Eva Longoria Talks Meditation & Wellness

In an interview with New York Magazine, Eva Longoria shared how she starts her day running for exercise, and the next stop after that is usually meditation.

“Everything is about balance,” she told the magazine. “I think people waste more time than they think. They think ‘I don’t have time to meditate, or I don’t have time to work out,’ and yet they have time to be on Instagram for 30 minutes — like, that could have been their meditation session. You have to prioritize your time and efforts toward wellness.”

She also admits she struggles to find time to meditate herself, and if she can do it three or four times per week she feels successful. Longoria told the magazine meditation is also a form of prayer, and that prayer itself is also a form of meditation.

“It’s focusing your mind on a higher power,” she said in the interview. “Some people think that meditating is chanting a mantra, but there are so many other things. You can meditate on a problem, you can meditate on love, there are so many different meanings. Sometimes people try to define meditation so strictly that it scares people away from it.”

Longoria also shared she has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, “which is the study of the body, the study of how things affect you — like lack of sleep, stress, and so on, so I’ve been pretty cognizant of wellness my entire life.”

Meditation May Boost the Immune System, Study Shows

Researchers found with behavioral training like breathing exercises and meditation, people can learn to modulate their immune system, as the nervous system may exert influence on immune responses, according to a new study, which appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Inspired by Dutch celebrity daredevil Wim Hof who endured lengthy ice-water baths, hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and made his mark in Guinness World Records with his ability to withstand cold, the research included participants undergoing training by Hof – including swimming in frigid water and lying bare-chested in snow, as well as breathing and meditation exercise.

When exposed to an inflammation test, the participants reported fewer flu-like symptoms than those who did not receive the training. Trained recruits also produced lower amounts of several proteins associated with inflammation, and higher levels of an inflammation-fighting protein called interleukin-10, according to the report.

The findings have raised hopes for patients who have chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, although the results are preliminary, according to Matthijs Kox, a researcher at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.


Meditation and Stretching Ease PTSD Symptoms & Normalize Stress Hormones, Study Shows

Practicing a form of meditation and stretching can help relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and normalize stress hormone levels, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

More than 7 million adults nationwide are diagnosed with PTSD in a typical year, which is the mental health condition triggered by a traumatic event. It can cause flashbacks, anxiety and other symptoms. PTSD patients have high levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and unusually low levels of cortisol – two hormones used to regulate the body’s response to stress.

Although levels of the stress hormone cortisol typically rise in response to pressure, PTSD patients have abnormally low levels of cortisol and benefit when these levels increase. The study found cortisol levels responded favorably in subjects who participated in mind-body exercises for an eight week-period, the study stated.

“Mind-body exercise offers a low-cost approach that could be used as a complement to traditional psychotherapy or drug treatments,” said Sang H. Kim, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health and the study author. “These self-directed practices give PTSD patients control over their own treatment and have few side effects.”

The randomized controlled clinical trial studied the impact of mind-body practices in nurses, a group at high-risk of developing PTSD due to repeated exposure to extreme stressors. Twenty-eight nurses from the University of New Mexico Hospital, including 22 experiencing PTSD symptoms, were divided into two groups. One took 60-minute mind-body sessions where participants performed stretching, balancing and deep breathing exercises while focusing on awareness of their body’s movements, sensations and surroundings – a form of meditation called mindfulness. The control group did not participate in the twice-weekly class.

The predominantly female participants underwent blood tests to measure their stress hormone levels and completed the government’s PTSD checklist for civilians. Among those who were enrolled in the mind-body course, cortisol levels in the blood rose 67 percent and PTSD checklist scores decreased by 41 percent, indicating the individuals were displaying fewer PTSD symptoms. In comparison, the control group had a nearly 4 percent decline in checklist scores and a 17 percent increase in blood cortisol levels during the same period.

“Participants in the mind-body intervention reported that not only did the mind-body exercises reduce the impact of stress on their daily lives, but they also slept better, felt calmer and were motivated to resume hobbies and other enjoyable activities they had dropped,” Kim said. “This is a promising PTSD intervention worthy of further study to determine its long-term effects.”

