeal to you. Psychology professor Mark Williams and co-author Danny Penman begin by looking at how
people tie themselves into knots. They then encourage the reader to become unknotted through an eight-step strategy, from breaking free of “autopilot” thinking to finding a sense of completeness that allows you to enjoy life instead of constantly fretting over your to-do list.

“The most difficult aspect of formal mindfulness practice is getting on to your chair or stool or cushion,” say Williams and Penman. Mindfulness may help you get there.

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UPDATE

Low B12 Levels May Shrink Brain

In “Building Brain Health” (October), we learned that specific nutrients can have profound effects on cognition and memory. Now a study in the journal Neurology has found a correlation between low blood levels of vitamin B12 and reductions in brain volume, indicating possible tissue shrinkage, along with impaired thinking skills in older adults. The study involved 121 members of the Chicago Health and Aging Project.

“Our findings lend support for the contention that poor vitamin B12 status is a potential risk factor for brain atrophy and may contribute to cognitive impairment,” says lead study author Christine Tangney, PhD, of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

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Omega-3 for a Brain Boost

The importance of omega-3 in mental and emotional well-being has been highlighted by two recent studies, one on stroke severity and the other on suicide risk.

Canadian researchers divided stroke-prone mice into three groups: One ate standard mouse chow, the second ate a diet low in DHA, one of the two main omega-3s found in fish oil, and the third ate a DHA-enriched diet. After three months, the third group showed lower levels of inflammatory
compounds linked to stroke severity.

Research results were reported in the journal Stroke.

In the second study, researchers at three federal health organizations analyzed levels of DHA taken from 800 US military personnel, all male, who had committed suicide and those taken from 800 controls. The lowest DHA levels were found to be associated with a 62% increased risk of suicide.

“This represents a potential simple nutritional intervention that warrants further investigation,” wrote the researchers in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Omega-3s were first linked to cardiovascular health in the early 1970s. Since then, research has found these essential fatty acids to play many roles within the body, including proper fetal brain development.

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NUMBERS

Turning Off the Tube for Health

13%
Increased risk of premature death associated with
watching more than two hours of TV a day

20%
Increased risk of developing diabetes, 15% for heart disease

4-5
Hours of TV watched every day by the average American

 

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

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