Improve Multiple Sclerosis with Meditation and Yoga

Improve Multiple Sclerosis with Meditation and Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Studies show that for some people with MS, chronic exposure to stress is associated with worsening neurological symptoms and increased brain lesions. Researchers believe that mindfulness may help people better respond to stress by fostering healthier coping strategies. 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. There is a thus a critical need for safe and effective methods to help relieve the symptoms of MS and improve quality of life.

 

Mindfulness practices have been previously shown to improve depressionsleep quality, cognitive impairmentsemotion regulation, and fatigue. It has also been shown to improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.  Yoga is a mindfulness practice that has the added feature of exercising and stretching the muscles. It would seem likely that yoga practice might be an ideal treatment for improving the quality of life and lessening symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness in Motion for People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Feasibility Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649345/, Gilbertson and Klatt examined the combination of meditation and chair yoga practice which in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. They called this program “Mindfulness in Motion.” In a pilot feasibility study, they recruited patients with multiple sclerosis and provided them with 8 weeks of the “Mindfulness in Motion” program. The program met once a week for one hour and participants were expected to practice at home for 20 minutes every day. Participants were measured before and after the 8 weeks of practice for mindfulness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, behavior control, and positive affect, physical functioning, role limitations due to physical problems, bodily pain, general health perceptions, vitality, social functioning, role limitations due to emotional problems, and mental health.

 

They found that compared to baseline after completing the “Mindfulness in Motion” program the participants showed significant improvements in physical functioning, role-physical, vitality, mental health, anxiety, depression, and positive affect and cognitive and psychosocial fatigue and mindfulness including observing, acting with awareness, nonjudgment, and nonreactivity. Hence, after the 8-week “Mindfulness in Motion” program the participants showed marked and significant improvements in the psychological symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that this study was a pilot feasibility study that did not have an active control condition, so conclusions must be made carefully. But, this is an extremely encouraging first step that suggests that the combination of two practices which individually produce symptom relief, meditation and chair yoga practice, is a particularly effective treatment for the psychological symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

 

So, improve multiple sclerosis with meditation and yoga.

 

“Studies in multiple sclerosis, these have shown that mindfulness can improve quality of life and help people cope better with their MS. The studies also found that it decreased stress, anxiety and depression.” – MS Trust

 

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

 

Rachel M. Gilbertson, Maryanna D. Klatt. Mindfulness in Motion for People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Feasibility Study. Int J MS Care. 2017 Sep-Oct; 19(5): 225–231. doi: 10.7224/1537-2073.2015-095

 

Abstract

Background:

Mindfulness in Motion is an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention that uses yoga movement, mindfulness meditation, and relaxing music. This study examined the feasibility of using Mindfulness in Motion in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and the effect of this program on stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life in people with MS.

Methods:

Twenty-two people with MS completed the 8-week mindfulness program as well as assessments 1 week before and after the intervention.

Results:

Pre/post comparison of four self-reported questionnaires—the Mental Health Inventory, 36-item Short Form Health Status Survey, Modified Fatigue Impact Scale, and Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire—showed significant improvement in physical functioning, vitality, and mental health. Specifically, improvements were seen in anxiety, depression, and positive affect; cognitive, psychosocial, and overall functioning regarding fatigue; and mindfulness in the areas of observing, acting with awareness, nonjudgment, and nonreactivity.

Conclusions:

Due to the uncertainty in disease progression associated with MS, and the multiplicity of mental and physical symptoms associated with it, programming that addresses anxiety, depression, and fatigue is a key area of future research in MS disease management. Mindfulness in Motion proved to be a feasible program yielding positive results, supporting the need for research to determine the extent to which the program can improve quality-of-life outcomes for people with MS.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649345/

Slightly Improve Substance Use Disorder with Mindfulness

Slightly Improve Substance Use Disorder with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“though it may seem paradoxical, by increasing your ability to accept and tolerate the present moment, you become more able to make needed changes in your life. . . Also, practicing balanced emotional responses can reduce your stress level, and anxiety and stress are often triggers for substance abuse and addictive behavior. In addition, when you choose a neutral rather than a judgmental response to your thoughts and feelings, you can increase your sense of self-compassion rather than beating yourself up, which is often associated with addictive behaviors.” – Adi Jaffe

 

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. In the U.S. about 17 million people abuse alcohol. Drunk driving fatalities accounted for over 10,000 deaths annually. 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 prevent these relapses.

 

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 Substance Use Disorders: 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/PMC5636047/, Grant and colleagues review and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on the effectiveness of Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) in treating substance use disorder. They identified 9 randomized controlled trials and examined the effects of MBRP on relapse, frequency and quantity of substance use, withdrawal/craving symptoms, treatment dropout, depressive and anxiety symptoms, negative consequences from substance use, and health-related quality of life and also its safety

 

They found that the summarized published research literature reported few and small positive effects. On most of the outcome measures there were no significant improvements produced by MBRP. Small significant improvements were found for withdrawal effects and cravings and the negative effects of substance use. They found that there were no adverse effects of MBRP. These are disappointing results that suggest that Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is safe but only slightly effective in treating substance use disorder.

 

These are surprising results as individual trials have reported significant effects. But, it appears that the different trials reported significant effects on different variables with some finding effects on a measure while others finding no effects on the same measure but reporting effects on different measures. When summarized, the reported effects appear to average away. Substance use disorder is such an important social and health issue where there are few viable treatment options, that further research on Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is warranted to investigate what components are effective and which not and how to optimize effectiveness.

 

So, slightly improve substance use disorder with mindfulness.

 

“Modeled after mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression and mindfulness-based stress reduction, MBRP tackles the very roots of addictive behavior by targeting two of the main predictors of relapse: negative emotions and cravings.” – Carolyn Gregoire

 

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

 

Sean Grant, Benjamin Colaiaco, Aneesa Motala, Roberta Shanman, Marika Booth, Melony Sorbero, Susanne Hempel. Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention for Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Addict Med. 2017 Sep; 11(5): 386–396. Published online 2017 Jul 19. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000338

 

Abstract

Objectives:

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a prevalent health issue with serious personal and societal consequences. This review aims to estimate the effects and safety of Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for SUDs.

Methods:

We searched electronic databases for randomized controlled trials evaluating MBRP for adult patients diagnosed with SUDs. Two reviewers independently assessed citations, extracted trial data, and assessed risks of bias. We conducted random-effects meta-analyses and assessed quality of the body of evidence (QoE) using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation approach.

Results:

We identified 9 randomized controlled trials comprising 901 participants. We did not detect statistically significant differences between MBRP and comparators on relapse (odds ratio [OR] 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.46–1.13, low QoE), frequency of use (standardized mean difference [SMD] 0.02, 95% CI −0.40 to 0.44, low QoE), treatment dropout (OR 0.81, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.62, very low QoE), depressive symptoms (SMD −0.09, 95% CI −0.39 to 0.21, low QoE), anxiety symptoms (SMD −0.32, 95% CI −1.16 to 0.52, very low QoE), and mindfulness (SMD −0.28, 95% CI −0.72 to 0.16, very low QoE). We identified significant differences in favor of MBRP on withdrawal/craving symptoms (SMD −0.13, 95% CI −0.19 to −0.08, I2 = 0%, low QoE) and negative consequences of substance use (SMD −0.23, 95% CI −0.39 to −0.07, I2 = 0%, low QoE). We found negligible evidence of adverse events.

Conclusions:

We have limited confidence in estimates suggesting MBRP yields small effects on withdrawal/craving and negative consequences versus comparator interventions. We did not detect differences for any other outcome. Future trials should aim to minimize participant attrition to improve confidence in effect estimates.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5636047/

It’s Eliminating the Causes of Suffering, Stupid


It’s Eliminating the Causes of Suffering, Stupid

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

“The Buddha taught that beyond suffering lies great bliss. As we take steps towards removing the causes of suffering, we experience progressive levels of happiness. The path is a long one. But staying on it leads to a tremendous sense of liberation. There are other benefits from adhering to this philosophy – one can live in happiness, untroubled by any kind of negativity. At the end of this path, when desire and ignorance would have completely fallen away, one may experience the same transcendental joy that the Buddha did.” – Buddha Groove

In a previous essay the first Noble Truth was discussed, reflecting the patently obvious fact that there is suffering, a.k.a. unsatisfactoriness. In the next essay the second Noble Truth was discussed also stating the obvious that there are causes to the suffering. But, not so obviously we saw how, all encompassing, unsatisfactoriness is in our lives and how subtle are its causes. We saw that most of the unsatisfactoriness emanated from our inability to accept things as they are and instead, go to war against reality.

As we look carefully and deeply at this unsatisfactoriness, we find that it is much more encompassing than we initially thought, affecting every aspect of our lives and experience, day in and day out. In fact, unsatisfactoriness is the rule and not the exception. It is the biggest single impediment to being truly happy, making progress on a spiritual path, and experiencing liberation. The Buddha recognized this and held out hope in the third Noble Truth, that suffering can be eliminated, that there can be a cessation of unsatisfactoriness.

At first glance the idea of eliminating suffering would seem simple, just eliminate the cause of suffering. Since, the cause of suffering, desiring things to be different than they are, is also simple, it should be an easy task to eliminate the desiring and thereby the suffering. But, it’s not simple at all. It took arguably the greatest, most mentally disciplined, mindfulness practitioner of all time, the Buddha, six years of struggle to accomplish it. For most of us, it would seem to be an almost impossible task. To get an idea of the difficulty just realize that wanting to eliminate the desire for things to be different, is itself a desire for things to be different!

The complexity of the cessation of desires is also underscored by the fact that many desires are healthy and in fact necessary for life, e.g. hunger, thirst, breathing, etc. Obviously these desires should not be eliminated. In addition, many are for pleasant things that make life enjoyable, such as companionship, love, art, music, good food and wine, etc. It would certainly be a bland life without them. Others are unpleasant things that need to be avoided or tempered, such as pain, illness, fear, loneliness. It would seem problematic to remove these desires. In fact, the third Noble Truth does not call for the elimination of desires. Rather, it suggests that we should eliminate clinging to, grasping onto, these desires.

The difference between desires and clinging to desires is a subtle but very important distinction. There is nothing wrong with desires themselves. It is human nature to have them and if not clung to, they are normally healthy. But to be invested in the outcome of the desires is where the problem arises. It is perfectly fine to desire going to a concert, but it causes suffering when the outcome makes a difference. If the concert is cancelled or sold out or your car breaks down so you can’t get there would you be OK with it, or would you be upset? If it’s the latter then you’re attached, you’re grasping, you’re clinging. If it’s the former you’re displaying the equanimity that the Buddha taught is the way to the cessation of suffering. Similarly, if you desire to get rid of a headache and take analgesics and rest, this is fine. But, if the headache continues and you’re angry and upset to have to deal with the continuing pain, then that’s clinging, grasping, and attaching to the desire. You can only alleviate the suffering by accepting that the headache is still there. Indeed, research has shown that the headache pain lessens just as soon as you cease to fight it and let go of resistance. As Ajahn Chah said, “If you let go a little, you’ll have a little happiness. If you let go a lot, you’ll have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely . . . you’ll be completely happy.”

