How do you eat under stress? For many, chronic stress gets under the skin, stimulates the appetite and influences what people eat — often leading to the indulgence in sweet, high-fat foods. These foods tend to make you feel better in the short term, but in the long run can cause health issues. Chronic stress, in fact, has been shown to impair immune responses. Elissa Epel, PhD., an Associate Professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, is testing new strategies to help people cope with stress, including the art of mindfulness.
According to Epel, being in the moment serves like a filter to help people better manage how they react in stressful situations. Epel and her colleagues are teaching mindful eating skills – such as the benefits of noticing each bite, how it tastes and how full one feels. The hope is the more mindful you are and the better you can manage and reduce stress, the less likely you are to overeat.
Here’s a video segment which goes into more detail:
I always believed that the practice of neuroscience and spirituality were on a path towards convergence. My belief was further reinforced by an article which appeared in today's New York Times. Patricia Leigh Brown wrote about the first ever American "Happiness and Its Causes" conference held recently in San Francisco. According to Brown the conference is part of a burgeoning happiness industry boom; the conference brought together various topics from neuroplasticity and mindfulness-based stress reduction to positive psychology and "being in the moment." The new field of behavioral neurogenetics was highlighted in the article, revealing that behavior and emotions are impacted not only by genes but also in part by environment. To read more click here:
Buddhist psychotherapy — shrinking with a dose of mindfulness meditation– has been well embraced in California for years. Jeff Kitzes, Zen Master of the Empty Gate Zen Center in Berkeley California, is well known in the Bay area for his practice of integrating Zen Buddhism and Western Psychotherapy. You can read some of his teachings here: Psychotherapy and Zen
Now, people across the country are taking note of Zen therapy’s growing popularity.Benedict Carey reports in today’s New York Times that "mindfulness meditation has become perhaps the most popular new psychotherapy technique of the past decade."
Here are excerpts from the May 27, 2008 article:
"…Mindfulness meditation, as it is called,
is rooted in the teachings of a fifth-century B.C. Indian prince,
Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. It is catching the
attention of talk therapists of all stripes, including academic
researchers, Freudian analysts in private practice and skeptics who see
all the hallmarks of another fad.
For years, psychotherapists have worked to relieve suffering by
reframing the content of patients’ thoughts, directly altering behavior
or helping people gain insight into the subconscious sources of their
despair and anxiety.
The promise of mindfulness meditation is that it can help patients
endure flash floods of emotion during the therapeutic process — and
ultimately alter reactions to daily experience at a level that words
cannot reach. “The interest in this has just taken off,” said Zindel
Segal, a psychologist at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in
Toronto, where the above group therapy session was taped. “And I think
a big part of it is that more and more therapists are practicing some
form of contemplation themselves and want to bring that into therapy.”
At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health
is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up
from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings,
improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.
Some proponents say Buddha’s arrival in psychotherapy signals a
broader opening in the culture at large — a way to access deeper
healing, a hidden path revealed…"
Read the full article here: Lotus Therapy