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Mindfulness can lower stress, increase focus, and improve our mental health. Here are five strategies for getting the most out of your mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness is everywhere these days.

Increasingly, people are really bringing greater attention to the present moment, cultivating compassion, and making time to sit with their feelings and thoughts as they arise, without reacting or getting lost in them.

There are hundreds of books on the subject, countless instructional videos, courses and workshops. One can easily find online meditation groups, especially popular during this time of global lockdown and heightened stress. There are mindfulness programs specifically for schoolchildren, for the workplace, for people in prison, and for seniors facing retirement.


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PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE is having a crisis of trustworthiness these days. Popular findings that were widely regarded as true have turned out to be based on faulty research. For example, “power poses” don’t actually boost testosterone or increase the likelihood of getting hired based on a job interview. There is no magic ratio of positive to negative emotions that predicts a good life. Brain training games don’t actually strengthen cognitive functioning in ways that generalize to everyday life. …


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Evidence-based therapies are getting very popular. But what does “evidence-based” really mean? A closer look at what we do and don’t know about effective psychotherapy.

There is something very appealing about the idea of evidence-based psychotherapies, also known as empirically supported treatments (ESTs). If you are looking around for a therapist, finding someone who is using a therapy that’s been rigorously evaluated and found to be effective (i.e., “empirically supported”) seems like a great idea. As a quick Google search will show, there a quite a few evidence-based therapies out there. Some have been shown to work well for a wide variety of problems, while others seem to excel at treating specific problems such as phobias, anxiety, depression, or psychological trauma.

The process for determining…


Distraction can be a relief. It can also keep us from feeling fully alive.

What are you are aware of, right now, in this moment? Take a moment and notice what draws your attention. Sounds in the room? A sensation of warmth, or coolness? A feeling of ease or of discomfort from the way you are sitting? Are you aware of any tension in your body-a tightness in your face, chest, or shoulders? Or maybe just the opposite, a sense of calm and relaxation?

Are you aware of any thoughts? What are they about? Worries? Plans? Doubts or curiosity about this activity? …


Deepened connections to ourselves and others can emerge as the world pauses.

I recently posted a question on Facebook asking people to share any unexpected positive experiences resulting from the lockdowns and shelter-in-place laws now in place around the world.

I was a bit nervous, asking people to focus on good things happening during a terribly dark time, when millions have fallen ill from COVID-19 and close to 200,000 people have died from it as I write. I wondered if my question would seem callous, insensitive to the real and at times extreme suffering caused by the loss of jobs and income, the social isolation, and the numerous other stressors people are…


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Distraction comes at a price. Here’s a simple but powerful way to overcome it.

Can you relate to any of the following situations?

  • Someone’s talking to you — your partner or child, a colleague or a friend — and though you’re physically present, you’re not really hearing them. Your thoughts are elsewhere, on a problem or worry, a conversation from the morning, a conflict at work, or a plan for the evening. You miss a lot of what’s being said to you, because you’re not fully there.
  • You’re running or walking or biking through a beautiful place, but you barely notice your surroundings, because your mind is elsewhere, trying to solve a problem, worrying…


Stories can help us heal from painful life events. They can also divide us and lead to great harm.

On a dark and painfully cold night, in a field turned muddy by torrential rain, a young Syrian Kurdish journalist was running for his life. He’d just slipped through a barbed wire fence into Turkey, and Turkish border guards were closing in on him quickly. Realizing they might shoot him if he kept running, he stopped, raising his hands in surrender. The guards beat him ferociously, kicking him as he lay curled up in the mud, trying to protect himself from their boots and rifle butts. Then he heard the click of a Kalashnikov, and felt the nozzle of the…


A reflection on the courage and resilience I’ve found in the darkest places

When I speak about my work, and especially when I read from my book War Torn, about life, death, and hope beyond the front lines of armed conflict, one question is asked more than any other: why do I do this work? Why do I spend time in places where violence is pervasive, despair abounds, and hope for better days seems so elusive? And the next most frequent question is, how can someone get involved in this work? Where does one begin?

Since a growing number of psychology students and other folks in the mental health field are interested in…


Psychological science is facing a crisis of trustworthiness, as once-sacred findings come tumbling down.

Here’s a short quiz concerning several popular findings from different subfields of psychology. True or False?

1. Brain training games strengthen cognitive skills in ways that generalize to everyday life tasks.

2. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, the class of anti-depressants that includes Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil (among others), are more effective than older anti-depressants, and are significantly better than placebo for most people with mild or moderate depression

3. Standing in a “power pose” prior to a job interview, hands on your hips or interlocked behind your head, increases testosterone production as well as the odds of being…


Poverty and overcrowding leave refugees especially vulnerable to Covid-19.

Physical distancing, washing our hands with soap for 20 seconds throughout the day, wearing masks, and minimizing how often we touch our faces are all cornerstones of the global strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They’re great preventive methods and the evidence base for their effectiveness is rapidly growing, as we learn more about how the virus is transmitted.

But how useful is it to ask people to engage in physical (social) distancing or wash their hands with soap and water when they live in crowded refugee camps or detention centers filled beyond capacity and lacking in the…

Kenneth E Miller

Storyteller, scientist, therapist, rock climber. Writes about mindfulness, war & mental health, & the vagaries of science. More @ www.kennethemiller.com

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