The Legal High That Helps Treat Addiction (M)

The key is the production of theta waves: a particular type of electrical activity in the brain that puts the mind into a healthy altered state of consciousness.

The key is the production of theta waves: a particular type of electrical activity in the brain that puts the mind into a healthy altered state of consciousness.

Addicts can get a totally safe, legal high from mindfulness meditation that also fights their addictive behaviours, a study finds.

In fact, anyone can achieve a self-transcendent, blissful state using mindfulness.

The key is the production of theta waves: a particular type of electrical activity in the brain that puts the mind into a healthy altered state of consciousness.

Professor Eric Garland, the study’s first author, explained the significance:

“With high theta activity, your mind becomes very quiet, you focus less on yourself and become so deeply absorbed in what you are doing that the boundary between yourself and the thing you are focusing on starts to fade away.

You lose yourself in what you are doing.”

Practising mindfulness

The research, the largest ever study on treating addiction with mindfulness, included 165 people with a history of long-term opioid usage.

Half were given an 8-week course called Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement which has been shown to reduce opioid misuse by 45 percent.

The other half were given supportive psychotherapy.

People in the mindfulness group learned various standard mindfulness practices, such as focusing attention on the breath and the body.

(Here is PsyBlog’s guide to mindfulness meditation and here are some mindfulness exercises to try.)

Over extended periods of time, participants practiced bringing their focus back from the mind’s natural wandering.

Bliss and love

The results showed that after practicing mindfulness people showed twice as much theta brainwave activity.

In comparison, those who merely had supportive therapy displayed no change in this regard.

People experiencing the largest increases in theta wave activity reported greater feelings of self-transcendence.

They felt their ego fading away to be replaced by a sense of oneness, blissful energy and love.

Professor Garland said:

“Mindfulness can create a pathway for us to transcend our limited sense of self.

Civilizations have known for thousands of years that self-transcendence, the experience of being connected to something greater than ourselves, has powerful therapeutic benefits.”

Pure awareness

The increase in theta waves helps addicts gain self-control over their addictive behaviours.

Professor Garland said:

“Rather than seeking a high from something outside of yourself like a drug, meditation can help you to find an even greater sense of pleasure, peace and fulfilment from within.”

Professor Garland likens this to the 11th step of the popular 12-step addiction treatment program, which involves ‘seeking conscious contact with a higher power through prayer or meditation’.

The study’s authors quote the Shiva Sutras, aphorisms from a 9th century yogi:

“When the yogi is established in pure awareness, his craving is destroyed… thus he savors his own inherently blissful nature which illumines itself with the rays of its consciousness… Thus [at] the very moment the yogi abandons the craving.”

The study was published in the journal Science Advances (Garland et al., 2022).

Mindfulness Exercises: 10 Free Techniques For Daily Life

You can fit these mindfulness exercises into your life while walking, brushing your teeth and just listening.

You can fit these mindfulness exercises into your life while walking, brushing your teeth and just listening.

Although mindfulness meditation is all the rage nowadays, most people have little time for formal practice.

That’s a pity since studies have found benefits of meditation, including reducing depression and pain, accelerating cognition, increasing creativity, debiasing the mind and much more.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add a little mindfulness meditation to your day without formal practice, then these mindfulness exercises are for you.

These mindfulness exercises can mostly be slotted in while you go about your everyday business, without the need for a formal sit-down meditation session.

1. Walking mindfulness exercises

If you do any period of undisturbed walking during the day — at least ten or fifteen minutes — then you can do a little walking mindfulness meditation.

It’ll be easiest if done somewhere with fewer distractions, but try it anywhere and see what happens.

As when cultivating all forms of mindfulness, it’s about focusing the attention.

At first, people often concentrate on the sensation of their feet touching the ground.

Then you could just as easily focus on your breath or move the attention around your body, part by part.

The key, though, is to develop a sort of relaxed attention. When your mind wanders away, bring it back gently, without judging yourself.

2. Eating mindfulness exercises

Will you be eating any food today?

Thought so.

So you can practice a little mindfulness meditation while you eat.

When you take the first bite of any meal, just take a moment to really pay attention to the taste.

Look at the food carefully, feel the textures in your mouth, smell it and notice how your body reacts to it.

You don’t need to keep this up all the way through the meal, but use it every now and then to focus your attention.

3. Mindful mini-break

Checking email has now become, for many, what we do in between other tasks, sometimes as a kind of break.

Change this.

Instead, drop the email and practice one of the mindfulness exercises.

Turn away from the computer/tablet/smartphone and sit for a moment noticing the sensations in your mind and body.

How do you feel? What can you hear?

Try to be as present in that moment.

If your mind wanders off to tasks that you have to complete or starts working over things that happened yesterday, let these go.

Gently bring your mind’s focus back to the present. Just be wherever you are for a few moments.

Remember: mindfulness is not about trying to make sense of anything, it’s about attention to that moment.

4. Listen mindfully

Any time that’s convenient, try a little mindful listening.

We get used to a lot of the sounds that are around us and quickly tune them out.

If you live in the city, there might be police sirens, train announcements and people sneezing.

In the countryside there could be trees rustling, birds calling or a gate creaking.

What can you hear right now?

Or, put on some music and really listen to it for a short period: try to hear the music without thinking about it.

Try not to let your mind wander to things it reminds you of, to judgements about the music or think about the lyrics too much.

Just allow the music to flow over you and for you to flow into the music.

5. Mindful brushing

Some things we do so often that we almost don’t notice them any more.