Once again, though, this sounds simple, but in practice is devilishly difficult to do. The mind is programmed to control. It automatically tries to produce good feelings and hold onto them and eliminate bad feelings and prevent them from returning. So, even though we may wish to cease clinging to desires, our own mind works against us. We might try to force our will on the mind and battle its tendencies. But, as Adyashanti likes to say “If you go to war with your mind you’ll be at war forever.” The Buddha found this to be absolutely true as his attempts to control his mind with asceticism were a nearly mortal failure. He finally found a better way, “The Middle Way” where one works to restrain the mind, but doesn’t get upset when failure occurs, simply returns to the effort with expectations of slowly moving more and more toward equanimity. This is a patient practice in the middle between striving and giving up. It works to tame the mind, but not dominate it.

The practice begins with an intention to explore everyday experiences, looking at each and asking the question, do I feel unsatisfactoriness and when you do exploring why, what is the cause of the unsatisfactoriness. Sometimes it’s simple. You’re caught at a red light and detect unsatisfactoriness and realize that you want to get somewhere (you want things to be different) rather than appreciating the drive. With this realization, you can often spontaneously let go and stop clinging to the desire to be somewhere else and simply enjoy a relaxing interlude to the stress of driving. At times, though, it may be difficult to release the clinging. You may feel that you’re underpaid at work and thus feel unsatisfactoriness with you job rather than enjoying the moment to moment experience of the work. This feeling of unfairness may not simply diminish upon realization. This will take more work. One important lesson here, is that the key to ending suffering and becoming happy is not in a monastery or a pilgrimage, but right here in everyday life. This is where the practice is. This is where equanimity can be developed. It’s right here, right now, in the present moment, in the midst of your life.

The practice from here becomes subtle. It involves first working with everyday experiences and noticing when unsatisfactoriness arises and secondly noting the underlying cause, the desire, the wanting, the craving. Then, thirdly, noting and observing that both the unsatisfactoriness and the desire go through a phase of arising, increasing in magnitude and fourthly noting that they both go through a phase of decline, falling away. Obviously, this requires patience and mindful observing. But, it reveals that unsatisfactoriness and its cause, desire, just like everything else, are impermanent. They come and they go. Note that you have just observed the cessation of unsatisfactoriness and desire, the exact state that you want to achieve. Note also that you didn’t do anything. It all happened spontaneously, on its own.

For example, you may want to go out for dinner at a restaurant for a nice meal but realize that your budget won’t allow it. This will likely be followed by feelings of frustration, the unsatisfactoriness. Observe the feelings arising. Then, look deeply for the underlying cause, perhaps the desire to have more money, greed. Observe, also how this desire for money arises and strengthens. Then if you patiently stay with these feelings, you’ll note that they begin to decrease and fall away. The unsatisfactoriness and the greed slowly dissipate and eventually completely cease. You are left not caring that you can’t go out for the meal, that you don’t have the money. You have achieved a brief equanimity. As I’m sure, you’ll recognize, this liberation will not last long, the feelings will arise again either immediately or at a later time. You haven’t extinguished them, only experienced a brief cessation.

Once, the falling away of unsatisfactoriness and the underlying desire, is experienced. There is nothing else for you to do. Do not attempt to control this experience in any way. Do not attempt to maintain or lengthen the experience. This is a form of desiring things to be different than they are; the exact cause of unsatisfactoriness in the first place. It’s very hard not to try to control it. Remember your mind is programmed to do this. Don’t get upset if the mind jumps in and tries to do so. It’s just what minds do. Simply watch it and see how this itself creates unsatisfactoriness that arises and falls away.

This is where the subtlety comes in. The equanimity, the decrease of unsatisfactoriness, and the cessation of desire can’t be controlled. They must simply be allowed to come and go. As the practice continues the number of times this equanimity occurs and the duration of the cessation will start to increase on their own. The realization begins to dawn that you really don’t have to do anything. All you need to do is accept things as they are. This acceptance produces a pleasant state that reinforces the process, making it occur more frequently and for longer duration in the future. You come to not only understand, but directly experience that unsatisfactoriness and desire can be ended simply by patiently waiting for them to spontaneously diminish and cease. When you do a pleasant feeling will spontaneously arise. This in turn leads to an upward spiral leading slowly to enduring equanimity.

It is important to understand that attempting to actually do anything to produce, hold onto, or lengthen the state is counterproductive. Patience and persistence is required here. Trust that it will all happen on its own if you just let it. Don’t meddle. But, don’t stop observing. This is the method revealed in the Third Noble Truth. It is the way to true happiness, true liberation, true enlightenment.

The Buddha provides a path that makes it more likely that this will occur. It is the fourth Noble Truth, also called the Noble Eightfold Path which is the subject of other essays.

“After suffering, the Buddha taught, there is supreme happiness. Every step of the way to removing the causes of unhappiness brings more joy. On the path to the end of suffering, which is a path that Buddhists may spend their whole lifetimes practicing, there are levels of happiness and freedom from craving and ignorance that can be achieved.” – Buddhist Studies

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

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Protect the Aging Brain with Yoga

Protect the Aging Brain with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We’ve all known yogis who seemed to defy the hands of time. The current study is just one of a long list of studies indicating that yoga may promote healthy aging. Whether it be more growth hormone or less stress, a well-balanced yoga practice is good for you.” – Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age. But, the nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.

