Posts Tagged mindfulness

[BLOG POST] Take Care of Yourself for the Holidays – Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

Take Care of Yourself for the Holidays


The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be stressful. We may feel like we have so much to do with work, travel, hosting guests, and finding the right gifts for the people we love. If you are a person with a disability, or if you are caring for a person with a disability, you may find that the stress is taking its toll on your mental and physical health.

Self-care is any activity that you do deliberately to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Acts of self-care can include taking yourself to lunch or  a massage, accepting or declining an invitation to a gathering, or saying “no” to a request that can be handled by someone else. By taking care of yourself, you will be better able to care for those around you.

Self-Care for Self-Advocates

For some people with disabilities, mindfulness can be a self-care strategy (PDF), according to the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Pathways to Positive Futures. Mindfulness meditation heightens awareness about one’s mental and physical experience, and that awareness can be channeled into identifying opportunities to reduce stress and care for the body and mind. Journaling is another way to be mindful of how you are feeling, and Journaling – A Wellness Tool from the Center for Health and Self-Directed Care can get you started. You may also consider reaching out to your community for advice and support. The National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities has articles packed with advice from parents with disabilities on where they can turn for help in their communities.

Self-care may include making time to exercise or to spend time with family. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability offers many articles and resources for individuals and caregivers, like this 35-minute inclusive yoga video. The RRTC on Community Living and Participation for People with Serious Mental Illness has several guides and tools to encourage physical activity and leisure and family time.

While self-care is much more than a bubble bath, a long soak can be an act of self-care. Spending some time taking care of your skin, hair, and other areas may be how you choose to show yourself some loving attention. AbleData offers examples of assistive technology that can help with grooming and caring for your physical appearance.

Self-Care for Caregivers

Research has shown that more than half of caregivers in the US provide 40 or more hours a week of care for a family member or friend with a disability, including aging parents and young children with disabilities. They often provide care on top of working full time. It can all take a toll, mentally and physically. The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood’s factsheet points out that For Families or Caregivers: Self-Care is Putting on YOUR Oxygen Mask First (PDF). “If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot help others. Being the caregiver for someone with a mental health challenge can be very difficult, but you must take a little time for yourself. Self-care can start with just 5 minutes a day!”

When one is in the middle of providing care, it may be challenging to stop and consider your own health. The Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire, originally developed and tested by the American Medical Association, offers an online assessment for caregivers to help them make decisions about their own behavior and health risks. The Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving offers many supports for families caring for a person who is aging or has a disability, such as this article Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers. The Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support program has a Self-Care Assessment and Daily Attention Diary which includes a daily attention diary and a post-month self-care reflection. The diary offers an extensive list of signs and symptoms of caregiver stress, along with hundreds of suggestions for stress relief activities. Any caregiver can use the diary to track signs and symptoms of stress and address their self-care needs.

Respite care can be a self-care option for caregivers. Respite care programs provide a short-term relief for primary caregivers – an afternoon, a few days, or up to a week. Respite care can happen at home, in a respite facility, or in an adult day center. Contact a Center for Independent Living in your community or visit the Eldercare locator to find out about respite services in your community.

During this busy, stressful time of year, we hope you can give yourself the gift of self-care, in whatever form you need.


via Take Care of Yourself for the Holidays | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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[WEB PAGE] The Most Effective Methods to Improve Your Memory

SPONSORED BY: Leslie Sherman

If there is one thing that everyone would like to improve, it would undoubtedly be memory. This is true for students and professionals alike. After all, you are expected to remember a wide array of information throughout your lifetime. Unfortunately, few people are capable of actually doing this.
Well, the good news is that there are evidence-backed ways to improve your memory. While it may take some dedication and effort, following these methods is sure to help you retain information more effectively. Here are the top strategies that you need to know in this regard:

Practice Mindfulness

Most people associate mindfulness with mental and emotional wellbeing. However, there is research to suggest that mindfulness can also help boost your memory as well. The logic behind this is startlingly simple.
You may have noticed that when you are not paying attention, your memory worsens quite a bit. This is because you aren’t focusing on a situation long enough for your brain to be able to capture it in its working memory. Thus, that information is quickly lost.
Mindfulness, however, overcomes this problem. By its definition, mindfulness is all about focusing on the present and being aware of the environment around you. In addition, it also deals with bringing your mind back to the present when it begins to wonder.
Naturally, this ensures that you are able to notice and remember a great deal more. It should be noted that mindfulness can take some time to master. However, as long as you are determined and make an attempt to pay attention, this habit will quickly become automatic.

