The Mind-Body ConnectionBy Laura Pacilio
When fourth year Ph.D. student Emily Lindsay began practicing yoga in college, it completely changed her life. After just a few weeks, she was less stressed, sleeping better and more productive in her classes. She became fascinated by the mind-body connection and has spent much of her time in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Psychology investigating how people can manage their thoughts and feelings to improve their health.
Lindsay is currently studying mindfulness meditation, a practice that helps people cultivate both awareness and acceptance of their present moment experiences. Many researchers, including her advisor Associate Professor of Psychology J. David Creswell, have repeatedly shown that mindfulness can improve both mental and physical health. Now, Lindsay is attempting to determine how.
Over the past year, she worked with world-renowned mindfulness instructor, Shinzen Young, to create three training programs that separate mindfulness’ acceptance and awareness components. For her dissertation, Lindsay will test which —acceptance only, acceptance and awareness, or a control—is most effective at helping older adults manage their stress.
“By separating mindfulness into its components, we can get a better understanding of how and why it works,” explains Lindsay. “We think acceptance is the critical piece, so we’re expecting the program that teaches both awareness and acceptance to reduce stress the most.”
She added that, "The programs are delivered through a smartphone app, which is exciting because if the mindfulness program is effective for reducing stress, it can be distributed widely to make mindfulness training more accessible."
After graduation, Lindsay wants to continue studying mind-body interventions, perhaps in the healthcare system as a form of preventative medicine and says that CMU is preparing her well for this kind of career.
“Pittsburgh is a health psychology hub, and I’ve been given a lot of opportunities at CMU that I think are setting me up well for the future,” she said.