- Today we're really excited to have Gianna Biscontini joining us, and some of you, I know, are avid listeners of the Behavioral Observations Podcast and fans of Matt Segoria, and that's actually kind of how we ran across Gianna.
We were really interested, and I know some of you have been doing some work with mindfulness and meditation and those types of things in your schools and with your students, so we were interested in where mindfulness and meditation, and Gianna's gonna demystify those terms for us today, but where those discussions meet behavioral interventions, and how those worlds fit together.
So we've struggled with that and kind of mulled that over in our discussions in our heads for a while now, and we ran across her podcast and thought, aha, here it is, there's the light bulb moment.
So we, as we do, we just reached out and Gianna was very, very kind and gracious in agreeing to join us today for the webinar.
So I'm going to very quickly hand things over to her and let her share what she would like to share about her background and her work and how that all comes together and culminates in today's webinar as well.
But just one thing in terms of questions.
If you do have questions as we typically do, if you're used to joining us for these, there is a chat box that you have access to if you hover over your zoom screen, you can see a chat icon.
If you click on that, that'll bring up the chat box.
I know some of you have already found it.
Feel free to type any questions in there.
I'll keep track of those as we go through the webinar today, because you won't have access to, to be able to use your microphone to ask your questions yourself, so I'll ask those on your behalf when Gianna takes breaks along the way to field some questions, and if you prefer to wait and ask your questions at the end, that's fine as well, but I'll be keeping an eye on that.
Also, if you run into any technical troubles or difficulties as we roll along, then let us know that in the chat box as well or fire me off an email.
So all that said, I'm going to turn the floor over to Gianna Biscontini, and we'll get rolling.
So welcome Gianna.
- Thank you so much, I'm so happy to be here, thank you for having me.
A little note, I was talking to Shelly before we started, I'm recovering from a cold, so please excuse my throat clearing, it's just one of those annoying little tickle things, so hopefully that won't be too much of a problem.
So yes, thank you for having me.
I'm actually gonna share my screen, and I'll get into a little bit about me and W3RKWELL and Measured Minds.
So Shelly can let me know how this is lookin'.
All right, how we lookin' here?
- Perfect, it looks great on this end.
- Great, okay, so you'll see two logos here, W3RKWELL and Measured Minds, and here's me.
I am the CEO and founder of W3RKWELL.
We'll get a little into my story a little bit later, but here's my background.
I have a bachelors in psych and got into master's level counseling programs, moved into education and human development, which is my, one of my master's degrees, and after my second master's in education and human development, I started working for the Special, The Central Office of Special Education in Washington, D.C., and that's where I really, really fell in love with OBM, which is, I didn't know what I was doing yet, I didn't know it was OBM, but I started managing people, meeting people, and I worked at their, basically a startup, to serve children with autism within the government, which almost never happens.
So after that, I wanted to continue in the autism world, and went to George Mason University where I did my postgraduate work in applied behave analysis.
I'm a consultant, a writer, I used to have a clinical blog, I don't anymore, and I've done some research.
I was a clinician, and what we're here to talk about today, meditator and yogini and, as well as a traveler.
So when we started out about a year and a half ago, I left a large NPO out here in California.
I'm in San Diego, and I wanted to carry the science of human behavior, my behavior analysis out into the world, but I didn't know how I wanted to do that yet.
I'm sure some of you have heard the Behavior Observations podcast as well as seen the article that I wrote for Behavioral Science in the 21st Century, the article came way before Matt Segoria's podcast.
Todd Ward had called me from B-Si and said, I want you to write for us and I said great, I wanna write about meditation.
And he said, okay.
(laughs) We'll see how that goes over.
And I was really nervous to write about meditation as a behavior analyst but it went really well and I was getting letters from around the world with people who are interested.
So I decided to carry it forward.
And while I'm CEO and founder of W3RKWELL, we work on well being, mostly in the tech and life sciences industries, we created a sister company called Measured Minds, which is kind of who I'll be speaking through today.
And Measured Minds, we really saw the need to talk about meditation, not only from a researchers standpoint and a behavior analytic standpoint, but also as an intervention for teachers or parents and for children with autism.
So that's who I'm speaking to you all through today for Measured Minds.
And we just did Measured Minds by W3RKWELL because we wanted to coordinate the two together and have that brand awareness but would just live separately.
This is a cautionary statement, my attorney wants me to put this in everything that I do where I talk about meditation.
You can read it, I don't read it for you, I'm basically just saying that I'm not intending to cure or diagnose any mental or health issues today.
We're just gonna be talking about meditation and what the research says.
So today's webinar, we're gonna be doing a little bit of education through audio and video as we're doing right now.
Then we're gonna have the experience of meditation.
It says it's two minute meditation here, I also have some other meditations that we might go through if I can pull those up.
Just so we have an experiential component.
And then accountability and data, we're actually gonna be going through today's objectives, we'll be going through building your own self management system for starting your meditation practice.
So here are today's objectives, we're just gonna learn a little bit on stress, identify the circumstances, BCB's out there might call it antecedents, so identify the antecedents that produce those unique stress responses.
And then as I said, we'll develop a self-management system for beginning that meditation practice.
And also if we're gonna start an intervention, right, we wanna measure our behavior to see what happens to our behavior during, before and after the intervention.
And here are just some things that we're gonna address today, like I said, what we know about stress, the effects on the body and mostly, I think the unique component to this webinar today is discussing what our unique individual stress behaviors are.
And we'll go into that a little bit later.
And then we wanna define and track those over time as we begin our meditation practice to see what the potential effects are.
This is a video that I include in everything that I do, they're one of my favorites, so we'll listen to it right now, it really just speaks to getting outside your comfort zone.
- There's something I wanna tell you about the stress and how we have to look at stress, okay.
And think this is an important thing because many people have told me from my lessons, this is the one thing that they remember, okay.
I was sitting in a dentist office and looked at an article that said, how do lobsters grow?
Well I don't care how lobsters grow.
Well, I was interested in it and it points out that lobsters are a soft mushy animal that lives inside of a rigid shell.
That rigid shell does not expand.
Well how can a lobster grow?
Well, as the lobster grows, that shell becomes very confining.
On account the lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable.
It goes under a rock formation to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off the shell and produces a new one.
Well eventually that shell becomes very uncomfortable as it grows up, back under the rocks.
And the lobster repeats this numerous times.
The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable.
Now, if lobsters had doctors, they would never grow, because as soon as the lobster feels uncomfortable, it goes to the doctor, gets a Valium, gets a Percocet, feels fine.
Never cuts off his shell.
So I think that we have to realize, is that we have to realize that times of stress are also times that are signals for growth.
- So I absolutely love that video, I think it speaks a lot to growth and growth can be uncomfortable.
So I always prep and prime people with that video because that's what I'm gonna be talking about today.
Meditation is inherently uncomfortable.
But we're gonna be talking about that later.
So just keep the lobster in mind as we're going throughout today.
So I'm not going to, I technically don't read the slides, I will read this one because it's so important and I wanted to provide this content for you all to have and to take forward with you today.
So stress in itself is not a behavior, it's a condition under which behaviors occur.
And it's different for everyone.
For example, globally public speaking is the number one fear in the world but for me, it doesn't produce that same stress response.