Study Shows the Brain Can Be Trained in Compassion with Meditation

Researchers at the Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined whether training adults in compassion can result in greater altruistic behavior and related changes in neural systems underlying compassion, according to a Business Standard report.

In the study published in Psychological Science, the investigators trained young adults to engage in compassion meditation, an ancient Buddhist technique to increase caring feelings for people who are suffering, by envisioning a time when someone suffered and then practicing wishing his or her suffering was relieved, according to the report.

Participants practiced with different categories of people, first starting with a loved one, then moving to themselves and then a stranger. Finally, they practiced compassion for someone they actively had conflict with called the “difficult person,” such as a troublesome coworker or roommate, the report stated.

“It’s kind of like weight training. Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help,” Helen Weng, lead author of the study and a graduate student in clinical psychology said in the report.

Compassion training was compared to a control group that learned cognitive reappraisal, a technique where people learn to reframe their thoughts to feel less negative.

“We found that people trained in compassion were more likely to spend their own money altruistically to help someone who was treated unfairly than those who were trained in cognitive reappraisal,” Weng said.

The study measured changes in brain responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after training, and researchers found those who were the most altruistic after compassion training were the ones who showed the most brain changes when viewing human suffering.

Specifically, they found activity was increased in the inferior parietal cortex, a region involved in empathy and understanding others, as well as increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the extent to which it communicated with the nucleus accumbens – brain regions involved in emotion regulation and positive emotions.

Meditation Can Help Loneliness & Inflammation in Seniors

Feeling alone has been associated with a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and premature death in seniors. However, researchers at UCLA have found mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can decrease the feelings of loneliness in seniors between the ages of 55 and 85, using an 8-week program, according to a study published online in the journal “Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Steve Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and psychiatry and a member of the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, and his team also analyzed gene expression, understanding how being lonely is linked with a rise in the activity of inflammation-related genes that can stimulate a range of different diseases. In their analysis, they discovered the same type of meditation considerably decreased expression of inflammatory genes.

Additionally, the team also reported that MBSR changed the genes and protein markers of inflammation, including the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and a group of genes controlled by the transcription factor NF-kB. CRP is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and NF-kB is a molecular signal that triggers inflammation.

“Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression. If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly,” Cole said in the report.

The researchers examined 40 adults between the ages of 55 and 85 who were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness meditation group or a control group that did not meditate. All were evaluated at the start and the end of the study using an established loneliness scale, and gave blood samples so researchers could measure gene expression and levels of inflammation.

Participants assigned to the meditation group attended weekly 2-hour meetings in which they the techniques of mindfulness, including awareness and breathing techniques, and practiced mindfulness meditation for a half-hour every day at home. They also went to a single, daylong retreat. These participants reported a lower feeling of lonesomeness, and their blood tests showed a substantial reduction in the expression of inflammation-related genes, according to the report.

“While this was a small sample, the results were very encouraging. It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga,” said Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and director of the Cousins Center.

Doctors Trained in Meditation and Communication Offer Better Care, Study Says

Training physicians in mindfulness meditation and communication skills can improve the quality of care, according to a new study from researchers the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Researchers found both primary care practitioners and their patients believed care was improved after the training, and the findings are published online in the journal “Academic Medicine,” Psychcentral.com reported.

“Programs focused on personal awareness and self-development are only part of the solution,” the researchers said. “Our health care delivery systems must implement systematic change at the practice level to create an environment that supports mindful practice, encourages transparent and clear communication among clinicians, staff, patients, and families and reduces professional isolation.”

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 20 of the physicians who participated in the mindfulness-training program.

The findings in the new study include:

  • Sixty percent reported learning mindfulness skills improved their capacity to listen more attentively and respond more effectively to others at work and home.
  • More than half of the participants acknowledged having increased self-awareness and better ability to respond non-judgmentally during personal or professional conversations.
  • Seventy percent placed a high value on the mindfulness course having an organized, structured and well-defined curriculum with time and space to pause and reflect.

The researchers developed and implemented required mindful practice curricula for medical students and residents at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and are also studying the effects of an intensive, four-day residential course for physicians, according to the report.