Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mindfulness in stress reduction

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly – Buddha

Mindfulness is usually defined to include bringing one’s complete attention to the experiences occurring in the present moment, in a nonjudgmental or accepting way. Mindfulness is more than a meditation. It is “inherently a state of consciousness” which involves consciously attending to one’s moment-to-moment experience.

Descriptions of mindfulness and methods for cultivating it originate in eastern spiritual traditions, which suggest that mindfulness can be developed through the regular practice of meditation, and that increases in positive qualities such as awareness, insight, wisdom, compassion, and equanimity are likely to result.

In traditional Buddhist teachings there are four areas or domains of mindfulness.

The first foundation is mindfulness of body, which typically begins with bare attention to the sensations of the breath, bringing the mind and body together and calming them. Then, other body sensations may be observed, in all the potential postures and movements of formal practice and daily living.
The second foundation is mindfulness of feelings, in which bare attention is brought to the feeling-tone of the experience of each moment. “Feelings,” as the term is used here, are not emotions. Rather, they are an immediate knowing of experience as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral before reactions such as emotions or attitudes come into play. Feelings are simply observed as they arise, linger, and pass away.
The third foundation is mindfulness of mind, which directs bare attention to the quality of the activity of the mind, registering awareness of states or dispositions, such as distraction and concentration, or one of the three roots of suffering — desire, hatred, or delusion. Again, these can be observed as they arise, linger, and pass away.
The fourth foundation is mindfulness of mind-objects, in which bare attention is directed towards all that the mind encounters within and without. Here a wonderful characteristic of Buddhism, the making of lists, shapes recommended practice, as the traditional instructions are to observe the arising and passing of the
Five hindrances
Sense-desire, anger, sloth and torpor, agitation and worry, and doubt
The five aggregates
Material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness,
The six subjective/ objective sense factors
Eye/form, ear/sound, nose/smell, tongue/taste, body/touch, and mind/concepts
The seven factors of enlightenment
Mindfulness, investigation of reality, energy, enthusiasm, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity and, at last,
The four ennobling truths
1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

In the traditional Buddhist context, mindfulness is embedded in an eight-fold path to alleviate suffering; mindfulness is guided and directed by seven other factors. They are as follows:
(1) The view one has of what is real, important, valuable, and useful
(2) How intention is used to initiate and sustain action in skillful ways
(3) The nature of speech that can be either harmful or beneficial
(4) The quality of action as it relates to ethical principles
(5) One’s means of sustaining oneself in the world as livelihood
(6) The degree and quality of effort employed to bring about change
(7) Concentration as a focusing and supporting factor to mindfulness.

Underlying this concept and approach are the following assumptions in psychology:

(1)Humans are ordinarily largely unaware of their moment-to-moment experience, often operating in an ‘automatic pilot’ mode;
(2) We are capable of developing the ability to sustain attention to mental content;
(3) Development of this ability is gradual, progressive and requires regular practice;
(4) moment-to-moment awareness of experience will provide a richer and more vital sense of life; inasmuch as experience becomes more vivid and active mindful participation replaces unconscious reactiveness;
(5) Such persistent, non-evaluative observation of mental content will gradually give rise to greater veridicality of perceptions; and
(6) Because more accurate perception of one’s own mental responses to external and internal stimuli is achieved, additional information is gathered that will enhance effective action in the world, and lead to a greater sense of control.

Three key components:
1. “On purpose” or intention,
2. “Paying attention” or attention,
3. “In a particular way” or attitude (mindfulness qualities).

Mindfulness Facet
Act aware

Forms of Practice
Everyday mindfulness:
This involves reminding ourselves throughout the day to pay attention to what is happening in the moment without radically altering our routines.
Formal meditation practice:
This involves setting aside time to go to the mental “gym.” We regularly dedicate a certain period to sit quietly in meditation.
Retreat practice:
This is the “vacation” that is dedicated entirely to cultivating mindfulness. The following practice,
Vipassana practice is opening to the fullness of direct experience. This offers the opportunity for seeing into the way one’s world and self are constructed and interrelated, that is, for insight. Vipassana, or the cultivation of mindfulness, is the characteristic form of meditation in Buddhism — central to all its meditative streams.

