Mindfulness Effective For Autism, Research Shows

watercolor-portrait-1050714_960_720Compared to 40 years ago, diagnoses for autism (or disorders which fall on the autism spectrum) are 10 times more common today. In the United States, the total number of individuals diagnosed as autistic is around 3 million, and that number continues to increase. Symptoms of this disorder vary, but are most commonly recognized among experts as difficulty communicating, engaging with others, and/or repetitive behaviors. As a result of the increase with no known cause, psychologists and medical experts have dedicated more time, energy and research to finding answers and educating the population with tools for managing the disorder(s).

More recently, researchers have determined that there is no one cause associated with the disorder, rather a number of factors contribute to its existence, including genetics and early stages of prenatal development. With such gaps in research, effectively treating autism is equally difficult. As a result, most of the current medications designed to treat symptoms fail to fully alleviate the most common problems. Furthermore, existing medications do not work for every individual and there are concerns with administering them to children and adolescents along the spectrum. Nevertheless, experts have acknowledged therapy, even while taking medication, is most helpful in addressing issues associated with autism.

Confirming this idea, studies from Yoon-Suk Hwang and Patrick Kearney show how mindfulness can work to reduce behavioral problems in children with autism as well as in individuals with intellectual disability. This is valuable information given that around 95% of those on the spectrum exhibit such problems. Using mindfulness techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, the study included 254 individuals from 21 studies, with a range of ages, from adolescents to seniors. The results show that mindfulness lowered aggression, stress, and depression, and even helped certain participants with issues like smoking and weight loss, which are not necessarily limited to nor a result of autism.

Mindfulness is a practice with history in Far East teachings that involve being aware of feelings in a present moment without judging, but acknowledging them. Since its introduction the medical world in 1979, the practice has been used to treat a number of issues pertaining to mental and physical health, with great effects, as shown here.

Unlike typical medication, there were no negative side effects to engaging in mindfulness. Though it should be noted that the therapy only worked if and when individuals were willing to adhere, and cannot be forced, since it requires focus of the mind and reflection. In that way, it’s effect is dependent upon the assistance of instructors and/or therapists willing to teach and lead through the process.

The impact of this study will certainly go a long way toward treating this growing problem in our country and around the world; especially if medicine has little effect and a lack of research. While mindfulness may be more time consuming and require more knowledge and planning than medication, it is comparatively cheaper in the long run, and it’s effect should not be discounted. Those with understanding of mindfulness as well as autism would be most qualified for providing instruction.

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Wellness

Over the years, you’ve learned how to treat common physical issues in order to prevent them from turning into bigger health problems. You know that if you twist your ankle, you should stay off of it for the next few days; if you accidentally touch the stove when it’s hot, you should put a topical antibacterial on your burn; and if you put on a few pounds, you should probably start eating better and exercising more (you know, at some point.) You’ve learned to think preventatively about your physical health, but can you say the same when it comes to your emotional health?

We often don’t think to manage physical and psychological health in a similar fashion, but we should. If you’ve been feeling deeply depressed, angry, and/or anxious for a consistent and prolonged period of time, you should seek out professional help the same way you would seek out your general practitioner if you suspected you had an infection or experienced a seizure. It is important to address severe symptoms of any kind as soon as possible, but it’s also important to know how to deal with more common issues, including emotional ones, we all experience, so they too don’t escalate into larger, more difficult to treat problems.

We all need our own emotional equivalent of putting an ice pack on a hurt ankle or band-aid on a cut. Here are some ways you can manage five common emotional health issues.

1. Protecting your self-esteem.

Often times when our self esteem is feeling low, we do exactly what we shouldn’t: we get really self-critical. Would you put salt in a cut or walk through the rain without an umbrella when you’ve got a cold? Probably not. Next time your self-esteem feels like it’s taking a dive, you should practice self-compassion.

Try this: Imagine what you would say to a close friend who came to you with the same feelings you’re having. Once you have your answer, direct that compassion and advice back at yourself.

