Would you like to overcome some barriers to self-knowledge? Mindfulness — paying attention to one’s current experience in a non-judgmental way — might help us to learn more about our own personalities, according to a new study, "Overcoming the Barriers to Self-Knowledge: Mindfulness as a Path to Seeing Yourself as You Really Are," published in the March 2013 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Meditation also helps slow down cortical mass thinning with age. People who continually meditated did not lose cortical mass from thinning of the brain with age in some recent studies published in March 2013.
Current research has highlighted the fact that we have many blind spots when it comes to understanding our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, according to the March 14, 2013 news release, "Know thyself: How mindfulness can improve self-knowledge."
Despite our intuition that we know ourselves the best, other people have a more accurate view of some traits, for example intellect than we do. In some cases, blind spots in self-knowledge can have negative consequences, such as poor decision-making, poor academic achievement, emotional and interpersonal problems, and lower life satisfaction.
In this new article, psychological scientist Erika Carlson of Washington University in St. Louis explores one potential strategy for improving self-knowledge: mindfulness. Mindfulness — a technique often recognized for its positive effects on mental health — involves paying attention to your current experience, for example thoughts or feelings and observing it in a non-judgmental manner.
Two components of mindfulness are attention and nonjudgmental observation
According to Carlson, these two components of mindfulness, attention and nonjudgmental observation, can overcome the major barriers to knowing ourselves. She argues that the motivation to see ourselves in a desirable way is one of the main obstacles to self-knowledge.
For instance, people may overestimate their virtuous qualities to ward off negative feelings or boost self-esteem. However, non-judgmental observation of one’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior, might reduce emotional reactivity — such as feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem — that typically interferes with people seeing the truth about themselves.
Overestimating virtuous qualities: Lack of self esteem is a barrier to self-knowledge
People may overestimate their virtuous qualities to ward off bad, insecure, inferior, or guilty feelings or to feel good about oneself or even to boost self-esteem such as putting someone down to lift yourself up regarding status in the public or family's eyes. But in the study, lack of information is another barrier to self-knowledge — in some situations, people might not have the information they would need to accurately assess themselves. Look at non-verbal behavior while someone is giving information or talking to you or to the group you're sitting in such as a class or meeting in a public place.
For instance, we have a hard time observing much of our nonverbal behavior, so we may not know that we’re grimacing or fidgeting during a serious conversation. Mindfulness could also help in this domain, as research has shown that mindfulness training is associated with greater bodily awareness.
Drawing from cognitive, clinical, and social psychology, Carlson outlines a theoretical link between mindfulness and self-knowledge that suggests focusing our attention on our current experiences in a nonjudgmental way could be an effective tool for getting to know ourselves better. The National Science Foundation Grant BCS-1025330 awarded to Simine Vazire supported this study.
Perspectives on Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. It publishes an eclectic mix of thought-provoking articles on the latest important advances in psychology.
Another study connects mindfulness to emotional well-being
A new University of Utah study connects mindfulness to emotional well being. Mindfulness is self compassion as your brain forms new neural connections. Mindfulness is about focusing on the positive outcome in the long-run. And mindfulness also is about mood control and more emotional stability throughout the day.
Researchers recently presented the study at the 71st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society. Results of a new study suggest that mindfulness -- awareness of the present moment -- may be linked to self-regulation throughout the day, and this may be an important contributor to better emotional and physical well-being.
Mindfulness may be linked to self-regulation and stability throughout the day
A new study from the University of Utah shows that individuals who describe themselves as being more mindful have more stable emotions and perceive themselves to have better control over their mood and behavior throughout the day.
Higher mindful people also describe less cognitive and physiological activation before bedtime, suggesting that greater emotional stability during the day might even translate into better sleep. The study results will be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.
Previous studies of mindfulness were conducted with participants already trained in mindfulness
Prior studies of mindfulness—paying attention in a particular way, on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally—have typically been conducted with participants trained in mindfulness, for example meditation or other interventions. In contrast, this study examines naturally-occurring traits of mindfulness.
Using a novel method for data collection, the participants wore a monitor that measured cardiac functioning and were prompted periodically throughout the day to rate their emotional state and mental functioning. Examining these processes during normal daily living builds on prior mindfulness research conducted in laboratory-controlled settings.
In a laboratory setting, mindfulness can be measured scientifically by recording cardiac functioning as well as periodic self-rating of emotional state and mental functioning. The idea is to measure how mindfulness can decrease physiological stress responses in the body.
“This study gives us a better understanding of how mindfulness affects stress responses throughout the day,” says Holly Rau, in the March 7, 2013 news release, "Better living through mindfulness." Holly Rau is a graduate student involved with this research. “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress.”
How researchers conducted the study
A total of 38 subjects, recruited from the community and University of Utah undergraduate psychology courses, participated in the study. They ranged in age from 20 to 45, and one-third were male. On the first day of the study, each participant completed a baseline assessment that included standard questionnaires, resting physiological assessment, and cognitive testing before beginning two days of experience sampling.