Living in the Moment
Increased Positive Affect
Reduced Stress Reactivity
Enhanced Cognitive Vitality

 Mindfulness in contemporary psychotherapeutic paradigms
The practice of sati or satipatthanna is not limited to Buddhism. This activity or elements of satipatthanna may also be found in many different contemporary psychological paradigms often under different names such as:
• Self monitoring in Behavioural Therapy
• Being in the now in Gestalt Therapy
• Present centeredness in Gestalt therapy
• Listening to oneself in Client Centred Therapy 
• Llistening to automatic thoughts in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
• Self awareness in Emotional Intelligence 
• Meta-mood and meta-cognition
• Free association and hovering attention in Psychodynamic therapy 
• Acceptance in Acceptance and Commitment therapy 

Mindfulness in psychological interventions
Following interventions those are now widely available in medical and mental health settings based on mindfulness concept.
Dialectical behavior therapy 
Mindfulness-based stress reduction 
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy 
Acceptance and commitment therapy 
Relapse prevention for substance abuse  aswell as variations on these approaches.
These interventions conceptualize mindfulness as a set of skills that can be learned and practiced in order to reduce psychological symptoms and increase health and well-being.

Mindfulness is the direct path for the purification of beings,

For the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation,

For the disappearance of pain and grief,

For the attainment of the true way,

For the realization of liberation –

Namely, the four foundations of mindfulness - Buddha

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

spirituality in coping with stress

I want to know how God created this world ... I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details. —Albert Einstein
Many people experience anxiety and fear as they observe natural disasters, street violence, crime, war, family disintegration, and social upheaval, all of which test people's sense of meaning and coherence in the world today. Many people have lost faith in the ability of science to provide solutions to all of humanity's problems. Spirituality takes us beyond our current way of thinking, feeling, or acting. Spiritual intelligence helps to grow our level of self to integrate conflicts and become more than we are. Spirituality and psychology share a concern with the quality of human life. They hope to offer guidance to people seeking to find meaningful, fulfilled, and even happy lives.
What spirituality / religion offer?
Levin (1995), a social scientist suggested that
1. Religious belief and affiliation provide a person with a secure sense of identity, which lowers one's average anxiety level and facilitates resiliency under stress.
2. Religious conviction may provide a sense of purpose and meaning that enables rational interpretations of life's problems, including death.
3. Positive emotions of hope, faith, optimism, and catharsis emerge from beliefs and rituals, including the process of forgiveness and the hope of healing and redemption.
4. Religious affiliation links one with a network or community of believers that provides a feeling of belonging, family, and social support in times of need, as well as a steady flow of opportunities to serve other people.
5. Religion through prayer, ritual, worship, and so forth provides inner experiences of communion between the individual and the "Higher Power" that may yield insight or peace even if there is not a Higher Power.
6. Many beliefs lead to a lifestyle that includes healthy habits and a healthy inner sense of responsibility and self-control.
Social scientist have found that the Western and Eastern spiritual worldviews have some similarities, including the general notions that,
(a) Some sort of harmony with an eternal principle or essence (with God or an impersonal One) is possible;
(b) Human beings have free will;
(c) There are moral or ethical principles or laws with which human beings should seek to live in harmony; and
(d) There are paths or ways that lead to personal and social harmony, enlightenment, growth, peace, and happiness.
Current trend in spiritual strategies
1. Many studies have provided evidence that religion and spirituality are positively associated with many indicators of mental health.
2. The positive psychology movement supports and stimulates by the current professional interest in spirituality.
3. Mental health practitioners who wished to include religion and spirituality as part of treatment.
Some of the common spiritual strategies people use
1. Prayer
2. Going to temple/ church / Mosque regularly etc.
3. Reading sacred books such as bible /bhagavad gita/ Qur'an etc.
4. Yoga, meditation, worships etc.
5. Service, charity, sacrifice
6. Attending seminar, speeches, visiting sacred places
7. Living with particular life style or values
8. Seeking meaning or truth
Some common problems with spiritual strategies
1. People worships idols not the ideals behind it
2. Dysfunctional religious and spiritual beliefs and practices
3. Cultural influence over the concept of religion / spirituality
4. Many people have doubt about the religious / spiritual concepts
5. Exploitation in the name of spirituality by the authorities
6. Commercialization
7. People using when needed not practice in their daily lives
I would suggest that learn more about spiritual concept without any bias. Explore and work through religious and spiritual doubts and concerns. Grow in faith and commitment to your religious and spiritual beliefs and values.
Recommended resource
Ocean is a free collection of the World's Religious literature managed by a unique book-centered research engine. It contains over 1000 books of 10 world religions in English as well as collections in six other languages.
Download the file below and run it to start the installation process. It contains the Ocean program and the English library containing roughly 1000 books.
Ocean installation with English Library:
Link to visit
Happy life journey!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Developing Children's Coping Skills

