Students AND Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Beyond helping his students, Gonzalez also thinks mindfulness helps him to cope with the strains of teaching. He believes he now draws clearer lines in his relationships with students—giving them the skills to help themselves, rather than feeling that he needs to be the one to heal them—and copes more healthily with the trauma the job exposes him to, whether directly (in a previous teaching job, he said a student once stumbled into his office bleeding from a stab wound) or indirectly through working with a grieving student.” – Lauren Cassani Davis


Today’s schools are replete with stress, anxiety, and worry. Standardized, high stakes testing now dominates education in the U.S. This creates an environment in which both teachers and students are under pressure to perform well on the tests. Teachers, for the most part are confronted with large classes and in some areas, very unruly classes, creating even more stress on teachers. Students often have to confront bullies, creating fear while at school and parental pressure for grades. In this kind of environment, it is difficult to enjoy learning and function at a high level.


Mindfulness training has been applied to this environment in an attempt to help mitigate the stresses and make students and teachers happier and more productive. It has been shown to reduce stress and improve high level thinking and performance in schools from grammar schools to college. The research, however, has focused on either the students in school or the teachers and there has been no research investigating the consequences of simultaneous mindfulness training for both. In today’s Research News article “Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Gouda and colleagues provided a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program separately to both the students and the teachers in the 11th grade during the first term of a single school in Germany. MBSR is an 8-week program with training in meditation, body scan, and yoga. Half the students and teachers were assigned to a wait-list control group that did not receive the MBSR training. Measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the school term and four months later of mindfulness, stress, anxiety, test anxiety, depression, self-efficacy, self-regulation, emotion regulation, interpersonal competences, openness, creativity, and work engagement.


They found that the students in the MBSR group had lower stress, anxiety, test anxiety, and interpersonal problems and higher levels of mindfulness, self-regulation, school-related self-efficacy, and emotional competencies. Many of these variables continued to improve and were even higher at follow up at the end of the second semester while the remaining variables held their gains.  Hence the students who received MBSR training significantly benefited, improving psychological and emotional competencies and decreasing stress and anxiety.


At the same time, the teachers also benefited. Gouda and colleagues found that the teachers who received the MBSR training had significantly improved levels of mindfulness, teacher-specific self-efficacy and emotion regulation and reduced levels of interpersonal problems. These benefits were still present at follow-up. Hence the teachers who received MBSR training significantly benefited, improving mindfulness and emotions and reducing interpersonal problems.


The study results are important in that they demonstrate that mindfulness training benefits both teachers and students in the same school at the same time. They did not have the appropriate comparisons to assess whether training teachers and students at the same time amplifies the positive effects for each. That’s an interesting question for future research. But, at least it is clear that there’s no interference produced. In addition, although academic achievement was not measured, all of the benefits of the mindfulness training would be expected to assist both the students and their teachers in being more effective both inside and outside of the classroom, improving their social behavior and mental health.


These results further strengthen the case for increased implementation of mindfulness programs in schools as both students and teachers benefit from mindfulness training.


“Before we can share mindfulness with our students we need an experiential understanding of mindfulness from our own practice. Once we begin to develop our own practice, we will see how it impacts our classroom and our relationships with others. Mindfulness offers a way to tap into the resilience that is already inside us.” – Meena Srinivasan


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Gouda, S., Luong, M. T., Schmidt, S., & Bauer, J. (2016). Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 590.



Objective: There is a research gap in studies that evaluate the effectiveness of a school-embedded mindfulness-based intervention for both students and teachers. To address this gap, the present pilot study reviews relevant literature and investigates whether students and teachers who participate in separate Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses show improvements across a variety of psychological variables including areas of mental health and creativity.

Methods: The study applied a controlled waitlist design with three measurement points. A total of 29 students (n = 15 in the intervention and n = 14 in the waitlist group) and 29 teachers (n = 14 in the intervention and n = 15 in the waitlist group) completed questionnaires before and after the MBSR course. The intervention group was also assessed after a 4-month follow-up period.

Results: Relative to the control group, significant improvements in self-reported stress, self-regulation, school-specific self-efficacy and interpersonal problems were found among the students who participated in the MBSR course (p < 0.05, Cohens’ d ranges from 0.62 to 0.68). Medium effect sizes on mindfulness, anxiety and creativity indicate a realistic potential in those areas. By contrast, teachers in the intervention group showed significantly higher self-reported mindfulness levels and reduced interpersonal problems compared to the control group (p < 0.05, Cohens’ d = 0.66 and 0.42, respectively), with medium effect sizes on anxiety and emotion regulation.

Conclusion: The present findings contribute to a growing body of studies investigating mindfulness in schools by discussing the similarities and differences in the effects of MBSR on students and teachers as well as stressing the importance of investigating interpersonal effects.


Adapt to Emotions with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Through mindfulness you can learn to turn your difficult emotions into your greatest teachers and sources of strength. How? Instead of ‘turning away’ from pain in avoidance we can learn to gently ‘turn towards’ what we’re experiencing. We can bring a caring open attention toward the wounded parts of ourselves and make wise choices about how to respond to ourselves and to life.” – Melissa O’Brien


One of the most important effects of mindfulness training is improving emotion regulation. Its importance arises out of the fact that we’re very emotional creatures. Without emotion, life is flat and uninteresting. Emotions provide the spice of life. We are constantly having or reacting to emotions. We often go to great lengths in an attempt to create or keep positive emotions and conversely to avoid, mitigate, or get rid of negative emotions. They are so important to us that they affect mostly everything that we do and say and can even be determinants of life or death. Anger, fear, and hate can lead to murderous consequences. Anxiety and depression can lead to suicide. At the same time love, joy, and happiness can make life worth living. Our emotions also affect us physically with positive emotions associated with health, well-being, and longevity and negative emotions associated with stress, disease, and shorter life spans.


The importance of emotions is only surpassed by our ignorance of them. Our rational side tries to downplay their significance and as a result research studies of emotions are fairly sparse and often ridiculed by politicians. So there is a great need for research on the nature of emotions, their effects, how they are regulated or not, and what factors affect them. One important factor is mindfulness. Research has demonstrated that people either spontaneously high in mindfulness or trained in mindfulness are better able to be completely in touch with their emotions and feel them completely, while being able to respond to them more appropriately and adaptively. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control emotions.


In today’s Research News article “Mechanisms of mindfulness: the dynamics of affective adaptation during open monitoring.” See:

or below.