I know you've had Patt Frenman, Patt Frenman's a great speaker, whether he has those stress responses or not, it's working for him, right?
It doesn't stop him from speaking.
So basically what we're gonna look through today is this hypothesis of, if we can manage our states of stress through these antecedent interventions, like meditation, hypothetically we can decrease those nonproductive or harmful stress behaviors associated with those conditions of stress.
And also hypothetically, we can replace those stress behaviors, like eating potato chips or yelling at your kids, with something that's a little bit more functional, and that really comes from putting ourselves in a more relaxed state.
So we can actually behave differently.
Here's a note about good and bad stress, Kelly McGonagall, definitely check out her Ted Talk, I think of her as the Berne Brown of stress.
She went out to vilify stress and to show how terrible it was and there's no upside to stress and that's not what she found and she had this big aha moment between, as you can see, the Yerkes-Dodson law on the left, there's a difference in stress responses, right?
Sometimes if you have a psyche background, they call it the distress and eustress, distress would be something that is negative, eustress would be stress that motivates you and it's like that fire under you where it keeps you going.
So spoiler alert, what she found was that the number one indicator of how to make stress your friend, which is the title of her talk, is how we perceive stress and for behavior analysts out there, I would just say it's your covert global behavior surrounding states of stress.
So for example, when I wake up in the morning and I've got a talk at ABAI or at haba or in front of hundreds of people, I have internal reactions, right?
I have a psychological reaction of, I'm waking up today, I'm talking in front of hundreds of people, it's really up to me, how I label that feeling.
As I said, public speaking, I actually really enjoy and it doesn't produce that state of harmful stress where I'm sweating and I have these thoughts and feelings of, I'm gonna do a terrible job today, but a lot of people do.
So per Kelly McGonagall, she talks about how we perceive states of stress and what that looks like would be waking up in the morning, having those internal states, those psychological responses and instead of saying I'm really anxious, this is stressful, I'm going to do poorly, saying to yourself, I am so excited.
I'm so excited about today, I'm gonna have so much fun up on stage, I get to talk about things that I love and turning that perception.
So definitely check out that Ted Talk.
Today I include this because we're talking about harmful stress behaviors and harmful states of stress that produce all of the things that we're seeing right here.
The harmful affects on the body.
So I'm sure if you're out looking at this infographic, when you move from brain to skin to cardiovascular to gut, I always, when I do this talk and have this infographic up, everybody is kind of nodding their heads slowly, like yep, yep, I've experienced that, I've experienced that, so I don't think these are really above and beyond things people don't realize or haven't experienced.
Some things, as far as your reproductive system and the immune system, joints and muscles, might be a little less obvious but as far as the brain and the cardiovascular effects, we've definitely felt those, right?
If you're under extreme states of stress, it's hard to concentrate.
Like someone holding a gun to your head and saying, what's two plus two?
It's going to be a lot harder for you to answer that question then if you're just in a calm, relaxed state and someone were to ask you that question.
Here is a survey that we did and we're really just building this case for working on stress because it's so prevalent and it's been so normalized and through Measured Minds and through W3RKWELL, we're always working to reduce those antecedent and consequence conditions that produce and maintain stressful responses.
So this was actually a poll that we did through social media about a year and a half ago and I was appalled that work, stress and anxiety was almost at 80 percent, where, and I know you can't see the full left side here, that the blue, the blue is child's behavior issues and the bottom, as you can see, is parenting struggles.
And both of those combined, this is specifically given to a population of parents and teachers and clinicians who work with children with autism, because that was mostly our following at that time, I was really surprised to see that child's behavioral issues and parenting struggles paled in comparison to the stress that we are under at work.
This was really a catalyst to us starting W3RKWELL because that's really where the stress is occurring and we wanted to help those situations.
And obviously we can see here that work stress is a public health issue, so I know you BCBA's out there and you teachers out there know what I'm talking about in this one.
I don't read these, this is just for your information when you wanna browse these slides later, I put information about the World Health Organization and the lancet article, it's talking about really speaking to mental health and it's really no secret that mental health is a bigger and bigger challenge, I guess the silver lining to that is that it's getting more publicity and more people are working to help the mental health field at this point and stress is a big part of that.
This is another shocking statistic.
At some point in their lives, one in four people, more than one in four people, will have an anxiety disorder.
Whether they actually go and do something about it or not or whether or not they actually get diagnosed, people will at one point in their lives meet the criteria for having an anxiety disorder.
And the World Health Organization reports this number to be on the rise.
And we're looking here, these are two articles that have come up, I'm sure this is no secret to you all in the course right now, autism parenting stress index, they actually created a psychometric tool to evaluate stress, specifically in parents of children with autism.
They found that parents of children with autism incurred four times the amount of stress that parents of typically developing children do.
And it's two times the amount of stress that parents have if they have children with other disorders, so maybe down syndrome or medically fragile children.
Parents of children with autism still experience two times the amount of stress as those parents.
But maternal cortisol levels, that's a stress hormone that's released when you're under those conditions of stress, those cortisol levels are similar to those of combat veterans and veterans that come back with post traumatic stress disorder.
And obviously you've heard about burnout, this is no secret in the field of working with vulnerable populations and what I like to call helping fields, especially non profits.
So burnout, the way that we dial that down is ratio strain, for those BCBA's out there.
There are more tasks to do than time to do them.
And there's a low task to reward ratio right, so I'm asking you to do something very, very difficult with low resources, whether it's energy or time or training, with low, no or meaningless rewards for an extended period of time.
And that's how we see burnout.
And burnout really keeps us in these stress responses and we're gonna watch a little video on managing stress responses right now.
- [Narrator] Stress is usually seen as something we need to avoid.
This is not true.
We need stress and we need our body's stress hormone, cortisol, to rise and fall throughout the day.
Stress helps us wake up in the morning, helps us focus, learn and remember new things.
It's when people experience too much stress and start having difficulties coping that stress becomes a problem.
High levels of stress can disrupt the natural changes in the body's stress response system and start to effect our physical and mental health.
Over time, accumulated stress can result in false FFF response activations.
When trying to measure our stress tolerance, the bucket analogy can be helpful.
Our stress tolerance, or the size of our bucket, is a product of our genes, personality and life experiences.
And it's size varies from person to person.
The water in this analogy is the combination of all the stress in your life.
We use the coping strategies we have available to keep our bucket from overflowing.
They're like taps that allow water to drain from the bucket.
Stress can include training, work, school, relationships, finances, moving, changing jobs or the loss of a loved one.
Both positive and negative experiences will effect the water level.
A big bucket can hold more water or stress before it overflows.
With a smaller bucket, less water is required for the water or stress level to become critical.
While you can't change the size of the bucket, you can make life adjustments to reduce water coming in.
You can also learn new coping strategies and stress management techniques to allow water to drain out.
Mind tools, exercise, quality sleep, relaxation and sharing your feelings with friends are some examples of effective water taps, staying up late, sleeping in, drugs, inactivity, procrastination, suppressing or ignoring problems, are examples of unhelpful coping strategies or false taps.
They might give temporary relief, but actually result in water flowing back into your bucket.
- Okay so I include, excuse me, I include this video because when they talk about, first of all, the FFF response, is just a fight, flight or freeze response which I know you're all familiar with, in the amygdala, in the brain, reaction to stress.