2. Dealing with failure.

When we fail we feel farther away from our goals, helpless, and unmotivated. It feels like we have no control. If you went to the doctors and they weren’t sure what your prognosis was yet, what would you do? You would probably focus on the things that are in your control (making all of your appointments, taking recommended tests, and following up with your doctor.) Next time you find yourself facing failure, focus on what you can control.

Try this: Make a list of all the factors in your control such as effort and preparation, then figure out a few ways you can improve on these pieces next time you get a similar opportunity. You’ll end up feeling more motivated and better prepared for future success.

3. Learning not to dwell.

Stewing over upsetting events doesn’t solve or prevent anything, it just makes you feel worse. Does thinking about your busted ankle help it heal any faster? No, it doesn’t. Sometimes we revisit negative thoughts or events so much that they become disruptive to our lives and negatively affect our mood. This kind of thinking is called rumination, and it’s not productive. There are a lot of ways to deal with unwanted thoughts, but one of the best tools psychologists have found is mindfulness.

Try this: Next time you notice yourself beginning to revisit a negative experience, stop yourself in your tracks. Mindfulness isn’t about censoring your brain or trying to actively NOT think about something (as soon as you tell yourself not to think about a pink elephant, you’re inevitably going to think of a pink elephant.) Instead, you’re going to acknowledge it, take a deep breath, and choose not to engage with it any further; let the thought float away. The goal is not to never think about negative events again; the goal is to have control over when you engage in them and how much you let them upset you.

4. Finding meaning after loss.

Loss is a natural, and inevitable, part of life. Just like losing your baby teeth before you grow in your adult teeth. It can be painful, but it can also create sometimes stronger. An important part of emotional recovery is finding meaning in difficult life events. Of course you should take the time you need to grieve, but one of the most helpful ways to eventually move on is to have that loss motivate greater life changes.

Try this: Once you’re ready to start healing, think of ways in which you might derive some good from the situation. Maybe you can appreciate the people around you more or maybe you can refocus your life on the things that truly matter to you. One of the best ways you can find meaning and honor what you’ve lost is to volunteer your time to something related to what you’re experiencing. Volunteering is a great way to find personal meaning in difficult times while creating a greater good for the world around you. Loss is never easy, but finding meaning will allow you to gain strength from your experiences, rather than feeling broken by them.

5. Recovering from rejection.

Rejection can spawn strong feelings of self doubt. The thing about rejection is, it’s more about the person doing the rejecting than it is about you. If you found out you had a genetic disease, you wouldn’t feel like it “chose” you to annoy, would you? Just because someone makes up their mind about you, doesn’t mean what they think is true. One person thinks you were wrong for the job, someone else might not have. One person doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you, another person probably does. Self-worth comes from within, not from what others feel or do to you.

Try this: Make a list of attributes you feel you possess that are valuable in the sphere in which you were rejected (e.g. what makes you a great partner, friend, employee?) Choose one attribute, and expand on it. Go into detail and give examples that support this positive quality of yours. Reminding yourself of the great things you have to offer will help you rebound with much greater ease.

Once upon a time, you didn’t know what to do when you cut your finger or got a headache, but you learned through experience and through advice from others. The same goes for treating your emotional pains. Your mind deserves the same attention you’ve given your body; now it’s time to step up.

How Helping Others Helps You

doc bradyAlthough Dr. Dennis Brady (Doc Brady) spends a considerable portion of his days working, he never waivers from his commitment to community service and his ardent belief that volunteering doesn’t just improve the lives of others – it improves the lives of the volunteers as well. There are a number of reasons this is the case. Anyone who has the means to donate their time helping others should absolutely make it a priority to do so. The benefits of giving yourself to a good cause may surprise you!

Expand Your Social Network

One of the best way to forge lasting connections with other people is to work on the same project together. By completing activities as part of a team, relationships are not only born, but often strengthened. Think about your day-to-day life on a personal level. In school, as part of a sports teams, and in the workplace are some situations in which many people make some of their closest and longest lasting friendships. One thing those places have in common? Ample opportunity for teamwork.

