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The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being

The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being

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The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being

Course No. 9303
Professor Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.
Harvard University
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Course No. 9303
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  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is not heavily illustrated, featuring a variety of visuals designed to aid in your understanding of the course material. Among these are diagrams that show you the correct process of mindful practice, illustrations and photographs that highlight aspects like proper posture during meditation, and several animations that show how parts of your brain are affected by mindful activities. There are on-screen spellings and definitions to help reinforce material for visual learners.
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Course Overview

Have you ever noticed that trying to calm down before a high-stakes event often just produces more agitation? That trying to change troublesome habits can seem difficult or impossible? Or that real fulfillment and well-being can be elusive, despite living a successful life?

A surprising number of such difficulties stem from an inherited propensity of the human brain—our automatic, hardwired tendency to seek pleasure and to anticipate and avoid pain. Modern science demonstrates that this mental hardwiring, traceable to the survival needs of our earliest ancestors, is at the root of many of the psychological and behavioral problems that we face today.

For thousands of years, people have used mindfulness practices—techniques to develop awareness of present experience with acceptance—to deal effectively with a wide range of life challenges. And, a large and fascinating body of scientific research now validates the remarkable benefits of mindfulness practice for psychological as well as physical health.

But how exactly does mindfulness work, in scientific terms? How can understanding the science and practice of mindfulness improve everyday life? And how can the human brain, whose very functioning gives rise to so many of the problems we struggle with, actually provide a solution?

Now, in the 24 fascinating lectures of The Science of Mindfulness, Professor Ronald D. Siegel, a clinical psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, reveals the science behind mindfulness in compelling detail and demonstrates its application to an extraordinary range of human problems—psychological, social, and medical. You’ll closely examine the neurobiology involved, leaving you with a clear knowledge of the science underlying ancient practices that are now profoundly influencing the contemporary world. And you’ll learn many practical ways you can use mindfulness techniques in your own life.

An Empirical “Inner Science”

We are now in the midst of an explosion of scientific research demonstrating that mindfulness practice changes both the function and the structure of the brain. Numerous studies, using such technologies as EEG and MRI, show which parts of the brain are affected by mindfulness practice, and how these neurobiological changes benefit our minds and bodies.

You’ll learn the science underlying mindfulness in topics such as:

  • Neurobiology and well-being: Learn how, when we’re worried or scanning the environment for trouble, our brain activity tends to center on the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex, whereas left prefrontal cortical activity correlates with happiness, engagement, and contentment. Examine research demonstrating that sustained mindfulness practice activates this left prefrontal region.
  • Changing brain function and structure: Take a broad look at what neuroimaging technologies tell us about how mindfulness affects brain function by activating specific areas of the brain that regulate emotions, integrate feeling states and thought processes, deepen empathy and equanimity, and reduce cognitive decline as we age.
  • The science of self-preoccupation: Learn about the human brain’s “default mode network,” a neural system that’s activated during stressful thinking about ourselves, centered in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Grasp how mindfulness techniques dramatically affect the PCC, quieting this hub of self-referential thinking.

A Stunning Range of Applications

One result of these scientific findings is that mindfulness practices have been adopted into mainstream psychotherapy and many other healthcare settings, showing effectiveness for a stunning range of conditions. You’ll explore how mindfulness practices are used to treat a wide variety of psychological and behavioral difficulties that can interfere with leading a rich and fulfilling life, such as

  • Depression: Grasp how mindful awareness impacts depression by changing our relationship to moods, feelings, and thoughts, allowing us to perceive them as transient and ultimately impersonal events.
  • Compulsive and addictive behaviors: Learn how mindfulness techniques can dismantle troublesome habits and behaviors by enabling us to “surf” waves of feelings and urges without having to act on them.
  • Chronic pain: Discover the success of mindfulness practices in treating pain, by changing our relationship to moment-to-moment sensations and our thoughts about them.
  • Stress and other psychological symptoms: Explore the extraordinary results of mindfulness techniques in groundbreaking stress-reduction programs, cognitive therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and other acceptance-based treatments.

A Useful and Convenient Guide for Practice

While this course delves deeply into the neuroscience behind mindfulness, research shows that, like physical fitness, the benefits of mindfulness come from practicing it. With this in mind, Professor Siegel also teaches you a wide array of mindfulness techniques, encouraging and helping you to practice both with him, and on your own. These techniques, several of which are also provided, for enhanced practice, on supplementary audio tracks with the course, include:

  • Breath Awareness Practice a foundational formal meditation practice and one of the simplest ways to calm and integrate the mind and body
  • Loving-Kindness Practice a fundamental practice for cultivating acceptance, both toward the contents of your own mind and toward others;
  • Mountain Meditation a core equanimity practice, valuable for riding out storms of emotion more effectively;
  • Breathing Together a powerful practice for developing interpersonal connection;
  • 3-Minute Breathing Space a practice useful in moments of acute distress;
  • R-A-I-N a practice empowering you to be with and investigate challenging emotional or physical states; and
  • Befriending the Changes a meditation on the impermanence of the body, useful for working with the challenges of illness and aging

As Professor Siegel makes clear in these lectures, mindfulness practice trains us to bring deep awareness to the present moment—to become more fully conscious of our unfolding sensory and mental experience as it arises. This mindful awareness, as research clearly shows, can profoundly change our relationship to all of our experience. And with more than three decades of success teaching mindfulness practices and exploring their scientific underpinnings with students, clients, and mental health professionals, Professor Siegel is an ideal guide.

Teaching of Uncommon Thoroughness and Depth

With a penetrating knowledge of both ancient mindfulness traditions and their modern uses, Professor Siegel reveals the striking intersections between traditional Buddhist psychology and Western cognitive science, showing how mindfulness practices can allow you to perceive the fluid nature of the “self” and the reality of your own profound interconnectedness with the world.

This playful, caring, and brilliantly designed course places in full view the impact and relevance of mindfulness techniques in responding effectively to many of humanity’s most fundamental psychological and existential problems. Revolutionary in its implications, The Science of Mindfulness shows you how these techniques can radically transform the mind, the heart, and the experience of everyday life—joining ancient wisdom practices and scientific methodology in forging new possibilities for living.