And the coping strategies and the coping skills which we've all heard that term before, is really what we're gonna be examining today but we're going to examine it more in line with, we're gonna call it our individualized stress responses.
Because if we say coping skills, that's a little more abstract, right?
So we're switching that to individualized stress responses and we're gonna think about how we react to stress and the actual behaviors that we engage in in a little bit.
So covert vs overt behaviors, I won't spend a lot of time on this, the covert behaviors is everything we're feeling inside of us, thoughts, feelings, psychological responses and the overt behaviors is actually what people see.
And of course, the inner stress responses produce outer behaviors.
So this is just something that we throw out on Facebook, we're asking behavior analysts cause they're great at defining things.
We're asking them what are your, what are you stress behaviors and there's everything from forgetting to eat, stress eating, heavy sighs, drinking too much wine, that's a big one.
So what are you doing, what are the things you're doing to relieve that stress?
And that can be healthy, like going for a run or talking to a trusted friend or colleague or that can also be unhealthy, which is what we'll focus on today.
Like drinking too much, eating junk food, getting irritable with people.
I loved this one.
This Alex person, apparently whimpers in his sleep.
(laughs) And he said that a friend notified him of that and confirmed his wife.
His wife's suspicions were narrowed at ADAI which is kind of a stressful time.
I thought that was kind of adorable.
Again, we went over the covert and the overt behaviors, this is just another way of looking at that.
The unseen to the observable.
So negative verbal behavior, I'm not good enough, I don't deserve this, I didn't try hard enough, can lead to that increased heart rate and yelling at people.
Again the unseen can be disruptions in focus, disrupted attention on things, you're frustrated, you're tired.
And then that can also turn into hurried or clumsy movements.
I can tell you my husbands, this is his stress response, but I can tell what he's under a lot of stress is he is a giant person.
He's 6'4", like 220, former athlete and when he's under conditions of stress, he moves very quickly and tends to break things.
Not on purpose, just around the house.
So we work on just slowing down and being a little bit more mindful of those movements.
And obviously if you're frustrated or tired especially, you get into that decreased activity and eating that unhealthy food, that unhealthy food is typically quicker and easier to access than cooking a healthy meal and going to the grocery store and getting those whole foods.
So now we're going to define and identify those stress responses that are individualized for all of us.
But I wanna take a quick break here and see if we have any questions.
Shelly can you look at the chat box or should I stop sharing?
- [Shelly] No, I'm watching the chat box here, I'm not seeing anything pop up yet but maybe we can just take a second in case people are typing.
- Sure and while we're waiting, I think this would be a good time for everyone to just consider their individual stress behavior and we'll look at that definition.
So it's really any action a person takes when they're simultaneously experiencing those physiological stress responses, right, you find yourself holding your breath, you're clenching your teeth, you're clenching your fists, more so it's tightening some part of your body and your muscles get really tense.
Or if you have a performance review coming up, we all have an idea of what's stressful for us so I want people to start thinking about what they do, you know, what those coping skills are that we're gonna redefine as stress behaviors.
- [Shelly] Great, and we don't have any questions yet, so I think we're good to go.
- Awesome, keep this train rolling then.
The really important part for this definition is that the individual stress behavior that we're focused on today, because it's what we're gonna be defining and measuring for our meditation practice, is that it's misaligned or in opposition to your values and your goals.
So a stress response wouldn't really be going running, right, unless you're overrunning and you're hurting yourself and it's harmful, that's typically not the case.
But if you're saying, when I'm stressed out or when I'm under stress conditions, I talk to a friend or I talk to my spouse or go running, that's not really what we're focused on today, we're focused on the things that are harmful, the things that have adverse consequences, on top of the stress responses.
Like we said, unhealthy junk food and that type of stuff.
So think about that as we move forward.
And really the whole premise of our work in meditation is that meditation is a behavior.
Meditation typically awokes the thought of some granola, crunchy hippie at some commune somewhere who doesn't shower and they're, you know, out of this world and very spacey.
And immediately we tell ourselves, that's not me, I don't understand that, I don't do that, I'm not that person.
At the end of the day, meditation is behavior.
And I don't talk about mindfulness and those of you who heard my podcast with Matt Segoria have heard this, meditation is the behavior, mindfulness is more of a result, so I don't typically talk about mindfulness, to me I just really identify it and rebrand it, I guess, redefine it as paying attention.
It all comes down to attention and focus and we'll get into that in a little bit.
But this is a real key point here.
So here's meditation as a behavior, here's how I define it.
The great thing about meditation is that you can kind of train loosely on this.
For me, this is my definition of meditation, sitting upright on a cushion, chair or other surface with a straight back.
So I talk to people about their meditation practices and they say, well I lay on the ground and it's hard because I always end up falling asleep.
All right, so meditation is not sleeping, although there are quotes about the best meditation is sleeping but for our purposes, meditation, what's universal meditation is focus and attention and we'll get into that in a little bit.
But yeah, so sitting upright on a cushion, you wanna be in that calm, alert state, you don't wanna be laying back and kind of slumped over, because then you're just getting way too relaxed and it's harder to redirect your attention and focus.
You'll inhale and exhale voluntarily for a duration of four seconds and redirect, without judgment, that attention.
So what that looks like is when your mind starts to wander, and it will, your mind is wired, your attention is wired, to go in a lot of different places.
And why meditation is very difficult for people is that there's a misconception that you're supposed to empty your mind, and you're not supposed to have any covert level behavior, no thoughts whatsoever.
We see that in an Olympic level meditators, no one here, including myself is on that path.
These are monks in southeast Asia who've practiced this from, you know, the time they were two and they're getting their 10,000 hours above and beyond and they meditate for hours a day, they do silent retreats for a month at a time, that's not what we're talking about, that's not realistic for us as a goal.
So you really don't wanna empty your mind, because that's not realistic, your mind is going to wander, your thoughts are gonna wander, to your grocery list, what you have to do at work tomorrow, what you're gonna wear to that meeting tomorrow.
Every time your thoughts wander, you're just gonna, nonjudgementally, bring that focus back to one thing.
Whether that be a candle, or your breath, or something.
Looking at a flower, you're really just gonna redirect that focus, I cannot stress that enough.
Every time you redirect that focus and attention, that is the instance where you are building, excuse me, cortical specificity in your brain and this is what we're gonna talk about later.
So don't worry about it now.
But this is really, really important, you're just non-judgementally refocusing.
Most people that I speak to that say, yes I'm really not trying to empty my mind or not think about anything but when my mind wanders, I just start beating myself up for it, right, this is hard, this sucks, meditation is not for me and we just talk ourselves out of it.
And then it becomes difficult, we don't wanna do that either.
We're just non-judgementally redirecting our focus.
We might name a thought, thought.
Right, so my focus directs to, I forget what time my husband's coming home today, I should text him because then we have to make plans for dinner.
And I just think, oh that's a thought and I move back to redirecting my focus on that one thing.
My breath or a candle or something like that.
I have silly verses here, for those of you who are familiar with act, there's actual research behind this in ACT which is acceptance and commitment treatment or therapy depending on how you wanna phrase it.
People will actually take those thoughts and redirect that covert little behavior, whether you're beating yourself up, whether it's negative and turn it into a silly voice, a batman voice, my favorite is the Donald Duck voice, it really disempower that thought, when your thought, negative self talk is now happening in a Donald Duck voice.