 

Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476728/, Afonso and colleagues recruited women over 60 years of age with at least 8 years of Hatha yoga practice and a group of women, matched for age, education and physical activity, who had never practiced yoga, meditation, or other mind-body practices. They were measured for their ability to perform daily tasks of living, depression, and cognitive function. All participants underwent brain scanning with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that the yoga practitioners had significantly greater cortical thickness in the frontal lobes than the control group while there were no areas where the yoga practitioners had significantly less cortical thickness. Hence, the practice of yoga appears to protect the prefrontal cortical areas from age related degeneration. This replicates previous findings that mindfulness practices, in general, increase the size of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal areas are important for high level thinking, including attention, behavioral inhibition, and executive functions. Hence, their preservation is important for the maintenance of cognitive ability with aging. So, the practice of yoga should be viewed as an important means to preserve the brain and mental ability and thereby age successfully.

 

So, protect the aging brain with yoga.

 

“scientifically and medically, most of the claims made for yoga practice stand up. The benefits on both body and mind are legion. The anti-ageing impact is profound. Doing yoga reduces back pain, improves balance and muscle strength and reverses muscle loss. It improves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, menopausal symptoms, even the control of type 2 diabetes. It decreases anxiety and depression. It hugely enhances flexibility. There are endless sound academic sources to back up these statements as well as the testimony of countless practitioners.” – Carla McKay

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

 

Afonso, R. F., Balardin, J. B., Lazar, S., Sato, J. R., Igarashi, N., Santaella, D. F., … Kozasa, E. H. (2017). Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9, 201. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00201

 

Abstract

Yoga, a mind-body activity that requires attentional engagement, has been associated with positive changes in brain structure and function, especially in areas related to awareness, attention, executive functions and memory. Normal aging, on the other hand, has also been associated with structural and functional brain changes, but these generally involve decreased cognitive functions. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to compare brain cortical thickness (CT) in elderly yoga practitioners and a group of age-matched healthy non-practitioners. We tested 21 older women who had practiced hatha yoga for at least 8 years and 21 women naive to yoga, meditation or any mind-body interventions who were matched to the first group in age, years of formal education and physical activity level. A T1-weighted MPRAGE sequence was acquired for each participant. Yoga practitioners showed significantly greater CT in a left prefrontal lobe cluster, which included portions of the lateral middle frontal gyrus, anterior superior frontal gyrus and dorsal superior frontal gyrus. We found greater CT in the left prefrontal cortex of healthy elderly women who trained yoga for a minimum of 8 years compared with women in the control group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476728/

Reduce Opioid Treated Low Back Pain with Meditation

Reduce Opioid Treated Low Back Pain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When your focus is on the pain, obviously that increases the pain. For people who meditate, their muscle tension and heart rate drops, their respiration slows and breaths gets deeper. All those things have impact on the pain.” – Jane Ehrman

 

Low Back Pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects between 6% to 15% of the population. It is estimated, however, that 80% of the population will experience back pain sometime during their lives. There are varied treatments for low back pain including chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage, surgery, opiate pain killing drugs, steroid injections, and muscle relaxant drugs. These therapies are sometimes effective particularly for acute back pain. But, for chronic conditions the treatments are less effective and often require continuing treatment for years. Obviously, there is a need for safe and effective treatments for low back pain that are low cost and don’t have troublesome side effects.

 

Pain involves both physical and psychological issues. The stress, fear, and anxiety produced by pain tends to elicit responses that actually amplify the pain. So, reducing the emotional reactions to pain may be helpful in pain management. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve emotion regulation producing more adaptive and less maladaptive responses to emotions. These include reducing pain catastrophizing. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to be safe and  beneficial in pain management in general and yoga and mindfulness has been shown to specifically improve back pain. Since opiates are frequently used to treat chronic low back pain, there is a need to study the combination of long-term opiate treatment and meditation practice.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intervention Reduces Pain Severity and Sensitivity in Opioid-Treated Chronic Low Back Pain: Pilot Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5063022/, Zgierska and colleagues recruited adult patients with chronic low back pain who had been treated for at least 3 months with relatively high doses (at least 30 mg/day) of opiates for pain. The patients were randomly assigned to receive meditation practice in combination with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or to a wait-list control condition. The treatment consisted of 2-hour sessions once a week for 8 weeks of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for identifying and modifying unhealthy thought patterns concerning their pain (e.g. catastrophizing) and additionally mindfulness practices including breath meditation, loving-kindness meditation, body scan and mindful movement practices. Patients were also prescribed to practice meditation at home for at least 30 minutes, 6 days per week. Opiate medications were continued throughout testing. Patients were measured before and after treatment a half a year later for mindfulness, pain intensity, pain acceptance and coping, pain sensitivity to thermal stimuli, disability, opiate dose, and inflammatory biomarkers.

 

They found that the meditation group had a sustained decrease in unpleasantness and pain sensitivity to thermal stimuli (experimentally induced pain) and an 8% reduction in everyday pain intensity while the wait-list control group had an 8% increase in pain. The decrease in pain was greater for patients who consistently meditated at home compared to inconsistent meditators. In addition, the greater the increase in mindfulness in the meditation group, the greater the decrease in disability. No patients withdrew from the study suggesting that the treatment was acceptable and valued.

 

The intervention employed a combination of meditation with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). So, it cannot be determined whether meditation, CBT, or their combination produced the benefits for the patients. Nevertheless, the results clearly demonstrated that the treatment was very effective in reducing pain and sensitivity to pain in patients with chronic low back pain who are under treatment with relatively high doses of opiates. It is quite striking that the effects were so large given the high doses of opiates in use and underscores the efficacy of the treatment. This suggests that perhaps the opioids had lost a degree of effectiveness with these patients and meditation training could replace the lost pain relief. So, meditation and CBT can effectively reduce pain even in patients taking opiates.

 

So, reduce opioid treated low back pain with meditation.