Uusberg and colleagues investigate the development of emotion regulation with mindfulness practice. It is difficult to measure emotion regulation directly while meditating. But, it can be measured indirectly by recording the electrical responses of the brain to emotional stimuli. In particular, the Late Positive Potential (LPP) has been shown to be sensitive to the intensity of emotional responses. It is a positive going waveform recorded from the brain that occurs between half a second to a second and a half after a picture is presented.


Uusberg and colleagues recruited meditation naïve participants and asked them to view either pictures that were neutral (everyday urban scenes) or that evoked negative emotional reactions (accidents or attacks). They viewed the pictures under three different conditions, an attention condition, where they were asked to pay attention to the details of the pictures, a mindful viewing condition where they were asked to experience “all arising thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations in an accepting manner without trying to change them”, or a distraction condition where they were asked to count backward while viewing the pictures. They then measured the Late Positive Potential (LPP) and how it changed as practice continued.


They found that during mindful viewing the amplitude of the LPP was initially significantly larger than the other conditions when negative images were viewed, suggesting that initially mindful viewing evokes strong emotional responses. But then the response disappeared and the LPP for the neutral and the negative images were equivalent for the mindfulness condition. This elimination of the emotional response in later trials did not occur in the other conditions. This suggests that the mindfulness condition produces an eventual loss of emotional responding.


These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness meditation initially makes the meditator more sensitive to emotions but with practice becomes insensitive. Since mindfulness meditation requests that the meditator pay attention to their own internal reactions, it is reasonable that the emotional responses would be more vigorous. Over time however, the attention to the emotion responses appear to result in their extinction. This could be seen as simply getting used to it and not responding as before, sometimes called habituation. All of this suggests that the improvement in emotion regulation resulting from meditation is due to an enhancement of the extinction process produced by paying attention to the feelings.


These results also demonstrate how quickly the blunted emotional response occurs, within a brief time at the beginning of meditation practice for beginning meditators. As such, emotion regulation may be one of the earliest effects of mindfulness training. Hence, emotion regulation may make be the basis for later effects such as stress reduction or decreased inflammatory responses. Regardless, the results suggest that you can adapt to emotions with mindfulness and we know that this has profound effects on the health and well-being of the individual.


“This is just what the practice of mindfulness helps us remember. Working with emotions during our meditation sessions sharpens our ability to recognize a feeling just as it begins, not 15 consequential actions later. We can then go on to develop a more balanced relationship with it—neither letting it overwhelm us so we lash out rashly nor ignoring it because we’re afraid or ashamed of it.” – Sharon Salzberg


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Uusberg, Helen, Uusberg, Andero, Talpsep, Teri, Paaver, Marika, Mechanisms of mindfulness: the dynamics of affective adaptation during open monitoring. Biological Psychology



  • Mindfulnessinitially increases and then reduces affective LPP amplification.
  • There is no affective amplification during re-exposure to mindfully viewed images.
  • These effects are milder in distraction and attentive-viewing control conditions.
  • In novices a 3-phase emotional adaptation may account for mindfulness effectiveness.


Mindfulness − the nonjudgmental awareness of the present experience − is thought to facilitate affective adaptation through increased exposure to emotions and faster extinction of habitual responses. To test this framework, the amplification of the LatePositive Potential (LPP) by negative relative to neutral images was analyzed across stimulus repetitions while 37 novices performed an open monitoring mindfulness exercise. Compared to two active control conditions where attention was either diverted to a distracting task or the stimuli were attended without mindfulness instructions, open monitoring enhanced the initial LPP response to negative stimuli, indicating increased emotional exposure. Across successive repetitions, mindfulness reduced and ultimately removed the affective LPP amplification, suggesting extinction of habitual emotional reactions. This effect arose from reduced negative as well enlarged neutral LPPs. Unlike stimuli from control conditions, the images previously viewed with mindfulness instructions did not elicit affective LPP amplification during subsequent re-exposure, suggesting reconsolidation of stimulus meaning.


ACT for Psychological Flexibility, Mindfulness, and Depression

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness is a valuable practice for improving the cognitive symptoms of depression, such as distorted thinking and distractibility. It helps individuals recognize these more subtle symptoms, realize that thoughts are not facts and refocus their attention to the present.” – Margarita Tartakovsky


Mindfulness training in general has been shown to be effective for treating depression. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based psychotherapy technique that is based upon Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and has also been shown to be effective for depression. ACT focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, ACT helps people strengthen aspects of cognition such as in committing to valued living. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes.


As impressive as the effectiveness of many mindfulness based therapies are for depression, they require the supervision of a trained therapist working either with a single individual or in small groups. With the magnitude of the problem of depression, these therapies can only touch a small fraction of depression suffers. Recently the internet has been used to provide therapy to a wide audience. It allows for therapies to be made available to a much larger number of patients over a much larger geographical area. Indeed, ACT provided over the internet has been shown to be effective for depression. It is not known, however, which psychological processes are affected by ACT that work to relieve depression and what participant characteristics are predictive of responsiveness to ACT for depression.


In today’s Research News article “How and for whom does web-based acceptance and commitment therapy work? Mediation and moderation analyses of web-based ACT for depressive symptoms.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Pots and colleagues investigated potential mediators of ACT therapy for depression delivered over the internet. They randomly assigned patients diagnosed with mild to moderate depression to either receive Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an expressive writing treatment, or a wait-list control condition. ACT was delivered over the internet in nine modules that could be completed by participants over nine to twelve weeks. The expressive writing condition was delivered similarly over the internet over the same time frame and involved the participants writing about their recent emotional experiences. The wait-list control participants received no treatments until 6-months later. Measures were taken of depression, mindfulness, psychological flexibility, anxiety, positive mental health and demographic variables prior to and after treatment and 6 and 12 months later.


They found, as previously reported, that ACT produced significant improvements in depressive symptoms that were maintained 6 and 12 months later. ACT produced a large improvement in psychological flexibility and the mindfulness facet of non-reactivity to internal events that were found to mediate the effect on depression. In other words, ACT reduced depression by improving non-reactivity and psychological flexibility.


Pots and colleagues state that “The central therapeutic mechanism in ACT is psychological flexibility, which is the ability to act in accordance with intrinsically motivating values or goals while being in contact with the present moment.” Hence, the results indicate that ACT was successful in producing its desired effect and this increase in the alignment of actions with values is a strong determinant of the reduction in depression. This is thought to be an important aspect of emotion regulation that is so important for allowing emotions to be experienced but not allowing them to produce maladaptive responses. This is also facilitated by not being particularly reactive to these emotions. Hence ACT appears to improve depression by improving the coherence and alignment of beliefs and values with the individual’s actions and emotions.