I thought it was silly, which it is, but there's actual research behind this which I think is very cool.
So here, for the purposes of today, is our definition of meditation.
Again, without judgment is really important, your mind will wander, but if you can bring it back to your focus, that is the key.
And when you judge those thoughts and when you judge yourself for not being quote unquote good at meditation, you are much more likely to derail your attention and to produce an aversive state then if you just accept and notice without judgment.
So here's what meditation is, we're gonna do, again, behavior versus outcome.
What it is and what it isn't, just dispel some preconceived notions here, it is ancient, right.
We have heard about meditation more, it's becoming more mainstream but it is thousands of years old, it did originate in the east and it did originate through religion, not only through Buddhism and the Hindu religion and those philosophies and religions, but across religions, we won't get into that but people don't know about and Christianity and then the Jewish religion, they do talk about meditation a long time ago.
So it can be religion based or not, you can just be doing meditation for the behavior and have nothing to do, you know, no tie to religion.
It is challenging, it is very simple, you know, everybody can sit and breath.
The premise is very simple but it's not easy.
You can go to a gym and you can say I wanna work on my biceps and you do the activities that will build up those biceps, you have full control over your body, most of us do.
You can go to the gym, you can say well okay, I'm gonna do bicep curls, you have full control of your body, we don't focus on controlling our attention and controlling our focus.
It's not tangible, right?
If I wanna move my arm, I can move my arm, no problem, I've been doing that for 37 years, we all can do that for the most part.
When you're talking about covert states and mental exercises, as we call it, it's a lot more difficult.
It is a practice and it results in state and trait effects.
So I think I have us in here, the book Altered Traits actually really goes into this so grab that book if you're interested.
State effects are those things that are temporary.
Just like when you get a massage, you feel wonderful, you feel relaxed but it only lasts for the rest of the day, maybe into the following day, if you got a really good massage but eventually your muscles might cramp up a little bit and you might get back to normal life and those effects are gone.
So that also results in meditation.
When you meditate, you will get those state effects.
Oh I feel calmer and I've just been breathing and I've just been kind of sitting here for ten minutes and then you also get trait effects.
So trait effects come with a lot of practice, over time and it's actual changes in traits.
Your actions and behaviors actually different.
So trait effects might be becoming more patient, delaying that stimulus response.
They do a lot of research for trait effects in loving, kindness and compassion studies for meditation, so becoming kinder towards humanity in general or towards a certain population of people.
That you might not have treated so well in the past.
So there is that difference between state and trait effects.
It is dosage dependent, this is what I find to be really interesting, the more you do it, the more you will see the benefits and effects over time.
So it is dosage dependent and it is universally focused on sustaining attention in a certain way which is what we talked about before, that key component to meditation is that when your mind wanders, you're just non-judgementally bringing it back to one thing and that is what translates out into the world beyond your meditation practice.
This is obviously a growing field for media and science, we can see that not only in the news media articles, it's been more written about but also in the scientific literature which is really, really encouraging.
Richard Davidson at the center for healthy minds at the University of Wisconsin at Madison is doing a ton of really good, rigorous research on this so Center for Healthy Minds, check that out if you're interested.
And I'm personally seeing a lot more in the meditation research, not just subjectively, like yes, I've felt better and I've felt calmer, which is nice but we really wanna see differences in biofeedback and neuroscience, right?
We wanna see things are actually changing in the brain and we're talking today about how your behavior can change over time.
So those are the rigorous studies we wanna see.
Meditation is not, this is what it is not.
It's not resting or passive, people will say, oh I meditate by taking a nap.
Well a nap is a nap, right, you're not really universally focusing your attention on one thing, you're not, you know, you're out, you're out cold, you're unconscious, you can't really, you know, control your focus when you're unconscious.
I'm a big believer in naps, I take a nap every day for 30 minutes, I was just up at a Stanford program, one of their executive programs in social entrepreneurship and Bob Oshiv is the neuroscientist up there, he went into all the science in meditation and on napping and what happens with prefrontal cortex when you control your breath, it was super fascinating.
So napping is great for you, not meditation.
It's also not a cure-all.
We've all seen Time Magazine, not to call anyone out, Time Magazine and other magazines saying, you know, you'll make more money and you'll lose weight and your marriage will improve and all of these things.
None of those things are guaranteed.
However, if you understand that, okay, this is a stressful circumstance, I've been meditating for months or years, you can actually redirect that focus and say, I'm not gonna choose those potato chips, I'm going to, you know, take a couple minutes to meditate or choose a more value line behavior.
So yes, you might lose weight, you could improve your relationship, I'm not saying any of those things are impossible, it just hasn't been proven in the literature.
All we can prove is things about focus and compassion and those types of things.
But like we said, it's not emptying your mind of thought, it is being used through the National Institutes of Mental Health.
It is being used for anxiety, depression, some acute and some chronic diseases.
Again, please go out and check out that research, it's super interesting and most of it is widely available for free.
So, but it's not only for diagnosed disorders.
Which I think is a pretty obvious one, right, we could all benefit from slowing down and being more careful about how we react to things and putting something between that stimulus and the response, especially when it comes to stress.
It's also not one dimensional or selfish.
I have the money picture up there because a lot of people were saying, well I'm gonna start to meditate, I heard it will help make me more money and help make me, you know, a better, A, B and C.
Those are the things that you're kind of skipping over the actual results and extrapolating it to you'll get rich if you meditate and this sounds silly but I've actually seen this places.
Which, it's kind of a bummer because people meditate and don't become millionaires and meditation kind of gets a bad rap or like it's not working but that wasn't really, the intention, right, it's really just to change your behavior.
And it's also not selfish.
There are hundreds of different types of meditation out there, there is always a space in meditation for the meditator to thing about how to use the benefits of their practice to carry that out into the world and to benefit the world.
So it's not all about us, it's about how the world might be different, either if it's just with our family, with our children, with our co-workers, with our friends, we're gonna carry those benefits out into the world in some way.
And it's not goal oriented.
We talk about meditation, we had a class last, not last year, 2017, our first behavioral annex iteration talked about building your practice from trying to meditate for one minute and move to two minutes and move to three minutes and that also speaks to shaping behavior.
What I realized was people were focused, our students were overly focused on the time and that's what they were thinking about.
So they set a timer for two minutes and they would kind of open their eye and look at their timer, you know, how much longer do I have to do this and that immediately redirects your attention, right.
So now we speak to in terms of, you know what, set a timer for ten minutes and you're gonna be terrible at it the first time and probably the first dozen of times, right, the first 30 times but it will get easier, just sit for the 10 minutes and then you just know you're doing 10 minutes all the time, the goal isn't to do 10 minutes, the goal is to set the timer for long enough where you can actually get into that practice and focus on your breathing and build that fluency, instead of just hurrying up for a minute or two, it's just not enough time.
Again meditation behavior and stress behavior, this is what we're seeing in the research, there's decreased stress activity in the brain.
The VMPC is, let me see if I can remember, the ventral medial prefrontal cortex.
So that executive functioning, that's something I picked up at Stanford recently.
The research on that is very cool.
Anytime you're controlling your breath, you're calming that part of the brain and that's in the executive functioning part of the brain, which we know is responsible for planning and execution of behavior.