 

“Mindful mediation is an appealing option for treating your pain because it has an unusual benefit; it places you in a position of control. Unlike pain medications or surgical procedures, meditation is not done to you—but rather it is something you do for yourself.” – Stephanie Burke

 

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

 

Zgierska, A. E., Burzinski, C. A., Cox, J., Kloke, J., Stegner, A., Cook, D. B., … Bačkonja, M. (2016). Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intervention Reduces Pain Severity and Sensitivity in Opioid-Treated Chronic Low Back Pain: Pilot Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Medicine: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 17(10), 1865–1881. http://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnw006

 

Abstract

Objective. To assess benefits of mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based intervention for opioid-treated chronic low back pain (CLBP).

Design. 26-week parallel-arm pilot randomized controlled trial (Intervention and Usual Care versus Usual Care alone).

Setting. Outpatient.

Subjects. Adults with CLBP, prescribed ≥30 mg/day of morphine-equivalent dose (MED) for at least 3 months.

Methods. The intervention comprised eight weekly group sessions (meditation and CLBP-specific CBT components) and 30 minutes/day, 6 days/week of at-home practice. Outcome measures were collected at baseline, 8, and 26 weeks: primary-pain severity (Brief Pain Inventory) and function/disability (Oswestry Disability Index); secondary-pain acceptance, opioid dose, pain sensitivity to thermal stimuli, and serum pain-sensitive biomarkers (Interferon-γ; Tumor Necrosis Factor-α; Interleukins 1ß and 6; C-reactive Protein).

Results. Thirty-five (21 experimental, 14 control) participants were enrolled and completed the study. They were 51.8 ± 9.7 years old, 80% female, with severe CLBP-related disability (66.7 ± 11.4), moderate pain severity (5.8 ± 1.4), and taking 148.3 ± 129.2 mg/day of MED. Results of the intention-to-treat analysis showed that, compared with controls, the meditation-CBT group reduced pain severity ratings during the study (P = 0.045), with between-group difference in score change reaching 1 point at 26 weeks (95% Confidence Interval: 0.2,1.9; Cohen’s d = 0.86), and decreased pain sensitivity to thermal stimuli (P< 0.05), without adverse events. Exploratory analyses suggested a relationship between the extent of meditation practice and the magnitude of intervention benefits.

Conclusions. Meditation-CBT intervention reduced pain severity and sensitivity to experimental thermal pain stimuli in patients with opioid-treated CLBP.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5063022/

Improve the Self-Concept with the Mindful Self

Improve the Self-Concept with the Mindful Self

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is about living with intention and awareness which creates the mind body connection towards a whole self. When we feel disconnected or fragmented from ourselves, others and what was once important to us we become open to a multitude of problems in life.” – Naila Narsi

 

Most people strongly believe that they have a self, an ego. Reflecting this, our language is replete with concepts that contain self; oneself, myself, himself, herself, ourselves, self-concept, self-esteem, self-love, self-regard, selfless, selfish, selfhood, selfie, etc. But, particularly note the term self-concept. It directly states that self is a concept. It is not a thing. It is an idea.  This is important, as most of us think that there is a thing that is the self, when, in fact, there is not. A concept is a way to summarize a set of phenomena that appear to have common properties, such as fruit, or more abstractly, attention. But, note there is not a single entity that is fruit. It is a set of things that are grouped together by common biological factors. The idea of attention is not a thing. Rather it refers to a set of processes. This is also true of the concept of self.

 

The self is a concept and is created by thought. In other words, there’s a process involving thinking that creates the concept of a self. This is a verb. We are not a self, we are producing a self, we are selfing! This suggests that the self can change and grow with circumstances. One that appears to have profound effects on the idea of self is mindfulness training. In today’s Research News article “The Mindful Self: A Mindfulness-Enlightened Self-view.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_433120_69_Psycho_20171024_arts_A, Xiao and colleagues explore the literature and theorization regarding the effects of mindfulness practice on the self-view.

 

They posit that mindfulness training “is a way of looking deeply into oneself in a spirit of self-inquiry and self-understanding.” This can alter the way the individual thinks of the self, a form of re-perceiving the self. The published research indicates that mindfulness training can produce improvements in self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-perspective change, self-consciousness, self-concept, self-deconstruction and reconstruction, and self-referential processing. So, with mindfulness training the individual becomes more compassionate and accepting toward self and others and less self-focused; able to step outside and observe experience from a distance. In other words, mindfulness changes the components that make up the self-concept and in essence change the individual’s idea of their self.

 

Xiao and colleagues label this new perspective and idea of the self, created by mindfulness training, as the “Mindful Self.” This is viewed as a more authentic and true self and is similar to the highest level of psychological development, as visualized by Abraham Maslow, called self-actualization. The “Mindful Self” Is a balanced self-identity with a detached awareness, an understanding of interdependence, greater compassion and acceptance of self and others, empathy, and a desire for the cultivation of happiness; and growth, including a consideration of the development of the self and others.

 

The published literature supports the idea that mindfulness training produces a marked improvement in how the individual conceptualizes the self. It moves the concept of self toward a more authentic and integrated whole that is more connected to others and the environment. This “Mindful Self” is constructed by altering less mature ideas of the self with focused and relaxed attention on what is actually happening both inside and outside the individual. This is a great step in maturation, leading to a more accurate and integrated notion of the self. This, in turn, leads to improved interactions with others and greater overall happiness.

 

So, improve the self-concept with the “Mindful Self.”

