Mindfulness and meditation need to be part of Canada’s mental-health strategy

REVA SETH

Reva Seth is a bestselling author and the founder of The Optima Living Lab, an initiative making the case for public investment in the personal infrastructure of individuals.

Pro athletes, celebrities, Fortune 100 CEOs and Silicon Valley billionaires have rhapsodized on how meditation and mindfulness are the most effective tools for health, personal performance and well-being since, well, exercise. Like yoga and running before it, mindfulness tools and meditation programs are now big business – with popular apps like Headspace, the Mindfulness App and Buddhify receiving tens of millions of downloads.

Mindfulness and meditation are simply about regularly exercising the ability to be, deliberately and calmly, fully in the moment. This requires an individual to still his or her mind, control emotions and breathe regularly and deeply. It's a simple habit that produces incredible (data-based) results – which is why leading global companies such as Google, Target and General Mills are incorporating it into their organizations.

Research shows regular practice reduces both physical and mental-health costs and improves emotional quotient (essential for social cohesion and success in a knowledge economy) and resilience to stress, as well as employee focus, concentration and productivity.

Researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., found that meditation and mindfulness reduce anxiety, depression and pain.

Similarly, a study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that meditation and mindfulness lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Scientists at the University of Oregon found that meditation techniques actually result in physical brain changes that protect against mental illness by increasing the signalling connection in the brain and the density of protective tissue.

From a public-health perspective, Canada should be experimenting and implementing what research suggests is a cost-effective, non-invasive means of helping to address our national mental-health crisis.

Mental illness and addiction affects one in five Canadians in their lifetime. Canada is also the second highest per capita consumer of opioids in the world – and, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, these numbers are rising.

Data show that Canada's youth are also suffering from rising levels of anxiety, stress, depression and suicide. A large-scale 2016 study tracking Ontario students for the past 20 years found that one-third had moderate to severe symptoms of psychological distress – an increase from two years earlier.

The economic costs of these numbers are significant. Mental illness broadly costs the Canadian economy more than $50-billion (from health care, social services and income support) and Canadian businesses lose $6-billion annually as a result of lost productivity, absenteeism and turnover.

Even more staggering is the ripple effect that our national mental-health crisis is having on our families, workplaces and communities. Statistics Canada in 2012 found that approximately 11 million Canadians had a family member with a mental-health or addiction problem. More than one-third reported that their own lives had been directly and adversely affected by their family members' mental issues.

The traditional frame of reactive acute care is no longer sufficient or optimal.

It's time for public-health officials, policy makers and the public to get behind a commitment to scaling up access to meditation and mindfulness programs. These practices shouldn't remain the stronghold of the affluent who have the time and resources to invest in cultivating stronger mental wellness. Information and opportunities to practice meditation should be available to all Canadians – with schools, hospitals, workplaces and even public transport or the CBC as possible points of delivery.

Successful models that could be scaled up are already operating across the country, and the first step should be to survey these existing success stories for templates that could be nimbly offered more widely. For instance, in the Toronto District School Board, the Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute introduced lessons in mindfulness with six workshops over two months. Similarly, the Vancouver School Board offers teachers mindfulness training through the MindUp program.

This is not a replacement for better medical care, improved social services or pharmaceutical intervention – it's a supplement or augmentation to existing treatments and a pro-active means of strengthening the ability of more individuals to personally invest effectively in their mental and emotional wellness.

A national strategy and commitment to promoting mindfulness and meditation would also positively nudge forward our collective ability to better navigate other social and health priorities. For instance, meditation has been shown to alleviate loneliness among seniors, reduce stress among caregivers and help promote focus and reduce anxiety among youth.

Much like ParticipAction was launched by the Canadian government to promote healthy living and physical fitness (and to battle exorbitant health-care costs), the next frontier is to do the same with our country's mental well-being by publicly scaling up education, understanding and access to meditation and mindfulness.

Mindfulness and meditation need to be part of Canada’s mental-health strategy

REVA SETH

Reva Seth is a bestselling author and the founder of The Optima Living Lab, an initiative making the case for public investment in the personal infrastructure of individuals.

Pro athletes, celebrities, Fortune 100 CEOs and Silicon Valley billionaires have rhapsodized on how meditation and mindfulness are the most effective tools for health, personal performance and well-being since, well, exercise. Like yoga and running before it, mindfulness tools and meditation programs are now big business – with popular apps like Headspace, the Mindfulness App and Buddhify receiving tens of millions of downloads.