Improve physiological stress recovery, in this article, this study is actually taken from teachers, so really pertinent here, the stress recovery, you know, we've all felt the physiological effects of stress, during the meditation for teachers, it was showed that their stress responses were slowed and they were able to recover physiologically, so they didn't stay in the stress responses for as long as they did previous to meditation which I thought was pretty cool.
And again, improved attentional control.
That's what we're seeing across the board.
And this is really just saying that if we can work with our physical stress responses, just by breathing and being present, you can lower the frequency and intensity of those coping skills or stress related responses.
And you can think of it this way, when you're hungry, you have a reaction, right, when you're hungry, you either get hangry and you're snapping at everyone, if no food is available or you're hungry and you do what?
Go get food.
Same thing for stress.
If something is available to you to decrease your stress, whether it's a walk or meditation, then that's what you're going to trend towards.
If that's not available or if that's not in you repetatur of skills, then we have another reaction.
Yelling, junk food, all the things we've been talking about.
Here's another study on meditation and the response, wait and see, just putting time in between the stressful event and the response.
And that's looking at fMRI images.
For those of you who aren't familiar with what an fMRI is, it's a functional magnetic resonance imaging picture, basically.
An fMRI actually takes pictures of brain activity.
It looks like, you know, a pixel, if you look at a picture and it's really granular, pixelated and it's old, you see those little squares that make up the picture.
In an fMRI, they take a boxel, it's just a three dimensional pixel and they can look at activity in the brain and where the activity is going up, down, side to side, diagonally, they do fMRI studies with children with autism as well to measure their brain activity.
So basically what they're finding here is it decreases the activity, meditation that is, decreases the activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for that fight, flight or freeze response.
So the act of delaying those reactions, and instead choosing that value-aligned alternative.
And again, stress in itself is not a behavior.
So here, we want to increase the control we have over our responses so that we can decrease the unhealthy and make more time for the healthy responses.
This is another way of looking at this.
We spill spaghetti and you freak out and lose it and the spilled spaghetti can be anything that produces a stress response for you.
Going from top to bottom would be the guy, you know, on top, not so much meditator, the one on the bottom is saying, oops, that stinks now I have to clean that up, that is not exploding into this fight, flight or freeze response.
This is one of my favorite slides of this, whenever I talk about meditation in any capacity, I include this slide.
The significant increase in that cognitive control that we see from meditation is called the cocktail party effect.
And what that just means is that there's improved cortical specificity.
And I'll go over this example.
So when you're at a party and say there's 30 people in a room and there's music playing, you're aware that other people in the room are talking and you're aware that music is playing.
But if I'm talking to someone, maybe across the cocktail table from me, we've both got a drink in our hands, and we're talking about our day at work or a project that we're on together.
I'm really only able to focus on that person across from me because that's who I'm speaking to, right and where I'm getting the information.
I'm in a conversation, I can move my attention and say I'm talking to Joe, Joe and I, I'm looking in his face, I'm taking in what he's saying and the words.
If somebody were to be saying, are other people talking in the room, is there music playing, I would say yes.
If they said, what are the people saying and what song is playing, in that moment, when I'm listening to Joe, I can't answer that question.
However, I can choose to switch my attention and I'm sure this has happened to us all.
Right, you're talking to someone, a song comes on that's meaningful to you or someone else in the room within ear shot says something that diverts your attention.
So if someone were to say, Gianna Biscontini or if my favorite song were to start playing, or if someone were to say W3RKWELL, the name of my company, that's standing information to me and my attention is automatically switched, it's automatically on that person or on that song.
Now I'm not really listening to what Joe is saying, I'm listening to the song or I'm thinking, why is someone saying my name?
Why is someone talking about W3RKWELL.
I'm interested and my attention is diverted, my attention is distracted and we call it distracted.
With meditation, what's shown to improve is that brain studies have demonstrated that people who engage in meditation for months, this isn't something that you're gonna gain in a day, it is still a state effect, moving into that trait effect where you can hear Gianna Biscontini, my attention is diverted from Joe for a second but I can move my attention back to Joe very quickly and just think, I'll ask that question later or I'll move over there later.
Or oh my song, my favorite song is playing.
And I move my attention back to Joe.
So I'm not permanently or at least for the next couple minutes distracted trying really hard to bring my focus back to what Joe is saying.
I can acknowledge something is happening and my attention is diverted and I can bring it right back to Joe a lot more quickly and I can say I have personally experienced this before I knew this was a thing in meditation.
I have meditated for about three years, I try to every day.
There's a difference in my day if I don't, for a couple days in a row I can vouch for that.
This is one of the things that when I looked into the research, I thought, oh my gosh, I have definitely experienced this before.
Another example would be, my phone is up, facing me right now, so I have things coming in from social media, and text messages and all these things coming in, I have the ability to look at my phone for a second, see oh Instagram, and move right back to what I'm saying.
Hopefully I don't sound distracted, I don't feel distracted, I'm very focused on our presentation right now, but it's one of those examples where I'm just noticing and bringing right back, bringing my attention right back to what I'm doing.
These are some other things that science has shown.
So increased compassion, self management, obviously if you're able to have better control over where your attention goes, that's when people say you're present, quote unquote, right you're present in the moment, you're aware of what's happening around you, you're aware that you're reaching for that bag of chips, you're aware that you're getting a little irritable with your spouse and you can say, ah this is a stress response.
And choose to choose a different behavior instead.
Decreased stress activity in the brain.
This is a very cool study, the reversible effects attained with overuse of technology.
So as I was just saying, you know, all of our phones are going off all the time.
You've got emails, you've got Facebook messages, you've got Instagram, your twitter is going off, people are texting you, people are calling.
Our attention is very distracted, it's never been more diverted than it is now, mostly because of technology.
This particular study shows that there is a reversal of effects, so with increased social media, they over expose people to social media, and then the control group is someone just reading a newspaper and then the affirminal group was people who were getting pinged and binged and told to flip through reddit and Facebook and really over expose themselves and then they both went and took attentional tests that required attention.
Obviously the people who were reading the newspaper, no surprise, did better than the people who were inundated with social media and pulled in all these different directions.
What was interesting is that when they had the meditation intervention across the board, the people were able to do better on the attentional tasks who previously did very poorly via experimental group exposed to social media.
So that's a cool one.
And you can see the other things there.
So all around, science has been pretty supportive, although I would agree that we need more rigorous research.
Here are some other studies for high blood pressure, IBS, colitis, anxiety, all those things on the left, and then the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is also doing some studies as well.
So I think we're getting the gist here, it's much more highly studied than it used to be.
Here, something that's really pertinent for you all, like I said the Center for Healthy Minds, they are doing a study, they're doing a Train-the-Trainer model for teachers and students to the Department of Education.
So definitely go check that out.
I would say that yes, it's amazing that meditation is being taught to children in schools.
So they're forming these healthy behaviors right from the beginning but they're also training the teachers because it's really important that they learn to manage those emotions and those stress responses.
And again, this is another study, Mindfulness for teachers, that's what they're doing, stress, burnout, all that, again, to the Center for Healthy Minds.
And this is actually one interesting study, you can search it, I believe there's free access.
Mindfulness goes to school, things that I learned.
So they actually did a meta-analysis of some programs.
These two programs were found to be some of the most effective.