 

“We all have a sense of self. Whether that sense of self is positive or negative is based upon our experiences in life and our perceptions and assessment of ourself. . . .However, the problem is that our perception of ourself is often distorted.” – Monica Frank

 

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

 

Xiao Q, Yue C, He W and Yu J-y (2017) The Mindful Self: A Mindfulness-Enlightened Self-view. Front. Psychol. 8:1752. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752

 

Abstract

This paper analyzes studies of mindfulness and the self, with the aim of deepening our understanding of the potential benefits of mindfulness and meditation for mental health and well-being. Our review of empirical research reveals that positive changes in attitudes toward the self and others as a result of mindfulness-enabled practices can play an important role in modulating many mental and physical health problems. Accordingly, we introduce a new concept—the “mindful self”—and compare it with related psychological constructs to describe the positive changes in self-attitude associated with mindfulness meditation practices or interventions. The mindful self is conceptualized as a mindfulness-enlightened self-view and attitude developed by internalizing and integrating the essence of Buddhist psychology into one’s self-system. We further posit that the mindful self will be an important intermediary between mindfulness intervention and mental health problems, and an important moderator in promoting well-being. More generally, we suggest that the mindful self may also be an applicable concept with which to describe and predict the higher level of self-development of those who grow up in the culture of Buddhism or regularly engage in meditation over a long period of time.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_433120_69_Psycho_20171024_arts_A

Improve Fibromyalgia with Yoga Practice

Improve Fibromyalgia with Yoga Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, it can be hard to get yourself moving, but movement and exercise are key ways to help manage and minimize pain. Practicing yoga daily can help. Yoga targets not only the body but also the mind. You can access multiple benefits by using yoga for fibromyalgia pain.” – Pain Doctor

 

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder whose causes are unknown. It is very common affecting over 5 million people in the U.S., about 2% of the population with about 7 times more women affected than men. It is characterized by widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that lead to psychological distress. Fibromyalgia may also produce morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, thinking and memory problems, and painful menstrual periods. The symptoms are so severe and debilitating that about half the patients are unable to perform routine daily functions and about a third have to stop work. Although it is not itself fatal, suicide rates are higher in fibromyalgia sufferers.

 

There are no completely effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Symptoms are generally treated with pain relievers, antidepressant drugs and exercise. But, these only reduce the severity of the symptoms and do not treat the disease directly. Mindfulness practices have also been shown to be effective in reducing pain from fibromyalgia. Yoga is both an exercise and a mindfulness practice. So, it would make sense to investigate the effectiveness of yoga practice in treating fibromyalgia.

 

In today’s Research News article “A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568071/, Carson and colleagues recruited adult women who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia for at least a year. They were randomly assigned to receive either yoga practice or be on a wait-list control condition. The Yoga for Awareness training occurred in a group setting for 2 hours, once a week for 8 weeks. Participants were also encouraged to practice at home for 20-40 minutes, 5 to 7 days per week. Yoga for Awareness sessions consisted of yoga stretching poses, mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, presentations on the application of yogic principles to optimal coping, and group discussions. Participants were measured before and after training for fibromyalgia symptoms and disability, including myalgic tender points, strength deficits, and balance deficits, and pain coping including acceptance, catastrophizing, and adaptive and maladaptive strategies. In addition, daily diaries were maintained of “pain, fatigue, emotional distress, and vigor, along with success at coping via acceptance and relaxation strategies.”

 

They found that, in comparison to baseline and the wait-list condition, yoga practice produced significant improvements in overall fibromyalgia symptoms and its impact, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, memory problems, tenderness, balance, environmental sensitivity, and strength. There were even improvements in the strategies that the patients used to cope with the pain, including increased engagement with the pain, pain problem solving, reappraisal and decreased pain catastrophizing, self-isolation, and disengagement. The daily diaries also revealed significant improvements as a result of yoga practice including reduced pain, fatigue, emotional distress and increased vigor, relaxation, and success with acceptance. The improvements were significantly related to the amount of home practice with the greater the number of days per week that yoga was practiced at home the greater the improvements in overall fibromyalgia symptoms.

 

These results represent highly clinically significant improvements in fibromyalgia produced by just 8 weeks of yoga practice. The observed improvements were broad, covering a wide range of symptoms, and impactful, with relatively large improvements. These are exciting results as fibromyalgia produces great suffering and impairment in the lives of the patients. Yoga practice is generally safe and acceptable to the patients and appears to be very effective. Further research is needed especially research including males and an active control, such as another aerobic exercise. But, the results are so promising that they suggest that yoga practice should be included in the standard treatment package for fibromyalgia.

 

So, improve fibromyalgia with yoga practice.

 

“Although yoga has been practiced for millennia, only recently have researchers begun to demonstrate yoga’s effects on persons suffering from persistent pain. The Yoga of Awareness program stands in contrast to previous multimodal interventions with [fibromyalgia] patients in that it integrates a wide spectrum of yoga-based techniques — postures, mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, application of yogic principles to optimal coping, and group discussions.” – James Carson

 

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

 

Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Jones, K. D., Bennett, R. M., Wright, C. L., & Mist, S. D. (2010). A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia. Pain, 151(2), 530–539. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2010.08.020

 

Abstract

A mounting body of literature recommends that treatment for fibromyalgia (FM) encompass medications, exercise and improvement of coping skills. However, there is a significant gap in determining an effective counterpart to pharmacotherapy that incorporates both exercise and coping. The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the effects of a comprehensive yoga intervention on FM symptoms and coping. A sample of 53 female FM patients were randomized to the 8-week Yoga of Awareness program (gentle poses, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga-based coping instructions, group discussions) or to wait-listed standard care. Data were analyzed by intention to treat. At post-treatment, women assigned to the yoga program showed significantly greater improvements on standardized measures of FM symptoms and functioning, including pain, fatigue, and mood, and in pain catastrophizing, acceptance, and other coping strategies. This pilot study provides promising support for the potential benefits of a yoga program for women with FM.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568071/

Reduce the Stress of Aging and Improve Quality of Life with Meditation

Reduce the Stress of Aging and Improve Quality of Life with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

if we can delay the onset of memory loss by five years, we can reduce an individual’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Moreover, if you can keep your memory strong and vital 10 years longer than expected, you can forget about ever getting Alzheimer’s.” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decline during aging. As we age, there are systematic progressive declines in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities and results in impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Aging also results in changes in mental health. Depression is very common in the elderly. The elderly cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. All of these are legitimate sources of worry. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. But, no matter how reasonable, the increased loneliness, worry and anxiety add extra stress that can impact on the elderly’s already deteriorating physical and psychological health.

