By Bill Murphy, LDE Science Correspondent © 2015
Emotional and physical health is intertwined which provides an opportunity for improving a person‘s wellbeing by using techniques such as mindfulness, which is the awareness of the present moment. Focusing on the present instead of the future or the past is not a new method for managing depression, and the ability to monitor your own thoughts is the key to its success.
The process of ‘thought monitoring’ is how many people would describe becoming lucid while dreaming. But before we touch upon the possible advantages afforded to lucid dreamers, let‘s first take a look at the ancient origins and modern science that together have made mindfulness an established method for stress reduction with overall health benefits.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is a molecular biologist who has been trained in ancient Buddhist principles. While he does not identify himself as a Buddhist, he eventually structured the course known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I become aware of his work while studying at the California Institute for Human Science where I read his 1994 book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life which was one of the psychology course textbooks.
Research by Kabat-Zinn includes the effect of MBSR on psoriasis, pain, anxiety, brain function, and immune function. Fast forward to 2012 and his principles of MBSR were the cornerstone of a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study that further establishes that training the mind to be aware of the present does indeed result in measurable improvement to both mental and physical health.
As reported in The Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA online edition of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity newsletter ‘These MBSR participants self-reported a reduced sense of loneliness, while their blood tests showed a significant decrease in the expression of inflammation-related genes.’
Chronic inflammation is considered to be a primary factor in the pathology of many diseases and psychological disorders. While the study was intended to focus on treatments to improve the lives of the elderly, the practice of MBSR is not restricted to seniors.
This fits in nicely for lucid dreamers of all ages since becoming lucid while in a dream state requires the ability to become self aware while asleep. Just like those practicing meditation, the same ‘thought monitoring’ process is employed by successful lucid dreamers. The mental stimulation reported by those who have controlled their own dreams results in a positive experience that hopefully may have similar benefits to the university studies of MBSR.