The Power of Retreat 5 – Meditation and Spirituality

The Power of Retreat 5 – Meditation and Spirituality

 

“Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.” – Alan Watts

 

In a prior essay ‘The Power of Retreat 4 – the Container of Silence’ (https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/insights/?section=navPosts), the effects of the container in which retreat is conducted were explored. But, the point of retreat is not the container, it is what transpires within it. Meditation and contemplation are the primary practices of the retreat. The amount varies with different types of retreats. The one we just returned from the amount of meditation varied between 3 to 4+ hours per day occurring in 6 to 8 periods beginning at 7:30 in the morning through 9:30 in the evening. The retreat not only allows for deep meditative experiences that build over the course of the retreat, but it also allows for time for contemplation. Just sitting or walking while reflecting on our environment, immediate experience, or the insights occurring in meditation is as important as the meditation itself.

 

The specific type of meditation practiced can vary with different retreats (see links below for explanations of meditation techniques). But, all practices emphasize quieting the mind, reducing the internal conversation and chatter, in order to better see and understand the operation of the mind. The amount of meditation is important as it is a ‘practice’ and over time the mind gets quieter. When the mind quiets all sorts of things can emerge, some expected, some a complete surprise, some sublime, but some very uncomfortable and upsetting. Be forewarned, meditation can produce wrenching experiences. We’ve seen many people spontaneously break out in tears at any moment. Most deal with it effectively, confronting and experiencing troubling experiences and the attached strong emotions. This is actually a very good thing as it can help to heal inner wounds that may have festered for decades. But, some participants are overwhelmed and need assistance or need to leave the retreat. Don’t be put off, these are important experiences and may constitute breakthrough moments, leading to self-transformation.

 

The intent of meditation is not to elicit thinking or emotions, even though thinking and emotions occur frequently during meditation. The intent is to allow inner silence to prevail. At the retreat we attended we all wore tags stating “I am observing silence.” This can be viewed very practically as a message to everyone around who may not be participating in the retreat, that we’re not open to conversation, or even everyday niceties. But, it’s true meaning is deeper. It suggests that we are observing silence itself, the silence within that is ever present and the foundation upon which all experiences emerge. It is a wonderful experience to be deeply immersed in the silence.

 

A powerful component of retreat is the commitment and intention that the participants bring. Most people coming to a retreat are very committed. The investment of money and especially a week’s time is a concrete expression of that commitment. The week taken away from work and everyday activities is dear to many. It could have been used to take a cruise, tour a foreign country, go to a beach or theme park, visit friends and family, etc. So, the choice to go on retreat instead is meaningful. This commitment provides the motivation for the individual to focus on the work of the retreat and particularly on their intention. Most come with an intention to work on self-understanding, which may paradoxically include a loss of self! In addition, the fact that there is a group of committed individuals with a shared intention present energizes the retreat.

 

For many the intention is for spiritual development. Some come to retreat with a specific intention to experience spiritual awakening or to experience a union with God. But, even those who come for personal development reasons often migrate toward spiritual development. This is a natural outgrowth of meditation. It is impossible to look deeply inside, particularly at the silence and emptiness and not be spiritually affected, to not glimpse the deeper aspects of existence. In fact, it is common in retreat for people to have awakening experiences. These frequently occur not in the meditation itself but during the contemplative time. That’s frequently where the fruits of meditation ripen. Additionally, the supportive environment of retreat can promote awakenings as the individual knows that these unusual experiences will be accepted and understood, whereas in everyday life they are not.

 

Silent meditation retreat is an opportunity to move away from our everyday lives. Some may see this as an opportunity to escape them but the power of retreat is not to escape our lives but to provide perspective on them. Yes, work, chores etc. must be done. But, by putting perspective on their true importance we become less stressed and anxious about them and don’t ruminate about unfinished tasks. Rather, we can begin to live our life with balance, making sure that we take care of what constitutes the to do list of our happiness and growth. It has been pointed out that absolutely no one, on their death bed, wishes that they had spent more time at work. Retreat can provide this same kind of perspective. We come away from retreat with a clear realization that we must give higher priorities and more time to our emotional and spiritual lives. We must invest the precious time of our lives in rest and contemplation. We must devote ourselves more to others and especially, to caring for ourselves. We can see how important our relationships, family and friends are to our inner reality. Retreat can provide this perspective for us and is part of its life-altering power.

 

We highly recommend retreat, especially silent retreat, for those who wish for personal or spiritual development. But, be prepared. It is often not the pleasant relaxing time off that many envision. It can be emotional and spiritual dynamite that needs to be approached with caution.

 

As gold purified in a furnace loses its impurities and achieves its own true nature, the mind gets rid of the impurities of the attributes of delusion, attachment and purity through meditation and attains Reality. – Adi Shankara”

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Improve Arthritis in Older Adults with Seated Yoga

Improve Arthritis in Older Adults with Seated Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Chair yoga may help to reduce pain in older adults suffering from arthritis. Based around the ancient form of exercise, it allows people with reduced mobility to also take part. It helps to boost the strength and flexibility of older people and could become an effective treatment for those with the debilitating condition.” Stephen Matthews

 

Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that is the most common form of arthritis. It produces pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with about 43% of arthritis sufferers limited in mobility and about a third having limitations that affect their ability to perform their work. Knee osteoarthritis effects 5% of adults over 25 years of age and 12% of those over 65. It is painful and disabling. Its causes are varied including, hereditary, injury including sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries, infection, or from being overweight.

 

There are no cures for knee osteoarthritis. Treatments are primarily symptomatic, including weight loss, exercise, braces, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, arthroscopic knee surgery, or even knee replacement. Gentle movements of the joints with exercise and physical therapy appear to be helpful in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. This suggests that alternative and complementary practices that involve gentle knee movements may be useful for treatment.

