How does mindfulness improve self-control?

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

mindfulness chiropracticWe have emotions for a reason. Anger in response to injustice can signal that the situation needs to change; sadness in response to loss can signal that we’d like to keep the people we love in our lives.

When we ruminate, or get caught up in our emotions, that’s when they might become maladaptive. Emotional regulation can be helpful and healthy.

Previous research has shown that mindfulness can be an effective tool to help regulate our emotions. But why? A new model suggests that the ability to control one’s behaviour – a concept that researchers call executive control – may play a role.

In a recent paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, researcher Rimma Teper and her colleagues at the University of Toronto write that despite the common misconception that meditation “empties our head” of emotions, mindfulness actually helps us become more aware and accepting of emotional signals, which helps us to control our behaviour.

So rather than getting rid of emotional experience altogether, this model provides insight into ways in which we can prevent or limit the disruptive aspects of emotions, like rumination. This can be done by monitoring thoughts and sensations, and also by adopting a non-judgmental attitude towards them.

Dr Neil is currently undertaking post-graduate study in mindfulness, chronic pain and the autonomic nervous system.

For more information on mindfulness practice, please email us.


heart rate upper cervical spineMuscles and joints of the neck can influence heart rate and blood pressure.

Research has shown that a pathway exists between neck muscles and a part of the brainstem (image below) called the nucleus tractus solitarius1 (NTS). Postural alterations to the spine or injured neck muscles can change the way the NTS works.

The NTS plays a crucial role in regulating heart rate and blood pressure. Not only does the NTS receive input from the spine (C1) and muscles, but it also responds to emotion and stress from the brain above. This is why both physical and mental stress can alter the heart.

The NTS can induce sensations of nausea due to its connections with the vestibular system, hence why you feel nauseous when your spine is “out”. It also has intimate connections with the autonomic nervous system, influencing temperature fluctuations, flushing and sweating.

The upper neck, or upper cervical spine, is critical to how many systems in the body function. Chiropractors are at the forefront of a growing number of professions that pay attention to the spine and its role in health, wellness and disease prevention. Upper cervical chiropractors in particular specialise in the way this area influences the nervous system (click image to enlarge) ■

One evening June 2012, while sitting watching TV, my heart rate increased to 170bpm.

I became dizzy, disorientated and very concerned. I thought I was having a heart attack.

I’m in my 50’s, very fit, and never considered myself heart attack material. I ended up in hospital where extensive tests were carried out: all were normal. After more extensive testing including an ECG and treadmill test, this time from a specialist, it appeared that I had the heart of a 30-year old. Read more

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