Mindfulness and meditation are simply about regularly exercising the ability to be, deliberately and calmly, fully in the moment. This requires an individual to still his or her mind, control emotions and breathe regularly and deeply. It's a simple habit that produces incredible (data-based) results – which is why leading global companies such as Google, Target and General Mills are incorporating it into their organizations.

Research shows regular practice reduces both physical and mental-health costs and improves emotional quotient (essential for social cohesion and success in a knowledge economy) and resilience to stress, as well as employee focus, concentration and productivity.

Researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., found that meditation and mindfulness reduce anxiety, depression and pain.

Similarly, a study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that meditation and mindfulness lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Scientists at the University of Oregon found that meditation techniques actually result in physical brain changes that protect against mental illness by increasing the signalling connection in the brain and the density of protective tissue.

From a public-health perspective, Canada should be experimenting and implementing what research suggests is a cost-effective, non-invasive means of helping to address our national mental-health crisis.

Mental illness and addiction affects one in five Canadians in their lifetime. Canada is also the second highest per capita consumer of opioids in the world – and, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, these numbers are rising.

Data show that Canada's youth are also suffering from rising levels of anxiety, stress, depression and suicide. A large-scale 2016 study tracking Ontario students for the past 20 years found that one-third had moderate to severe symptoms of psychological distress – an increase from two years earlier.

The economic costs of these numbers are significant. Mental illness broadly costs the Canadian economy more than $50-billion (from health care, social services and income support) and Canadian businesses lose $6-billion annually as a result of lost productivity, absenteeism and turnover.

Even more staggering is the ripple effect that our national mental-health crisis is having on our families, workplaces and communities. Statistics Canada in 2012 found that approximately 11 million Canadians had a family member with a mental-health or addiction problem. More than one-third reported that their own lives had been directly and adversely affected by their family members' mental issues.

The traditional frame of reactive acute care is no longer sufficient or optimal.

It's time for public-health officials, policy makers and the public to get behind a commitment to scaling up access to meditation and mindfulness programs. These practices shouldn't remain the stronghold of the affluent who have the time and resources to invest in cultivating stronger mental wellness. Information and opportunities to practice meditation should be available to all Canadians – with schools, hospitals, workplaces and even public transport or the CBC as possible points of delivery.

Successful models that could be scaled up are already operating across the country, and the first step should be to survey these existing success stories for templates that could be nimbly offered more widely. For instance, in the Toronto District School Board, the Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute introduced lessons in mindfulness with six workshops over two months. Similarly, the Vancouver School Board offers teachers mindfulness training through the MindUp program.

This is not a replacement for better medical care, improved social services or pharmaceutical intervention – it's a supplement or augmentation to existing treatments and a pro-active means of strengthening the ability of more individuals to personally invest effectively in their mental and emotional wellness.

A national strategy and commitment to promoting mindfulness and meditation would also positively nudge forward our collective ability to better navigate other social and health priorities. For instance, meditation has been shown to alleviate loneliness among seniors, reduce stress among caregivers and help promote focus and reduce anxiety among youth.

Much like ParticipAction was launched by the Canadian government to promote healthy living and physical fitness (and to battle exorbitant health-care costs), the next frontier is to do the same with our country's mental well-being by publicly scaling up education, understanding and access to meditation and mindfulness.

 

CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

PUBLISHED JUNE 29, 2017

Popular course at Yale in Finding Authentic Happiness through positive psychology and neuroscience based mindfulness practices: a CBC episode of the Current

1/4 of student (1200/3600 undergraduate students have taken a  new course at Yale University

This is a episode of the CBC's the current from Feb 20 2018

Click on the URL below to listen on your computer or smart phone

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/popup/audio/listen.html?autoPlay=true&mediaIds=1165603907532

Start listening at 22:31

 

Wanted: Facilitator to introduce mindfulness to parents at a School Council sponsored evening workshop May 15th

Sherry Beduk SBeduk@earlywords.ca

Jan 4

Hi There

My name is Sherry Beduk, and I’m a registered social worker locally but also a parent and a member of the Billy Green School council.  We are hosting a “child wellness mini series” in May for our school parents to teach parents a little about how to recognize stress in their children, childhood resiliency and ways to help children cope through wellness options.  I am looking for someone to teach a brief session about what is mindfulness/meditation and how to help children/families use this in their everyday life to promote well being.  We are hoping for someone to volunteer to do a session, with the option of promoting their own business that families could access through groups etc if they feel this is a good option for their child.