So, improve psychological flexibility, mindfulness, and depression with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).


“It may be wise to not undertake the entire program while in the midst of an episode of clinical depression. Current evidence suggests that it may be prudent to wait until you have gotten the necessary help in climbing out of the depths and are able to approach this new work of working with your thoughts and feelings, with your mind and spirit unburdened by the crushing weight of acute depression.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Pots WT, Trompetter HR, Schreurs KM, Bohlmeijer ET. How and for whom does web-based acceptance and commitment therapy work? Mediation and moderation analyses of web-based ACT for depressive symptoms. BMC Psychiatry. 2016 May 23;16:158. doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-0841-6.



BACKGROUND: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms. However, little is known how and for whom therapeutic change occurs, specifically in web-based interventions. This study focuses on the mediators, moderators and predictors of change during a web-based ACT intervention.

METHODS: Data from 236 adults from the general population with mild to moderate depressive symptoms, randomized to either web-based ACT (n = 82) or one of two control conditions (web-based Expressive Writing (EW; n = 67) and a waiting list (n = 87)), were analysed. Single and multiple mediation analyses, and exploratory linear regression analyses were performed using PROCESS and linear regression analyses, to examine mediators, moderators and predictors on pre- to post- and follow-up treatment change of depressive symptoms.

RESULTS: The treatment effect of ACT versus the waiting list was mediated by psychological flexibility and two mindfulness facets. The treatment effect of ACT versus EW was not significantly mediated. The moderator analyses demonstrated that the effects of web-based ACT did not vary according to baseline patient characteristics when compared to both control groups. However, higher baseline depressive symptoms and positive mental health and lower baseline anxiety were identified as predictors of outcome across all conditions. Similar results are found for follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study corroborate the evidence that psychological flexibility and mindfulness are distinct process mechanisms that mediate the effects of web-based ACT intervention. The results indicate that there are no restrictions to the allocation of web-based ACT intervention and that web-based ACT can work for different subpopulations.


Meditation Improves Longevity by Producing a Healthier Relationship with Existence


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Theories differ as to how meditation might boost telomeres and telomerase, but most likely it reduces stress. The practice involves slow, regular breathing, which may relax us physically by calming the fight-or-flight response. It probably has a psychological stress-busting effect too. Being able to step back from negative or stressful thoughts may allow us to realize that these are not necessarily accurate reflections of reality but passing, ephemeral events. It also helps us to appreciate the present instead of continually worrying about the past or planning for the future.” Jo Marchant


One of the most exciting findings in molecular biology in recent years was the discovery of the telomere. This is a component of the DNA molecule that is attached to the ends of the strands. Recent genetic research has suggested that the telomere and its regulation is the biological mechanism that produces aging. It has been found that the genes, coded on the DNA molecule, govern cellular processes in our bodies. One of the most fundamental of these processes is cell replication. Cells are constantly turning over. Dying cells or damaged are replaced by new cells. The cells turn over at different rates but most cells in the body are lost and replaced between every few days to every few months. Needless to say we’re constantly renewing ourselves.


As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis this is what produces aging. As we get older the new cells produced are more and more defective. The shortening of the telomere occurs each time the cell is replaced. So, slowly as we age it gets shorter and shorter. This has been called a “mitotic clock.” This is normal. But, telomere shortening can also be produced by oxidative stress, which can be produced by psychological and physiological stress. This is mediated by stress hormones and the inflammatory response. So, chronic stress can accelerate the aging process. In other words, when we’re chronically stressed we get older faster.


Fortunately, there is a mechanism to protect the telomere. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. It also promotes cell survival and enhances stress-resistance.  Research suggests that processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process by protecting the telomere.  One activity that seems to increase telomerase activity and protect telomere length is mindfulness practice. Hence, engaging in mindfulness practices may protect the telomere and thereby slow the aging process. This predicts that long-term meditators will have longer telomeres than non-meditators of comparable ages.


In today’s Research News article “Zen meditation, Length of Telomeres, and the Role of Experiential Avoidance and Compassion.” See:

or below.

Alda and colleagues investigated this idea and extended it by looking at what psychological changes might be produced by meditation that act to protect the telomere. They recruited long-term meditators (at least 10 years of continuous practice) and a group of age, gender, and life-style matched control participants. They were assessed for telomere length, mindfulness, health, psychiatric issues, experiential avoidance, self-compassion, anxiety and depression.


They found that the expert meditators had nearly 10% longer telomeres than the comparison group. The expert meditators also had significantly higher mindfulness, resilience, satisfaction with life, subjective happiness, self-compassion, humanity, and lower experiential avoidance, anxiety, and depression. Using a sophisticated statistical technique (Stepwise multiple regression) they found that telomere length was longer with younger age, lower experiential avoidance (avoiding emotions and the present moment), and higher humanity (seeing one’s failures as due to their humanity).


These are interesting and important findings. They replicate the previous findings that meditation practice is associated with longer telomeres. This suggests that meditation may increase healthfulness and longevity. They also suggest that the important effects of meditation for increasing telomere length are increasing emotion regulation, focus on the present moment, and understanding one’s human fallibility. In other words, it appears that meditation helps the individual have a healthier relationship with their lives and existence and this improves the biological markers of health and longevity.


It should be kept in mind that these results are correlational, only documenting associations. They do not demonstrate that meditation caused the differences in telomeres. But, previous research has manipulated the amount of meditation and found that it did indeed produce longer telomeres. It is reasonable to conclude that the relationships seen by Alda and colleagues are reflective of this causal process.


So, meditate to improve longevity by producing a healthier relationship with existence.


“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time, we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology,” – Linda Carlson


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Alda M, Puebla-Guedea M, Rodero B, Demarzo M, Montero-Marin J, Roca M, Garcia-Campayo J. Zen meditation, Length of Telomeres, and the Role of Experiential Avoidance and Compassion. Mindfulness (N Y). 2016;7:651-659. Epub 2016 Feb 22.