Habits, like brushing your teeth, are usually performed automatically, while the mind skips off to other plans, worries or regrets.

Instead, try to focus on that chore and really experience it. Notice how the brush moves over your teeth and the taste of the toothpaste.

Another routine that can incorporate mindfulness exercises is showering or bathing.

Let your senses feed on the process and bring your mind back when it wanders off to other worries or thoughts.

You can perform any chore mindfully and you might be surprised what you notice.

6. Just one breath

At any time during the day, take a moment to focus on one breath.

Breathe in, then breathe out.

Focus your attention on how this feels, where you notice the air moving, how your chest and abdomen move.

Try it now.

You’re not looking for a revelation from this experience; think of it more like a little mental push-up for your mind.

That’s it, or if you want to extend it to a few more breaths, that’s fine.

7. Candle meditation

Of all the mindfulness exercises, this requires a little preparation: you need a candle and a darkened room.

Sit for a while watching the candle and focusing on the flame (don’t sit too close).

You are not trying to stare it out or ‘think’ about the chemical reaction that is going on.

In fact, you are not ‘trying’ to do anything: it’s more that you are just noticing the candle in a simple, pure way.

8. Experience nature

If your walking mindfulness exercises should happen to take you to a park or green space of some kind, then this is the perfect opportunity for a little more mindfulness meditation.

As you stand, sit or walk, try to become more aware of nature around you.

See the different types of leaves; hear the bird calls, the wind and the distant rumble of traffic; sense the air moving over your skin and sun heating your face.

Again, after a few moments, your mind may try to wander where it will.

Be kind to yourself: gently nudge your attention back to nature and your surroundings.

Many people do this naturally when they are in nature but do not necessarily label it as one of the mindfulness exercises.

It’s doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as your attention is focused on the present moment.

9. Five senses mindfulness exercises

Focus on one of the senses, such as hearing, for five minutes.

Listen to five things that you have never paid attention to before.

Simultaneously, practice deep breathing.

Next time, focus on a different sense and do the same exercise.

10. Body scan

Mentally scan your body from head to food.

Pay attention to each part of the body in turn, noticing any sensations that are present there.

Try exhaling through the nose while performing this exercise.

This can take anything from 5 minutes to half-an-hour.

Mindfulness exercises

Hopefully these will give you some ideas about how to practice mindfulness exercises during your day.

As mindfulness expert, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, says:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Don’t feel limited by these mindfulness exercises. Feel free to mix and match or fit them into your life anyway you can.

Almost any activity can incorporate some mindfulness exercises.

Individually these steps may seem small, but you might be surprised at the effect they can have.

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How To Use Your Smartphone More Mindfully (M)

Because so much of our behaviour is unconscious, it is hard to change it until we are aware of what we are already doing.

Because so much of our behaviour is unconscious, it is hard to change it until we are aware of what we are already doing.


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Why It Feels Like Time is Speeding Up (M)

If you feel that time is constantly racing by nowadays, then there could be a psychological explanation.

If you feel that time is constantly racing by nowadays, then there could be a psychological explanation.


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Pain: 2 Best Psychological Techniques For Coping

The short-term strategies that are best for tolerating and reducing pain.

The short-term strategies that are best for tolerating and reducing pain.

Accepting pain is the best way to tolerate it, a study finds.

Compared with three other psychological techniques, accepting pain increases pain tolerance.

The two other techniques tested were distraction and cognitive restructuring.

Distraction, though, emerged as the best way to reduce the intensity of pain, the study also found.

The study’s authors write that…

“…acceptance is intended to disrupt the link between thoughts and behaviors such that participants are willing to tolerate painful stimulation for longer periods of time (with negative thoughts and feelings).”

Distraction, meanwhile, works by refocusing attention:

“Distraction aims to shift the attentional focus away from painful stimulation and thereby to lessen pain intensity.

Some studies indicate that strategies such as distraction or suppression are more effective at reducing pain intensity relative to an acceptance strategy.”

Cognitive restructuring — a technique that involves changing how people think about their pain — was not found to be particularly effective.

How use acceptance

Here is how the authors describe the acceptance strategy:

“It was explained that thoughts often initiate behavior, but that it is also possible to disengage oneself from these thoughts (defusion) through nonjudgmental awareness (mindfulness) or acceptance.

The strategy of regarding thoughts as clouds in the sky was discussed as an example of defusion.

If thoughts can be accepted, they no longer control behavioral tendencies and do not inhibit personal goals.

Within the exercise, participants were asked to imagine that they were experiencing the thermal stimulus and to regard their thoughts as clouds in the sky passing by.”

How to use distraction

Here is how the authors describe the distraction strategy:

“It was explained that distraction can lead to reduced perception of thoughts and feelings.

Attention can work like a spotlight: depending on which thoughts and feelings come into focus, other thoughts and feelings may be ‘‘blanked out.’’

It is possible to distract oneself internally or externally.

Internal distraction may take place via imagination or recalling past experiences, while external distraction may involve increasing attention to environmental stimuli.

Within the exercise, participants were asked to imagine feeling the heat stimulus and to distract themselves by imaging a pleasant scene.”

→ Another useful technique to try is meditation: Reduce Pain With This Mental Practice — In Just 20 Minutes Over Four Days

The study was published in the Journal of Pain (Rief & Glombiewski et al., 2013).

A Daily Chore That Decreases Stress And Provides Inspiration (M)

When done properly, the chore decreased nervousness by 27 percent and increased mental inspiration by 25 percent.

When done properly, the chore decreased nervousness by 27 percent and increased mental inspiration by 25 percent.


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