 

Mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and Qigong  and yoga have been shown to reduce the physical symptoms of knee osteoarthritisYoga, has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions, including arthritis. But, people with lower extremity osteoarthritis have difficulty with balance making standing postures problematic. So, it would seem reasonable to look into the effectiveness of yoga practice performed while sitting in a chair in treating knee osteoarthritis.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357158/ ), Park and colleagues recruited older adults (>65 years of age) with osteoarthritis of the lower extremity joints; hip, knee; ankle, and foot. They were randomly assigned to either receive health education or seated Hatha yoga practice. Both Health Education and yoga was practiced for 45 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks and home practice was encouraged. The participants were measured before and after treatment and at a 1-month and 3-month follow-up for pain interference in everyday activities, fatigue, balance, walking speed, pain, and functional ability.

 

They found that after the 8-weeks of practice and at the 1- and 3-month follow-ups, the yoga group had significantly greater reductions in pain, pain interference in daily activities, fatigue, and walking speed. There were no significant adverse events observed. Hence, practicing yoga while seated was well tolerated and safe and produced significant improvements in the symptoms of lower extremity osteoarthritis in elderly adults. This suggests that seated yoga practice may be a welcome, safe and effective alternative to pharmacologic or surgical treatment for osteoarthritis in the elderly.

 

So, improve arthritis in older adults with seated Yoga.

 

“The potential impact of this study on public health is high, as this program provides an approach for keeping community-dwelling elders active even when they cannot participate in traditional exercise that challenges their balance,” – Patricia Liehr

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Park, J., McCaffrey, R., Newman, D., Liehr, P., & Ouslander, J. G. (2017). A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 65(3), 592–597. http://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14717

 

Abstract

Objectives

To determine effects of Sit ‘N’ Fit Chair Yoga, compared to a Health Education program (HEP), on pain and physical function in older adults with lower extremity osteoarthritis (OA) who could not participate in standing exercise

Design

Two-arm randomized controlled trial

Setting

One HUD senior housing facility and one day senior center in south Florida

Participants

Community-dwelling older adults (N = 131) were randomly assigned to chair yoga (n = 66) or HEP (n = 65). Thirteen dropped after assignment but prior to the intervention; 6 dropped during the intervention; 106 of 112 completed at least 12 of 16 sessions (95% retention rate).

Interventions

Participants attended either chair yoga or HEP. Both interventions consisted of twice-weekly 45-minute sessions for 8 weeks.

Measurements

Primary: pain, pain interference; secondary: balance, gait speed, fatigue, functional ability measured at baseline, after 4 weeks of intervention, at the end of the 8-week intervention, and post-intervention (1 and 3 months).

Results

The chair yoga group showed greater reduction in pain interference during the intervention (p = .01), sustained through 3 months (p = .022). WOMAC pain (p = .048), gait speed (p = .024), and fatigue (p = .037) were improved in the yoga group during the intervention (p = .048) but improvements were not sustained post intervention. Chair yoga had no effect on balance.

Conclusion

An 8-week chair yoga program was associated with reduction in pain, pain interference, and fatigue, and improvement in gait speed, but only the effects on pain interference were sustained 3 months post intervention. Chair yoga should be further explored as a nonpharmacologic intervention for older people with OA in the lower extremities.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357158/

 

Improve Students Transition to College with Mindfulness

Improve Students Transition to College with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The first semester of college is a time of great transition for many students — they often are living away from home for the first time, have a much more fluid schedule than in high school and are potentially surrounded by a new peer group. For all of these reasons and more, this can be an incredibly stressful time in a student’s life.”Victoria M. Indivero

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, colleges, parents, and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. These stressors are at their peak when new students transition to college. Mindfulness training for incoming students may be an answer as mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in reducing the physiological and psychological responses to stress and to improve coping with the school environment and enhance performance. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may help ease students’ transition to college.

 

In today’s Research News article “Promoting healthy transition to college through mindfulness training with first-year college students: Pilot randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810370/ ), Dvořáková and colleagues recruited first year college students who resided on campus and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to a 6-week mindfulness training condition with 2 80-minute sessions for the first two weeks and 1 session per week for the remaining 4 weeks. The training occurred in a group format during their first semester on campus and included instruction on emotion regulation, mindfulness techniques, and daily home practice. The students were measured before and after training for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, satisfaction with life, compassion, self-compassion, social connectedness, sleep, alcohol use and consequences, and program acceptability.

 

They found that the students who attended the mindfulness trainings had significantly lower levels of anxiety depression, alcohol-related consequences, and sleep issues and higher levels of life satisfaction in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control students. Hence, the mindfulness program improved the psychological health of the new college students, thereby easing their transition to the university environment. This is a pilot study, so results need to be interpreted with caution. But, the results are sufficiently interesting and potentially important that a large scale controlled clinical trial with an active control group is warranted.

 

The Freshman year in college is critical. Most of the students who fail to complete a college degree drop out in the first year. So, it is particularly important to find ways to help Freshman transition to university life and be successful. The present study suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective component in a university’s programs for Freshman to help promote their psychological health and academic performance in their critical first year.

 

So, improve students transition to college with mindfulness.

 

“Rather than telling the students what to do, we had them explore and talk about how to be mindful in their daily lives and discover the benefits for themselves. We found that underneath the stress that students are experiencing is a deep desire to appreciate life and feel meaningful connections with other people.” – Kamila Dvorakova

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Dvořáková, K., Kishida, M., Li, J., Elavsky, S., Broderick, P. C., Agrusti, M. R., & Greenberg, M. T. (2017). Promoting healthy transition to college through mindfulness training with first-year college students: Pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of American College Health : J of ACH, 65(4), 259–267. http://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2017.1278605

 

Abstract

Objective

Given the importance of developmental transitions on young adults’ lives and the high rates of mental health issues among U.S. college students, first-year college students can be particularly vulnerable to stress and adversity. This pilot study evaluated the effectiveness and feasibility of mindfulness training aiming to promote first-year college students’ health and wellbeing.