Mindfulness refers to an awareness that emerges by intentionally focusing on the present experience in a nonjudgmental or evaluative manner. Evidence regarding its efficacy has been increasing exponentially, and recent research suggests that the practice of meditation is associated with longer leukocyte telomere length. However, the psychological mechanisms underlying this potential relationship are unknown. We examined the telomere lengths of a group of 20 Zen meditation experts and another 20 healthy matched comparison participants who had not previously meditated. We also measured multiple psychological variables related to meditation practice. Genomic DNA was extracted for telomere measurement using a Life Length proprietary program. High-throughput quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (HT-Q-FISH) was used to measure the telomere length distribution and the median telomere length (MTL). The meditators group had a longer MTL (p = 0.005) and a lower percentage of short telomeres in individual cells (p = 0.007) than those in the comparison group. To determine which of the psychological variables contributed more to telomere maintenance, two regression analyses were conducted. In the first model, which applied to the MTL, the following three factors were significant: age, absence of experiential avoidance, and Common Humanity subscale of the Self Compassion Scale. Similarly, in the model that examined the percentage of short telomeres, the same factors were significant: age, absence of experiential avoidance, and Common Humanity subscale of the Self Compassion Scale. Although limited by a small sample size, these results suggest that the absence of experiential avoidance of negative emotions and thoughts is integral to the connection between meditation and telomeres.


The Eightfold Path at Work

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


 “So where do we begin if we want to improve our work life for ourselves and those around us? I suggest starting with the mind. Ask yourself: what is the quality of my mind at work? What’s happening in my mind as the hours at work go by day in and day out? Is my mind working at its utmost? . . . . Through mindfulness, we can train our minds to work better.” – Tara Healey


The work environment as an excellent context in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. It is filled with interpersonal interactions and clashes, task focusing, dealing with authority, frustrations, successes, self-worthiness, and emotionality. In other words, the work environment has all the ingredients 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.


We often think of meditation or spiritual practice as occurring in quiet places removed from the hubbub of life. This is useful to develop skills and deep understanding. Unfortunately, most people do not have the luxury of withdrawing into a solitary or monastic life. Fortunately, it is possible to practice even in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. In fact, there are wonderful opportunities to practice presented to us all the time embedded in the complexities of the modern world. In a previous essay we discussed driving an automobile as an almost perfect venue for practice. In today’s essay we’ll discuss practicing in the work environment.


There are many wonderful opportunities at work to practice Right View. The view that all things are impermanent can be practiced. Indeed, the situation at work is constantly changing and no matter how bad or good the work conditions or the daily experiences are you can be sure that they’ll change; the business cycle is constantly changing as are the people you work with and for. By recognizing this we not only practice Right View but also relax and accept what is. Work is a cooperative venture. It’s a situation that reflects how interconnected everything is including the thing we label self. Working without consideration of our superiors or co-workers and their needs and aspirations would be chaotic and very unproductive. How you work effects how they work and vice versa. In this context if you take a moment to look, it is easy to develop Right View including the transitoriness of our thoughts and emotions. At work they arise and fall away in response to the ever changing experiences occurring at work and your reactions to them. This thing called self that you think of a permanent and static actually changes moment to moment in reaction to these experiences at work. This is a tremendous learning experience with work being a wonderful laboratory to practice and develop your Right View.


It is hard to find a better context than working to develop the Right View on suffering and unsatisfactoriness, and their roots. While working we seem to want everything to be exactly as we want it to be, and when it isn’t we suffer. We want meetings to be short, incisive, and productive, we want technology to always be working properly, we want to always be recognized for our efforts and accomplishments, we want less dull repetition and paperwork, we want our co-workers to be cooperative rather than competitive, we want a raise, we want a promotion, we want our bosses to always make the right decisions, we want everyone to like us, etc. When these things don’t happen, we suffer. In other words, you can learn, if you are observant of what is happening during working, that your suffering is caused by your lack of acceptance of how things are at work. So, working constitutes a wonderful laboratory to practice Right View. You can learn to accept things as they are, to see things without judgment, to view the job, your bosses, and other workers just as they are, and to understand how you work has consequences, affecting yourself and others, in other words, you practice and develop Right View.


You can quite readily practice Right Intentions while working and this can lead to Right Actions. These intentions include the abandonment of unwholesome desires. If you work with anger, impatience, selfishness, resentment you are likely to harm others and yourself. The harm may not be major or direct, but indirect by affecting the other workers in negative ways. Perhaps your anger at an unsatisfactory work situation causes the intentional sabotage of a project. Perhaps, your selfishness causes you to refuse to help a struggling co-worker eliciting frustration or worry about the security of their job, or simply cause them to suffer. But sometimes direct harm to others can be produced by greed resulting in your undercutting or obstructing their work in order to make yourself look better and step over them for promotion. But if you practice Right Intentions with sincere intentions to create good and happiness, relieve suffering in ourselves and others, and not harm any living thing, you will work cooperatively, with courtesy, with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will. When co-workers are treated with respect, compassion, and helpfulness or when a co-worker’s anger or frustration are reacted to with patience, kindness, and tolerance, harm and suffering have likely been prevented. It is good to reflect on the ripples of good that may have been created with Right Actions producing positive consequences, which produce more positive consequences, producing more positive consequences, etc. well into the future.


Intentions are a key. They become your moral compass. They tend to lead you in the right direction even though you may at times stumble.  It is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of your actions. It is also very difficult not to create some harm. You have to consider that your competitive success may be causing others to lose their jobs, or that the manufacturing processes you’re using compromises the natural environment, or that trying to minimize costs, you use suppliers who employ people at less than a living wage. You need to try to not only have Right Intentions, but to discern how even the best of intentions can sometime produce harmful outcomes. 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 working 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. But, if you form Right Intentions and aspire to create good and happiness you’ll be a better worker and will produce more harmony and good will in the work place and more importantly will be moving yourself along the eightfold path.


There are many opportunities to practice Right Speech while working. This can include non-verbal communications such as facial expressions, body postures, etc. But, predominantly Right Speech is verbal. A worker 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 part, to another worker’s dangerous actions. This can also include gestures. They do no good and create harm in myself and sometimes aggravate and harm others. Office gossip is rampant in the work environment. This often hurts others in unpredictable and sometimes unknown ways. Right speech involves refraining from gossip. At work frequently guesses and rumors are spread. Right Speech involves only speaking things that you know are absolutely true. This can promote trust and harmony in the workplace. By practicing Right Speech you can work toward alleviating the suffering produced in ourselves and others. Simply react, rather than with expletives, with words such as “be safe” or a silent recitation of the loving kindness meditation wishes for health, happiness, safety etc. 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 your work not only earns you a living but also creates greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering in yourself and others. Conversely, you should not produce harm. This doesn’t discourage earning profits and accumulating wealth. It simply indicates that it must be done in the right way. It indicates that you should acquire wealth only by legal means, peacefully, without coercion or violence; you should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and you should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others. Some occupations can be clearly seen as creating harm such as manufacturing, selling, or delivering weapons, cigarettes, or harmful drugs, 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. It is not yours to judge the “rightness” of other people’s occupations. This is a personal matter where intention matters, that must be reflected upon deeply to ascertain whether your practicing Right Livelihood.