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxietyworry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to slow physical and mental aging and improve mental health in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/, Innes and colleagues recruited older adults (over 50 years of age) with mild cognitive impairments and randomly assigned them to either relax and listen to classical music or practice Kirtan Kriya meditation for 12-minutes, once a day for 12 weeks. They were measured before and after treatment and again 3 months later for perceived stress, sleep quality, positive and negative moods, psychological well-being, health-related quality of life, memory, and cognitive ability. Retention of participants was high as only 8% dropped out of the study.

 

They found that after 12 weeks of practice both the music listening and the Kirtan Kriya meditation groups showed significant improvements in psychological well-being, mood, including anxiety, depression, confusion, anger, and fatigue, sleep quality, and health-related quality of life, including mental health, energy, and emotional well-being. These improvements were sustained 3 months after the conclusion of formal practice. Importantly, the Kirtan Kriya meditation group had significantly greater improvement in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, mental health-related quality of life than the music listening group.

 

These results suggest that relaxation in general produces sustained improvements in the well-being of older adults with mild cognitive impairments. But, Kirtan Kriya meditation practice produces greater improvements. The fact that there was a music listening control group suggests that it was the meditation per se and not just the relaxation inherent in meditation practice that was responsible for the improvements. This suggests that meditation practice is very beneficial of older adults with mild cognitive impairments improving their mental health, perceived stress, and well-being and that these improvements are sustained at least for 3 months. Since, these factors are associated with further cognitive decline, the results suggest that meditation practice may slow age-related cognitive decline.

 

So, reduce the stress of aging and quality of life with meditation.

 

“One of the major difficulties that individuals with dementia and their family members encounter is that there is a need for new ways of communicating due to the memory loss and other changes in thinking and abilities. The practice of mindfulness places both participants in the present and focuses on positive features of the interaction, allowing for a type of connection that may substitute for the more complex ways of communicating in the past. It is a good way to address stress.” – Sandra Weintraub

 

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

 

Kim E. Innes, Terry Kit Selfe, Dharma Singh Khalsa, Sahiti Kandati. Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. J Alzheimers Dis.  2016 Apr 8; 52(4): 1277–1298. doi: 10.3233/JAD-151106

 

Abstract

Background

Older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are at increased risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but for poor mental health, impaired sleep, and diminished quality of life (QOL), which in turn, contribute to further cognitive decline, highlighting the need for early intervention.

Objective

In this randomized controlled trial, we assessed the effects of two 12-week relaxation programs, Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KK) and music listening (ML), on perceived stress, sleep, mood, and health-related QOL in older adults with SCD.

Methods

Sixty community-dwelling older adults with SCD were randomized to a KK or ML program and asked to practice 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks, then at their discretion for the following 3 months. At baseline, 12 weeks, and 26 weeks, perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and health-related QOL were measured using well-validated instruments.

Results

Fifty-three participants (88%) completed the 6-month study. Participants in both groups showed significant improvement at 12 weeks in psychological well-being and in multiple domains of mood and sleep quality (p’s ≤ 0.05). Relative to ML, those assigned to KK showed greater gains in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and QOL-Mental Health (p’s ≤ 0.09). Observed gains were sustained or improved at 6 months, with both groups showing marked and significant improvement in all outcomes. Changes were unrelated to treatment expectancies.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that practice of a simple meditation or ML program may improve stress, mood, well-being, sleep, and QOL in adults with SCD, with benefits sustained at 6 months and gains that were particularly pronounced in the KK group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/

Reduce Drug Addiction and Prison Recidivism with Mindfulness

Reduce Drug Addiction and Prison Recidivism with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Being in prison presents tremendous obstacles to cultivating a peaceful mind, the environment is conducive to negativity and can result in further harm. On every level, the basic antidote to inner and outer obstacles is mindfulness practice.” – Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche,

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Many are serving time for drug related offenses. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

Prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This provides an opportunity for growth and development. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Meditation teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, meditation has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In addition, mindfulness can help to treat drug addictions that often underlie incarceration and promote recidivism after release. There are a number of programs that are successful at stopping the drug abuse, including the classic 12-step program emblematic of Narcotics 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 not only produce abstinence but also prevent relapses. Mindfulness training has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for reducing addiction relapse. So, mindfulness training can be helpful in preventing recidivism.

 

In today’s Research News article “Prison Meditation Movements and Mass Incarceration.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4633398/, Lyons and Cantrell review the published research literature on the effectiveness of mindfulness trainings on reducing drug addiction and prisoner recidivism. They report that the research supports the effectiveness of mindfulness in combating drug addiction and its effects may last longer than other forms of addiction therapy even in prison populations. Importantly, improvements have been shown to be maintained after release from prison. Additionally, meditation programs in prison have been shown to produce significant reductions in prisoner hostility and increases in self-esteem and mood.