Participants

109 freshmen were recruited from residential halls (50% Caucasian, 66% female). Data collection was completed in November 2014.

Methods

A randomized control trial was conducted utilizing the Learning to BREATHE (L2B) program, a universal mindfulness program adapted to match the developmental tasks of college transition.

Results

Participation in the pilot intervention was associated with significant increase in students’ life satisfaction, and significant decrease in depression and anxiety. Marginally significant decrease was found for sleep issues and alcohol consequences.

Conclusions

Mindfulness-based programs may be an effective strategy to enhance a healthy transition into college.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810370/

 

Improve Stress Related Disease Symptoms with Mindfulness in Nature

Improve Stress Related Disease Symptoms with Mindfulness in Nature

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Nature is always here and now. Your breath, your senses, anything around you. When you are being aware of the life within you and around you, you are being mindful of this present moment, and it will always calm you down. You can not do nature, you can just be there. Being is calming.” – Hanne Suorza

 

Stress is an integral part of life. People often think of stress as a bad thing. But, it is actually essential to the health of the body. In fact, we invest time and resources in stressing ourselves, e.g ridding rollercoasters, sky diving, competing in sports, etc. We say we love a challenge, but, challenges are all stressful. So, we actually love to stress ourselves. In moderation, it is healthful and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths. So, it is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It has long been reported that walking in nature elevates mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if it occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly lift the spirits. But, there is little systematic research regarding these effects. It’s possible that conducting walking meditation in nature might potentiate the effects by combining two mood enhancing practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800236/  ), Corazon and colleagues recruited adult patients with stress-related diseases who had been not able to work for at least the last three months. They were randomly assigned to receive either a mindfulness nature-based therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The mindfulness nature-based therapy occurred 3 times per week for 3 hours each session for 10 weeks and consisted “of five interrelated components: (i) individual therapeutic conversations based on CBT; (ii) individual and group mindfulness exercises, such as mindful walking in the garden; (iii) individual and social gardening activities, depending on the season, which integrates training in mindful awareness; (iv) individual relaxation and reflection time in the garden; and (v) homework to practice the techniques introduced.” The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was a group based therapy that occurred twice per week for 1 hour each session for 10 weeks. From the government records the participants amount of sick leave from work and health care consumption were recorded over the year following completion of treatment.

They found that the participants in both the mindfulness nature-based therapy and the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) had progressively less sick leave over the 12 months following the treatment such that 72% of the participants reported no sick leave at all during month 12. In addition, there were significant reductions (31%) in the number of visits to physicians over the follow-up period. Hence, both treatment programs resulted in significant improvements in stress-related disease impacts on work life and healthcare consumption.

 

It needs to be mentioned that since participants in both treatments improved and there was not a no-treatment comparison condition, it cannot be concluded that the treatments produced the improvements. The improvements may have been due to spontaneous recovery over the years, time. Future research needs to contain other comparison conditions. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging suggesting that CBT and mindfulness nature-based therapy may be effective treatments for stress-related diseases; easing the suffering of the individuals and reducing the load on the health care and sick leave systems.

 

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow” – Henry David Thoreau

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Corazon, S. S., Nyed, P. K., Sidenius, U., Poulsen, D. V., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2018). A Long-Term Follow-Up of the Efficacy of Nature-Based Therapy for Adults Suffering from Stress-Related Illnesses on Levels of Healthcare Consumption and Sick-Leave Absence: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 137. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15010137

 

Abstract

Stress-related illnesses are a growing health problem in the Western world; which also has economic significance for society. As a consequence; there is a growing demand for effective treatments. The study investigates the long-term efficacy of the Nacadia® nature-based therapy (NNBT) by comparing it to the efficacy of a validated cognitive behavioral therapy, called STreSS. The study is designed as a randomized controlled trial in which 84 participants are randomly allocated between the treatments. Long-term efficacy is investigated through data extracts from the national database of Statistics Denmark on the sick leave and the health-care consumption. The results show that both the NNBT and the STreSS lead to a significant decrease in number of contacts with a general practitioner in the period from twelve months prior to treatment to twelve months after treatment; and, a significant decrease in long-term sick leave from the month prior to treatment to twelve months after treatment. The positive long-term effects provide validation for the NNBT as an efficient treatment of stress-related illnesses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800236/

Mindful Patients with Multiple Sclerosis Have Less Interference in Living from Pain

Mindful Patients with Multiple Sclerosis Have Less Interference in Living from Pain

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness practice appears to be a safe, drug-free approach to coping with stress and anxiety, which may in turn help reduce your MS symptoms.” – Amit Sood

 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive demyelinating disease which attacks the coating on the neural axons which send messages throughout the body and nervous system. It affects about 2 million people worldwide and about 400,000 in the U.S. It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50 years.  Unfortunately, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. There are a number of approved medications that are used to treat MS but are designed to lessen frequency of relapses and slow the progression of the disease, but they don’t address individual symptoms.

 

Although there is a progressive deterioration, MS is not fatal with MS patients having about the same life expectancy as the general population. Hence, most MS sufferers have to live with the disease for many years. So, quality of life becomes a major issue. Quality of life with MS is affected by fatigue, cognitive decrements, physical impairment, depression, and poor sleep quality. For most MS patients pain accompanies the disease and in about a third of patients the pain is clinically significant. There is a thus a critical need for safe and effective methods to help relieve pain in MS sufferers. Mindfulness practices have been shown to relieve pain from a number of different conditions and also to improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It has yet to be demonstrated that mindfulness can reduce the pain in MS patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Association Between Pain and Mindfulness in Multiple Sclerosis: A Cross-sectional Survey.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5825983/ ), Senders and colleagues examine the relationship between the mindfulness of patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the interference of the pain with daily activities (pain interference). They recruited adult MS patients with average age of 50 years. They measured them for the degree to which pain interfered with their everyday lives and also their levels of mindfulness.

