Praticing Optimism in 2016

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Aging & Attitude

Happy New Year!

      The year 2015 was crappy. Although it is not politically or otherwise correct to say so, it was; and became more crappy and crappier.

     Remember; it started with Tom Brady and an inflated, uninflated or deflated (whatever) football. Then as shock and dismay about Bill Crosby unfolded, we almost forgot about Hillary’s emails.

     Let’s not revisit the numerous mass shootings, police killings, plane crashes, and weather related disasters. You can read about them at abcnews link, factor in any personal crappiness and evaluate the year yourself. For me, it was one of the crappiest.

     Thank goodness Donald Trump added some much needed humor, Prince William and Kate appear to be a happy family, and Pope Francis’s visit to the United States prompted John Boehner to resign.

     Mr. Wonderful and I were asleep by 9:30 pm on New Year’s Eve. We took a 6 am flight home to Florida, having spent Christmas in Albuquerque with our kids and grandkids, and exhausted.

     I slept until 8am the next morning and while enjoying a cup of coffee viewed Dr. Oz. He discussed the glass half-full or half-empty approach to the New Year and a solution for cynicism. “Practicing Optimism,” is the catchy expression he used.

     Although a sunny disposition is to some degree a byproduct of genes and life experience, there is increasing support that thoughts have a cognitive effect on the mind. Specifically, meditation and mindfulness are being studied.

     “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

    In the March 2014 issue/Meditation Research Psychological Science  of Meditation  the following findings are listed from articles:

  • Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
  • Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem
  • The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippopotami and frontal volumes of gray matter
  • Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
  • Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation

 

     Sounds promising. Previous research indicating jumping up and down was the way to reactivate a shrinking hippocampus. Now we can achieve the same, if not better, improvement in a prone position.

     Things are looking up. My Christmas cactus is in full bloom and being an optimist, I believe it to be a sign that 2016 will not be as crappy.

. . . . just saying

     These articles  discuss the benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mindfulness-research-2015_567865b6e4b06fa6887e3f1d

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/meditation-apps-inner-peace_n_2900544.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2015/12/12/how-to-meditate-in-five-m_n_8779824.html

Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus.

 

Presents Vs Presence

 lg-metta-meditationAging & Attitude

   Recently a local newspaper article titled, “Presence of Mind” and subtitled “Meditation can help cope with stressful holiday season,” caught my attention. Struggling with holiday gift shopping, and guilty of not buying on Brown Thursday, Black Friday or Cyber Monday I started reading.

   The Zen Master immediately captured my heart defining the Metta method and saying; sitting on the floor is optional, and that a popular meditation spot is a bathroom stall. The Metta method teaches love and compassion for yourself first, and then sending the message out into the world. I have tried to meditate, and couldn’t stop the nagging intrusive thoughts from running around by head. Remember Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love,” well I read the book, and sitting for hours on a cold hard floor does not work for me. Occasionally I find a quiet place to sit and repeat, love, peace, joy endlessly, hoping a mantra will push out negative thoughts about the Valentine flowers I did not receive in 1982. It does not work.

A Buddhist concept, the Metta method was originally instituted to aid terminally ill people, and has gained a following in  other meditation circles because of the positive effects, simple techniques and easy transition.

Benefits

  • Minimize Stress
  • Improve healing
  • Learning about and training the mind

Two Simple Techniques

  • Grounding – Giving attention to the body’s current position
  • Orienting – Awareness of surroundings and knowing exits

Easy Transition

  • Mind is the sky
  • Thoughts are the  clouds

The article recognizes that when meditating, “you see things, the ideas that cause stress,” and thoughts about finding the perfect gift, and its credit card debt are counterproductive to the joy we hope to create. Recognizing what is on your mind is the first step to eliminating stress and being present for loved ones, enjoying the holidays. The point is well made that although Christmas is about presents, your presence may be a gift alternative.

So, thoughts about running over the driver who beat you to the last parking spot at the mall, can become clouds afloat in your mind. Ask yourself, “how important is this?” and you will gain new perspective and see your anger drift away.

Once rid of those dark clouds, put some happy thoughts in your sky by repeating;

May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease,

   Then send the message to others by replacing the I with you and say;

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.

   Happy Holidays!

. . . . just saying