Sustainability & Quality-of-Life Experiemce

In developing a Net Zero sustainable community, I discovered that the physical side of sustainability is more easily achieved than the non-physical side … our quality-of-life experience. Here’s an article that focuses on two growing approaches that enhance quality-of-life experience … then a quote from a second article that merits some contemplation.

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The growth of yoga and meditation in the US since 2012 is remarkable

 

The number of Americans who meditate

has tripled.  Yoga is up 55 percent.

 

Eliza Barclay and Julia Belluz

VOX

Nov 11, 2018

Yoga and meditation, two ancient practices, are now officially the most popular alternative health approaches in the United States, each used by around 35 million adults.

That’s the word from two reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out Thursday, which looked at the changes in the use of yoga, meditation, and chiropractors between 2012 and 2017.

In 2017, about 14.3 percent of US adults surveyed by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said they had done yoga in the past 12 months, while 14.2 percent had meditated, the reports show. That’s up from 2012, when 9 percent were doing yoga and 4 percent meditating.

And it’s not just adults; more kids are doing yoga and meditation too. In 2012, fewer than half a percent of kids had meditated, while now it’s now 5 percent. Yoga for kids grew from 3 percent in 2012 to 8 percent last year.

The report also showed a smaller increase in Americans’ use of chiropractors: It climbed from 9.1 percent in 2012 to 10.3 percent in 2017.

The big growth in yoga and meditation is clearly linked to better availability, with a boom in studios, classes, and apps, some of them free and online.

But as more Americans find they are struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, distraction, and physical issues like chronic pain, they’re seeking therapies that don’t involve pharmaceuticals.

Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin Madison and founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, told Vox.

 

“Many forces in our culture have conspired

To elevate anxiety and stress — in part due

to a lot of messages related to fear in the

media — and this makes people unsettled.

 

“I think there is an increasing interest in

strategies like yoga and meditation that can

help people adjust to modern circumstances.”

 

Scientists like Davidson, meanwhile, are finding that yoga and meditation can be at least somewhat effective for a wide array of health concerns — with few side effects. Here’s a quick summary of what we know about yoga and meditation’s potential health benefits.

 

Yoga’s promising health benefits

Researchers who have studied the health effects of yoga say it’s probably just as good for your health as many other forms of exercise. But it seems particularly promising for improving lower back pain and, crucially, reducing inflammation in the body, which can help stave off disease.

There are also several randomized controlled trials suggesting that yoga may improve quality of life for diabetes patients, reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, and even help people manage high blood pressure.

How can this be?

One possibility has to do with inflammation.

You can think about inflammation in two ways. There’s helpful inflammation, as when your body’s immune system mounts a response to bacteria in a cut. There’s also harmful inflammation. When you’re stressed, your body’s inflammatory response can go into overdrive, hampering its ability to fight off viruses and disease. People who are inactive or obese or who eat an unhealthy diet have higher levels of harmful inflammation. And researchers have found associations between inflammation and various chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Yoga — like other mind-body exercises such as tai chi and meditation — seems to be particularly helpful in reducing harmful inflammation. A 2014 meta-analysis on the effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system found that yoga reduces inflammation-based blood markers. So did this 2014 randomized controlled trial looking at women with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors.

Michael Irwin at UCLA’s medical school, one of the authors of a 2015 descriptive review on inflammation and mind-body exercises, told Vox,

 

“When you look at the aerobic exercise

necessary to decrease inflammation,

people have to maintain very vigorous levels.”

 

But not with yoga, he continued.

 

“Even practices with minimum levels of

physical activity [like Iyengar stretches]

can have large effect sizes.”

 

Researchers don’t yet know why, though they think the meditative components of yoga, tai chi, and meditation may have something to do with it.

Yoga also helps alleviate lower back pain, in both the short and long term. The most recent Cochrane systematic review on yoga and chronic low back pain, published in 2017, sums up the results of the best available studies, which mostly focused on the Iyengar, Hatha, or Viniyoga forms of yoga:

 

There is low-to-moderate-certainty evidence that

yoga compared to non-exercise controls results in

small to moderate improvements in back-related

function at three and six months. Yoga may also

be slightly more effective for pain at three and six

months, however the effect size did not meet pre-

defined levels of minimum clinical importance.