Once again, working presents a great context to practice Right Effort. It takes substantial effort to work mindfully. If you work automatically as most people do most of the time, there is little or no mindfulness and little or no effort. When you first get to work you have to set the intention to engage in your work in such a way as to lessen suffering in yourself and others, to work with kindness, compassion, patience, and courtesy, to drop fear, anger, hatred, selfishness, and the survival of the fittest attitude, and to bring to our interactions with others at work 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 working mindfully, and also not being lackadaisical, but rather to try, but relax. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re not working mindfully, but congratulate yourself when you do. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.


Mindless working is probably the norm. Most people perform their routine work 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 working? Right Mindfulness while working precludes focusing on social media or engaging in other distractions that detract from our efforts. Right Mindfulness makes you acutely aware of what is happening and how you’re feeling during every moment of your work. This makes not only for a more enjoyable work, but also for much better working. Awareness of how you’re feeling and what’s producing those feelings, and how you’re reacting to them makes you better able to work effectively without emotional outbursts that are non-productive and can damage the efforts of co-workers. Right Mindfulness while working is not just part of the eightfold path it is a prerequisite for the practice of the seven other components of the path. So, working mindfully is a fundamental practice and working is a great situation 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 effective work. Very few people have the luxury of working in quiet isolated circumstances. Most work in environments that are replete with distractions and interruptions.

Improvement in attentional ability is a consequence of practicing Right Concentration  improves focused attention on the work, reducing distractions and mind wandering. The ability to concentrate and screen out intrusive sounds, sights, speech and thoughts allow you to focus on your work, producing higher quality work while being more efficient and productive. In addition, it is thought that Right Concentration requires Right Effort, Right Intentions, and Right Mindfulness and these can also be practiced and developed while working. So, working is a wonderful situation for the practice of Right Concentration, benefiting the individual and the quality of the work.


Working the eightfold path 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 worker and a more relaxed and happier worker. You then can leave work at the end of the day relaxed with a smile on your face rather than angry and stressed.


Through engaging in the eightfold path at can we achieve enlightenment? Probably not! But we can practice it and the Buddha taught that it leads there. The strength of practicing the eightfold path at work is that it occurs in the real world of our everyday life. Quiet secluded practice is wonderful and perhaps mandatory for progress in spiritual development. But for most people it only can occur during a very limited window of time. By extending the practice directly into the mainstream of our lives we can greatly enhance its impact. 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.  Without doubt, practicing the eightfold path at work leads to greater harmony and happiness and as such should be included in our spiritual practice.


“As an executive coach and physician, I often sing the praises of mindfulness approaches and recommend them to clients to manage stress, avoid burnout, enhance leadership capacity, and steady their minds when in the midst of making important business decisions, career transitions, and personal life changes.” – David Brendel


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Reduce Children’s and Parent’s Psychological Problems with Mindful Parenting

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“When we as adults learn mindfulness—paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity and then choosing our behavior—we can support our children and teenagers in bringing these skills into their lives. If we are in the present, we aren’t worrying about our third grader getting into college and we aren’t passing this stress onto them in our day-to-day interactions. If we learn to witness our anger, fear, and sadness with kindness and compassion we show our children that this way of working with intense emotion is possible. If we slow down and choose how to respond to a difficult situation in daily life, and especially if we do it during challenges with our children and “out loud,” “Honey I am really frustrated, that you did X again, I am going to take a few minutes and then we can discuss this.” Then they see that they can do the same with various difficulties. Children learn what they live; the best way to support them in practicing mindfulness is to practice ourselves.” – Amy Saltzman


Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with a vast array of medical and psychological problems. But, it is also helpful for dealing with everyday life, from work to relationships, to social interactions, to parenting. Raising children, parenting, is very rewarding. But, it can also be challenging. Children test parents frequently. They test the boundaries of their freedom and the depth of parental love. They demand attention and seem to especially when parental attention is needed elsewhere. They don’t always conform to parental dictates or aspirations for their behavior. They are often affected more by peers, for good or evil, than by parents. It is the parents challenge to control themselves, not overreact, and act appropriately in the face of strong emotions. Meeting these challenges becomes more and more important as the youth approaches adolescence, as that is the time of the greatest struggle for independence and the potential for damaging behaviors, particularly, alcohol, drugs, and sexual behavior.


The challenges of parenting require that the parent be able to deal with stress, to regulate their own emotions, and to be sensitive and attentive to their child. These skills are exactly those that are developed in mindfulness training. It improves the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It improves emotion regulation. And it improves the ability to maintain attention and focus in the face of high levels of distraction. This becomes particularly important with children with psychological problems. All of the challenges of parenting become amplified. The application of mindful parenting skills to clinical issues is relatively new. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate the ability of mindful parenting training to help children with psychological problems and their parents.


In today’s Research News article “Mindful Parenting Training in Child Psychiatric Settings: Heightened Parental Mindfulness Reduces Parents’ and Children’s Psychopathology.” See:

or below, Meppelink and colleagues used mindful parenting training to treat both children with serious psychopathology and their parents. The children were diagnosed with a range of disorders including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and adjustment disorder. The parents of these children received an 8 -week mindful parenting treatment delivered in a group format. It involved weekly 3-hour sessions and at least one hour of daily meditation. It included meditation, body scan, and yoga, and teaching of mindful parenting skills. Parents were assessed for mindfulness and mindful parenting, and both the parents and children were assessed for psychopathology both before and after training and again 8-weeks later.


They found that the training increased general mindfulness and mindful parenting scores in the parents and decreased both the parents’ and children’s psychopathology scores. These improvements were still present 8-weeks later. In addition, the greater the increase in the parents’ mindfulness, the greater the decrease in the parents’ psychopathology, but not the children’s. On the other hand, the greater the increase in the parents’ mindful parenting scores, the greater the decrease in the children’s psychopathology, but not the parents’. These results suggest that mindful parenting training benefits both the parents and the children, with improved mindfulness benefiting the parents while improved mindful parenting benefiting the children.


These conclusions need to be tempered with the understanding that there was not a control condition. So, it is impossible to tell if the improvements occurred because of the mindful parenting or due to a subject expectancy (placebo) effect, due to experimenter bias, spontaneous remission, or other confounding variable. A randomized controlled trial is needed.


Nevertheless, these results are encouraging, provide the rationale for more extensive and tightly controlled research, and suggest that children’s and parents psychological problems can be improved with mindful parenting training.