So the key components were the mindful breathing, a body scan, and eating and then some movement, 15 minutes daily for about four weeks.
Here are some other things that came up, executive functioning scores were higher, again, I wanna to us developing our management and our plans so I won't read through all of this but you guys look at the slides and can go through this.
Altered Traits, the book I suggested for everyone, it is very cool.
Again, more rigorous study, I won't go through these either, I will just say that one thing that pops out to me on this page, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, author to Altered Traits, found that the least amount of time one could still meditate and receive those state, those temporary benefits to be eight minutes.
So if you're interested in meditation, I would definitely start at eight minutes and just try and do that every single day and work up from there.
Okay, we will, I might go back to this, I would look this up, it's called the Sushi train, it's on YouTube.
I really wanna move forward into getting to the experiential part and getting to some questions.
So we can go back to that but this is Russel Harris doing the sushi train.
Basically he's just talking about if you've ever been in an international airport, a lot of them have sushi train, some things look really gross, some things are kind of neutral, some things look really delicious.
And meditation just allows you to look at all of them equally and not respond.
So if it's so great, why doesn't everyone do it?
Right, because we talked before about, it's very difficult, it's very easy but, it's simple but it's not easy.
And I just really like this quote because what we're doing today is teaching you how to learn and develop this practice by teaching about stress and meditation and then practicing it.
So here are some helpful tips, you've gotta have your own buy-in, if you're here today, hopefully you've got some buy-in, understanding the benefits.
Learning that it's progress, not perfection and then continuing pairing meditation with those rewards until the natural benefits kick in.
Meditation is not immediately rewarding, right, and if you're looking at it from a behavior analytic standpoint, you're not gonna meditate for eight minutes and become more compassionate, more patient, less stressed out, it just doesn't happen immediately, so we wanna start pairing rewards with meditation every day or every couple days until you start feeling those benefits.
So again, here are some challenges, definitely harder than physical control, we're wired to resist that non-judgment and having your brain all over the place, finding your dose can be really difficult, that's why I say, you know what, start at 8 minutes and go from there.
And then the inability to stop your thoughts and again, we went over the fact that we don't have to stop.
Again, some helpful tips, knowing why you wanna start meditating is really important and then also knowing your barriers, this is important, if you know why you wanna meditate, it's not just about you, it's about someone else, right, this about how we carry the benefits forward and will it make you a better practitioner, will it allow you to be more patient with the children that you teach or the people that you manage, that's a much stronger why, that's a much stronger motivation than thinking of it only for yourself.
It's really easy to throw things out the window if it's just for you but when other people depend on you to learn this skill, it's a lot more fun and easy.
Things to consider, again, the response effect, the response effort required to begin this skill should be very, very low, we want it to be as easy and as fun as possible.
Again, with the pictures here, you're not gonna go right to the guy on the right and try and lift whatever he's lifting, how many hundreds of pounds, you're gonna start with the little barbell so that's why we wanna start really, really simply.
Setting up your space, this is super important, we wanna make the space easy to access.
If you're in a small apartment and you don't really have any place that you can go to or set up, consider maybe just doing it in your bed, when it's really cold, quote unquote cold in San Diego, it might go down to 50 degrees, my house gets chilly and it's really hard for me to get out of bed in the morning and go meditate, because I have to get out of bed and that means I'm gonna get cold, so I actually started doing it in bed, I can still be in my covers, but I'm sitting up, I'm sitting on a block, or a bolster in my bed so that I can do it immediately and I can remain warm and then I'm kind of ready for my day.
So setting up your space should be really accessible, easily, you know, set up, and also low distractions.
If you know the garbage truck comes by every Thursday at 10 o'clock, clearly that would be a bad time to have your meditation, right, that daily time.
Or the mailman comes at 3 o'clock every day and your dog barks, like mine does, I purposely don't choose to meditate at that time.
I've chosen a time in my day that I know nothing else predictable, anyway, is going to interrupt me.
And again, setting up your space to be aesthetically pleasing and calming and also involve the senses, right, if you have a spray or something like that, a candle that you like.
Make it an enjoyable experience.
I consider meditation a luxury now, that 10 minutes or 15 minutes of my day where I don't have to do anything except breath and be in this space, it's a treat for me now, not a chore like it used to be when it was really difficult.
Again, you want it to be rewarding so that's something to think about.
Definitely pull in colleagues, I love when people order our behavioral Xanax, whether it's for BCBAs or one of our other courses and they say, can I buy a bundle for my team?
That is awesome, it is music to my ears when leaders buy the course for their team and everybody does it together.
Because you can talk about it and you can talk about if it's difficult or if its getting easier and that's just a natural social reward and you're doing it with other people, that is the coolest thing that I've seen and pretty much the most reinforcing way to start meditation that I've seen so far.
So how to start meditating, a lot of you already have this information now that meditation is a little bit more mainstream and we already went over our definition, so the breath, again, don't try and calm your mind, the exact opposite thing will happen if you start pushing out thoughts that come through in droves, just sit and notice.
Your arms and your hands can really be anywhere, I find if I need to relax a little bit more, I put my hands down, face down on my legs.
If I'm needing a little bit more energy, like in the morning, I'll face my hand up.
There is no research behind that, it's just what I do and what I've been taught to do in meditation classes.
Your legs and your feet basically just wanna be as comfortable as possible.
If you can't sit cross legged, than don't.
Find a chair or something like that.
Or sit on your couch with your legs hanging over, just make sure that you're upright so that you're active.
It's also easier to enjoy your breath if you're not constricted by laying down or slumping over.
Emotions, I think are really important here, that covert, overt behavior, I'm doing it wrong, or I'm not doing it right can really derail a practice.
I would say just non-judgmental, redirect back or make it a joke, do that Donald Duck voice.
It really, really does help.
As far as your eyes, sometimes beginners find it easier to have their eyes open and they're staring at one thing, because you can control your gaze.
It's a lot easier to keep yourself from, you know, your eyes wandering around the room, you can just focus on one thing and people do find that that helps with their attention as well.
And then time, it's not about length, it's about frequency.
So again, the least amount of time that meditation is effective is eight minutes.
But eight minutes every single day.
And I would say if eight minutes is just way too much for you to think of right now, then maybe just sit for as long as you can and redirect your focus until it's no longer enjoyable.
And then move on.
And it's really just about building that habit and doing it every single day.
And making sure that that's done every single day and you can worry about the time later.
So now we can start with a, we'll do the three minute, just for the sake of time.
It's a gratitude guide.
So if you are listening right now, try and find a comfortable seat and we will start.
Here you go.
- [Narrator] Close your eyes and rest your hands on your knees.
Bring your awareness to the touch of your body on the seat.
Feel the weight of your body on your chair or cushion.
Take a few deep breaths.
While you're breathing deeply, relax your shoulders, your stomach muscles, the muscles in your face.
And your hands, and your legs.
Let go of all the tension in your body.
Now bring your attention back to your breath.
Notice what it feels like as it enters through your nose, goes down your throat, filling your lungs and back out through your nose.
Notice your stomach and chest rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
And allow your breathing to be natural and relaxed.
Whenever you become distracted, gently bring your attention back to the sensation of your breath going in and out.
Maintaining this mindful awareness, take a moment to reflect on gratitude.
What are you truly thankful for?