Use the Method of Loci

Now, in many cases, you are expected to remember larger chunks of information in one go. This is especially true for students or working professionals who are introduced to a new concept. Due to this, you are going to need a more effective method of remembering all these details.
Well, this is where the method of loci comes in. It is a mnemonic strategy that helps you recall information by connecting it to a particular location in a mental image. In many instances, the mental image is often a room or large building. Here, you will “place” certain details in specific spots such as in a drawer or on a table.
Then, when you need to recall this information, you simply mentally walk past that room. After this, it is a matter of focusing on what you left in a particular spot and then remembering the rest of the information attached to that.
While this strategy may sound a little farfetched, there is evidence to suggest that it does work. It has been utilized by professional memory athletes, college students, and everyone in between. Therefore, it can undoubtedly work for you as well.

Train Your Brain

Think of your brain as a muscle: if you exercise it and use it well, it is unlikely to get rusty from disuse. This is precisely why it is important for you to flex your brain on a regular basis. Of course, it isn’t quite as simple as completing a crossword puzzle each day. No, you really need to push your brain to its limits.
This is especially important when you are trying to remember specific information for a certain reason. For instance, if you are trying to retain details for an exam, make sure to try an exercise related to the exam you will be taking. Thus, you will be forcing your brain to utilize – and remember – information in more meaningful ways.

Get More Sleep

Believe it or not, sleep is integral to your memory. It is during your sleep that your memories are consolidated. As a result, they are strengthened and often passed onto long-term storage during this stage. Scientists have determined that this process takes place during every stage of sleep.
To ensure that you are reaping the benefits of these findings, you need to get around seven to eight hours of sleep a day. If you get any less, you could increase the risk of forgetting what you learned during the day.
You may also want to start taking naps when you need to remember certain information, perhaps after a study session. So, go ahead and learn the new information and once you are done, take a nap for around an hour. This will help to consolidate what you have learned previously.

Take Up Spaced Rehearsal

Few people can remember something right away. You often have to go over the information a couple of times before it becomes cemented in your memory. It is for this reason that you should engage in spaced rehearsal when you want to remember new details.
Spaced rehearsal is when you revise a chunk of information at regular intervals. This way, the content continues to remain fresh in your brain, reducing the risk of you forgetting it. Such a technique should be utilized from the moment you learn new information for the best results.

Improve Your Diet

Last but not least, take steps to improve your diet as well. To begin with, increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These have been proven to boost brain health. They can be found in fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, kidney beans, pinto beans, seaweed, and more.
You should also start eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants. These will help to protect your brain from damage and keep your cells in better condition for longer. Finally, cut down on foods that are rich in saturated fats as they can increase your risk of dementia.
If you really want to improve your memory, then it is important to follow every one of these guidelines. Sure, it may take some time and effort but it will be well worth it in the end when you are able to boost your recall capabilities considerably. So, don’t wait any longer – go ahead and put these tips and tricks to good use today. You will soon reap the benefits.


via The Most Effective Methods to Improve Your Memory | Neuroscience

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[WEB SITE] Mindfulness Meditation for Caregivers

Everybody needs a break — kids need recess, workers take coffee breaks, judges adjourn. But too often family caregivers don’t take breaks. ‘How can I,’ they reason, ‘when I’ve got a to-do list that’s 27 hours long!’ Which makes the need for a break all the more important.

Here’s a very simple suggestion for how to take a break — try meditation. I make this suggestion not as a magazine editor, but as someone who has taught meditation for 20 years and witnessed its beneficial effect on many people. For this article, I also talked to a psychologist and a psychotherapist who have written books on mindfulness meditation specifically for family caregivers.

There are a number of small studies that have examined the potential benefits of meditation for family caregivers of patients with varying conditions such as dementia, cancer and other chronic conditions. They typically found meditation had a beneficial effect on depression, insomnia, stress and caregiver burden. In addition to these caregiver-specific examinations, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website, there is evidence that meditation may have a positive effect on blood pressure, pain and other conditions. NCCIH also offers information about the safety and side effects of meditation.

Time & Attitude

Lack of time is the first objection caregivers have to taking a break of any kind, much less a regular meditation practice. Here’s the flaw in that thinking — if you don’t take a break, you may break, and then who will take care of your loved one?