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29 lectures
 |  29 minutes each
Year Released: 2014
  • 1
    Why Mindfulness Matters
    Begin by exploring the nature of mindfulness practice as a means of developing awareness with acceptance of our present experience. Review its remarkable range of psychological and physical benefits, dispel common misconceptions, and uncover the three core skills it employs as part of an empirically-supported path to well-being. x
  • 2
    Our Troublesome Brains
    Here, discover how our brains are actually predisposed, evolutionarily, to psychological distress. Learn about the human “negativity bias,” and how our tendency to both anticipate and try to avoid pain leads to problems. Consider what mindfulness teaches us about the mind, and what challenges might arise in practicing mindfulness - beginning with awareness of breath. x
  • 3
    Informal, Formal, and Intensive Practices
    Grasp how mindfulness, like physical fitness, must be developed through regular and sustained practice. Investigate ways of cultivating mindfulness during daily activities such as bathing or driving, and understand the significant benefits of formal meditative practice and intensive retreats. Learn also about walking and eating meditation. x
  • 4
    Who Am I - The Perils of Self
    Now grapple with one of the most fundamental and challenging insights that come from mindfulness practice. With reference to both cognitive science and traditional Buddhist thought, observe how the human mind creates the illusory sense of a “separate” self, and how this conception of separateness is itself the cause of suffering. x
  • 5
    Mindfulness or Psychotherapy
    Delve into the implications of mindfulness practice for psychological well-being. Learn how mindfulness practice works toward many of the same goals as psychotherapy. Explore how the ultimate aim of traditional mindfulness practice diverges from earlier Western psychology in proposing a more radical path to psychological, emotional, and spiritual freedom. x
  • 6
    Attention and Empathy in Relationships
    See how mindfulness practices train us to embrace our moment-to-moment experience. Learn how this capacity allows us to be with discomfort and to freely tolerate all emotional states, and how this can positively affect our relationships through cultivating empathy, open-mindedness, and mental flexibility. x
  • 7
    The Science of Compassion and Self-Compassion
    “Compassion” is empathy for suffering that includes a desire to alleviate it. Learn how compassion for oneself is associated with virtually every desirable psychological outcome. Learn steps and exercises to cultivate compassion both for yourself and others, and review studies on the benefits of developing compassion. x
  • 8
    Tailoring Practices to Fit Changing Needs
    In choosing mindfulness practices for your own life, consider seven different criteria or questions to ask, such as which mindfulness skills to emphasize; whether to favor secular or religious approaches; and when to do practices that cultivate a sense of safety as opposed to those that work with difficult psychological material. x
  • 9
    Modifying Our Brain Function and Structure
    This lecture takes a thorough look at mindfulness and brain function. Review studies that show how mindfulness practice activates areas of the brain that regulate emotions, integrate thoughts and feelings, increase empathy, and facilitate learning and memory, while also retaining more brain matter and staving off aspects of cognitive decline typically associated with aging. x
  • 10
    Solitude - An Antidote to Loneliness
    Explore how mindfulness and compassion practices deepen connection and communication with others, and also cultivate an awareness of “interbeing” - our connection to the larger world. Review data showing how mindfulness skills enhance relationships, and see how mindfulness fosters the ability to be alone, a capacity essential for intimacy. x
  • 11
    Connecting with Children and Adolescents
    Mindfulness practice offers distinct benefits for caregivers of young people. Observe how mindfulness training helps us enter a child’s world through developing spontaneity and sensitivity, as well as fostering effective responses to misbehavior. Also learn mindfulness techniques that children and young people can use themselves. x
  • 12
    Seeing Sadness and Depression in a New Light
    Grasp how depression involves shutting down and turning away from pain, and how mindfulness practice turns our attention to the experience at hand, thus challenging the depressive stance. Observe how mindfulness changes our relationship to thoughts, moods, and feelings, allowing us to see them as transient events. x
  • 13
    Befriending Fear, Worry, and Anxiety
    Investigate the nature of anxiety and fear, seeing their roots in fantasies about the future. Consider how we typically cope with worry and anxiety by distracting ourselves, and how mindfulness training can free us from anxiety through directly facing our fears while grounded in the present moment. x
  • 14
    Transforming Chronic Pain
    Review substantial evidence that the vast majority of chronic back pain is actually stress-related, and learn about the effects of negative emotions on the body. Discover how mindfulness practice offers an effective approach to dealing with physical pain, through changing our relationship to both the symptom and to pain-related thinking. x
  • 15
    Placebos, Illness, and the Power of Belief
    This lecture explores the extraordinary power of the mind to affect our subjective experience of the body. Review astonishing data on the effectiveness of placebos in medical treatment, and learn how mindfulness practice can aid in treating conditions such as insomnia, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems, and illness anxiety. x
  • 16
    Interrupting Addiction and Troublesome Habits
    Investigate the nature of compulsive behaviors and the psychological patterns that keep them in place. Observe how mindful awareness can dismantle these patterns, allowing us to be with changing waves of feelings and urges without having to act on them. Learn about effective mindfulness-based programs for a range of problematic behaviors. x
  • 17
    Overcoming Traumas Large and Small
    Study how trauma affects the mind, and how the tendency to suppress traumatic experiences leads to painful symptoms and unhealthy behavior. Grasp the ways in which mindfulness techniques can be highly effective for processing and integrating avoided feelings, and learn four practical steps for working with traumatic material. x
  • 18
    Groundbreaking Mindfulness Programs
    We are now seeing the wide-scale adoption of mindfulness practices into many healthcare settings. Study the approaches and benefits of pioneering programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and learn additional techniques that can deepen any mindfulness practice. x
  • 19
    The Neurobiology of Self-Preoccupation
    Science is now able to measure brain activity related to self-referential thinking - self-focused thought patterns that tend to correlate with distress. Examine findings from recent studies showing that experienced meditators can quickly step out of the self-preoccupied thought stream, with significant benefits for their ability to deal with pain and to cultivate wellness. x
  • 20
    Growing Up Is Not Easy - Facing Impermanence
    Mindfulness traditions teach us that facing impermanence can be extraordinarily liberating. Assess your readiness, and consider how mindfulness practices offer a different way of relating to the realities of aging, sickness, and death itself, and how cultivating deep attention to the present moment allows us to freely enjoy all the stages of life. x
  • 21
    Toward a Science of Wisdom
    Today, scientific psychologists are beginning to grapple with the question of what wisdom is and how it may be developed. Examine current experimental models for studying wisdom, and discover the key elements of wisdom they identify. Review eight ways that mindfulness practices can help us to develop wisdom. x
  • 22
    The Promise of Enlightenment
    The ultimate goal of traditional mindfulness practice is a psychological transformation known as “enlightenment.” Grasp the nature of this awakening in practical terms and learn about various pitfalls and challenges people encounter along the path, including spiritual materialism, foundations for awareness, and interpersonal contexts. x
  • 23
    Mindful Ethics as a Path to Freedom
    Recent research suggests a bilateral relationship between ethics and well-being. Consider five ethical precepts, and use them as tools of inquiry to observe which actions lead to suffering for ourselves and others. Learn how to develop an empirically derived ethical code - one not received as doctrine, but based in personal experience. x
  • 24
    The New Science of Happiness
    Finally, learn about the new field of positive psychology, and how mindfulness practices foster empirically-supported paths to happiness. Consider the many things that we mistakenly assume will produce happiness, and the alternative of a reliable avenue to well-being, grounded in attention to the present moment, engagement in life, gratitude, and connectedness to others. x
  • 25
    Bonus Meditation - Breath Awareness Practice
    Bonus Meditation - Breath Awareness Practice x
  • 26
    Bonus Meditation - Loving-Kindness Practice
    Bonus Meditation - Loving-Kindness Practice x
  • 27
    Bonus Meditation - Mountain Meditation
    Bonus Meditation - Mountain Meditation x
  • 28
    Bonus Meditation - Breathing Together
    Bonus Meditation - Breathing Together x
  • 29
    Bonus Meditation - Stepping into Fear
    Bonus Meditation - Stepping into Fear x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

