Health tips for November 2014

Learn the benefits of mindfulness meditation and the risks of poor coping strategies.

Take a mindfulness break

The psychological benefits of mindfulness meditation — focusing on the present, often through breathing exercises — are long established. But new research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that even a brief training program of just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation for three consecutive days can alleviate stress. Participants in the study who took the training reported feeling less stressed in subsequent speech and math tests than did the control group.

Poor coping strategies may lead to insomnia

Dealing with stress by having a drink, going to the movies or watching TV increases the risk of insomnia, according to a study published in the journal Sleep. While sufferers may be distracted from stress while using these coping techniques, they often find themselves ruminating about the stressor later on. This "cognitive intrusion" is a significant factor in the link between stress and insomnia, researchers say, noting that mindfulness therapies (see above) can be an effective way to curb intrusive thoughts and improve sleep. "It’s what you do in response to stress that can be the difference between a few bad nights and chronic insomnia," says the study’s lead author, Vivek Pillai.