Nancy Kriseman

Psychotherapist Nancy Kriseman, author of The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey, often runs into this attitude in her work with caregivers: “I say to them, ‘You make the time for whoever you’re caring for. Why is it not important to make time for yourself?’” To illustrate the mindset, she outlines three distinctions — selfish, selfless and self-full. “Caregivers are generally not selfish,” she said. “In fact, they’re usually over-the-top selfless, doing everything and putting everybody in front of themselves. Self-full means that you step back and recognize what you can and can’t do and what other people might be able to help you do, so you can let go of your ‘should do’s’ for your survivor and make sure you put yourself in the mix. The self-full person declares, ‘I matter too.’ People confuse being self-full with being selfish, and nobody, particularly a caregiver, wants to be thought of as selfish.”

“Caregivers have a lot of emotional and physical stress, and they generally don’t take time for themselves, to reflect on their own experience,” said clinical psychologist Julia Mayer, Psy.D., co-author with her husband, clinical psychologist Barry Jacobs, Psy.D., of Meditations for Caregivers — Practical, Emotional and Spiritual Support for You and Your Family. “Mindfulness gives them access to their own feelings and makes them less likely to feel overwhelmed. It reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of resilience. It makes you more effective.”

Julia Mayer

If you are worried about the time, consider Mayer’s last point carefully — meditation makes you more effective. In other words, you get more done in less time. In my years teaching meditation, that was the universal experience of those who took up the practice of mindfulness. If you get more done in less time, meditation may be a time neutral, or possibly even a timesaving, experience.

But you have to make the time, no one is going to give it to you. You will have to put it on your to-do list and defend that time against other demands. Think of it as a gift you give yourself to improve yourself. “Carve out a little bit of time and then commit to practicing,” Kriseman said. “Start small, five minutes will do at first, but commit to actually sitting for five-minutes with your eyes closed. Take some deep breaths, and pay attention to your heart beat and how you’re feeling.”

What is Mindfulness?

“I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (a well-known meditation advocate) definition of mindfulness: clearing the mind of obtrusive thoughts,” Mayer said. “It’s a state of nonreactive awareness. I find that focusing on gratitude helps to create that nonreactive awareness. It gives the caregiver a perspective that this is a moment in time, and it will pass.”

Kriseman distinguishes between burning out and numbing out: “When you’re burned out, you basically realize you can’t go any longer; you’re at your wit’s end, and about to collapse, so you stop because you realize, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” she said. “However, when you’re numbed out, you don’t realize how exhausted you are, and just keep on going, which can be very dangerous to caregivers’ health. Mindfulness is a way to help caregivers recognize when they’re getting to that numbed out place. Mindfulness can help them recognize where they are at any given moment in time. Mindfulness is self-awareness.”

Practice Isn’t Optional

Generally, when a person meditates, they feel better — more relaxed, less reactive. However, it is the practice of meditation, doing it every day, that brings the benefits itemized in the studies mentioned above — reducing depression, insomnia, stress and caregiver burden, while increasing resilience, confidence and self-control.

We all know the axiom “practice makes perfect,” and that works because of incremental improvement over time. In other words, every time you meditate, you get better at meditating. And that improvement is cumulative. At first, it changes how you react, but after a few months of daily meditation, most people become consistently calmer and more patient in their day-to-day experience.

There is another aspect to practice that we tend to forget: Practice isn’t optional; we are always practicing something. If you’re not practicing calmness every day, then by default you may be practicing getting stressed and upset. Which qualities best support you, your health — and your loved one?

There are many forms of meditation and countless techniques. At its most basic, meditation is changing your focus from the outside to the inside. Meditation practice is making that refocusing a part of your daily routine. It is a conditioning process, and the reinforcement is the relaxation you feel. The reward is self-awareness that will improve you.

Hold meditation lightly, don’t expect it to transform your life overnight. Over time, with practice, you will be less reactive and more resilient; you will become more present in your life. All of which will support you in the role of caring for your loved one.

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed or linked to have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

via Mindfulness Meditation for Caregivers – Stroke Connection Magazine – Fall 2016

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[ARTICLE] A Cloud-Based Virtual Reality App for a Novel Telemindfulness Service: Rationale, Design and Feasibility Evaluation – Full Text


Background: Worldwide, there has been a marked increase in stress and anxiety, also among patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Access to psychology services is limited, with some estimates suggesting that over 50% of sufferers are not accessing the existing services available to them for reasons such as inconvenience, embarrassment, or stigmatization concerns around mental health. Health service providers have increasingly been turning to drug-free therapies, such as mindfulness programs, as complementary treatments.