One thing you have to teach, teach how to cope!
Infant’s coping
They have the ability to regulate stress. Coping dominated by behavioural rather than cognitive because of capacities for executive functioning is very limmityed paralleling the development of the frontal lobes.Young infants will try to regulate the amount of incoming stimulation by
· closing their eyes,
· turning their heads,
· falling asleep, or,
· if all else fails, crying loudly
An infant even a few weeks old will solicit social stimulation through eye contact, smiles, and gurgling, but will turn away if too much stimulation is proffered. Certainly, infants are also able to modulate their cries in order to signal the type of distress they are experiencing such as, hunger, wetness, fright.
What makes better coping?
Caregiver sensitivity is basic to the development of better coping. Secure attachment with the caregiver is essential for healthy development.
Types of attachment and its influences
1 Secure attachment
Children are confident that their caregiver will be available, responsive, and helpful should they encounter adverse or frightening situations. This security builds confidence in the child, encourages exploration and competence, and is thought to be consistent with healthy development.
2 Anxious/ insecure attachment or resistant
Children are uncertain that their care-giver(s) will be available, responsive, or helpful when needed. The child tends to be clingy and anxious about exploring the world and may suffer from separation-anxiety. These infants fail to move away from the attachment-figure and show little exploration. They are also highly distressed by separations and are difficult to settle after reunion.
3 Avoidant attachment
Children expect to be rejected by their care-giver(s) when they seek support or care. Several studies indicate that avoidant attachment is associated with particular patterns of emotional and behavioral problems, such as a pattern of depression characterized by perfectionism, self-punishment, and self-criticism somatic complaints, substance abuse and conduct disorder and schizoid and avoidant personality disorders.
Coping among Toddlers
The infant must be able to orient to the external environment, learn to anticipate events, and represent the world symbolically. The first involves attention. Problem-focused coping strategies emerging slowly, again the capacities for executive functioning, paralleling the development of the frontal lobes is the reason. Emotion regulation also develops in early childhood, and cultural differences in the expression of emotion emerge at an early age.
What makes better coping?
The interactions between parents and children (particularly the early ones involving communication between mother and baby) are of crucial significance in a child’s development. What a baby needs is close, confident, and caring physical and emotional contact with the parents or carers in order to be healthy and to develop vigorously.
Coping among Preschoolers
Defense mechanisms such as repression, denial, and displacement can be observed in preschoolers.Parents are still the primary source of social support for preschoolers. They are also still egocentric and often unable to see others’ perspectives. Parents strongly influence the development of coping strategies in young children.
What makes better coping?
Parents help the children in three ways.
1. Parents can coach their children as to the appropriate emotional responses and coping strategies.
2. They can also model these themselves.
3. They can create a home environment that is conducive to different types of coping by their own responses to children’s distress, for example, that may encourage or discourage disclosure, avoidant behaviors, and so on.
Coping in Middle Childhood
During this age period, children become more able to verbalize and differentiate their feelings. Children in middle childhood are also more able to seek social support outside their immediate family. Interestingly, it is between ages of 6 and 9 that gender differences in seeking social support emerge, with girls seeking more support than boys, a pattern that continues into adulthood.
In this stage more cognitively oriented attempts at emotion and problem-focused coping, including such strategies as cognitive reframing, self-talk to calm emotions, and the like are possible.
What makes better coping?
The family environment plays a pivotal role in children’s socialization. temperament, play an important role in children’s adaptation following exposure to stress. Characteristics of the family environment, parent behaviours, socialisation practices, and individual differences in temperament may lead to important differences in children’s cognitive appraisals, coping behaviours, and psychosocial adjustment following exposure to stressful life events.
Coping in Adolescence
Parents still have a large influence on coping strategies. Parental warmth was most associated with active coping in adolescents. In this stage adolescents may turn more to their friends and siblings for social support than to their parents. Some types of maladaptive coping strategies are adopted—namely, using drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes to reduce distress.
What makes better coping?
Unsuccessful adaptation to such stressful events can lead to adverse short- and long-term consequences, and, especially when these events occur in childhood or adolescence, they can affect social, cognitive and psychological development.
· spending considerable amount of time with your child, today's parents spend far less time than they could conversing and
· Playing with children, teaching them important skills, and participating with them in the routine responsibilities of everyday life.
· Most of the parents not turn to a child for reassurance and comfort during times of distress.
Some stressful events of children and adolescents
· Parental divorce.
· Rejection
· Poverty
· Sexual abuse
· Moving house and changing schools
· Natural disasters
· Violence
· Personal or parental chronic illness
Therapists are not equivalent to parents, love your children regardless of their behaviour. Provide a healthy and pleasant family atmosphere. Help them to develop good coping. Happy parenting!.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stress counseling

The serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Research in the area of stress and coping indicates that the manner in which a person responds to stress is greatly influenced by longstanding personality traits. Many of the stress management programs teach participants only one such as relaxation etc. or few strategies, and skills. These programs are incomplete may be little beneficial because it may not suites to the individuals need. Stress counseling is an in depth, unique and dynamic process through which a professional assist another person to use his or her resources to handle effectively on the negative consequences of stress. At the same time, make the person to understand the positive consequences of stress.
Why we need stress counseling
1. Lack of awareness
Many people are not aware of their own thinking, feeling and behaviour. They simply exist with an easy feelings and problems.
2. Lack of self-responsibility
Many people remain in a dependency situation, they wait passively, they are not striving for independence or self-sufficiency.
3. Lack of skills
The person may know what the situation is but because the person responds emotionally, this knowledge does not help to change behaviour.
4. Loss of contact
People withdraw from the environment when they are stressful including significant others.
5. Lack of feedback
When they are emotional they become confused which lead to wrong decision or in decision.
In stress counseling, a qualified experienced professional explores many different details of the person, the individual’s backgrounds, needs, circumstances, strength and weakness, the hope for the future and so on. They see the person as a unique individual and the complete intervention is tailored to serve that one person.
Stress counseling is not
-giving information, although information may be given
-interviewing, although interview may be involved
-listening, although listening is present
-giving advice, suggestion and recommendations
Major goal of stress counseling is
Facilitating behaviour change
Enhancing coping skills
Promoting problem solving and decision making
Improving relationships
Facilitating personal development / effectiveness
One to one professional help ultimately has been found valuable in assisting people to modify their stressful life style and enhancing personal effectiveness.