 

They found that there was a highly significant negative relationship between the MS patients’ levels of pain interference and levels of mindfulness such that patients with high levels of mindfulness tended to have low levels of pain interference and patients with low levels of mindfulness tended to have high levels of pain interference. It should be noted that this finding is correlative and causation cannot be concluded. But in previous research mindfulness training has been shown to cause pain reduction in other disorders. This makes it highly likely that mindfulness reduced the pain interference for MS patients.

 

Mindfulness involves an appreciation of the sensations and feelings in the present moment without judging them. This appears to be important to reduce the tendency to magnify the pain by reacting negatively to it and allows the patient to function effectively even with pain. It remains to be shown that training mindfulness in MS patients will reduce their suffering and its interference with everyday living.

 

“Living with the pain, discomfort, and the uncertainties of MS can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression. . . By becoming mindful and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, we can better control situations, and we have more choices. It also means that we are less likely to end up striving for too long toward goals that it might be wiser to let go. Mindful awareness helps us to become fully conscious of the world as it is, rather than how we wish it could be.” – Regina Boyle Wheeler

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Senders, A., Borgatti, A., Hanes, D., & Shinto, L. (2018). Association Between Pain and Mindfulness in Multiple Sclerosis: A Cross-sectional Survey. International Journal of MS Care, 20(1), 28–34. http://doi.org/10.7224/1537-2073.2016-076

 

Abstract

Background:

Chronic pain is a common symptom in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and often requires a multimodal approach to care. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to decrease the experience of pain in other conditions, yet little is known about the relationship between mindfulness and pain in people with MS. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association between pain interference and trait mindfulness in people with MS.

Methods:

In this cross-sectional survey, 132 people with any type of MS completed the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Pain Interference scale and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire. Linear regression was used to test the association between pain and mindfulness while adjusting for demographic and MS-related characteristics.

Results:

The relationship between pain and mindfulness was clinically meaningful and highly significant (t = −5.52, P < .0001). For every 18-point increase in mindfulness scores, pain interference scores are expected to decrease by 3.96 (95% CI, −2.52 to −5.40) points (β = −0.22, P < .0001). The adjusted model, including age, type of MS, the interaction between mindfulness and age, and the interaction between mindfulness and MS type, explains 26% of the variability in pain interference scores (R2 = 0.26).

Conclusions:

These results suggest a clinically significant association between mindfulness and pain interference in MS and support further exploration of mindfulness-based interventions in the management of MS-related pain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5825983/

 

Improve College Students Responses to Stress with Yoga

Improve College Students Responses to Stress with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga is a practice of uniting the mind and physical body as one. It combines breathing exercise, meditation, and physical positions. This combination is believed to reduce many physical and mental ailments that are caused by stress.” – Rebecca Chasar

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school. The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. In, addition, exercise if also know to reduce responses to stress. But, nearly half of college students are physically inactive. So, yoga, which is both a mindfulness practice and a physical activity should be particularly effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in college students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868218/  ), Tripathi and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of yoga practice to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress in college students.

 

They report yoga training has been found to reduce autonomic arousal, reducing sympathetic nervous system activity and increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. Since, physiological arousal is characteristic of stress responding, yoga practice reduces this physiological marker of stress. Yoga practice reduces perceived stress, tension, sleepiness, worry, and negative emotions and increases relaxation, mental quiet, peace, rest, strength, awareness and joy, thereby improving psychological well-being. Hence, the existing research suggests that yoga practice may be valuable in helping college students cope with the physical and mental consequences of stress and thereby improve their performance in school.

 

So, improve college students responses to stress with yoga.

 

“As science continues to understand the negative effects of stress on our mental and physical bodies, techniques like meditation and yoga that were once considered fringe are becoming prolifically mainstream.  If we can begin to understand and utilize these techniques before stress becomes an issue, then these tools can be even more valuable.” – Kelly Golden

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tripathi, M. N., Kumari, S., & Ganpat, T. S. (2018). Psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in college students. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 7, 43. http://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_74_17

 

Abstract

College students are vulnerable to a critical period in developmental maturation, facing rigorous academic work, and learning how to function independently. Physical activities such as running and bicycling have been shown to improve mood and relieve stress. However, college students often have low levels of physical activity. Yoga is an ancient physical and mental activity that affects mood and stress. However, studies examining the psychophysiological effects of yoga are rare in peer-reviewed journals. The aim of this study is to establish preliminary evidence for the psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in young-adult college students. The present study suggests that yoga has positive effects on a psychophysiological level that leads to decreased levels of stress in college student. Further research is needed to examine the extent to which different types of yogic practices address the needs of different college subpopulations (e.g., overweight, sedentary, and smokers).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868218/

Improve Psychological and Physical Health During Cancer Treatment with Yoga

Improve Psychological and Physical Health During Cancer Treatment with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga for cancer patients—what better way to manage anxiety, gain strength, increase flexibility, and create feelings of well-being! A growing body of research points to the potential of yoga for supporting cancer patients, both during and after treatment.” – Tari Prinster

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. Yoga practice is a form of mindfulness training that has been shown to be beneficial for cancer patients. In today’s Research News article “Review of Yoga Therapy During Cancer Treatment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5777241/ ), Danhauer and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the application of yoga practice to the treatment of cancer patients undergoing treatment. They identified 12 non-randomized and 13 randomized published clinical trials.