Objective: Virtual reality (VR) as a new delivery method for meditation-based stress and anxiety reduction therapy offers configurable environments and privacy protection. Our objective was to design a serious learning-meditation environment and to test the feasibility of the developed telemindfulness approach based on cloud technologies.

Methods: We developed a cloud-based system, which consisted of a Web interface for the mindfulness instructor and remote clients, who had 3D VR headsets. The mindfulness instructor could communicate over the Web interface with the participants using the headset. Additionally, the Web app enabled group sessions in virtual rooms, 360-degree videos, and real interactions or standalone meditation. The mindfulness program was designed as an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course specifically for the developed virtual environments. The program was tested with four employees and four patients with TBI. The effects were measured with psychometric tests, the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) and the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS). Patients also carried out the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). An additional objective evaluation has also been carried out by tracking head motion. Additionally, the power spectrum analyses of similar tasks between sessions were tested.

Results: The patients achieved a higher level of life satisfaction during the study (SWLS: mean 23.0, SD 1.8 vs mean 18.3, SD 3.9) and a slight increase of the MAAS score (mean 3.4, SD 0.6 vs mean 3.3, SD 0.4). Particular insight into the MAAS items revealed that one patient had a lower MAAS score (mean 2.3). Employees showed high MAAS scores (mean 4.3, SD 0.7) and although their SWLS dropped to mean 26, their SWLS was still high (mean 27.3, SD 2.8). The power spectrum showed that the employees had a considerable reduction in high-frequency movements less than 0.34 Hz, particularly with the 360-degree video. As expected, the patients demonstrated a gradual decrease of high-frequency movements while sitting during the mindfulness practices in the virtual environment.

Conclusions: With such a small sample size, it is too early to make any specific conclusions, but the presented results may accelerate the use of innovative technologies and challenge new ideas in research and development in the field of mindfulness/telemindfulness.


Attention impairment has often been considered a hallmark of mental illness. Attention training is an important part of meditation, and has proven to augment the ability to sustain attention [1]. Mindfulness as a meditation tool has an important role in psychology, self-awareness, and well-being. The authors Brown and Ryan [2] reported that mindfulness over time was related to a reduction in variable mood and stress in patients with cancer. Mindfulness is an internationally recognized therapy that teaches self-awareness, maintaining own thoughts, sensations, feelings, emotions, and appreciation of your living environment [3]. The mindfulness meditation technique may help patients manage potentially negative outcomes and improve well-being by controlling unselfconsciousness (thoughts on failure). Avoiding problems associated with the future, focusing on the present, being “now,” and controlling the tracking of time may, in addition to well-being, lead to mindfulness. A person who can achieve such an active and open attention state can control thoughts from a distance, free to judge whether they are good or not [4]. In this context, mindfulness can also be considered an important tool for managing anxiety and stress in patients [2]. Kabat-Zinn [3] designed an 8-week meditation course, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which provides 2 hours of meditation in a group with additional homework. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has demonstrated that awareness of the mind, unconscious thoughts, feelings, and other emotions positively affect major physiological processes and thus decreases the level of stress-related disorders [46].

Anxiety and stress disorders can be related to pressure at work, incurable diseases, or neuromuscular disorders, such as Parkinson disease, light traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple sclerosis, or other diseases of the muscular or central nervous system. Deficits in executive functions, memory, and learning are often documented after TBI. In addition, at least half of those suffering from TBI experience chronic pain and/or sleep disorders, depression, and substance abuse [7].

A review of the literature shows that neural systems are modifiable networks and changes in the neural structure can occur in adults as a result of training [8]. The study reported on anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images from 16 healthy meditation-naïve participants who underwent the 8-week mindfulness program [8]. The results obtained before and after the program suggested that participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course was associated with changes in gray matter concentration in the regions of the brain involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Early rehabilitation in the acute and subacute phase may be a critical period and a key to effective rehabilitation, especially in TBI [9]. A significant drawback is that patients often stay in hospital for a limited time and are soon discharged for recovery at home. Afterward they can visit an outpatients’ clinic. Patients residing close may find the outpatient service convenient, but it could be very inconvenient for those who are in need of ongoing care, are dependent on public transport, or in the worst case do not have access to transport at all. Consequently, external factors such as travel fatigue may hinder the effectiveness of the therapy and, in some, may even increase anxiety and stress. In addition, modern diseases caused by stress and anxiety in the workplace are on the increase, but access to treatment and therapy is usually not possible during working hours [10].

