Friday, May 4, 2012

Mindfulness as Good as Antidepressants?

I've been away from blogging for a while, I'd like to "catch up" at some point, but today is not the day. I recently found an article about depression treatment with mindfulness. The study was published in 2010, but it is still cutting edge in my opinion. The original article can be found here Participants in the study were adults (18-65) who have met criteria for major depressive disorder with atleast 2 episodes. While in remission,the participants were assigned to one of three groups. 1. attended eight weekly group sessions of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), no medication 2. continued with antidepressant medication 3.placebo. The researchers found the group that continued with their antidepressants and the group that participated in the MBCT faired about the same, with equivalent protection from relapsing into major depression. What great news! Not everyone likes to be on medication, and sometimes patients do not tolerate medication well. It is awesome that they have another option. The skills learned through the MBCT can act as a protection far longer than any medication can.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Brains are Like Velcro for Negative Experiences

I just read an article in the NY Daily Times entitled "In high-stress situations, you can Zen your way to calm, says author Rick Hanson." Hanson, author of Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, describes our brains like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.” We actually need to train our brains to hang on to positive experiences and feelings especially when we are in high stress situations.
Remembering positive experiences is something I try to help my students with pretty often. It is common for someone to enter my office with a list of all the things that aren't going well (homework, parents, friend troubles, etc.) and to breeze past all of the wonderful things they've accomplished. Whether it is getting an A on test or winning a sports trophy or doing something nice for someone else, all of those experiences give reason to celebrate in the midst of everything else that is going on. It's not just a trick for students, everyone can benefit from taking a moment to pause and reflect on what's good.

I think I really need to read Hanson's book.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Continuing to learn about mindfulness

I received a flyer in my mailbox entitled "Buddha's Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom." There are conferences on the East Coast this spring run by Rick Hanson, who wrote a book of the same title. It looks very interesting and I wish I could attend. It is just not in the budget right now. Perhaps I will check out his book. I already signed up for his e-newsletters Just One Thing and Wise Brain Bulletin. His website is

On a different note, I signed up for the Minfulness: Foundation for Teaching and Learning at Bryn Mawr College in March!! I'm very excited to attend 1 day of this 3 day conference and excited that it is close to home. I believe Gretchen will be attending as well, so we will have to compare notes. I am also very excited to meet with other liked minded people in our area and to see how they are incorporating mindfulness practice into their schools.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mindful Mornings

Gretchen has started hosting 5 minutes of mindful breathing before the school day starts. Last week was tought because it was only a 4 day week and we had to get the word out on Tuesday. Wednesday was a meeting day for all faculty so we didn't get to meet. On Thursday, I joined Gretchen and we attempted to breathe in the All Purpose Room. I never knew so many students gathered there long before assembly started! Needless to say, it got VERY loud VERY quickly. I was attempting to block out all of the conversations but it was hard to not hear one small voice say, "I think they are asleep!" I'm sure there was pointing along with that statement. She told me that Friday her group increased and added a few lower school students, but I had a meeting and could not join. This week, the mindful breathing has moved to the library and today we even closed the door to block out some noise. School is just a loud place in the morning with everyone arriving. We've had a few students join in and I think they are enjoying the experience. I know I am. It's great way to start off the day and I feel more relaxed and ready to take on the day with just 5 minutes. 5 minutes are so do-able.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Using Mindfulness with 7th Grade Students

Right now in 7th grade guidance classes we are learning about stress and specifically focusing on ways to help manage/combat regular, everyday stressors. For the past two classes, I have been teaching my students how to relax using mindful techniques. We have done several different exercises: focusing on breathing, sitting in calm, and a progressive muscle relaxation. I have used the chime I wrote about in the previous posting as well as relaxation music as tools to help this process. Once everyone has settled into the practice, they have been engaged and seem to enjoy it. It is interesting because these classes meet first period so many of the students are still a bit sleepy. I wonder how it would work at a different point in the day. I'm trying to reinforce with them that these are practices that can be done anywhere. Focusing on your breath can help right before a test or presentation in class and no one needs to know you are accessing it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New tool to help with mindfulness

This morning I recieved the chime Gretchen ordered for me. This Zenergy Chime is made by Woodstock Chimes and ordered from I am excited to use it with my students in helping them gain focus and stay with the sound of the tone until it diminshes completely. I know Gretchen has already used a singing bowl in the library, but this is my first time trying out this type of tool. I previously had the sound of a chime on my desktop and used it in the classroom to start out a period of mindful breathing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mindfulness is all around

Over the past few days, I've had several conversations with co-workers regarding mindfulness. Some already have some knowledge in this area and others are exploring it for the first time. I am pleasantly surprised that there is a group of teachers at our school that would like to try to incorporate mindfulness techniques into their class lessons. One teacher even offered to give up class time to focus on this topic with their students.

I've also started following several "tweeters" who are tweeting about mindfulness techniques and how to live a more mindful existence. You can follow me @CounselorTS on Twitter.

Yesterday, I tried to focus on my breathing while I was at the gym after school. I think my workout was greatly enhanced and I was able to concentrate on what I was stretching/lifting/moving without feeling self conscious or distracted by what others were doing. I think it led to a more meaningful workout and one which was refreshing and energizing.

Today, I would like to be mindful in my interactions with others and really take the time to listen to them before I start talking.