 

Hence, meditation training can be effective in the treatment of addictions and the psychological issues of prisoners and can have effects that continue post-release. Lyons and Cantrell postulate that the presence of a meditation group (Sangha) in prison creates a social context that is very important for success. They also suggest that linking the prisoners to meditation groups outside of prison can be helpful in maintaining benefits after release. They also suggest that focusing on experiences in meditation and empowering prisoners to lead their own groups may be help to potentiate effectiveness. So, meditation training in prison appears to be a promising practice to assist prisoners in coping with addiction and improving their psychological state while in prison and continuing after release. This is likely to help prisoners adjust to the outside world and reduce the likelihood that they will be arrested again and returned to prison.

 

So, reduce drug addiction and prison recidivism with mindfulness.

 

How do we bring sanity into one of the most hostile environments of our society ­- our prisons? . . . Mindfulness creates mental discipline and stability. This provides the inmates with the tools they need to cultivate a sense of ease, decency and compassion. Isn’t that the point of rehabilitation?” – Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

 

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

 

Lyons, T., & Cantrell, W. D. (2016). Prison Meditation Movements and Mass Incarceration. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 60(12), 1363–1375. http://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X15583807

 

Abstract

By some estimates more than half of inmates held in jails and prisons in the United States have a substance use disorder. Treatments involving the teaching of meditation and other contemplative practices have been developed for a variety of physical and mental disorders including drug and alcohol addiction. At the same time, an expanding volunteer movement across the country has been bringing meditation and yoga into jails and prisons. This review first examines the experimental research on one such approach – mindfulness meditation as a treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, as well as the research on mindfulness in incarcerated settings. We argue that in order to make a substantial impact on recidivism, such programs must mirror volunteer programs which emphasize interdependency and non-duality between the “helper” and the “helped,” and the building of meditation communities both inside and outside of prison.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4633398/

Improve Mental Illness with Yoga

Improve Mental Illness with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“for the general person, yoga greatly enhances mental health: mood, sense of self, motivation, sense of inner direction and purpose, as well as physical health—and physical health is so important for mental health.“– Eleanor Criswell

 

Yoga is a complex of practices including postures, movements, breathing practices and meditation. Although its benefits have been touted for centuries, it is only recently that scientific study was verified these benefits. Yoga practice has been repeatedly demonstrated in research studies to be beneficial for the psychological and physical health of the practitioners. It appears to be helpful for both healthy individuals and those suffering from physical and mental health issues.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Efficacy of Body-Oriented Yoga in Mental Disorders: 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/PMC5400032/ ),

Klatte and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on effects of yoga practice on a variety of mental health problems. They focused on randomized controlled studies with adults suffering from psychiatric problems. They identified 25 published studies that met their criteria, including treatment of depression, schizophrenia, dependency, post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental illnesses.

 

They found that yoga practice produced, on the whole, large and significant improvements in the symptoms of the mental illnesses even in comparison to active control groups such as attention training and exercise. The beneficial effects of yoga practice were comparable to those produced by psychotherapy. But, the combination of yoga practice with psychotherapy produced even greater effects.

 

These are exciting and compelling findings that yoga practice is an effective treatment for mental illness on a par with individual psychotherapy. But, yoga practice has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, can be practiced at home or in groups, and after a few weeks of instruction can be carried on without a therapist present. In addition, it can supplement traditional psychotherapy potentiating its effectiveness.

 

It would appear that the exercise component of yoga practice is not essential for its effectiveness as exercise only control groups show benefits but significantly less than the yoga practice groups. This suggests that the improvement of mindfulness that occurs in yoga practice has an additional beneficial role to play in treating mental illness. The combination of exercise with mindfulness training that occur with yoga  practice appears to be particularly effective in treating mental illnesses. These results suggest that yoga practice is safe and effective and should applied either as a stand-alone treatment or be combined with more traditional treatments.

 

So, improve mental illness with yoga.

 

“It will come as no surprise that the various forms of yoga have long been acknowledged as allies in mastering the mind and coping with stress. Science is Increasingly validating those claims, especially for depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” – Mental Health America

 

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

 

Klatte, R., Pabst, S., Beelmann, A., & Rosendahl, J. (2016). The Efficacy of Body-Oriented Yoga in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 113(12), 195–202. http://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2016.0195

Abstract

Background

The efficacy of body-oriented yoga in the treatment of mental disorders has been investigated in numerous studies. This article is a systematic review and meta-analysis of the relevant publications.

Methods

All studies in which the efficacy of hatha-yoga, i.e., body-oriented yoga with asanas and pranayama, was studied in adult patients suffering from a mental disorder (as diagnosed by ICD or DSM criteria) were included in the analysis. The primary endpoint was disorder-specific symptom severity. The publications were identified by a systematic search in the PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO and ProQuest databases, supplemented by a search with the Google Scholar search engine and a manual search in the reference lists of meta-analyses and primary studies, as well as in specialized journals.

Results

25 studies with a total of 1339 patients were included in the analysis. A large and significant effect of yoga was seen with respect to the primary endpoint (symptom severity) (Hedges’ g = 0.91; 95% confidence interval [0.55; 1.28]; number needed to treat [NNT]: 2.03), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 69.8%) compared to untreated control groups. Small but significant effects of yoga were also seen in comparison with attention control (g = 0.39; [0.04; 0.73]; NNT: 4.55) and physical exercise (g = 0.30; [0.01; 0.59]; NNT: 5.75); no difference in efficacy was found between yoga and standard psychotherapy (g = 0.08; [-0.24; 0,40]; NNT: 21.89). In view of the relatively high risk of bias, these findings should be interpreted with caution.

Conclusion

Body-oriented yoga with asanas and pranayama as central components is a promising complementary treatment for mental disorders and should be investigated in further high-quality studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5400032/