 

They found that the research reports that yoga practice improves the psychological and physical health of cancer patients undergoing treatment. These include psychological improvements in anxiety, depression, mood, negative affect, relaxation, overall mental health, cognition, spiritual well-being, social support, self-efficacy, and coping, and physical improvements in overall health, physical quality of life, fatigue, invigoration, sleep, most-bothersome symptom, and upregulation of genes involved in immunity.

 

These are impressive results that strongly suggest that yoga practice is of great benefit to cancer patients undergoing treatment. It appears to be safe, with few if any negative side effects, be acceptable for patients undergoing treatment, and to improve the patients’ mental and physical health.

 

Yoga practice is generally complex, involving a number of components including, postures, meditation, breathing exercises, and chanting. It is unclear from the research which ones or which combinations of these components are responsible for the benefits. It remains for future research to better clarify how yoga functions to produce these remarkable benefits for cancer patients. Such a clarification could lead to improved and more targeted practices.

 

So, improve psychological and physical health during cancer treatment with yoga.

 

“Cancer patients who practice yoga as therapy during their treatment often refer to their yoga practice as a life-saver. The healing power of yoga helps both cancer patients and cancer survivors. No matter how sick from treatments and no matter how little energy, many find that the one thing that would bring relief were a gentle set of therapeutic yoga poses geared for cancer patients.” – Yoga U

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Danhauer, S. C., Addington, E. L., Sohl, S. J., Chaoul, A., & Cohen, L. (2017). Review of Yoga Therapy During Cancer Treatment. Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, 25(4), 1357–1372. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-016-3556-9

 

Abstract

Purpose

Reviews of yoga research that distinguish results of trials conducted during (versus after) cancer treatment are needed to guide future research and clinical practice. We therefore conducted a review of non-randomized studies and randomized controlled trials of yoga interventions for children and adults undergoing treatment for any cancer type.

Methods

Studies were identified via research databases and reference lists. Inclusion criteria: (1) children or adults undergoing cancer treatment; (2) intervention stated as yoga or component of yoga; and (3) publication in English in peer-reviewed journals through October 2015. Exclusion criteria: (1) samples receiving hormone therapy only; (2) interventions involving only meditation; and (3) yoga delivered within broader cancer recovery or mindfulness-based stress reduction programs.

Results

Results of non-randomized (adult: n=8, pediatric: n=4) and randomized controlled trials (adult: n=13, pediatric: n=0) conducted during cancer treatment are summarized separately by age group. Findings most consistently support improvement in psychological outcomes (e.g., depression, distress, anxiety). Several studies also found that yoga enhanced quality of life, though further investigation is needed to clarify domain-specific efficacy (e.g., physical, social, cancer-specific). Regarding physical and biomedical outcomes, evidence increasingly suggests that yoga ameliorates sleep and fatigue; additional research is needed to advance preliminary findings for other treatment sequelae and stress/immunity biomarkers.

Conclusions

Among adults undergoing cancer treatment, evidence supports recommending yoga for improving psychological outcomes, with potential for also improving physical symptoms. Evidence is insufficient to evaluate the efficacy of yoga in pediatric oncology. We describe suggestions for strengthening yoga research methodology to inform clinical practice guidelines.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5777241/

 

The Noble Eightfold Path with Relationships

The Noble Eightfold Path with Relationships

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we have closer intimate relationships, maybe a marital relationship or lover relationship where sexuality is involved, then we assume we want more from each other. And, there’s the rub. This is where the Buddhist idea of true love helps. True love is where you want the happiness of the beloved; it’s not that you want something from the beloved. You just want to give to the beloved. Shantideva said, “All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting happiness for oneself.” – Robert Thurman

 

Probably the best place to practice the Eightfold Path is not on the meditation mat or in a cloistered environment but in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. There are wonderful opportunities to practice presented to us all the time embedded in the complexities of the modern world. In fact, the whole idea of practicing on the mat is to learn things that will apply to our everyday existence. What better place is there, then, than the real environment to practice them.

 

In previous essays, we discussed driving an automobile and the work environment as excellent venues for practice. In today’s essay we’ll discuss practicing in the midst of our relationships with significant others. This is an excellent context in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. It is filled with emotions, desires, sex, conflicts, suffering, compassion, and memories. In other words, our relationships have all the ingredients to practice and to put to the test all the principles of mindfulness and the Eightfold Path for the cessation of suffering; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

 

There are many wonderful opportunities in relationships to practice the Right View idea of impermanence. Indeed, our relationships are constantly changing. One day is full of love, understanding and kindness and the next filled with conflict, resentment, and anger. No matter how bad or good the relationships are or the daily interactions between partners, they are sure to change. Sexual relations are a wonderful example of impermanence, with desires and feeling changing dramatically from moment to moment, but none of it can be held onto for more than a moment. They come and they go. They’re impermanent. This exemplifies the Right View idea of transitoriness. We all grow and develop and change throughout our lifetime and these changes can be challenging for relationships. There’s an old story about relationships that upon marriage, the woman believes that the man will change, but he doesn’t, while the man believes that the woman will never change, but she does! Adapting and coping with these changes requires that we understand impermanence, the Right View.

 

We can also practice the Right View idea of interconnectedness. Relationships are cooperative ventures. How interconnected the couple is, is on display. Relationships require consideration of the needs and aspirations of both partners by both partners. Acting alone would is a sure formula for chaos and conflict in a relationship. You affect your partner and your partner affects you, which affects your partner, which, in turn, affects you and so on. If there are children involved this interconnectedness becomes magnified. Keep in mind “If you want to be happy effectively, then think about other people’s happiness and you will be. Think about your own happiness only, and you will always be dissatisfied because you will never have enough.”  – Robert Thurman. Understanding and adapting to the dynamic interplay between partners requires that we recognize, adapt to, and work with this interconnectedness, the Right View.