Innovative technologies can ensure real-time communication and data recording/sharing over long distances, even within larger groups of participants [11]. Nowadays, privacy, data security, shyness, and pride are among the most frequent reasons to avoid therapy if a mental disease or neuromuscular disorder is related to work or social status [12].

Some patients prefer to remain anonymous and do not want to reveal their problems, even to colleagues. The sense of “total immersion” created by virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology that may entirely replace mainstream videoconferencing techniques [13]. These technologies may fulfill patient expectations [14] regarding anonymity and enhance presence [15]. Patients can hide their identify using an avatar and their voices can be disguised. Psychologists and other experts may observe the kinematic changes in motion patterns, gestures, face mimics, and other measurable features [12]. If there is a group, the VR avatars can be synchronized and controlled in real time, using cloud-based technologies. The operator can form groups, deliver individual or group tasks, or lead a private conversation with selected participants. We have developed a technology that is available for home and workplace use, called Realizing Collaborative Virtual Reality for Well-being and Self-Healing (ReCoVR), for which the VR headset is coupled with a mobile phone. The only requirement is a connection to Wi-Fi/4G Internet, plus communication with the cloud server allows remote interaction with other users residing thousands of miles away.

This cloud-based app is used for interaction and communication between a mindfulness expert and participants. Each participant uses a commercially available mobile phone and a simple head-mounted VR headset to join the mindfulness session in the virtual environment (VE). Our main objectives were to design a suitable mindfulness protocol based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, with tasks in the VE with 360-degree videos, and to test the feasibility of the developed mindfulness/telemindfulness app in a real environment. Additionally, we analyzed head movements during mindfulness sessions to stimulate further initiatives in this research space. […]

Continue —> JRP-A Cloud-Based Virtual Reality App for a Novel Telemindfulness Service: Rationale, Design and Feasibility Evaluation | Cikajlo | JMIR Research Protocols

Figure 1. The ReCoVR system consists of a cloud server, serving information for the WebGL scenery and synchronization of the data (audio, video, data) between the server and clients. The clients connect to the server as mindfulness experts (using a computer with Web browser) and as mindfulness therapy participants (using Samsung GearVR 3D headset with Wi-Fi/LTE).

Figure 2. The mindfulness instructor uses the Web interface to manage the group therapy in the virtual room. The Web interface enables video-audio communication with the participants (below left), making subgroups, and assigning tasks (right) for mindfulness sessions. Additionally, the therapist can share documents and lead the session, while everybody can send/receive messages and talk to other group members.


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[Abstract] Determining the potential benefits of yoga in chronic stroke care: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Background: Survivors of stroke have long-term physical and psychological consequences that impact their quality of life. Few interventions are available in the community to address these problems. Yoga, a type of mindfulness-based intervention, is shown to be effective in people with other chronic illnesses and may have the potential to address many of the problems reported by survivors of stroke.

Objectives: To date only narrative reviews have been published. We sought to perform, the first systematic review with meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that investigated yoga for its potential benefit for chronic survivors of stroke.

Methods: Ovid Medline, CINHAL plus, AMED, PubMed, PsychINFO, PeDro, Cochrane database, Sport Discuss, and Google Scholar were searched for papers published between January 1950 and August 2016. Reference lists of included papers, review articles and OpenGrey for Grey literature were also searched. We used a modified Cochrane tool to evaluate risk of bias. The methodological quality of RCTs was assessed using the GRADE approach, results were collated, and random effects meta-analyses performed where appropriate.

Results: The search yielded five eligible papers from four RCTs with small sample sizes (n = 17–47). Quality of RCTs was rated as low to moderate. Yoga is beneficial in reducing state anxiety symptoms and depression in the intervention group compared to the control group (mean differences for state anxiety 6.05, 95% CI:−0.02 to 12.12; p = 0.05 and standardized mean differences for depression: 0.50, 95% CI:−0.01 to 1.02; p = 0.05). Consistent but nonsignificant improvements were demonstrated for balance, trait anxiety, and overall quality of life.

Conclusions: Yoga may be effective for ameliorating some of the long-term consequences of stroke. Large well-designed RCTs are needed to confirm these findings.

Source: Determining the potential benefits of yoga in chronic stroke care: a systematic review and meta-analysis: Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation: Vol 24, No 4

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