It's easy to forget that on the most basic level, we are alive and breathing.
We may have problems and experience pain, but in many ways, we have a healthy life compared to other people.
Think about the freedoms you have that many in the world don't get to experience.
Think about the opportunities that are available to you.
How might it feel if any of those things were taken away?
Think about your relationships.
What support have you been given throughout your life?
Think of people who have been kind to you.
The family members and friends who have supported you.
Remember the teachers who have encouraged and taught you or who have inspired you to learn.
How much do you depend on the cooperation and support of other people?
Think about how your home, your school, the food you eat and the clothes you wear all come from the efforts and hard work of other people.
And just take a moment to genuinely appreciate all of the freedoms, opportunities and support available to you.
Now it may be that you're not feeling so grateful right now at this very moment and that's okay.
Just notice where you are and make the wish to feel gratitude.
Now let all of your thoughts, images and feelings dissolve, like a cloud dissolving in the sky and let your mind rest.
When you're ready, gently bring your attention back to the room and to the touch of your body on your seat.
- Okay so hopefully that was painless for everyone.
I really enjoy the gratitude practices.
That person's voice is a little robotic for me.
But everybody's gotta go through the YouTube or through Calm, it's an app or through Headspace and find what's best for them.
And really whatever you choose is okay.
But it's really, really important that you find something that you like and that you look forward to.
Again, keep calm, it's a practice and I actually modify this, trust the intervention instead of the process although it is a process.
But we're gonna treat it like an intervention today.
So yes, we went through this.
Don't take yourself too seriously.
This takes people a really long time and I, you know, we're never going to master meditation.
Even those Olympic level meditators who've been doing this their whole lives, you know, still have to do it.
If they ever stop, they wouldn't see the benefits, you know, so definitely just something to keep in mind.
Here are some options.
Again, just wanted to include this, you guys can check this out later.
Here are the things that I use.
My bolster and I have a journal that I write in, basically just keeps track of all of the things that I love about meditation, so it keeps me coming back.
Here's how technology can be helpful, Calm and Headspace, I'm sure you've heard about.
Momentum and Reporter are actually trackers, so you can track your meditation sessions day by day.
I think Momentum is free and Reporter I think is 3.99 but I really, I really think whether you use an app or whether you just use a little tally or checklist, I think just building that practice, even on a calendar of you know, doing a check box or you know, a circle or something day by day by day, if you can show every day for you know, five days, wow I've meditated for five days in a row and you build that momentum and it's less likely that you're gonna break that chain, right, no one wants to be the person who's like, no I'm not gonna do that today, when you've got 20 days of circles or x's or tallies or whatever and you've built that momentum in that practice.
It's really motivating to keep going that way.
Boredom is natural, like I said, we're wired to notice everything in our environment.
Again, this is a practice of focusing your attention.
So if you get bored, embrace it, again, now I see it as a luxury.
And just time away from all the hundreds of things I'm thinking and doing throughout the day.
Again, I just included these, you guys can all come back and check this out, ways to very your practice.
If you do do it for 20 or 30 days and you've got a space and you're thinking, gosh, you know, this isn't as motivating for me, I wanna mix it up a little bit, here are some ways you can do that.
And it's really important again, just to give your brain access to novel stimuli.
Again, just so that it's more interesting if you do get bored.
I tend to meditate in only two places in my house and I make that choice depending on how I'm feeling that day.
But again, it's different for everyone.
So step one, before actually we get into this, it's our last part and it's pretty short, does anyone any questions?
- [Shelly] So if anyone does have any questions, go ahead and either use the chat box feature or the Q&A feature and I will monitor those and ask those on your behalf.
- Great and in the mean time, everybody can just kind of read what I have up here.
So hopefully you read most of this, this gets back to what we were originally starting to talk about with those stress related behaviors.
And a great way to identify those stress related behaviors or coping skills is when something happens, I feel something and respond by doing something else which results in something else.
Right, that's just kind of how behavior goes.
A system of antecedent and consequences.
So an example is, just we'll take the public speaking idea, when I'm faced with a public speaking engagement, I feel sweaty and nervous and I respond by, an overt behavior might be pacing back and forth or having a glass of wine or drinking too much coffee.
Which results in, whatever that behavior results in, right, it results in additional stress, maybe a continuation of those stress behaviors.
Or some sort of consequence, if you respond by maybe getting irritable with your spouse, it results in my spouse becoming upset with me.
Or I respond by coming down really hard on my managers, which results in them avoiding me in the future, something like that.
- [Shelly] So Gianna, there is one question.
Do you know of any available modifications or research for teaching meditation to adults with intellectual disabilities and mental health difficulties?
- I have not seen any research on that in particular, most of the research that I've seen with typically developing children in schools.
And with also with otherwise typically developing adults but adults that are faced with anxiety, depression, more of those mental health issues as opposed to more of an intellectual issue.
That doesn't mean that its not out there.
It's I personally in my research have not come across it.
I will say that sure, through Measured Minds, we're actually working with a large AVA company which actually just moved to the west coast, they opened up offices in the west coast and we're working with them to use us as an intervention in our practice with children with autism.
Obviously they have to have some prerequisite skills of being able to sit, imitate, right, we wanna model that behavior for them, we want them to be able to imitate.
So there's some basic receptive skills that they would need as far as how to follow instructions and all of that.
I don't see why this couldn't be used with adults with intellectual disabilities or otherwise.
As long as they do have those prerequisite skills which should be taken into account before any kind of, before the meditation intervention has begun.
So what we're gonna do here, again, that 1a, examine your stress-related behaviors, hopefully you're all thinking about that and then you're also gonna take a baseline measure, right, so we're not, I don't recommend starting meditation today cause you don't have any data, this is really to figure out, is meditation improving, increasing or decreasing these behaviors.
So you're gonna take a baseline measure.
So you're gonna count how many times you do something per day, how many times you go to junk food, how many times you maybe drink too much or smoke cigarettes or get irritated or yell at your kids or your managers, whatever that stress behavior is, you're gonna wanna measure some dimension of that, right, how long you do something or how often.
I would pick maybe two stress behaviors, but to start out, it's really just easiest to start with one, with something that you're really most focused on, when I ask people and students the question, if I could decrease blank, it would have the biggest impact on my life.
You know, we all have our stress behaviors.
And some are varying degrees of harmful, but what's the most harmful thing.
Or what's the easiest that you can take some data on right now.
What would have at least a noticeable effect on your life?
So you wanna take some baseline measure for about a week.
How often do you do this or how long do you do this for?
And we wanna make sure that we're measuring before we start.
And then you're gonna measure, right, so here's the example, my boss asked me to preform tasks for which I have not been trained, I think that's really relatable across all fields as far as I've seen, I typically feel my heart race and instead I respond by choosing tasks for which I am component.
This allows me to escape that feeling or dealing with reprimands from my boss.
So that's a really good example.
Also the perils of verbal report.
And the BCBAs out there will know this.
Our verbal report is only about 25 to 50 percent accurate.
If we're gonna estimate.
So don't wait till the end of the day to think about how many times you did something, it something that should be top of mind for the next five to seven days and so you can get some really good data.
And then step 2 is you're gonna set up and execute the intervention.