 

So while this isn’t an end-all treatment, the evidence we have points in the direction of a benefit. And that’s why, in February 2017, the American College of Physicians advised doctors and patients try “non-drug therapies” such as exercise, acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, and even chiropractics, and avoid prescription drugs or surgical options wherever possible.

 

Meditation is one of the best tools

humans have for training our minds

Mindfulness meditation has been practiced in East and Southeast Asia since the Buddha began teaching it 2,600 years ago. As the Burmese teacher S.N. Goenka has noted, the Buddha didn’t teach a sectarian religion, but rather a way of life, a tool for achieving clarity, peace of mind, and liberation from suffering. In the past few decades, it has taken off in the West, with the help of teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Tara Brach, and Jack Kornfield.

The goal of meditation is sometimes misunderstood as emptying the mind. But as Davidson has put it,

 

“It’s really about discovering what the true nature

of our mind is. It’s more of an exploration, an

investigation, an opening, a kind of radical

honesty about who it is that we are.”

 

Its power to stabilize the frenzied mind and body has also become a fascination of neuroscientists, psychologists, and doctors. The evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright, author of Why Buddhism Is True, said in an interview with Vox’s Sean Illing …

 

“Meditation is a discipline that liberates you

from the tyranny of feelings. It’s a technique

for taking things ranging from anxiety to

remorse to actual physical pain and they’re

taking a perspective on them that somewhat

releases you from their grip.”

 

Recently, scientific researchers have shown in clinical settings that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety and depression, as well as pain.

Though there are few randomized controlled trials on meditation and mental health, a 2014 meta-analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that meditation, and in particular mindfulness, can have a role in treating depression, anxiety, and pain in adults — as much as medications but with no side effects. Meditation can also, to a lesser degree, reduce the toll of psychological distress, the review found.

There’s also some evidence that meditation may help prevent cardiovascular disease, although, as the American Heart Association noted in a 2017 statement, “the overall quality and, in some cases, quantity of study data are modest.”

When it comes to kids, more and more schools are implementing mindfulness meditation programs. The research on meditation for kids is still fairly preliminary, but a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions in kids and adolescents published in October in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found there were significant positive effects on executive functioning, attention, depression, anxiety/stress, and negative behaviors.

Though there’s clearly momentum around yoga and meditation, the new CDC data show that access to these tools isn’t equal. White adults were more likely to use yoga and meditation compared with Hispanic and black adults.

And as more people see yoga and meditation as a business opportunity, “there’s a challenge around preserving the authenticity of these practices and ensuring they are taught with fidelity,” said Davidson. That means respecting and sharing the long history of the practices, and teaching them in a rigorous way.

One of the final big takeaways of the new data from the CDC is that we have options for experimenting with these practices — be it Tibetan Buddhist meditation techniques or Iyengar yoga, on apps, videos, or in-person classes. Davidson said …

 

“One size does not fit all. Some people may bene-

fit from apps; others may not. But there’s a real

urgency to train our mind, as our attention is

increasingly being captured by digital devices.”

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I’ve discovered “there are no accidents.” And as I was preparing the article you’ve just read, I came across another article with an ending quote that prompted me to add it to this blog.

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Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google: 

‘Technology Doesn’t Solve Humanity’s Problems’

 

Growing up in India, he slept on the floor of a house with-

out a refrigerator. Today, the chief executive is steering

Google through the most turbulent period in its history.

 

Erik Tanner, David Gelles

The New York Times

Nov. 8, 2018

 

“Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too.”

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Finally, on this topic, I thought it might be helpful to ask D, a non-physical entity my wife channels, for a few summarizing comments …

 

“There are skills needed to deal with ‘humanity’s problems.’

 

“If you want to look at what humanity’s problems are, we

would say the biggest is dealing with differences from a

place of love and acceptance.  Skills that are needed are:

 

  • Lack of judgment; (i.e. not being quick to judge.)

 

  • Ability to listen carefully;

 

  • And treating people with respect.

 

“In some cases, the ability to listen carefully requires one to get underneath all the rhetoric, to find a real source of pain or passion or desire, in order to find common ground.”

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