“It seems there’s no one right way to parent mindfully. Happily, there are many right ways. Sometimes the smallest adjustment in a child’s schedule can change a whole family’s day-to-day life. And sometimes it’s as simple as practicing paying full attention to our kids, with openness and compassion, and maybe that’s enough at any moment.” – Juliann Garey


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Meppelink R, de Bruin EI, Wanders-Mulder FH, Vennik CJ, Bögels SM. Mindful Parenting Training in Child Psychiatric Settings: Heightened Parental Mindfulness Reduces Parents’ and Children’s Psychopathology. Mindfulness (N Y). 2016;7:680-689. Epub 2016 Mar 15. Doi: 10.1007/s12671-016-0504-1



Mindful parenting training is an application of mindfulness-based interventions that allows parents to perceive their children with unbiased and open attention without prejudgment and become more attentive and less reactive in their parenting. This study examined the effectiveness of mindful parenting training in a clinical setting on child and parental psychopathology and of mindfulness as a predictor of these outcomes. Seventy parents of 70 children (mean age = 8.7) who were referred to a mental health care clinic because of their children’s psychopathology participated in an 8-week mindful parenting training. Parents completed questionnaires at pre-test, post-test and 8-week follow-up. A significant decrease was found in children’s and parents’ psychopathology and a significant increase in mindful parenting and in general mindful awareness. Improvement in general mindful awareness, but not mindful parenting, was found to predict a reduction in parental psychopathology, whereas improvement in mindful parenting, but not general mindful awareness, predicted the reduction of child psychopathology. This study adds to the emerging body of evidence indicating that mindful parenting training is effective for parents themselves and, indirectly, for their children suffering from psychopathology. As parents’ increased mindful parenting, but not increased general mindfulness, is found to predict child psychopathology, mindful parenting training rather than general mindfulness training appears to be the training of choice. However, RCTs comparing mindful parenting to general mindfulness training and to parent management training are needed in order to shed more light on the effects of mindful parenting and mechanisms of change.


Reduce Intergroup Bias with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“All biases, even the most deeply sub-conscious ones, periodically toss up a clue to their presence in the form of a thought. It is our job to observe that thought and examine it to see what it tells us about our hidden beliefs. This means we need to watch what we think.” – Sondra Thiederman


Whether we admit it or not we all have prejudices. We all have biases. This is a normal human experience that appears to have been built into us through evolution. It is thought to have evolved to promote cohesion and loyalty to the individual’s group and suspicion of members of other groups. In primitive times this would tend to help the group function for the benefit and defense of the included individuals helping to insure survival. But in modern times it no longer functions adaptively and instead promotes unnecessary suspicion and hatred. For the modern human living in a diverse society, overcoming prejudice and bias, is adaptive and would lead to a more cohesive and functional society.


There are suggestions that mindfulness may help to counteract bias and prejudice and can help the individual overcome the effects of prejudice. In today’s Research News article “Mindful attention reduces linguistic intergroup bias.” See:

or below

Tincher and colleagues examine the effects of mindfulness on implicit biases in college students. It is difficult, however, to directly measure these prejudices and biases as the modern societal politeness and political correctness tends to moderate any overt statements of prejudice. So, Tincher and colleagues employed an indirect method to assess prejudice and biases. They took advantage of the fact that they are expressed in our language and thought and result in stereotypes.


Prejudice and biases can be seen in subtle linguistic expressions. If we observe a member of a groups acting in a stereotypical manner, according to our prejudiced expectations of the behavior of that group member, then people tend to characterize it with abstract, conceptual, descriptions. For example, if we view a picture depicting an enemy hitting another person we might characterize the behavior as aggressive (abstract). On the other hand, when the behavior is contrary to our view of the group, then people tend to characterize it with concrete descriptors. For example, if we view a picture depicting an enemy helping another person get up after falling we might characterize the behavior as pulling someone up off the ground (concrete). But, when characterizing the behavior of members of our group, with positive behaviors are described abstractly and conceptually and negative behaviors concretely. For example, if we view a picture depicting a friend helping another person get up after falling we might characterize the behavior considerate (abstract) while if we view a picture depicting a friend hitting another person we might characterize the behavior as hitting someone (concrete).


Tincher and colleagues had college students view similar pictures and describe the behavior. They then provided a mindfulness induction instruction (observe their internal reactions and thoughts) or an immersion instruction (picture yourself in the situation, live the events). They found that the immersion group acted in a biased manner describing friend positive or enemy negative behaviors more abstractly while they described friend negative or enemy positive behaviors more concretely. On the other hand, the mindfulness instruction group had much more muted responses, with much smaller effects. They demonstrated less biased and prejudiced responses.


These results suggest that mindfulness reduces these linguistic responses that are indicative of implicit biases toward friends and enemies. This is a very indirect method of assessing biases but given that it’s socially frowned upon to overtly express bias, indirect methods are the only way to get at the true feelings and behaviors. As such, the results suggest that we have these implicit prejudices and that mindfulness can reduce them. The societal implications are clear that our unwanted biases and prejudices can be reduced with mindfulness.


So, reduce intergroup bias with mindfulness.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


mindfulness meditation techniques can reduce implicit biases. Affecting all manner of interpersonal interactions, implicit biases are unconscious attitudes or associations that influence our understanding, behavior and decisions. . . . . mindfulness serves to calm and compose the practitioner, such that emotions – and hence positive and negtive emotional responses – are subdued. Subdued emotions perhaps then lead to a more neutral processing of stimuli.“ – Hannah Maslen


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Study Summary

Tincher MM, Lebois LA, Barsalou LW. Mindful attention reduces linguistic intergroup bias. Mindfulness (N Y). 2016 Apr;7(2):349-360. Epub 2015 Oct 15.

PMID: 27200110. Doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0450-3



A brief mindfulness intervention diminished bias in favor of one’s in-group and against one’s out-group. In the linguistic intergroup bias (LIB), individuals expect in-group members to behave positively and out-group members to behave negatively. Consequently, individuals choose abstract language beset with character inferences to describe these expected behaviors, and in contrast, choose concrete, objective language to describe unexpected behaviors. Eighty-four participants received either mindful attention instructions (observe their thoughts as fleeting mental states) or immersion instructions (become absorbed in the vivid details of thoughts). After instruction, participants viewed visual depictions of an imagined in-group or out-group member’s positive or negative behavior, selecting the best linguistic description from a set of four descriptions that varied in abstractness. Immersion groups demonstrated a robust LIB. Mindful attention groups, however, exhibited a markedly tempered LIB, suggesting that even a brief mindfulness related instruction can implicitly reduce the propensity to perpetuate stereotypical thinking through language. These results contribute to understanding the mechanisms that facilitate unprejudiced thinking.