So after you've got five to seven days of understanding how often you perform this stress related behavior, you wanna make sure that you understand how to meditate, which I think hopefully we've all gotten and that you can demonstrate this behavior then you can set your dosage, like I said, at least eight minutes per day.
And then try it.
And you're just gonna try meditation as we've spoken about it today.
Try not to focus too much on, like I said, the time, this does lead to more distracting thoughts and people kinda open their eyes a little bit to look at their timer.
That's really not the point.
The point is to, when your mind does wander, pulling it back to a stimulus, whether that be your breath or you're looking at a candle or something like that.
So pretty simple, just start meditating and be playful with it.
I would recommend at least a month of this.
I know it sounds like a long time but again, this is why you really have to have that buy-in and enjoy it.
So in the maintenance phase, you're gonna just determine what changes need to be made, right and throughout that 30 days, I would encourage to train loosely, you don't have to be super rigid about well I've tried meditating for three days in my bedroom so I have to continue there, you know, go to a different spot in your house, involve different senses, you're really just familiarizing yourself with what is working for you.
So you can go on YouTube, you can download Headspace or Calm, do you want someone else talking to you while you're meditating or do you just wanna enjoy the quiet of your own home for a couple minutes?
Do you want to involve your favorite smell or look something important to you, you know, I typically will buy just one flower and just have it in my house and sometimes that's what I focus on.
So you're really just playing around with the meditation for the first couple weeks until you find what works for you.
And when you find what works for you, whether it's varying your practice all the time, where you do it and what you involve or whether you find your sweet spot and you love your ten minute gratitude meditation and you're burning this candle and you're sitting in this place and you've got it and you look forward to it every day.
That's your sweet spot and you've nailed it.
So once you get there, it should be real easy to continue that behavior over time, day after day.
And of course then you wanna look at the data, right, you wanna look at the stress behaviors, we're not just gonna record the frequency or the duration of low stress behaviors for the first week, we wanna continue doing it, right, and ideally we do those things less, it will not happen immediately, it just won't.
This is why we talk so heavily on why stress can be harmful, we had you pick your own stress related behavior that you want to decrease and then we have you think about why.
The why is so important.
Whether it's to be a better parent or manager or whatever or just a calmer person, more present in the moment or just to learn a new skill, the why is super important because meditation, I've said it a thousand times, I'll say it again, not immediately rewarding, so we want you to enjoy just the simple act of sitting and breathing for a couple minutes a day until you start to notice those benefits.
And again, here are some tips to maintaining your progress, response prompts, calendars and accountability partner is great, you wanna remove all the unnecessary things associated to distraction, so pets.
My dogs pretty chill but he's in his crate right now because when people walk by my house, he will bark sometimes.
That's really distracting.
So I meditate when my husband takes my dog to the park.
They're gone for 30 minutes, I've got the house to myself, there's no garbage truck, there's no interruptions and it's my time and I really look forward to it every day.
Also involving the senses, just makes it more enjoyable.
And creating some public reminders and posts.
Again, doing it with a friend or coworkers, fabulous way to start meditating.
Or you can put it on social media, whatever way you wanna tell the world or at least maybe tell your spouse, your roommate or managers that you're doing this so you can continue to talk about and be held accountable for.
So here's just a overview.
Stress can lead to both harmful and beneficial responses.
Stress definitely works for me in the positive sometimes.
Again, we were talking about reducing suffering and harm from stress.
And it is possible to disrupt those harmful responses in favor of those healthier more positive behaviors and it is a practice we're gonna be just building this every day over time.
Meditation has been shown to produce those measurable changes in children, adolescents and adults in the early research.
But I will say that there is more research needed.
Most of the research is showing the attentional control and focus being the main benefit although I will, full of transparency, say that's where most of my research exists because that's what we can measure.
As far as the loving, kindness and the gratitude and all that, I've personally experienced the benefits, but as a behavior analyst, we just don't focus on that cause it's just a little harder and a little bit more longitudinal in practice and in research, so we do focus on attention mostly in our work.
And then also when building your practice, you're gonna wanna focus on building that momentum with a daily practice.
You are going to guarantee be terrible at it.
You're going to be bad at it, it will be hard but if you can just laugh at yourself and understand that that's going to happen and it's not a bad thing, it's not supposed to be easy, it will increase the likely hood that you're gonna continue to come to mat or the pillow or the couch or whatever space that is every day.
And obviously, the more you practice, the better the benefits and the more they show up in your life and you'll actually be able to see that in the data.
So again, here's the title of The Behavioral Observations Podcast, definitely check that out for a little bit more information.
I am friends with Matt Segoria, he's awesome and prior to the podcast, I told him to grill me and no holds barred and so hopefully you'll get some more information there.
And here are some additional references.
So we can go back to questions or comments.
Or anything that anyone has to say.
- Perfect, thank you so much.
I actually have a question as folks, I see some typing happening here but one of my questions is, if you are, sounds like you're working on this with children and clients with autism, if you're doing that, how would you go about helping those individuals define their stress related behaviors and would you have them do that themselves and how would you facilitate that?
- The, what we're doing with children with autism as an intervention?
- Yeah or let's say, if a teacher were looking to implement this in a classroom setting or something like that, how might they go about that?
- Sure, well firstly I think, you know, if you're wanting children to meditate and if you're wanting to teach that to students, there's some sort of intention there, whether it's, you want children to be kinder to each other or more focused or, whatever that is, and I think that the teacher, with other co-teachers, or other adults in the room have to really sit down and define that, so whatever you want to improve or you know, increase or decrease, it's fine, as long as in your hypothesis, there's some sort of a behavioral definition and something that you can measure.
Because we wanna make sure that the resources and the time dedicated to that are worth it.
So there can be, you know, a classroom as a whole and if they're rowdy kids and they're that age where they're getting up and they're all over the place and their attention is everywhere, maybe the on task behavior is something that you can define.
There are a couple kids in the class room that are maybe aggressive or engaging in some other disruptive behavior, maybe that's your hypothesis, so yeah, I think it's just really important to define what that is so that you can measure it before you do it.
- That's perfect, thank you so much.
I was just chuckling at one of the comments in the chat box, saying that this participant had no idea there was so much exciting research on mindfulness, and they're looking forward to trying it with their own stress behaviors when they wake up in the middle of the night.
Many of us can probably relate to that.
We wake up in the middle of the night and that thinking takes over and yeah.
- Yes, I work a lot of entrepreneurs in our field and I'm personal friends with a lot of them and that is something that comes up a lot is they wake up in the middle of the night and it's not necessarily stress, it's they've got an exciting business idea and how do they go back to sleep after that, right, and it's really just that attention of leaving it go and focusing on something until you fall back asleep so.
Yes, good, I'm glad it was valuable.
- Excellent, thank you so much.
And thank you in general for a really informative, interesting, unique presentation for us this afternoon.
It is an area that we're all hearing more about and I know some folks are involved in their own meditation practices and so on so we really appreciate you sharing you sharing your work and your expertise and I love the beginnings of the overlap between meditation and behavioral intervention because I think that's an area that we're probably going to hear about more and more about as time goes on so really appreciate it very much, thanks Gianna for joining us and I'm sure we'll hopefully have some opportunities to follow up with you in the future, as well.
- Wonderful, thank you so much, I had a blast.
Hope it was useful to everyone and please reach out if you are interested in and have any other questions