In the daily life portion of the study, participants wore a cardiac impedance monitor and responded to questions about their emotional state several times a day for two days. At the end of each day, participants also completed questionnaires about their ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors and were asked to rate their level of cognitive and physical arousal before falling asleep.
Researchers looked for greater emotional stability and self-rated control of emotions and behaviors
Researchers found that greater emotional stability, better self-rated control of emotions and behaviors and lower pre-sleep arousal (a measurement of cognitive and physical symptoms of anxiety) were all significantly associated with higher trait mindfulness. Results suggest that mindfulness may be linked to self-regulation throughout the day, and that this may be an important way that mindfulness contributes to better emotional and physical well-being.
Future research will examine the link between moment-to-moment mindfulness, physiological markers of stress throughout the day and sleep quality. Examination of similar measures of mood, self-regulation and sleep quality in everyday life in the context of mindfulness intervention is another important direction for research.
Mindfulness is about focusing on the positive outcome in the long-run
Mindfulness is about taking care of the minutes in each day by focusing on the positive outcome in the long-run. Self compassion, also called mindfulness, is important for seniors going through life and relationship changes.
If you want to try holistic healing, the subject is known as exercising the self-directed holistic neuro-plasticity of your brain. Mindfulness also is about giving up a lesser pleasure for a greater one. Neuro-plasticity is your brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.
Neuroplasticity ranges in the senior years from cellular changes due to new learning, to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to injury. The role of neuroplasticity is widely recognized in healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage. For example, learning a new language, new dance steps, or learning to play music as a senior may contribute to forming some new neural connections.
Check out the uTube video on meditation, "Buddha's Brain," after the book of a similar name which is Buddhas Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. Let be. Let go. Let in.
Mindfulness needs to be matched with values and virtues such as giving up a lesser pleasure for a greater one as an example of wisdom which is mentioned in the lecture on uTube. Think about a good condition, event, or issue.
The private act is letting yourself feel good, according to this lecture. Then savor the feeling good for a quarter of an hour. Is the good experience sinking in and filling the hole in your heart?
Simply being in a moment of good experience is about making your brain stronger for positive or negative experiences. And it works well for kids, according to this lecture. It's tough to be a jack rabbit in a turtle culture or school as a kid, for example.
Check out the part of the uTube lecture meditation, on the optimal brain: The generative, natural state, home base of the calm, creative, and contented, caring brain. Last semester in the Renaissance Society at CSUS (for lifelong learning and for those in active retirement), the semester offered speakers from the holistic health community in Sacramento.
Optimism and confidence also helps. The opposite is the "reactive mode" as in how the brain reacts while watching the evening news. The solution is how to recover the natural mode of the brain in daily life one breath at a time.
Take care of the minutes in your life is one attitude. Mindfulness, virtue, and wisdom also comes into play as functions of the nervous system--receiving and learning.
Altered gene expression (epigenetics) and permanent changes in the brain are discussed in the uTube lecture from meditation experiences. That's part of neuroplasticity. Think of the effects and implications of meditation in terms of neurostructure.
Long-term meditators had thicker cortical tissues in parts of their brain in the region focusing on paying attention
Long-term meditators (20-40 minutes daily) also had thicker cortical tissues in two parts of their brain, including the region of the brain controlling attention. Meditation also helps slow down cortical mass thinning with age. But people who continually meditated did not lose cortical mass from thinning of the brain with age.
One of the videos recommended was Rick Hanson, PhD. speaking about his book on the science of happiness called Buddha's Brain. Check out this neuro-psychologist's lecture on YouTube. Learn more about brain activity and mental activity such as the brain's reward center. For example, there's a study on envy that is discussed in the lecture on YouTube.
Dr. Hanson studies the science of happiness and meditation, among other naturopathic and holistic topics. His YouTube lecture goes through topics from Buddhism as a source of insight into psychology and psychology offers insight into the way the brain works. Rick Hanson lectures on "Your Amazing Brain."
Using the brain to change the mind for the better the theme of his lecture, which also includes the reverse, using the mind to change the brain. He covers topics such as responding to negative experiences and what to do about how to come back to the natural way of how the brain works.
Learn more about "social pleasure," "envy," and "reward." For example a psychology study mentioned in the YouTube video lecture looked at pleasure at the misfortune of others compared to social pleasure and envy.
Different parts of the brain are activated at different levels of consciousness. Meditation is a good part of the lecture--compassion meditation and the brain such as staying attentive and concentrated. Which part of the brain is activated when you're meditating or in prayer?
His lecture covers facts about the brain as well as how to restore the brain to its natural state in the face of what most people face in the environment. How do you deal with all those messages moving around in your brain?
Neuroplasticity is incremental
Check out the lecture and the book, Buddha's Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. The idea is developing thicker cortical parts of the brain with meditation as compared to thinning of the cortical part of the brain through aging as in use it or lose it. Check out studies of how meditation can permanently change your brain.
Neuroplasticity is not breaking news. The news is in the details. It's incremental, any help from meditation, but it adds up. Neurons that wire together fire together is the slogan for this practice of using it instead of losing it, for example, meditation.