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Recent research: mind-body & body-mind effects for cancer, allergy, dementia, & mental health

Here are five studies on the loose theme of how the mind affects the body, and the body affects the mind ... and that the distinction between mind and body is pretty arbitrary anyway.  Using meta-analysis, Chida & colleagues highlight considerable evidence suggesting that stress-related psychosocial factors have an adverse effect on cancer incidence and survival.  Andersen & colleagues report a randomized controlled trial to respond to this in women diagnosed with breast cancer.  Women in the stress management arm of the study received an initial one-year, 26 session intervention in groups of 8 to 12 people.  The aim was to reduce distress and improve quality of life, improve health behaviors (diet, exercise, smoking cessation), and facilitate cancer treatment compliance and medical follow-up.

Barbara Fredrickson’s recent research study on loving-kindness meditation (second post)

I have already written an initial blog post about Barbara Fredrickson and colleagues' interesting recent research paper (Fredrickson, Cohn et al. 2008) on the effects of teaching people loving-kindness meditation.  So what are some possible implications of this research for people in general, for using forms of mind training (meditation, imagery, breathing techniques, self-hypnosis and relaxation) for ourselves, and for people who teach these approaches?

Four aspects of helpful inner focus: 2.) nourishing positive states (part A)

Ten days ago, on this blog, I wrote about "Reducing negative states" as one aspect of a simple model entitled "Four aspects of helpful inner focus" (see below).  The model is a method I've evolved to help me organize and think about the many facets of deliberately induced altered states of consciousness.  I'm using terms loosely here.  I remember a hypnotist I came across many years ago, calling himself a "de-hypnotist".  He claimed that we walk around "hypnotised" most of the time and that he saw his job as trying to help us "wake up" from this hypnosis.  I mention this to illustrate how terms in this field - for example "inner focus" and "altered state of consciousness" - tend to creak rather a lot if one pushes at them for precise meanings. 

Recent research: four happiness studies on traditional advice, health benefits, and the particular value of safety & contentment

It seemed time to post on recent research involving happiness and wellbeing.  Here are four studies from the current issues of the Journal of Happiness Studies (the September edition is open access with all full articles freely viewable) and the Journal of Positive Psychology.  Ad Bergsma discusses advice on how to be happy given across the ages.  He refers to some of the other articles in this edition of the Journal of Happiness studies, including papers on the happiness advice of Epicurus, Schopenhauer, and the ancient Chinese philosphers.  Maarten Berg looks at the possible value of ‘New Age' suggestions on happiness.  Paul Gilbert and colleagues look, very interestingly, at different types of positive emotion and suggest that it may be what they call "safe/content" feelings that are particulary protective against a variety of unhappy emotional states.  Veenhoven reviews thirty studies on happiness and longevity and argues that, although happiness does not seem to cure illness, it does a good job of reducing the chances of getting ill - with a similar effect size to the benefits of being a non-smoker rather than a smoker.

Handouts & questionnaires for wellbeing and calming skills

I continue to slowly add handouts & questionnaires to the relevant area in the website's "Good Knowledge" section.  Here are a some that I use largely in the territory of wellbeing, mindfulness and relaxation.  Some are assessment and monitoring questionnaires.  Some provide orientating information.  Some describe specific exercises to do.

Attention, focus & time - this is a Powerpoint slide that I put together and use as a printed-out handout when discussing what we spend our time paying attention to, and how certain forms of attention focus are likely to be more helpful than others.

Four aspects of inner focus - this is another Powerpoint slide I print out to illustrate some overlapping aspects of mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, self-hypnosis, and other related practices.

Transdiagnostic wellbeing therapy - I put this Powerpoint picture together in a rather tongue in cheek way in a discussion with Tom Borkovec.  Despite its quite light-hearted origin, the diagram makes some useful points. 

Pain assessment & information

What's in the way is the way

- Mary O'Malley

For many years my work split fairly evenly between helping people with psychological difficulties and helping people with pain problems.  Quite a few people were troubled with both.  In the last several years I have done much less work with pain, although I still see some people for overall pain management.  This has been partly because I was trying to keep up-to-date with too many fields, so stepping back from pain work made sense.  It has also been partly because the flourishing of research into happiness & wellbeing has fascinated me and taken up time.  Here are a collection of pain-associated assessment and information sheets that I accumulated over the years.  They are obviously relevant for work with pain, and some (e.g. one year symptom diary) can be adapted for work with stress & psychological difficulties. 

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