Do you know of anyone within your group that practices childhood mindfulness/meditation that would be willing to do this for us?

The date of the session is the evening of May 15th.  7-8:30 (2- 45 min sessions).

Other wellness options we are hoping to get for families to chose from include Yoga, using essential oils to promote overall well being, and perhaps zen doodling etc.  When parents register for this event they will have the option of choosing 2 wellness workshops to attend.

Thank you so much for getting back to me.  If it’s easier to talk over the phone, my cell is : 905-977-9036.

Thank you kindly,Sherry

Sherry Beduk,  M.S.W. R.S.W.

Social Worker

Infant Hearing/Blind Low Vision Program

905-385-7927 ext. 228

Thank you for your response.  It’s so great to see that some local teachers are implementing this practice within their classrooms!  For us, it’s about parents recognizing that this practice at home may also be helpful to help kids regroup, after a stressful day or in the moment at home as a strategy.   I look forward to hearing from anyone who may be willing to help us share this message to other billy green parents!  Thanks for passing my message along!

Have a great day!

Sherry

Techno-zombies, listen up

Techno-zombies, listen up

Put your device down. Lee Elliott needs to give you a piece of his mindfulness

What is the role of mindfulness in the modern age?

Going for a walk anywhere these days is a practice in dodging distracted people. Headsets in and eyes lowered, people are walking about without paying any attention to what is going on around them. It is amusing to watch two techno-zombies bump into each other, upset with being interrupted from their screen. I have seen two people with their heads down trying to avoid each other, fail by bumping into each other, and, still with their eyes glued to their devices, both try to go the same direction and collide again.

The distraction doesn't just affect in a harmless, comical way either. Where I live in Ontario, the provincial police reported in 2016 that three of the previous four years set records for the number of pedestrian fatalities. It is possible that a combination of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians have led to this increase.

My grandmother used to call the television the "idiot box," but I think we may have a new contender for that moniker. People are so focused on the tiny screen in front of them that they do not take the time to look around, pay attention to their surroundings or enjoy the moment they are in.

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment, where you are and what you are doing. It is a chance to look at the people, the scenery, the world around you. When you are with friends, be with them. Not paying attention to the world around you has consequences. Not only for you but for others as well.

In Toronto, my friend watched as a mother, with her face immersed in her device, rushed off the subway train and left her toddler behind. Whatever was on the phone was more important than her child. My friend saw what happened and got off at the next stop with the little guy and brought him to the subway agent. The agent told him this is not the first time she had seen this happen!

How often have you been at a dinner where the people you are eating with are on their screens instead of conversing and connecting with the others at the table? Is it more important to brag about the fun time you are having as opposed to actually having a fun time? Do we really need a play-by-play of time you are spending with others while we are not there?

All the electronic devices in our lives allow us to respond from anywhere at any time, yet we use them to respond all the time. Far from making things more convenient, they have taken away the easy aspects and replaced them with stress.

When will we learn that multitasking really isn't – multitasking really means doing several things poorly instead of one thing really well. Many mistakenly believe they can multitask effectively, but study after study has shown that the human brain is simply not able to juggle so many balls at once. I've been in far too many meetings where one or several people are typing away on their computer or fiddling on their device and they grind the meeting to a halt when asked a question.

"Sorry, can you repeat that?" they say when what they should admit is: "Sorry, I wasn't paying any attention to what you were talking about because I was distracted with something I think is more important than all of you, so please indulge me and repeat everything you have been saying again while I waste even more time."

And how often do you hear, "I need to respond to this right now"; "What did he post today?" or "Just let me read this one thing." The device seems to demand your time at this instant. But does it really need to be answered right away?

This need for instant gratification and connection has even manifested into a psychological phenomenon. "Phantom vibration syndrome" has been much studied by researchers with data published in medical journals such as the BMJ. Phantom vibration syndrome is the feeling that your device is vibrating in your pocket even when it isn't there.

But once you learn to leave the device alone or only check it at certain times, you will naturally be more present and relaxed. The best part of mindfulness practice is the peace of mind it brings.

Over the past several months, I have stopped checking my phone all the time. I have put the electronics away and spent time with people. I have become more in the moment. It can't be coincidental that my stress level has decreased and my happiness has increased.