 

In relationships we can also view and practice the Right View idea of no permanent self. This thing called self that you think of a permanent and static actually changes moment to moment in reaction to what transpires in relationships. How you view yourself and your beliefs about the supposed self can change in a flash depending upon what your partner says and does. You may think of yourself as a kind and loving person, but your partner treats you like a selfish and cruel person. This can change this idea of the self. A little mindful reflection regarding this reveals that this thing that we call the self was never permanent in the first place but changing and evolving, coming and going, just like everything else. The highly emotionally charged cauldron of relationships amplifies this and makes it clearer and clearer. This is a tremendous learning experience. Coming to grips with this requires that we develop the Right View of no permanent self.

 

It is hard to find a better context than relationships to develop the Right View idea of suffering and unsatisfactoriness, and their roots. In relationships we want everything to be exactly as we want it to be, and when it isn’t we suffer. We want our partners to understand us, we want sex to fulfill our fantasies, we want to always be agreed with, we want more excitement and less dull chores, we want our partners to acquiesce to all our decisions, we want to have space, we don’t want to deal with our in-laws, we want our partners to unconditionally love us, etc. When these things don’t happen, we suffer. In other words, you can learn, if you are observant of what is happening in relationships, that your suffering is caused by your lack of acceptance of how things really are in your relationship. So, relationships constitute wonderful laboratories to practice Right View. You can learn to accept things as they are, to see things without judgment, to view the relationship, your partner, and children just as they are, as individual human being with their own desires and needs. When you view them this way, the love grows, and the incredible wonder of life and loving begins to reveal itself. You can learn to understand that the way you act with them has consequences, affecting yourself and the rest of the family, in other words, you practice and develop Right View.

 

You can readily practice Right Intentions in relationships and this can lead to Right Actions. Intentions are a key. They become your moral compass. These intentions include the happiness of our partner. “True love is where you want the happiness of the beloved; it’s not that you want something from the beloved.”  – Robert Thurman. They tend to lead you in the right direction even though you may at times stumble.  But, it is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of your actions. Sometimes, even with the Right Intentions you can cause your partner to suffer. For example, you may want to provide a high standard of living for your partner and family and work long hours to do so. But, this may cause your partner to be lonely and unhappy or your children to feel neglected. You need to try to not only to have Right Intentions, but to discern how even the best of intentions can sometime produce harmful outcomes. The truly Right Intentions do not produce harm, only good. You have to sometimes balance the good you’re doing with the harm produced by the same actions. This requires Right View. This is where relationships can be such a great practice as you can learn what works and what doesn’t and become better at discerning what are the wholesome Right Actions from those that produce more harm than good.

 

Right Intentions also includes the abandonment of unwholesome desires. If you relate to your partner with anger, impatience, selfishness, resentment you are likely to harm them and yourself. The harm may not be major or direct, but indirect by affecting partner and children in negative ways. Perhaps your anger at your partner overdrawing a checking account causes you to lash out at your children. Perhaps, your selfishness causes you to neglect you partners requests or needs eliciting frustration or anger in your partner, or simply cause them to suffer. But sometimes you can produce direct harm to your partner. This can occur when anger and alcohol result in physical or psychological abuse or when your sexual desires cause you to force yourself on an unwilling partner.

 

On the other hand, if you practice Right Intentions with sincere intentions to create good and happiness, relieve suffering, you will treat your partner with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will. When our partners are treated with respect, compassion, and helpfulness or when a partner’s anger or frustration are reacted to with patience, kindness, and tolerance, harm and suffering have likely been prevented. A considerate sexual relationship, where the intentions are to love and satisfy your partner, the relationship will become more satisfying for both of you, particularly if your partner has the same Right Intentions. The happiness and love produced carries into everything that you do affecting how you treat you children, your friends, your coworkers, and everyone that you meet. It is good to reflect on the ripples of good that may have been created by the Right Actions producing positive consequences, which produce more positive consequences, producing more positive consequences, etc. well into the future. So, if you form Right Intentions and aspire to create good and happiness you’ll be a better partner and will produce more harmony and good will in in all of your interactions and more importantly will be moving yourself along the eightfold path.

 

There are many opportunities to practice Right Speech in relationships. This can include non-verbal communications such as facial expressions, body postures, etc., perhaps even holding hands or loving glances. But, predominantly Right Speech is verbal. You may have a bad habit of often reacting to a mistake with reflexive emotional expletives. This can occur in response to something as simple as dropping a glass of wine. This can also include gestures. These can occur reflexively or even without awareness but do no good and create harm in yourself and sometimes aggravate your partner. Keep in mind the advice “Have a fast ear and a slow tongue.” ~Mark Ward. Right Speech also involves refraining from gossip. Couples often gossip or repeat rumors about family and friends. This can hurt others in unpredictable and sometimes unknown ways. In addition, Right Speech is truthful speech. In communicating with your partner only speak things that you know are absolutely true. Even “little white lies” have a cumulative effect eroding trust and understanding, while always speaking the truth promotes trust, understanding, and harmony. Right Speech takes practice. We have years of training and daily multiple examples of wrong speech. So, be patient and practice. Slowly the effects and benefits will become apparent.

 

The notion of Right Livelihood mandates that the couple’s occupations not only earns a living but also creates greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering. Conversely, they should not produce harm. Some occupations can be clearly seen as creating harm such as manufacturing, selling, or delivering weapons, cigarettes, or harmful drugs, human trafficking, or driving animals to slaughter. Some occupations clearly seem to create greater good and happiness, such as teacher, aid worker, nurse, etc. But, most occupations are a little more difficult to tell. Sometimes harm is produced indirectly, such as by damaging the environment, or resulting in layoffs from a competitor, or by producing goods or services that can be misused or used by others to create harm. Although rarely having direct effects upon relationships, engaging in Right Livelihood can do so indirectly. Feeling good about what you do for work can spill over bringing those good feelings home. Also, developing the discernment required to understand the impact of your occupations is a useful skill for understanding the impact of your actions upon your partner.