Be Less Controlled by Rewards with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have.” It’s a “must-have”:  a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training.  When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.” – Christina Congleton


Behavioral Psychology teaches that we are slaves to rewards and punishers. The Law of Effect states that we tend to repeat actions that are followed by a pleasing state of affairs (rewards) and are less likely to repeat actions that are followed by an aversive state of affairs (punishers). It is evident that people respond this way. It can be healthy and adaptive as long as it is kept under reasonable restraints and at moderate levels.


People who are too attached to rewards such as money are never really satisfied no matter how much they acquire. They are on what is called the “hedonic treadmill” where reward produces brief happiness but once it diminishes the individual becomes unhappy and works even harder for more reward and on and on it goes.  On the other hand, a lack of responsiveness to rewards and punishers is a hallmark of depression. But, the ability to delay reward is a characteristic of very successful people. It has been shown that, demonstrating the ability in early childhood to postpone reward to get a bigger reward later, predicts success in adult life.


So, it is crucial for well-being that we learn moderation and control of our responses to rewards and punishers. Mindfulness training has been shown to assist in restraining impulsivity and improving response inhibition and delay of gratification. In today’s Research News article “Adaptive neural reward processing during anticipation and receipt of monetary rewards in mindfulness meditators.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Kirk and colleagues investigate the effect of mindfulness on reward delay and the neural circuits involved. They compared the neural responses of experienced meditators vs. meditation naive participants to a monetary incentive delay task. To be successful in this task in earning money or preventing monetary loss the participant has to withhold responding until signaled. During the performance of this task the participants had their brain activity recorded with magnetic resonance imaging (f-MRI).


They did not find a difference in the groups in performance of the monetary incentive delay task. There were, however, significant differences in brain activation between the groups. In anticipation of rewards the experienced meditators had significantly reduced activity in the dorsal striatum and increased activity in the posterior insula. When the experienced meditators received a reward they had significantly less activation of the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex than the controls.


The results suggest that the experienced meditators are less activated during reward anticipation in the striatum which has been shown to be activated during reward anticipation. This suggests that the meditators have a moderated response to the thought of attaining a reward. They also appear to be more in touch with their internal feelings during reward anticipation as they had increased activation during reward anticipation of the posterior insula which is known to be involved in the processing of internal sensations. The experienced meditators also appear to have a reduced valuation of the reward during reward receipt as suggested by the reduced activation of the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex that has been shown to be involved in valuing reward magnitude.


The results thus suggest that meditation practice alters the brain producing more moderate response to the anticipation and presentation of reward and producing greater sensitivity to their internal state. Both of these modifications would be expected to make meditators better at keeping rewards and punishers in perspective, not being taken away on the “hedonic treadmill,” and being better able to delay gratification. This would in turn predict greater success in life as a results of meditation practice.


So, be less controlled by rewards with mindfulness.


“Meditation gives you the wherewithal to pause, observe how easily the mind can exaggerate the severity of a setback, and resist getting drawn back into the abyss.” — Richie Davidson


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Kirk, U., Brown, K. W., & Downar, J. (2015). Adaptive neural reward processing during anticipation and receipt of monetary rewards in mindfulness meditators. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(5), 752–759.



Reward seeking is ubiquitous and adaptive in humans. But excessive reward seeking behavior, such as chasing monetary rewards, may lead to diminished subjective well-being. This study examined whether individuals trained in mindfulness meditation show neural evidence of lower susceptibility to monetary rewards. Seventy-eight participants (34 meditators, 44 matched controls) completed the monetary incentive delay task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. The groups performed equally on the task, but meditators showed lower neural activations in the caudate nucleus during reward anticipation, and elevated bilateral posterior insula activation during reward anticipation. Meditators also evidenced reduced activations in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during reward receipt compared with controls. Connectivity parameters between the right caudate and bilateral anterior insula were attenuated in meditators during incentive anticipation. In summary, brain regions involved in reward processing—both during reward anticipation and receipt of reward—responded differently in mindfulness meditators than in nonmeditators, indicating that the former are less susceptible to monetary incentives.


Mindfulness Improves Health in Primary Care

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“people who have battled with health problems for years find relief through accepting and working with their condition in a new way, dropping the desperate struggle to make things different from how they are. Mindfulness training makes it possible for a different kind of healing to take place, creating an open space of awareness from which people can start choosing to live well, as best they can, even with a serious illness.” – Goguen-Hughes


Mindfulness training has taken its place in healthcare as a primary treatment or in combination with more traditional treatments for a wide variety of health issues. Most of the studies of these medical applications of mindfulness recruit patients who have been diagnosed with specific disorders. But, primary care physicians see patients with a mix of complaints that they treat and don’t require referral to a specialist. This raises the question of generalizability. It mindfulness training helpful for the heterogeneous kind of patients seen by primary care practitioners?


In today’s Research News article “The Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Primary Care: A Meta-Analytic Review.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Demarzo and colleagues reviewed the published studies employing mindfulness training for patients recruited from primary care physicians. They found that the appropriate literature was sparse with only 6 randomized controlled trials reported. But the results were rather consistent. Mindfulness training groups compared to randomly assigned control groups had significantly improved general health, psychological health, and quality of life. These benefits of the training were maintained, albeit at generally lower levels, 6-months after the conclusion of training.


Hence, they found that the small number of published research studies available report that mindfulness training improves health and well-being in patients treated by primary care providers. It makes sense that since mindfulness training appears to be effective for the individual conditions that it would also be effective for a mixed group of patients with these disorders. But, the patients treated in primary care generally have milder disorders. It is reassuring that mindfulness training is effective over a range of illness intensities.


How can mindfulness training be affective over such a wide range of physical and psychological illnesses at a wide range of intensities? I am not aware of any other treatment that even comes close to this widespread applicability. It is not known exactly how mindfulness training affects all of these conditions, but certain effects of the training appear to be helpful with almost any condition. In particular, the ability of mindfulness training to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress would ameliorate the exacerbation of the disorders produced by stress. Mindfulness training also appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce the inflammatory response, which would be helpful in preventing or fighting off many illnesses. Finally, the ability of mindfulness training to focus the individual on the present moment and reduce thinking about the past and future would reduce, anxiety, worry, and rumination which contribute to many psychological problems.