When I first started my mindful practice, I thought it was going to be some jive hippie stuff or some pseudo-religious ceremony, but it really wasn't either of those things. Taking some time each day to be in the moment was actually more freeing than I had expected.

We all have busy lives juggling work, family, friends, health, hobbies and a myriad of other tasks. So how can you find time to be mindful? Put the phone down. Focus on your breath for five to 10 minutes just as you wake up or go to sleep. Simply be part of the world around you.

You don't have to stop and smell the roses, but you can at least notice that they are there.

Globe and Mail Wednesday Oct 25 2017

Lee Elliott lives in Bolton, Ont.

Techno-zombies, listen up

Put your device down. Lee Elliott needs to give you a piece of his mindfulness

What is the role of mindfulness in the modern age?

Going for a walk anywhere these days is a practice in dodging distracted people. Headsets in and eyes lowered, people are walking about without paying any attention to what is going on around them. It is amusing to watch two techno-zombies bump into each other, upset with being interrupted from their screen. I have seen two people with their heads down trying to avoid each other, fail by bumping into each other, and, still with their eyes glued to their devices, both try to go the same direction and collide again.

The distraction doesn't just affect in a harmless, comical way either. Where I live in Ontario, the provincial police reported in 2016 that three of the previous four years set records for the number of pedestrian fatalities. It is possible that a combination of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians have led to this increase.

My grandmother used to call the television the "idiot box," but I think we may have a new contender for that moniker. People are so focused on the tiny screen in front of them that they do not take the time to look around, pay attention to their surroundings or enjoy the moment they are in.

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment, where you are and what you are doing. It is a chance to look at the people, the scenery, the world around you. When you are with friends, be with them. Not paying attention to the world around you has consequences. Not only for you but for others as well.

In Toronto, my friend watched as a mother, with her face immersed in her device, rushed off the subway train and left her toddler behind. Whatever was on the phone was more important than her child. My friend saw what happened and got off at the next stop with the little guy and brought him to the subway agent. The agent told him this is not the first time she had seen this happen!

How often have you been at a dinner where the people you are eating with are on their screens instead of conversing and connecting with the others at the table? Is it more important to brag about the fun time you are having as opposed to actually having a fun time? Do we really need a play-by-play of time you are spending with others while we are not there?

All the electronic devices in our lives allow us to respond from anywhere at any time, yet we use them to respond all the time. Far from making things more convenient, they have taken away the easy aspects and replaced them with stress.

When will we learn that multitasking really isn't – multitasking really means doing several things poorly instead of one thing really well. Many mistakenly believe they can multitask effectively, but study after study has shown that the human brain is simply not able to juggle so many balls at once. I've been in far too many meetings where one or several people are typing away on their computer or fiddling on their device and they grind the meeting to a halt when asked a question.

"Sorry, can you repeat that?" they say when what they should admit is: "Sorry, I wasn't paying any attention to what you were talking about because I was distracted with something I think is more important than all of you, so please indulge me and repeat everything you have been saying again while I waste even more time."

And how often do you hear, "I need to respond to this right now"; "What did he post today?" or "Just let me read this one thing." The device seems to demand your time at this instant. But does it really need to be answered right away?

This need for instant gratification and connection has even manifested into a psychological phenomenon. "Phantom vibration syndrome" has been much studied by researchers with data published in medical journals such as the BMJ. Phantom vibration syndrome is the feeling that your device is vibrating in your pocket even when it isn't there.

But once you learn to leave the device alone or only check it at certain times, you will naturally be more present and relaxed. The best part of mindfulness practice is the peace of mind it brings.

Over the past several months, I have stopped checking my phone all the time. I have put the electronics away and spent time with people. I have become more in the moment. It can't be coincidental that my stress level has decreased and my happiness has increased.

When I first started my mindful practice, I thought it was going to be some jive hippie stuff or some pseudo-religious ceremony, but it really wasn't either of those things. Taking some time each day to be in the moment was actually more freeing than I had expected.

We all have busy lives juggling work, family, friends, health, hobbies and a myriad of other tasks. So how can you find time to be mindful? Put the phone down. Focus on your breath for five to 10 minutes just as you wake up or go to sleep. Simply be part of the world around you.

You don't have to stop and smell the roses, but you can at least notice that they are there.

Globe and Mail Wednesday Oct 25 2017

Lee Elliott lives in Bolton, Ont.