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  • Ability to download 24 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 208-page printed course guidebook
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  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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CD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 12 CDs
  • 208-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 208-page course synopsis
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Mindfulness practices
  • Suggested readings

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Your professor

Ronald D. Siegel

About Your Professor

Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.
Harvard University
Dr. Ronald D. Siegel is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance, where he has taught for more than 30 years, and an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He received his Doctor of Psychology degree from Rutgers University and completed his clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard...
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Reviews

Rated 4.5 out of 5 by 74 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Great Purchase! The course offer a different perspective for understanding and solving typical human problems. A point of view that must be included. July 27, 2016
Rated 2 out of 5 by too cutsey, tongue in cheek humorless There is another course on the same subject which I would recommend, but not this one. Obviously comes close to Jon Kabat Zin's stuff, and since they are in the same academic and geographic vicinity. A few too many inappropriate connotations, which made me feel like I was listening to another slightly perverted teacher. Not that I'm a prude, but Buddhism has it's own loose structure around that subject that needs to be handled in a straight forward discussion. Try one of my absolute favorites: Practicing Mindfulness. And it's more than an introduction - highly recommended! July 2, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by I found this course both practical and elevating. The teacher is a “tour guide” who can add perspective and joy to our understanding of mindfulness, therapy, involvement, kindness, and meditation. Who May Benefit Most: If you want to expand or explore another dimension of mindfulness practice, to add an element of motivation for an existing practice, or to investigate mindfulness as part of psycho-therapy, this course may be for you. The course requires an open mind about methods compatible with many classical Buddhist psychological insights (IMHO an evidently rich, defensible, uniquely introspective generalizable foundation for understanding the mind), but I thought he avoided religious opinions. Impressions on the Scope of Course: Dr. Siegel begins by defining Mindfulness, suggesting how to develop or refine a practice (as much a skill as a method), and showing its positive value both historically and in modern research. He examines how mindfulness can greatly help manage current medical/psychological/social challenges, the relationship between the mind and stress/strain, and how mindfulness engages and gives perspective to problems rather than trying to ignore them or overcome them with conflict. He suggests many habitual and often-useful mental operations (which we often take for granted) inevitably create difficulties, and how mindfulness can manage them and lead us forward. He also emphasizes mindfulness, like mastering a sport or playing an instrument, requires practice and refinement, while positive mental states (including compassion and equanimity) are both a product and a condition for mindfulness. Kindness and compassion (including for our own minds) are indeed large parts of the practice. Finally, Dr. Siegel ends with useful guided imagery and meditation exercises and he summarizes practices discussed in lectures. Instructor and Presentation: -- Dr. Siegel’s enthusiastically good-natured teaching style rarely seems contentious, condescending, sarcastic, or dogmatic. He often sounds like he’s ready to start a joke (in fact, he often uses “one of my favorite cartoons is …” to make a point). -- I listened to the course, and can’t imagine you’d miss much by taking the audio. -- The Course Guidebook seems to follow the lectures well, and I found it useful to review these notes after the lectures. The Bibliography was strong, although many of the sources from books and articles may not be readily accessible and few web-based resources (other than links) were given. Strong Points: I thought the "good-points-to-not-so-good-points ratio" of this course was high. It can help cultivate an understanding of the mind and our lives, in a way that can help end suffering. It's nice to observe Dr. Siegel take a fairly complicated topic (like the dangers of self-referential thinking) and explain it simply but accurately – his discussions are helpful and they make sense. By adding Kindness to the standard therapeutic definition of Mindfulness, he pragmatically brings it much closer to the classical Buddhist definition of Mindfulness. He covers a broad range of interesting topics, including how our usual way of self-experience can produce inevitable problems, how attention can blend with empathy in relationships, suggestions for selecting the right method of mindfulness, and why it often takes skillful effort to be positive. Precautions: Dr. Siegel presents Mindfulness as almost entirely beneficial, good for everything from soup to nuts, and always the best approach (implied in Lecture 7). I think this may be a bit utopian, may understate the discipline involved, and risks some disappointment or unrealistic expectations for several reasons. A second precaution is the course seems to present some diseases as perhaps-too-largely psychosomatic, so if you have something like fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome, you may encounter some pique at the implication that “much of it’s in your head.” I’m a clinician not a therapist, but think we need humility in making blanket diagnoses. Disclaimer: I have a Buddhist practice but am not a psychotherapist, have never had (or plan) psychotherapy, and couldn’t tell you much about it … but I enjoyed the course. June 14, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by the science of mindfulness Very good course to gain entry into the realm of mindfulness. June 9, 2016
  • 2016-08-30 T11:40:04.758-05:00
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