Mindfulness training is not a panacea. But, it is ubiquitously applicable and helpful to most patients. So, improve the health of patients in primary care with mindfulness.


“In fact, the health effects of meditation can be even more dramatic — a matter of life and death. Williams points to a National Institutes of Health study that showed a 23 percent decrease in mortality, a 30 percent decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a big decrease in cancer mortality as well. “This effect is equivalent to discovering an entirely new class of drugs (but without the inevitable side effects).” – Mark Williams


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Demarzo, M. M. P., Montero-Marin, J., Cuijpers, P., Zabaleta-del-Olmo, E., Mahtani, K. R., Vellinga, A., … García-Campayo, J. (2015). The Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Primary Care: A Meta-Analytic Review. Annals of Family Medicine, 13(6), 573–582.



PURPOSE: Positive effects have been reported after mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in diverse clinical and nonclinical populations. Primary care is a key health care setting for addressing common chronic conditions, and an effective MBI designed for this setting could benefit countless people worldwide. Meta-analyses of MBIs have become popular, but little is known about their efficacy in primary care. Our aim was to investigate the application and efficacy of MBIs that address primary care patients.

METHODS: We performed a meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials addressing the effect of MBIs in adult patients recruited from primary care settings. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) and Cochrane guidelines were followed. Effect sizes were calculated with the Hedges g in random effects models.

RESULTS: The meta-analyses were based on 6 trials having a total of 553 patients. The overall effect size of MBI compared with a control condition for improving general health was moderate (g = 0.48; P = .002), with moderate heterogeneity (I2 = 59; P <.05). We found no indication of publication bias in the overall estimates. MBIs were efficacious for improving mental health (g = 0.56; P = .007), with a high heterogeneity (I2 = 78;P <.01), and for improving quality of life (g = 0.29; P = .002), with a low heterogeneity (I2 = 0; P >.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Although the number of randomized controlled trials applying MBIs in primary care is still limited, our results suggest that these interventions are promising for the mental health and quality of life of primary care patients. We discuss innovative approaches for implementing MBIs, such as complex intervention and stepped care.


Improve Oral Health with Yoga

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Is yoga the key to dental health? It may not fight cavities, but the ancient great exercise regimen can improve a person’s oral health in a number of other important areas. Most of the oral health benefits of yoga come from stress relief. Eliminating stress has benefits for areas of health throughout the body, but it is particularly important when it comes to dental well-being.” – Irene McKinney


If you asked most people what’s one of the most common health problems that people have, probably the last thing that they would come up with us oral health. Yet, about half of all American adults, around 65 million, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to over 70 percent.


“Periodontitis means “inflammation around the tooth” – it is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that supports the tooth. All periodontal diseases, including periodontitis, are infections which affect the periodontium. The periodontium are the tissues around a tooth, tissues that support the tooth. With periodontitis, the alveolar bone around the teeth is slowly and progressively lost. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, stick to the surface of the tooth and multiply – an overactive immune system reacts with inflammation.” These bacterial plaques are sticky, colorless membranes that develop over the surface of the teeth and are the most common cause of periodontal disease. If it is not treated periodontitis will eventually lead to tooth loss, and increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems.


Treatment for periodontitis is straightforward including professional plaque removal and general at home oral hygiene. If severe, surgical procedures are called for. But, like many infections, periodontitis is exacerbated by stress. So, practices like mindfulness and yoga training, that reduce stress, may well help with periodontitis. In addition, mindfulness practices have been found to reduce the inflammatory response which would in turn reduce the inflammation of the gums.  So, it would make sense to investigate the effects of yoga practice on periodontal disease.


In today’s Research News article “.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Katuri and colleagues compared patients diagnosed with chronic periodontitis who practiced yoga for at least 5 years, to patients who demonstrated anxiety and depression, and those who neither practiced yoga or were anxious or depressed. They found that the yoga practitioners had less severe periodontitis as indicated by a plaque index and attachment level. In addition, the yoga practitioners had significantly lower plasma cortisol levels, an indicator of stress. Hence, the yoga practitioners were found to have less severe periodontal disease and less stress.


This study, however, simply compared groups who practiced yoga and didn’t. There could be systematic differences between the groups other than yoga practice that could be responsible for the results. For example, yoga practitioners may generally have healthier lifestyles including better diets and more rigorous home oral hygiene practices. It remains for future research to actively assign groups of patients diagnosed with chronic periodontitis to practice yoga to observe the causal effects of yoga practice on the disease.


The results, however, make sense. Yoga practice by reducing the psychological and physical responses to stress can reduce inflammatory responses and improve periodontitis. These intriguing findings deserve to be followed-up with more rigorous studies to ascertain if you can improve oral health with yoga.


“Studies have shown that yoga practiced regularly can decrease blood pressure, reduce your heart rate, and lessen stress.  That is important to your oral health because stress diminishes resistance to infections including gum disease and abscesses, and can make you more likely to develop canker sores and cold sores. So don’t be surprised at your next dental visit when our hygienist tells you to brush, floss and sign up for a yoga class!” – Jill Smith


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Katuri, K. K., Dasari, A. B., Kurapati, S., Vinnakota, N. R., Bollepalli, A. C., & Dhulipalla, R. (2016). Association of yoga practice and serum cortisol levels in chronic periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 6(1), 7–14.




Reducing the psychosocial stress by various methods can improve overall health, and yoga is now considered as an easily available alternative method. The present cross-sectional pilot study was conducted mainly to find the association of yoga practice with periodontal disease by measuring serum cortisol levels.

Materials and Methods:

A total of 70 subjects with age range of 35–60 years suffering with chronic periodontitis were divided into group I (with stress), group II (without stress), and group III (practicing yoga). Psychological evaluation was carried out using Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (ZSDS). Periodontal parameters like plaque index (PI), probing pocket depth (PPD), and clinical attachment level (CAL) at 5–8 mm and >8 mm were recorded. Blood samples were collected and serum cortisol levels were measured.


Mean age, plaque scores, and number of teeth with PPD and CAL at 5–8 mm and >8 mm were similar in all the groups, except between group I and group III where a multiple comparison with Tukey’s post-hoc test showed significant difference in plaque index (P < 0.038) and the number of teeth with CAL 5–8 mm (P < 0.016). Serum cortisol levels and HAM-A scale and ZSDS scores showed highly significant value (P < 0.001) in group I subjects when compared with group II and group III subjects.


Cross-sectional observation done among three groups showed that individuals practicing yoga regularly had low serum cortisol levels, HAM-A scale and ZSDS scores, and better periodontal health.