 

Relationships also present a great context to practice Right Effort. It takes substantial effort to interact mindfully. If you act automatically as most people do most of the time, there is little or no mindfulness and little or no effort.  When you first get up in the morning you have to set the intention to engage in your daily activities in such a way as to lessen suffering in yourself and your partner, to act with kindness, compassion, patience, and courtesy, to drop fear, anger, hatred, selfishness, and to bring to our interactions with our partner the intention to promote well-being and happiness. Right Effort is working the “Middle Way.” That is not trying too hard and getting stressed about interacting and loving properly, and also not being lackadaisical, but rather to try, but relax. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re not relating to your partner mindfully, but congratulate yourself when you do. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.

 

Acting mindlessly is probably the norm. Most people perform their routine daily activities while their minds are elsewhere, ruminating about the past, planning for the future, or off in fantasy and daydreams. This provides you with a terrific opportunity to practice Right Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” What better opportunity to practice this than while your interacting with your partner? Right Mindfulness precludes focusing on social media or engaging in other distractions when with your partner. Right Mindfulness makes you acutely aware of what is happening and how you’re feeling during every moment together. Awareness of how you’re feeling and what’s producing those feelings, and how you’re reacting to them makes you better able to interact effectively without emotional outbursts that are non-productive and can hurt your partner. Right Mindfulness is not just part of the eightfold path it is a prerequisite for the practice of the seven other components of the path. So, relating mindfully is a fundamental practice and relationships are great situations for practice.

 

Right Concentration is the practice of focusing the mind solely on one object or a specific unchanging set of objects. This is developed during contemplative practice such as meditation. It is essential to effectively interacting with you partner. Our world is replete with distractions and interruptions. But, to truly be attentive and listening mindfully to our partner we must concentrate. Right Concentration in relationships includes making the effort to be there for your partner and deeply listen to them. There are very few more important things that you can do in relationships than to simply give your partner your full presence, your full attention, your full mindfulness. Improvement in attentional ability is a consequence of practicing Right Concentration. The ability to concentrate and screen out intrusive sounds, sights, speech and thoughts allow you to focus on your partner, producing a higher quality relationship. In addition, it is thought that Right Concentration requires Right Effort, Right Intentions, and Right Mindfulness and these can also be practiced and developed. So, interacting with our beloved is a wonderful situation for the practice of Right Concentration, benefiting each partner.

 

Negotiating the eightfold path in relationships is not easy. But, remember that it is a practice. Over time you’ll better and better at it, but nowhere near perfect. Frequently the discursive mind takes over or your emotions will get the better of you. But, by continuing the practice you’ll slowly progress. you’ll become a better partner and have a more relaxed, loving, and happier relationship. Keep in mind the teaching that actions that lead to greater harmony and happiness should be practiced, while those that lead to unsatisfactoriness and unhappiness should be let go. One of the keys in the practice is mindfully observing your partner and yourself. This allows you to discern the improvements even when they’re small and subtle.  Over time, these small improvements add up.  Without doubt, practicing the eightfold path lead to a terrific, happy, satisfying, loving relationship.

 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

Reduce Use and Improve the Mental Health of Adults with Stimulant Addiction with Mindfulness

Reduce Use and Improve the Mental Health of Adults with Stimulant Addiction with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When stimulant users attempt to quit, some of the most frequent complaints have to do with intolerable feelings of depression, sadness, and anxiety, conditions that often lead people to drop out of treatment early. Mindfulness practice not only helps them to manage cravings and urges, but also enables them to better cope with the psychological discomfort that can precipitate a relapse.” – Suzette Glasner

 

Substance abuse is a major health and social problem. There are estimated 22.2 million people in the U.S. with substance dependence. It is estimated that worldwide there are nearly ¼ million deaths yearly as a result of illicit drug use which includes unintentional overdoses, suicides, HIV and AIDS, and trauma. Obviously, there is a need to find effective methods to prevent and treat substance abuse. There are a number of programs that are successful at stopping the drug abuse, including the classic 12-step program emblematic of Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, the majority of drug and/or alcohol abusers relapse and return to substance abuse. Hence, it is important to find an effective method to treat substance abuse and prevent relapse.

 

Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve recovery from various addictions. Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) has been developed to specifically assist in relapse prevention and has been shown to be effective. “MBRP integrates mindfulness practices with cognitive-behavioral Relapse Prevention therapy and aims to help participants increase awareness and acceptance of difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations to create changes in patterns of reactive behavior that commonly lead to relapse. Mindfulness training in MBRP provides clients with a new way of processing situational cues and monitoring internal reactions to contingencies, and this awareness supports proactive behavioral choices in the face of high-risk relapse situation.” – Grow et al. 2015

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention for Stimulant Dependent Adults: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300086/ ), Glasner-Edwards and colleagues recruited stimulant (cocaine or amphetamine) dependent adults. All participants participated in a contingency management program which involved receiving rewards for drug clean urine samples. Participants were randomly assigned to receive an 8-week program of Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) or health education. They were measured before and after treatment and 1 month later for stimulant use (urine test), stimulant dependence, anxiety disorders, depression, emotion regulation, thought suppression, and mindfulness.

 

They found that the (MBRP) program resulted in significantly lower levels of severity of psychiatric disorders, depression and anxiety at follow-up than those in the health education condition. In addition, for two psychiatric subgroups, participants with major depressive disorder or anxiety disorder, participation in the (MBRP) program resulted in significantly lower use of stimulants than those in the health education condition.

