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Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain

ology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Mindfulness is a technique in which one pays attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his thoughts and “lets it go.”

“One way to practice mindfulness meditation and pay attention to present-moment experiences is to label your emotions by saying, for example, ‘I’m feeling angry right now’ or ‘I’m feeling a lot of stress right now’ or ‘this is joy’ or whatever the emotion is,” said Creswell, lead author of the study, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, a leading international medical journal for health psychology research.

“Thinking, ‘this is anger’ is what we do in this study, where people look at an angry face and say, ‘this is anger,’” Lieberman noted.

Creswell said Lieberman has now shown in a series of studies that simply labeling emotions turns down the amygdala alarm center response in the brain that triggers negative feelings.

Creswell, who conducted the mindfulness research as an advanced graduate student of psychology at UCLA, said mindfulness meditation is a “potent and powerful therapy that has been helping people for thousands of years.”

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is effective in reducing a variety of chronic pain conditions, skin disease, stress-related health conditions and a variety of other ailments, he said. Creswell and his UCLA colleagues — Lieberman, Eisenberger and Way — found that during the labeling of emotions, the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was activated, which seems to turn down activity in the amygdala. They then compared participants’ responses on the mindfulness questionnaire with the results of the labeling study.

“We found the more mindful you are, the more activation you have in the right ventrolateral
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Source:University of California - Los Angeles


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