Tuesday, March 6, 2018


My favourite comedian Groucho Marx was a lifelong insomniac. He tried most things to help him sleep, but apparently to little avail. ‘I can sleep anywhere but in bed,’ he once exclaimed.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicinemindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful tools for improving your sleep ... and the quality of your sleep.

In the study, 49 adults, all of whom reported having sleep troubles prior to being enrolled in the study, were split into two groups. One group was instructed to complete a mindfulness meditation program while the other simply attended sleep education classes which mostly focused on instructing the participants on various ways to improve their sleep habits. Each group participated in their respective programs for six weeks. By the end, the results showed that those who were meditating experienced less insomnia, fatigue, and depression compared to those who weren't practising mindfulness meditation.

The results confirm a 2008 study which demonstrated that wellbeing and mindfulness are positively associated with sleep quality and with a morning circadian preference. Results from a sample of 305 undergraduates revealed positive associations among measures of emotional, psychological, and social well-being, mindfulness, sleep quality and morningness (that is, the characteristic of being most active and alert during the morning).

As I see it, there are two elements of mindfulness that are helpful in dealing with insomnia—choiceless awareness and non-resistance. You can’t sleep? Don’t resist it. Stop fighting against it, for whatever we resist persists. Simply be aware—non-selectively aware—of whatever passes through your mind. Watch it. Observe it. Don’t fight against it. Give those mental movies no power, by being only barely attentive to their content. Let it pass … for it will. And let it go. Try this—and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.


Black D S, O’Reilly G A, Olmstead R, Breen E C, and Irwin M R. ‘Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial.’ JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494-501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081

Howell A J, Digdon N L, Buro K, and Sheptycki A R. ‘Relations among mindfulness, well-being, and sleep.’ (2008) Personality and Individual Differences, 2008;45(8):773-777. doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2008.08.005

Friday, February 2, 2018


The great American comedian and writer Groucho Marx, pictured, could be serious at times. In his 1959 autobiography Groucho and Me the thrice-married star had this to say about what he referred to as ‘true love’:

I believe … that real love only appears when the early fires of passion have cooled off and the embers just lie there smoldering. This is true love. This relationship has only a bowing acquaintance with sex. Its component parts are patience, forgiveness, mutual understanding and a high tolerance for each other’s faults.

A meta-analysis published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension provides empirical evidence that the current literature on mindfulness and relationship satisfaction indicates that more mindful individuals have more satisfying, connected relationships.

The meta-analysis looked at the results of 12 studies, including two mindfulness intervention studies. Overall, mindfulness was shown to enhance relationship connectedness and satisfaction. The authors stated (at pp 96-97):

… [M]indful practices are typically taught as an individual practice. There are, however, mindful practices that have an explicit focus on others, such as loving kindness meditations or aikido communication practices, which focus on caring for others. In addition, mindfulness practice is about noticing many dimensions of the self, including feelings and thoughts related to relationships and interactions.

The results of this meta-analysis further validate the recent efforts to include mindfulness training in relationship education. The authors of the meta-analysis state that future basic and applied research to inform enhanced models of best practices for community education focused on promoting relational health is encouraged.

Study: McGill J, Adler-Baeder F, and Rodriguez P. ‘Mindfully in Love: A Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Mindfulness and Relationship Satisfaction.’ Journal of Human Sciences and Extension. 2016;4(1):89-101. ISSN: 2325-5226 (Print).

Acknowledgment. Groucho and Me, by Groucho Marx. Originally published: New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1959. Copyright © 1959 by Groucho Marx. Copyright renewed © 1987 in the name of Arthur Marx as son. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Dr Alison Gray (pictured), chair of the spirituality special interest group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and a liaison psychiatry consultant working in Hereford and at the Beacon Clinic, Malvern, has recently said that those who engage in more ‘inward-focused’ types of spirituality – and that includes mindfulness meditation – ‘can become self-involved’. 

‘In as much as religion is about binding people together, spirituality can become inward looking and selfish,’ Dr Gray said.  ‘In no way does that happen to everyone … But there's a potential for it to become inward-looking and basically self-centred.’ To counter this, Dr Gray recommends that people practice mindfulness and other forms of spirituality in groups rather than alone.

Well, what do I think of that? Dr Gray is right. Damn right. Religion, at its best (note: I said, ‘at its best’), binds people together. After all, the word religion has an affinity with the Latin verb religare, which means to bind, bind back, bind up, and bind fast together. Spirituality is more personal, informal and unorganized in nature. Of course, not all religion is good. Indeed, it can be quite toxic and harmful at times, but at its best it binds people together and binds them to a power-other-than-themselves, that is, to what has been referred to as the largeness of life. We all need to get our minds off ourselves. Unfortunately, far too much spirituality makes us more self-centred, self-focused and self-absorbed. New Age spirituality tends to do that. It’s all about me, me, me. My inner growth, my health, my goals, and so on. Too many of our attempts at divesting ourselves of our little selves only heighten our obsession with self—and that is not good!

True mindfulness makes us increasingly aware of a power and presence greater than, and other than, our little, tiny, puny selves. The regular practice of mindfulness increases our awareness of the flow of life of which we are but a small part. There is the inner content of our mindfulness but let’s not neglect the outer content as well, that is, all that is going on around us and outside of us.

The truly mindful person grows in love, compassion and tolerance for their fellow human beings, indeed, for all life in all its myriad forms and comes to know that he or she is one with all life.