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Washing Dishes To Chill Out

Washing dishes may seem an unlikely stress management therapy, but a new study suggests that it might be an ideal way to unwind. Researchers at Florida State University set out to learn whether dishwashing mindfully – paying attention to such elements of the chore as the scent of the soap and the shape and feel of the dishes – could help reduce stress. They recruited 51 college students and assessed their positive and negative personality traits, their mindful states and their psychological well being. The investigators then divided the students into two groups. Those in one group read a short passage on the sensory experience of dishwashing, while those in the other group read about proper dishwashing techniques. The students responded with their impressions of the two passages verbally and in writing, and then each participant washed 18 clean dishes. Afterward, the researchers found that nervousness decreased by 27 percent in the mindful dishwashers and mental inspiration increased by 25 percent. No such changes took place in those who had read about dishwashing techniques. The researchers concluded that routine daily activities such as dishwashing afford openings for mindful meditation, and offer opportunities to help calm the mind and body.

Yoga for Your Mind

Doing hatha yoga appears to have sharpened the thinking skills of seniors taking part in an eight-week study. A total of 108 adults between the ages of 55 and 79 enrolled in the study. Half of them attended three yoga classes per week for the eight weeks, while the other half did stretching and toning exercises three days a week for the same eight week period. Afterward, the researchers reported that the seniors in the yoga group had improved in tests of information recall, mental flexibility and task switching, all “mental functions (that) are relevant to our everyday functioning,” said researcher Edward McAuley, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois. No such changes were seen in the seniors who performed the stretching and toning exercises instead of the yoga. Noting that hatha yoga requires focused effort, study leader Neha Gothe, then at the University of Illinois and now a professor at Wayne State University, suggested that the “focus on one’s body, mind and breath during yoga practice may have…(resulted) in an improved ability to sustain attention.”

Neha Gothe, Edward McAuley and Arthur Kramer, “The effects of an 8-week hatha yoga intervention on executive function in older adults,” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu095

Mindfulness to Head Off High Blood Pressure

30 percent of Americans have pre-hypertensionAbout 30 percent of Americans have pre-hypertension - their blood pressure is higher than normal, but not high enough to require drug treatment. This condition can progress to high blood pressure, but new research now suggests that mindfulness-based stress reduction can help lower pre-hypertensive blood pressure levels, and prevent or delay the need for drugs. Researchers at Ohio’s Kent State University recruited 56 adults with pre-hypertension and assigned them to two groups. The first group underwent a program in mindfulness-based stress reduction training. Those in the other “control” group were given lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. The researchers reported that after eight training sessions in mindfulness-based stress reduction, participants’ blood pressure dropped significantly. The top number (systolic blood pressure) declined an average of nearly five millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) while diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) dropped 2 mm Hg. Both measurements also declined in the control group but by only 1 mm Hg in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The researchers noted that while the positive reductions seen in the mindfulness group were “modest” they were “potentially large enough to lead to reductions in the risk of heart attack or stroke”. Additional studies will be needed to see if the effects are long-lasting.

Joel W. Hughes et al, “Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Prehypertension”, Psychosomatic Medicine DOI: 10.1097/%u200BPSY.0b013e3182a3e4e5

The Advantages of Integrative Medicine (Video)

Integrative medicine focuses on optimizing the body's natural healing capacity. It aims to enhance healing in body, mind and spirit by using an intelligent combination of conventional and alternative therapies for which there is strong evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Watch as Dr. Weil discusses the evidence for integrative vs. strictly conventional medicine, and explains why integrative medicine offers the best hope for more effective, less costly health care.