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Recent research: articles from spring/summer journals

I read a lot of research.  When I find an article of particular interest I download it to my bibliographic database - Endnote - which currently contains over 25,000 abstracts.  I also regularly tweet about emerging research, so following me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ (click on the relevant icon at the top of this web page) will keep you up to speed with some of what I'm finding interesting. Additionally you can view this highlighted research by visiting Scoop.it (click on the "it!" icon at the top of the page).  At Scoop.it, I stream publications into five overlapping topic areas: Cognitive & General Psychotherapy, Depression, Compassion & Mindfulness, Healthy Living & Healthy Aging, and Positive Psychology.

Psychotherapy with couples & other close relationships

This weekend I'm due to give a two day training workshop in Belfast on "Psychotherapy with couples & other close relationships".  Here are the downloadable slides for the first day on "Working with couples(sadly with the cartoons removed for copyright reasons) and here the slides for the second day on "Close relationships".  There are lots of relevant handouts - here are the details.

Compassion lecture: what? why? how? so ... ?

I'm due to give a short lecture tomorrow on "Compassion".  Here is a downloadable copy of the slides ... sadly with most of the images removed for copyright reasons.  The event is a "Collider session".  It's a kind of upmarket brainstorming exercise with an invited group of participants to look at how compassionate ideas & interventions might be helpfully introduced when the new Edinburgh university student intake arrives this autumn.  I'm being wheeled on to give a brief introductory overview.

Useful to have Paul Gilbert's very recently published book to refer to:

Balanced meditation practice: an overview

Taking our attention inwards can be done helpfully in so many ways.  We can relax; we can be mindfully aware; we can use visualisations; we can deeply savour present time experience; we can process difficulties from our pasts or prepare ourselves for challenges in the future.  There are so many useful ways of using our minds to help ourselves.  In the diagram below, one can think of "mindfulness' as representing "content irrelevant" - it's how we're relating to mind-body content rather than what the mind-body content is that's important.  "Exploring & processing" however is very much "content relevant" - whether one is gaining perspective by seeing what the content is and "naming" it, or seeing what the content is and learning from it (as in focusing).

Self-compassion: soothing touch helps us settle and relax

Touch can be profoundly soothing and settling.  In an intriguing study - "Nonverbal channel use in communication of emotion: how may depend on why" - researchers found that when participants generated displays of eleven different emotions, touch was the most preferred nonverbal way of showing love and sympathy.  Welcomed touch can be very good for us physically, so we know touch settles stress hormones - "Social touch modulates endogenous mu-opioid system activity in humans"  ( ), and can even reduce vulnerability to infections - see "Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness".

Mindful self-compassion: affectionate breathing meditation

I'm just back from a five day Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) retreat in Iceland with Chris Germer & Christine Brahler.  MSC teaches a whole host of meditation practices, with three underlined as core meditations.  These three are Affectionate Breathing, Loving-Kindness for Ourselves, and Giving & Receiving Compassion.  In this post I talk a bit more about the initial core meditation practice - Affectionate Breathing.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (3rd post): embodied values

I have already written a couple of blog posts "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming" and "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (2nd post): touch & affectionate releasing" where we have taken our attention inwards, noting & naming our internal state/our internal weather, and responding to this inner state with settling touch, self-compassion & relaxation.  These posts have introduced nine suggestions that potentially upgrade a more standard breathing space practice.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (2nd post): touch & affectionate releasing

I recently wrote a blog post "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming" where I commented that if the thousands of recent research papers on mindfulness, emotion regulation & related subjects couldn't help us improve on the helpfulness of brief meditation practices, then science hasn't been doing its job adequately.  I went on to describe five possible upgrades saying that, if you're interested in trying out these ideas, maybe just explore a few at a time.  In this post I mention a further four upgrade options.  As with the first five suggestions, build up step by step, experimenting with what works well for you personally.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming

Many forms of stress management & meditation teach brief "breathing space" exercises that can be used to bring oneself into the present in a variety of helpful ways.  These seem to have been particularly popularised by the 3 minute breathing space exercise (3MBS) taught in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  Zindel Segal (one of MBCT's developers) describes the development of this Widen-Narrow-Widen attentional sequence in this short online article.

Mindful self-compassion residential: last morning, reviewing & appreciating

The first evening of this residential was back on Tuesday and it's now Saturday morning.  I've already written an initial post "Mindful self-compassion residential: first morning, doubts & overview".  So how am I feeling about the workshop now after three full days ... with just one to go?  Happy, touched, engaged, questioning, quietly inspired.  My initial doubts & impatience with the fact that such a widely taught training hasn't been backed up with better research still holds.  It wouldn't have taken a huge initiative to have set up a straight comparison trial between Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC).  How would they compare?  Would they have similar effects?