People, at a biological level, are social creatures. Volunteering strengthens your ties to the community by exposing you to new people who care about the same cause as you and are willing to work with you to make a difference.

Benefit Your Body and Mind

Volunteering can be wonderful for boosting self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth. In other words, it can improve your overall life satisfaction dramatically. When people come to witness first hand the ways in which they have the power to make their community better, many are often pleasantly surprised by just how much change they can affect. Volunteering, in other words, is often a pleasant reminder of how much you matter.

This ties into how volunteering can improve both your physical and mental health. In addition to improving your self-esteem, it can also ward off depression. A huge risk factor for depression is social isolation, so getting out in the world as part of a team willing to

ork together to make it a better place diminishes that threat. Similarly, because much volunteer work (depending on your interests and passions) can be physically engaging, it can also be a great way to get out of the house and be more active! Running around your community to make it a better place might end up burning more calories than you might expect.

Improve Your Career

Even though there is no paycheck waiting at the end of a volunteering commitment, that certainly does not mean that your career won’t benefit from you making the time to help others. In some cases, the ability to improve your career prospects are obvious – volunteering with a company or non-profit for which you would like to work is a fantastic way to meet some key employees, make a good impression, and get your foot in the door. This is not to mention that you could volunteer in a capacity that builds job skills. Donating your time as a part-time educator, public speaker, counselor, and many other roles allows you to develop some very impressive skills that will definitely come in handy during the job search process.

In other instances, the fact that you have a passion for which you are willing to volunteer could really round you out in the eyes of a hiring manager. Volunteering is a great way to illustrate that you go above and beyond in your work ethic.

Clearly, when you volunteer to help others, everyone wins.


200 Volunteers Step Up to Support Florida Hospital

Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel recently made headlines for a wonderful reason. The facility, which was built in October 2012, houses 83 beds and expected as many volunteers at best. The staff was astounded anddoc brady pleased when, instead, hundreds of community members started donating their time to the medical institution’s 33 departments. This is particularly impressive given the hospital’s requirements to volunteers, which include committing to help at least one day a week for six consecutive months.

Hospital CEO Denyse Bales-Chubb expressed how helpful having that many extra set of hands can be in guaranteeing that not just the patients, but their families as well, have all their needs met and can enjoy the best possible care. She said, “We would be lost without our volunteers. They are truly an integral part of our hospital…They make a difference every single day without families and patients and staff, and we would truly be lost without them.”

The volunteers come from all walks of life, ranging from nearby students to retired persons eager to make a difference with their time. Responsibilities are similarly varied and can include answering phones, stocking shelves, and managing the critical information flow between the numerous departments. These contributions are extremely valuable.

Volunteering is a fantastic way to help improve your community while also developing yourself personally. A fairly common idiom references that idea that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” There is a better way to consider the truth which spurred the birth and dissemination of that saying. The fact of the matter is that being productive makes you happy. It give you space to reaffirm your value and ability to impact the world around you positively. This kind of validation is ideally also found in the workplace, but it is much more pure and constant when experience outside of the office. Jobs, ultimately, tend to be rooted to some extent in your paycheck. Whether you are lucky enough to work a job which fulfills you emotionally or not at the moment, you probably rely on the financial compensation to live. This means that, at some level, there is a layer of stress and concern that motivates you to perform well.

Volunteering like the members of the Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel community do circumvents those kinds of concerns. It purely an opportunity to give – to create good. There is incredible potential, power, and inspiration in that kind of action.

Learn More

Meet Doc Brady, a Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Advanced Forensic Hypnosis Investigator.  Always on the move, Doc is passionate about helping his community in the Central Florida area.

Doc has been volunteering since 1970 when he decided to volunteering driving as an ambulance attendant Merrimack, New Hampshire.  From that moment Doc’s volunteering experience took off and he began volunteering for police departments and sheriff departments as an auxiliary officer and forensic expert.  One of only 500 individuals to hold the Crime Prevention Certification, Doc Brady has appeared on shows like Dr. Phil as an expert Forensic Hypnosis Investigator and has aided the most popular #1 TV show, CSI, as a forensic consultant.

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