 

These are exciting results that suggest that participation in a Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) can significantly improve psychiatric symptoms and mood in stimulant dependent individuals and reduce stimulant use participants who suffered from major depression or anxiety disorder. Drug abuse is difficult to treat and even when successful relapse is likely. So, programs like (MBRP) that can be of assistance in reducing the abuse and the mental health of the abusers may be very valuable. This program was far from a cure and much more research and development is needed.

 

So, reduce use and improve the mental health of adults with stimulant addiction with mindfulness.

 

“Incorporating mindfulness into cognitive-behavioral therapy may prove to be helpful for people looking to manage their drug addictions more successfully. . . it could be especially helpful for reducing stimulant relapse rates in people with anxiety and depression.” – Two Dreams

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Glasner-Edwards, S., Mooney, L. J., Ang, A., Garneau, H. C., Hartwell, E., Brecht, M.-L., & Rawson, R. A. (2017). Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention for Stimulant Dependent Adults: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial. Mindfulness, 8(1), 126–135. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0586-9

 

Abstract

In light of the known associations between stress, negative affect, and relapse, mindfulness strategies hold promise as a means of reducing relapse susceptibility. In a pilot randomized clinical trial, we evaluated the effects of Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), relative to a health education control condition (HE) among stimulant dependent adults receiving contingency management. All participants received a 12-week contingency management (CM) intervention. Following a 4-week CM-only lead in phase, participants were randomly assigned to concurrently receive MBRP (n=31) or HE (n=32). Stimulant dependent adults age 18 and over. A university based clinical research center. The primary outcomes were stimulant use, measured by urine drug screens weekly during the intervention and at 1-month post-treatment, negative affect, measured by the Beck Depression Inventory and Beck Anxiety Inventory, and psychiatric severity, measured by the Addiction Severity Index. Medium effect sizes favoring MBRP were observed for negative affect and overall psychiatric severity outcomes. Depression severity changed differentially over time as a function of group, with MBRP participants reporting greater reductions through follow-up (p=0.03; Effect Size=0.58). Likewise, the MBRP group evidenced greater declines in psychiatric severity, (p=0.01; Effect Size=0.61 at follow-up). Among those with depressive and anxiety disorders, MBRP was associated with lower odds of stimulant use relative to the control condition (Odds Ratio= 0.78, p=0.03 and OR=0.68, p=0.04). MBRP effectively reduces negative affect and psychiatric impairment, and is particularly effective in reducing stimulant use among stimulant dependent adults with mood and anxiety disorders.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300086/

 

Improve Adult Onset Diabetes with Qigong

Improve Adult Onset Diabetes with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“After 12 weeks, the qigong patients had lowered their fasting blood glucose and their levels of self-reported stress and improved their insulin resistance. The gentle exercise group also brought down blood glucose levels, though somewhat less…and lowered stress.” – BottomLine

 

Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Type 2 Diabetes results from a resistance of tissues, especially fat tissues, to the ability of insulin to promote the uptake of glucose from the blood. As a result, blood sugar levels rise producing hyperglycemia. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes.

 

Type 2 diabetes is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. One of the reasons for the increasing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is its association with overweight and obesity which is becoming epidemic in the industrialized world. Qigong and Tai Chi have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityQigong and Tai Chi trainings are designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through controlled breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of these practices been scrutinized with empirical research. This research has found that they are effective for an array of physical and psychological issues.

 

Diet and exercise are prescribed to treat Type 2 Diabetes. Qigong and Tai Chi are gentle exercises that are potentially useful in treating Type 2 Diabetes. In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Qigong on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817377/ ), Meng and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the 21 published research studies regarding the effectiveness of Qigong practice in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

 

The summary of the research indicates that Qigong practice improves fasting glucose levels in Type 2 Diabetes patients when compared to a no-exercise condition, but the improvement is not significantly different than that produced by other exercise programs. Importantly, Qigong practice was found to improve Glycosylated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) and two-hour postprandial (after eating) blood glucose levels both in comparison to no-exercise and other exercise groups. Hence, the published research suggests that Qigong practice is superior to other exercises in improving the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.

 

These are encouraging findings. Qigong practice appears to be an almost ideal exercise for adult-onset diabetes (Type 2). It not only produces better results than other exercises but it is also not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice.

 

So, improve adult onset diabetes with Qigong.

 

“Many people, however, are unable to keep up with their regular exercise because they either don’t enjoy it, or have a problem finding time to exercise. Tai chi offers a major advantage: It’s enjoyable, and to many, it’s almost addictive. . . . You can practice Tai Chi almost anywhere. Stress stands in the way of controlling diabetes. Since tai chi encourages mental relaxation and reduces stress, it follows that Tai Chi can improve the control of diabetes.” – Paul Lam

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Meng, D., Chunyan, W., Xiaosheng, D., & Xiangren, Y. (2018). The Effects of Qigong on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2018, 8182938. http://doi.org/10.1155/2018/8182938

 

Abstract

Objective

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of Qigong on type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) using the systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods

All prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trials published in English or Chinese and involving the use of Qigong by patients with DM were searched in 7 electronic databases from their respective inception to June 2016. The meta-analysis was conducted using the Revman 5.2. The quality of the included trials was assessed using the Jadad rating scale. Two researchers independently completed the inclusion, data extraction, and quality assessment.

Results

Twenty-one trials with 1326 patients met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed. The meta-analysis demonstrated that, compared with no exercise, the Qigong had significant effects on fasting blood glucose (MD = −0.99, 95% CI (−1.23, 0.75), P < 0.0001), HbA1c (MD = −0.84, 95% CI (−1.02, −0.65), P < 0.0001), and postprandial blood glucose (MD = −1.55, 95% CI (−2.19, −0.91), P < 0.00001).

Conclusion

The Qigong training can improve the blood glucose status of the type 2 DM patients and has positive effects on the management of type 2 DM. However, future research with better quality still needs to be conducted to address the effects of Qigong on type 2 DM.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817377/