Out of sight is out of mind. Proverb often quoted by my granny. Human ingenuity seems to reach new heights every year. We invent, and then develop wonderful technology to aid us in our lives. The difficulty arises when we allow these tools to become our masters. Take the smartphone. This is a wonderful example […]
1. A tag or sheath, as of plastic, on the end of a lace, cord, or ribbon to facilitate its passing through eyelet holes.
2. A similar device used for an ornament.
[Middle English, from Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille,needle, from Vulgar Latin *acūcula, from Late Latin acucula, diminutive of Latin acus, needle; see ak- in Indo-European roots.]
Mindfulness and meditation have been around for thousands of years. It is only relatively recently that they have started to appear on the radar as potential treatments for physical and mental health difficulties.
People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they have been taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be.
If they could handle information, they would not have to drown at all.”
― Idries Shah, Reflections
Information is one thing that is plentiful in the twenty first century. It is said that one week of the New York Times contains more information than the average person, alive just fifty years ago, would have been exposed to in their entire lives. As well as the ever increasing availablity of information, the volume of data available seems to be expanding exponentially, and most of this is unfiltered. This knowledge revolution, while having many benefits, does come with a significant price.
Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) is a term that describes the effects of a persistent state of information overload that can be generated by the digital world. It was first used by psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell, in an article in the Harvard Business Review. He described a state “Marked by distractability, inner frenzy, and impatience…” occuring in business managers that turned “otherwise talented performers into harried underachievers.”
This condition although similar to ADHD, is caused by the environment in which we live and work. In other words it is something that we are doing to ourselves.
There are known knowns. These are things that we know we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things that we don’t know we don’t know. Donald Rumsfeld.
This quote is a wonderful example of using words to hide meaning. At the height of the first Gulf War it was made as part of an explanation for some error on behalf of the coalition forces.
On the surface it sounds like so much spin-doctor nonsense, however, it is in fact a very profound remark and goes beyond the usual level of awareness that many of us have about the workings of our own minds.
Donald Rumsfeld should perhaps have also gone on to mention unknown knowns. This may sound daft, but there are many things that we know at a non-conscious level, and of which we are not consciously aware, that have a significant influence on both our behaviour and well being.
These are the things we have programmed our brains to do without always allowing them into awareness. They are the subroutines that help us to react rapidly, but not always wisely, to events that occur in both in our internal and external worlds.
In our sleep deprived times another good argument to teach mindfulness as widely as possible.
Start them young.
Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas.”
― Andrew Weil
Over the last twenty years it has become clear that the condition we call depression does not have one single cause or presentation. The accumulation of evidence shows that some types of depression are either brought about, or sustained by the way we think and interact with our world. Recent research suggests that an inflammatory response, brought about by our modern lifestyle, may also contribute to the development and persistence of such states.
The evidence also shows that our genetic makeup contributes to our risk of developing a depressive disorder. However, the presence of this genetic influence does not mean that depression is a purely genetic disorder.
Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different, enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t) James Baraz
The benefits of mindfulness in adults are being well researched, and the available evidence about this practice shows many positive benefits across several domains of human functioning. Research into the benefits for young people has lagged behind the work in adults but is starting to demonstrate very similar effects.
Several studies which have used brain scans and other neuroscientific assessments, have demonstrated both structural and functional changes in the brain following mindfulness practice. These changes are directly related to improvements in both the clarity of our thinking as well as our awareness and control over our feelings.
This means that we can act out of what is happening in the present moment rather than allowing past events and scripts to dictate our current choices and behaviours.
Reserpine, an indole alkaloid, was extracted from Rauwolfia serpentina or Indian snakeroot. It has been in used in Indian medicine for several hundred years, and was a treatment for conditions that we might now recognise as mental illness. Gandhi is alleged to have taken it as a relaxant.
It showed antipsychotic effects and was used in the treatment of high blood pressure. It has subsequently been banned from use in the United Kingdom, because of severe, problematic side effects. These included severe depression and unexpected suicide.
One of its predominant effects on the brain was to deplete stores of monoamine neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine.
This is one of the bits of evidence that lead to the formulation of what was to become known as the “monoamine theory” of depression, a theory that still holds a lot of influence up to the present day.
The current focus has been on Serotonin, another monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain.