Improve Well-Being with Menstrual Disorder with Yoga Nidra


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“The ancient practice of yoga nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a meditative practice that results in conscious deep sleep. Current research suggests that yoga nidra can help relieve menstrual problems, diabetes symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”Elaine Gavalas


Menstrual disorders are associated with disruptive physical and/or emotional symptoms just before and during menstruation, including heavy bleeding, missed periods and unmanageable mood swings. Symptoms can include abnormal uterine bleeding, which may be abnormally heavy or absent or occurs between periods, painful menstrual periods, premenstrual syndrome, or premenstrual dysphonic disorder (depression). These disorders are all very common and most women experience some of these symptoms sometime during their premenopausal years, while around 20% experience them throughout their fertile years.


Yoga has documented benefits for the individual’s psychological and physical health and well-being. It has also been shown to improve menstrual problems. Yoga, however, consists of a number of components including, poses, breathing exercises, yoga nidra (meditation), concentration, and philosophy/ethics.  So, it is difficult to determine which facet or combination of facets of yoga are responsible for which benefit. Hence, it is important to begin to test each component in isolation to determine its effects.


In today’s Research News article “Psycho-Biological Changes with Add on Yoga Nidra in Patients with Menstrual Disorders: a Randomized Clinical Trial.” See:

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

Rani and colleagues randomly assigned women who displayed menstrual disorders for more than 6-months to either a yoga Nidra or treatment as usual group. Yoga nidra is generally practiced while lying on the back on a mat on the floor with the arms out at the sides and the palm facing up. This is the what’s known as the corpse pose in yoga. It is generally a deep guided meditation practice. It usually begins with a systematic body scan meditation and then moves into a deep meditative state. The most easily observable effect of the yoga nidra practice is the extremely deep relaxation of the nervous system and healing of the body by allowing it the rest and recharge it usually lacks in our all too busy lifestyles. Yoga nidra produces a state of deep relaxation and sedation without the individual actually going to sleep.


At baseline Rani and colleagues measured psychological general well-being, and a variety of hormone levels. The yoga nidra group then received 30-35-minute yoga nidra, 5 days per week for 3 months and practiced at home for the subsequent 3 months. Measurements were then repeated at the end of the 6-month program. Control participants received their normal medical treatments during the 6-month period. They found that the yoga Nidra group showed significant improvements in anxiety, depression, positive well-being, general health, and vitality while the control group did not. Similarly, they found that the yoga Nidra group had significant decreases in 4 hormone levels; thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and prolactin. Hence, yoga Nidra produced positive benefits for psychological well-being and also for endocrine (hormonal) function.


These are exciting findings. Yoga Nidra practice improved psychological well-being in women with menstrual disorder. Yoga practice and meditation practice have these same benefits for practitioners. But, it’s interesting that these psychological benefits can be produced by yoga nidra practice alone. The findings of decreased hormone levels are significant. Pituitary hormones, follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormones, prolactin and thyroid hormones are very much involved in the menstrual cycle and are required for normal development of ova. Yoga Nidra practice may be helping with menstrual disorder by producing better regulation of these crucial hormones. Future research will be required to investigate this idea.


It is important to note that the control group did not receive any new active treatment. It is possible that the effects observed were not due to yoga Nidra, but to the expectations of the participants that the yoga nidra would improve their disorder. It will be important for future research to include and active or placebo control condition.


Regardless, the results suggest that well-being can be improved in women with menstrual disorder with yoga nidra.


“Yoga nidra for me is like a ‘super nap’ that recharges me in no time. It is a complete rejuvenation package – a must to relieve ourselves of daily stress in today’s busy world.” – Pritika Nair


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary

Rani, K., Tiwari, S. C., Kumar, S., Singh, U., Prakash, J., & Srivastava, N. (2016). Psycho-Biological Changes with Add on Yoga Nidra in Patients with Menstrual Disorders: a Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Caring Sciences,5(1), 1–9.



Introduction: Menstrual disorders are common problems among women in the reproductive age group. Yuga interventions may decrease the physical and psychological problems related to menstrual disorders. The present study was aimed to assess the effect of Yoga Nidra on psychological problems in patients with menstrual disorders.

Methods: A total number of 100 women recruited from the department of obstetrics and gynecology and were then randomly allocated into two groups: a) intervention received yogic intervention and medication for 6 month, and b) control group received no yogic intervention and they only received prescribed medication). Psychological General Well-Being Index (PGWBI) and hormonal profile were assessed at the time of before and after six months on both groups.

Results: The mean score of anxiety, depression, positive well-being, general health, and vitality scores, as well as hormonal levels, in posttest were significantly different in intervention group as compared with pretest. But there was no significant difference in control group.

Conclusion: Yoga Nidra can be a successful therapy to overcome the psychiatric morbidity associated with menstrual irregularities. Therefore, Yogic relaxation training (Yoga Nidra) could be prescribed as an adjunct to conventional drug therapy for menstrual dysfunction.


Mindful Fatherhood


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindful Fathering is the act of consciously checking into your life as a father. It’s about staying present in your life as a father, observing the dreary, ugly, and painful parts of fathering with acceptance and non-judgement, and honoring those parts with our full attention, just as we honor the wonderful and sublime moments of fatherhood, rather than numbing ourselves out of our lives through substances, technology, or boredom.”MindfulFathering


Fathers’ Day, like Mother’s Day was basically invented and promoted by the greeting card and florist industries. But, even though its origins were crass, the idea took off, because it hit upon a truth; that most of us love our fathers. As a result, Fathers’ Day has become a culturally accepted and encouraged time for the celebration of fatherhood and all that it means. The deep bonds and love that most people feel for their fathers and their fathers for them fuels the celebration of the holiday.


The holiday is also popular as everyone has a father, who in turn, has had a father, who has had a father, etc. Many are, or want to be fathers. It has and always will, play an immensely important role in our individual and societal existence. The effectiveness, or lack thereof, of fathering has a major impact on the children that continues throughout their lives. It is such an important role that it seems reasonable to explore what goes into successful fathering and child rearing and what might be of assistance in improving fathering. There has accumulated a tremendous amount of scientific evidence that mindfulness, (“awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”) can be an important asset for fathers. So, on this day celebrating fatherhood, we’ll explore the role of mindfulness.


Mindfulness has been found to be important to becoming a father in the first place. Mindfulness makes the individual more attractive to the opposite sex, it improves sexual relationships, it helps to relieve infertility, and it improves relationships in general. All of which underscores the importance of mindfulness in improving the likelihood that conception will occur and that childbirth will be born into a supportive social context. Mindfulness continues after birth to be of assistance as it improves caregiving and parenting, even in the case where the child has developmental disabilities. Mindfulness not only helps the parents deal with the stresses of childrearing, but developing mindfulness in the child can be of great assistance to helping the kids develop emotionally and cognitively, develop high level thinking, develop healthy self-concepts, develop socially, deal with stress, and cope with trauma and childhood depression. It even improves the child’s psychosocial development and academic performance and grades in school. In addition, it seems to be able to assist children through the troubled times of adolescence.


Fathering does not occur in a vacuum. It’s been said that “It takes a village” to rear a child. Indeed, fatherhood is embedded in a community. There are many people who are either directly or indirectly involved, from the mother, to the extended family, the community, the medical profession, teachers, clergy, social workers, childcare workers, and even the government. So relationships become an essential part of fathering from conception, to birth, and family and social life. Mindfulness is important to the father in developing and promoting these social connections that are so important for the child’s development. Mindful people generally connect better and are better liked by others, making them socially much more effective.


Why would mindfulness be such an important component of fatherhood? There are a number of reasons that mindfulness helps. It reduces the psychological and physical effects of stress on the father and let’s face it, raising children can be quite stressful. Mindfulness also improves emotion regulation making the father better able to be in touch with his emotions yet react to them adaptively and effectively. Mindfulness helps the father maintain his health and well-being, and to recover quicker should he become ill.


With the increasing frequency of divorce and single parent households, the first and most important function of a father is simply to be present for their child. This may take the form of a traditional family, but may also be as the primary custodian, or only during delineated visitations, or there may be shared responsibility with separate households, or as a step-parent. The mindful father takes this role and his responsibilities to the child very seriously and regardless of the living arrangements invests time and resources in the child. Regardless of the circumstances being mindfully involved in the child’s life is crucial. But being present doesn’t just mean being physically present hanging around. Probably the most important thing a father can do is to simply be present with the child, devoting singular attention to the child. It means attending to the children emotionally, listening carefully, and being caring and compassionate.


The essential capacity developed in mindfulness training is paying much greater attention to what’s occurring in the present moment. This can be of immense help to the father. It makes him better attuned to his child’s and to his own needs. It reduces rumination and recriminations about past mistakes. It tends to diminish the worry and anxiety about the future. It helps him to focus on what needs to be done now, making him much more effective. And it helps him to experience the joys of fatherhood to their fullest. In general, by focusing on now, he is tuned into the only time that matters for himself or his child, improving his relationship with reality, dealing with its problems and relishing its wonders.


This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness training promotes paying close attention to what is happening in the present moment. So, when interacting with their children a mindful father is truly present for them and not thinking about other things. Mindfulness promotes careful attentive listening. One of the most important things a child wants is to be truly heard. That is the gift of a mindful father. Mindfulness also promotes compassion, being aware of the emotional state of another. This is also important for a child. Childhood can be difficult and being in touch with a child’s moods is an important part of effective fathering. Mindfulness also develops the ability to closely observe without judging the child. This is immensely important for the development of the child’s self-concept and for the flowering of experimentation and creativity. Yes, children need direction, but too much judging can cause harm. So, observing the child with non-judgmental awareness is important for children flourishing.


Hence, mindfulness can make fathering better, both for the father, and the child. So, on this important day of celebration of fathers, let’s adopt mindfulness and make it a part of our relationship with our fathers and our children. Most of us love our fathers but we love mindful fathers even more especially when we ourselves are mindful.


“But mindfulness is really about being the best parent you can be. When we are mindful, we think about what we are doing and why we are doing it.  If we are grounded in principles, it is easier to be more aware of what is happening at the moment and to be more observant.  Connecting with the deep reasons why we chose to be a parent can help us see what is going on in a clearer light.Wayne Parker


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog

They are also available on Google+

Improve Marital Satisfaction with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“We are vulnerable creatures, we humans. In the act of exposing our heart and hopes, we also expose our fears and fragility. But we need not be slaves to the past, or to the external love object, be it bear or spouse. We can deliberately develop a more secure sense of attachment, training our mind to become a place of security, safety, and warm fuzzy reassurance simply by paying attention to now, not then.” – Cheryl Fraser


Infertility, the inability to become pregnant, is primarily a medical condition and due to physiological problems, most frequently, hormonal inadequacy. The diagnosis of infertility involves documenting a failure to become pregnant despite having carefully timed, unprotected sex for at least one year. Sadly, infertility is quite common. It is estimated that in the U.S. 6.7 million women, about 10% of the population of women 15-44, have an impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term and about 6% are infertile.


Infertility can be more than just a medical issue. It can be an emotional crisis for many couples, especially for the women. Couples attending a fertility clinic reported that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Women with infertility reported feeling as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. Men’s reactions are more complicated. If the reason for the infertility is due to an issue with the woman, then men aren’t as distressed as the women. But if they are the ones who are infertile, they experience the same levels of low self-esteem, stigma, and depression as infertile women do. In addition, infertility can markedly impact the couple’s relationship, straining their emotional connection and interactions and the prescribed treatments can take the spontaneity and joy from lovemaking making it strained and mechanical.


The stress of infertility and engaging in infertility treatments may exacerbate the problem. These issues conspire to stress the marital relationship and interfere with the emotional health of the individuals. In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Group Therapy on Marital Satisfaction and General Health in Woman with Infertility.” See:

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

Shargh and colleagues randomly assigned women diagnosed with infertility to a group receiving Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or a control group. They measured the marital satisfaction and emotional health of the women prior to and after an 8-week MBCT program presented in a group format or care as usual. They found that the MBCT program produced a significant increase in marital satisfaction, including communications, conflict resolution and ideal deviation, and a significant increase in emotional health including lower bodily complaints, anxiety, depression and social malfunction.


These results are potentially important as infertility places intense stress on marital relationships. The results seem reasonable, though, given the documented effectiveness of mindfulness training to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, and improve social function and romantic relationships. It is important, however, to demonstrate that mindfulness training is similarly effective with women with infertility issues. This can have other positive consequences as there are indications that the relief produced by mindfulness training may improve the likelihood of these women successfully conceiving. It is also encouraging that these results can be obtained when MBCT is delivered in a group format. This makes it more efficient and cost effective.


So, improve marital satisfaction in couples struggling with infertility with mindfulness.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


“Each of us has a different set of sexual experiences and needs. When we feel disconnected from pleasure, simply bringing non-judgmental awareness to our bodies can help us clear away the baggage of cultural narratives. And in doing so, we can uncover our own unique sexual story and gain compassion for ourselves, wherever we are at in our sexual journey.” – Pam Costa


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


Study Summary


Shargh, N. A., Bakhshani, N. M., Mohebbi, M. D., Mahmudian, K., Ahovan, M., Mokhtari, M., & Gangali, A. (2016). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Group Therapy on Marital Satisfaction and General Health in Woman with Infertility. Global Journal of Health Science, 8(3), 230–235.



Infertility affects around 80 million people around the world and it has been estimated that psychological problems in infertile couples is within the range of 25-60%. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of Mindfulness-based cognitive group therapy on consciousness regarding marital satisfaction and general health in woman with infertility. Recent work is a clinical trial with a pre/posttest plan for control group. Covering 60 women who were selected by in access method and arranged randomly in interference (30) and control (30) groups. Before and after implementation of independent variable, all subjects were measured in both groups using Enrich questionnaire and marital satisfaction questionnaire. Results of covariance analysis of posttest, after controlling the scores of pretest illustrated the meaningful difference of marital satisfaction and mental health scores in interference and control groups after treatment and the fact that MBCT treatment in infertile women revealed that this method has an appropriate contribution to improvement of marital satisfaction and mental health. Necessary trainings for infertile people through consultation services can improve their mental health and marital satisfaction and significantly help reducing infertile couples’ problems.


Improve Symptoms in Breast Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“The mindfulness elements of accepting things as they are, turning towards rather than away from difficult emotional experience, and embracing change as a constant are helpful antidotes to these difficult realities. The emotion-regulation strategies practiced in mindfulness-based interventions help to prevent worry about the future and rumination over past events, and allow people to live more fully in the present moment, regardless of what lies ahead. The inevitability of loss, change and eventual death are helpful to face in general, but are both more challenging and more powerful for people directly facing a life threat like cancer.” – Linda Carlson


About 12.5% of women in the U.S. develop invasive breast cancer over their lifetimes and every year about 40,000 women die. Indeed, more women in the U.S. die from breast cancer than from any other cancer, besides lung cancer. Breast cancer diagnosis, however, is not a death sentence. It is encouraging that the death rates have been decreasing for decades from improved detection and treatment of breast cancer. Five-year survival rates are now at around 95%.


The improved survival rates mean that more women are now living with cancer. Surviving cancer, however, carries with it a number of problems. “Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions.” National Cancer Survivors Day. In addition, breast cancer survivors can have to deal with the consequences of chemotherapy, and often experience increased fatigue, pain, and bone loss, reduced fertility, difficulty with weight maintenance, damage to the lymphatic system, heightened fear of reoccurrence, and an alteration of their body image. With the loss of a breast or breasts, scars, hair shedding, complexion changes and weight gain or loss many young women feel ashamed or afraid that others will reject or feel sorry for them. As a result, survivors often develop psychological symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and impaired cognitive functioning.

Psychologically, cancer survivors frequently suffer from anxiety, depression, mood disturbance, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sleep disturbance, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, loss of personal control, impaired quality of life, and psychiatric symptoms which have been found to persist even ten years after remission.


Unfortunately, most of these residual problems often go untreated. So, safe and effective treatments for the residual symptoms in breast cancer survivors are needed. Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual psychological symptoms and improve cognitive function. Most of the research, however, has been performed with postmenopausal women. But, 25% of breast cancer survivors are younger and premenopausal. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation for younger breast cancer survivors: A randomized controlled trial.” See:

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

Bower and colleagues examine the efficacy of mindfulness training for premenopausal breast cancer survivors. They recruited premenopausal breast cancer survivors who had completed primary treatment at least 3 months prior to participation and randomly assigned them to either receive a 6-week Mindful Awareness Practice program or to a wait-list control group. The participants were assessed with a battery of psychological tests. They also measured a set of genetic markers of inflammation. Assessments were performed before and 1-2 weeks after treatment and also 3 months later.


They found that mindfulness training produced significant improvements in the patients’ psychological state. In comparison to control participants, the mindfulness training group had significant decreases in perceived stress, depression, fatigue, subjective sleep disturbance, and hot flashes/night sweats, and significant increases in positive emotions, peace and meaning. For the most part the effects were not maintained at 3-month follow-up. In addition, the mindfulness training appeared to decrease inflammation as the mindfulness trained group showed a reduction in pro-inflammatory genetic markers and an increase in anti-inflammatory genetic markers.


These results are encouraging and suggest that the psychological well-being and inflammation can be improved with mindfulness training for premenopausal breast cancer survivors. Previous studies have demonstrated that mindfulness training with healthy individuals improves their psychological and emotional state and reduces inflammation. These results suggest that breast cancer survivors benefit as well. These improvements are particularly important for the breast cancer survivors as they are generally struggling with the psychological, emotions, and physical ramifications of their diagnosis and treatment. It is reassuring that mindfulness training can help.


Of concern is the fact that the psychological treatment effects were not maintained 3-months later. It is unclear if the women maintained their mindfulness practices following training as they were encouraged to do. It is possible that more encouragement and perhaps booster sessions may be needed to maintain the benefits.


Regardless, improve symptoms in breast cancer survivors with mindfulness.


“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.”  – Dr. Linda Carlson


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary

Bower, J. E., Crosswell, A. D., Stanton, A. L., Crespi, C. M., Winston, D., Arevalo, J., … Ganz, P. A. (2015). Mindfulness meditation for younger breast cancer survivors: A randomized controlled trial. Cancer, 121(8), 1231–1240.



Purpose: Premenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer are at risk for psychological and behavioral disturbances after cancer treatment. Targeted interventions are needed to address the needs of this vulnerable group.

Methods: This randomized trial provided the first evaluation of a brief mindfulness-based intervention for younger breast cancer survivors designed to reduce stress, depression, and inflammatory activity. Women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer before age 50 who had completed cancer treatment were randomly assigned to a 6-week Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPS) intervention (n = 39) or wait-list control (n = 32). Participants completed questionnaires at pre- and post-intervention to assess stress and depressive symptoms (primary outcomes) as well as physical symptoms, cancer-related distress, and positive outcomes. Blood samples were collected to examine genomic and circulating markers of inflammation. Participants also completed questionnaires at a three-month follow-up.

Results: In linear mixed models, the MAPS intervention led to significant reductions in perceived stress (P = .004) and marginal reductions in depressive symptoms (P = .094), as well as significant reductions in pro-inflammatory gene expression (P = .009) and inflammatory signaling (P = .001) at post-intervention. Improvements in secondary outcomes included reduced fatigue, sleep disturbance, and vasomotor symptoms and increased peace and meaning and positive affect (Ps < .05). Intervention effects on psychological and behavioral measures were not maintained at three-month follow-up, though reductions in cancer-related distress were observed at this assessment.

Conclusions: A brief mindfulness-based intervention showed preliminary short-term efficacy in reducing stress, behavioral symptoms, and pro-inflammatory signaling in younger breast cancer survivors.


Reduce Stress Responses in a High Stress Occupation.

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“I am a registered nurse in an emergency department. Nowhere is Buddhism more helpful to me than at work. We see a large number of patients, often accompanied by their family members. Emotional turmoil is the norm. This, along with the unavoidable hustle and bustle of the department, makes for a frenzied atmosphere. My practice helps create a tiny refuge of peace in the midst of the turmoil.”Daniel Defeo


Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations burnout is all too prevalent. This is the fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. Healthcare is a high stress occupation. In a recent survey 46% of all physicians responded that they had burnout. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Nearly half plan to look for a new job over the next two years and 80% expressed interest in a new position if they came across the right opportunity. Since there is such a great need to retain healthcare providers, it is imperative that strategies be identified to decrease stress and burnout.


Emergency and intensive care medicine is at the top of the list of stressful medical professions. It also leads in the incidence of burnout with over half experiencing it. Burnout is a threat to the healthcare providers and their patients. In fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system as it contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses. Hence, preventing existing healthcare workers from burning out has to be a priority. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to be helpful in treating and preventing burnout. One of the premiere techniques for developing mindfulness and dealing effectively with stress is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is a diverse mindfulness training containing practice in meditation, body scan, and yoga. There have been a number of trials investigating the application of MBSR to the treatment and prevention of health care worker burnout with successful outcomes.


In today’s Research News article “A Small Randomized Pilot Study of a Workplace Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Surgical Intensive Care Unit Personnel: Effects on Salivary α-Amylase Levels.” See:

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

Duchemin and colleagues examine the effectiveness of a mindfulness based stress reduction program, including meditation, gentle yoga, and relaxing music, on mindfulness, psychological and biological (salivary α-amylase) markers of stress, burnout, and professional quality of life. They recruited hospital intensive care health professionals who were not current mindfulness practitioners. The participants were then randomly assigned to the mindfulness training group or to a wait-list control group. After completing the battery of tests they were then either provided an 8-wk mindfulness intervention or carried on their normal routines for 8 weeks. This was followed one week later by a repeat assessment battery.


They found that the participants’ perceived stress of the work environment did not change over the course of the study, but the psychological and emotional responses to the stress did, with the mindfulness group showing a significant, 25% reduction, compared to 13% reduction for the controls. In addition, the mindfulness group had a significant, 40%, decline in salivary α-amylase compared to 4% for the controls, indicating a significant reduction in the biological response to the stress. Hence, the mindfulness training produced a significant reduction in the ICU workers biological, psychological, and emotional responses to stress.


This is an important outcome. Obviously, training does not change how stressful the work is. But, it did change the workers’ responses to the stress, making them more resistant to the effects of the stress. This is in keeping with a large number of studies demonstrating that mindfulness training decreases the physiological and psychological responses to stress. The deleterious effects of stress on the individual occur due to the individual’s response to the stress, not the stress itself. So, the mindfulness training tends to assist with the core of the problem. The study was not long-term enough to tell if this would reduce burnout. But, given the short-term effects of the intervention, it would be expected that it would.


So, reduce stress responses in a high stress occupation.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


“Letting go is a huge quality and practice of mindfulness. Everything changes and everything ends. You have to be able to let that go so that you can take care of other people, sleep at night, and not burn out. It’s easy to be mindful, it’s just hard to remember to be mindful. The trick is practice until you do it.” – Diane Sieg


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


Study Summary

Duchemin, A.-M., Steinberg, B. A., Marks, D. R., Vanover, K., & Klatt, M. (2015). A Small Randomized Pilot Study of a Workplace Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Surgical Intensive Care Unit Personnel: Effects on Salivary α-Amylase Levels. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(4), 393–399.



Objective: To determine if a workplace stress-reduction intervention decreases reactivity to stress among personnel exposed to a highly stressful occupational environment.

Methods: Personnel from a surgical intensive care unit (SICU) were randomized to a stress reduction intervention or a wait-list control group. The 8-week group mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) included mindfulness, gentle yoga and music. Psychological and biological markers of stress were measured one week before and one week after the intervention.

Results: Levels of salivary α-amylase, an index of sympathetic activation, were significantly decreased between the 1st and 2nd assessments in the intervention group with no changes in the control group. There was a positive correlation between salivary α-amylase levels and burnout scores.

Conclusions: These data suggest that this type of intervention could not only decrease reactivity to stress, but also decrease the risk of burnout.


Improve Psychosis with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Compared to other strategies, mindfulness-based training does not see thoughts as either distorted or rational, and does not aim to change or modify emotions and thoughts. Hence the focus not on content but on the relationship with voices. „the utility of mindfulness

-based techniques lies at the intersection between distress and how the individual interacts with this distress.” –  Kate Spiegelhalter


Psychoses are mental health problems that cause people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations; seeing and, in some cases, feeling, smelling or tasting things that aren’t there, or delusions; unshakable beliefs that, when examined rationally, are obviously untrue. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior, making it difficult if not impossible to function in society without treatment.


Schizophrenia is the most common form of psychosis. It effects about 1% of the population worldwide. It appears to be highly heritable and involves changes in the brain. The symptoms usually do not appear until late adolescence or early adulthood. Psychotic disorders are very difficult to treat with psychotherapy and are usually treated with antipsychotic drugs. These drugs, however, are not always effective, sometimes lose effectiveness, and can have some difficult side effects. Hence, there is a need for safe and effective alternative treatments for psychotic disorders.


Mindfulness training has been shown to be beneficial for a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline personality disorder, impulsivity, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual dysfunction, and suicidality. It also appears to be helpful with psychosis. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness- and Acceptance-based Interventions for Psychosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” See:

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

Cramer and colleagues perform a formal summarization (meta-analysis) of the published research studies on the effects on psychoses of mindfulness and acceptance based therapies, which employ mindfulness training.


They found that mindfulness therapies reduced total psychotic symptoms, including the positive symptoms of psychoses, hallucinations, delusions, etc.  but did not affect the negative symptoms, loss of interest, flat emotions, etc. The effects appear to be still present as long as a year later. They also saw a reduction in the need for hospitalization. Hence, it appears that mindfulness and acceptance based therapies are effective for treating psychoses. SO, psychoses can be added to the long list of mental health issues helped by mindfulness training.


It should be noted, however, that the magnitude of the results were moderate and far from a cure. The mindfulness and acceptance based therapies simply helped to reduce some of the symptoms of psychoses. They should be seen then as a potential component in a package of treatments, which in combination, may markedly improve psychoses.


So, improve psychosis with mindfulness.


“The core skill to be learned is how to step out of automatic responses to distressing thoughts, images and voices by recognising the negative judgements and ruminative thinking which accompany these experiences and adopting a perspective of mindful awareness.” – Andy Phee


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary

Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Haller, H., Langhorst, J., & Dobos, G. (2016). Mindfulness- and Acceptance-based Interventions for Psychosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 5(1), 30–43.



Background: Mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions are increasingly studied as a potential treatment for a variety of mental conditions.

Objective: To assess the effects of mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions on psychotic symptoms and hospitalization in patients with psychosis

Methods: MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, the Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO were screened from inception through April 2015. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were analyzed when they assessed psychotic symptoms or hospitalization in patients with psychosis; affect, acceptance, mindfulness, and safety were defined as secondary outcomes.

Results: Eight RCTs with a total of 434 patients comparing mindfulness-based (4 RCTs) or acceptance-based interventions (4 RCTs) to treatment as usual or attention control were included. Six RCTs had low risk of bias. Moderate evidence was found for short-term effects on total psychotic symptoms, positive symptoms, hospitalization rates, duration of hospitalization, and mindfulness and for long-term effects on total psychotic symptoms and duration of hospitalization. No evidence was found for effects on negative symptoms, affect, or acceptance. No serious adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: Mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions can be recommended as an additional treatment for patients with psychosis.


Tone Down the Ringing in the Ears with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindful meditation helped me to think (and not think) about tinnitus in ways that had not occurred before, and in doing so made tinnitus much less of a burden to carry. It did not fix my tinnitus but it fixed me in a way that made tinnitus easier to bear. I now feel as if I live in the same universe as everybody else. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” – Claire Bartlett


Tinnitus is one of the most common symptoms to affect humanity. People with tinnitus live with a phantom noise that can range from a low hiss or ringing to a loud roar or squeal which can be present constantly or intermittently. It can have a significant impact on people’s ability to hear, concentrate, or even participate in everyday activities. Tinnitus is not a disease itself; it is a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system. The vast majority of people with tinnitus have what is known as subjective tinnitus. This is caused by unknown problems somewhere in the auditory system; the inner, middle, or outer ear, the part of the brain that translates nerve signals as sounds, or the auditory nerves.


Approximately 25 million to 50 million people in the United States experience it to some degree. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the top service-related disabilities among veterans; 60 percent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan return home with hearing loss. Approximately 16 million people seek medical attention for their tinnitus, and for up to two million patients, debilitating tinnitus interferes with their daily lives. Tinnitus is sometimes the first sign of hearing loss, occurring in roughly 90 percent of tinnitus cases. There are a number of treatments for tinnitus including, counseling, sound therapy, drugs, and even brain stimulation. Unfortunately, none of these treatments is very effective. Hence there is a need for safe and effective alternative treatments for tinnitus.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy On Subjective Bother and Neural Connectivity in Chronic Tinnitus.” See:

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

Roland and colleagues investigate Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training as a treatment for tinnitus. MBSR is an 8-week program that includes meditation, yoga, and body scan techniques. There are once a week 2-hour meetings and daily home practice. They recruited adult tinnitus sufferers, measured symptoms and scanned their brains with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for brain structure and functional connectivity. Subsequently they received MBSR training followed by tinnitus measurements and MRI scanning.


They found a clinically significant decrease in both tinnitus symptoms and the degree of handicap produced by tinnitus after MBSR that was maintained at a one month follow up examination. They also found that after MBSR training there was increased functional connectivity with the prefrontal and operculum cortexes which are known to be associated with attention mechanisms, but no change in the default mode network that is associated with mind wandering and self-referential thoughts. These connectivity results make sense as MBSR is targeted at improving attention to the body and the present moment.


These results are very exciting as they suggest that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training may be a safe and effective treatment for tinnitus. The symptom improvements were substantial and over 60% of the tinnitus sufferers had clinically significant improvements. They further suggest that MBSR may improve tinnitus symptoms by increasing the effectiveness of brain attentional networks. It is possible that, by improving attention to the present moment, MBSR results in less attention being paid to the tinnitus, reducing its impact.


It should be kept in mind, however, that this was a pilot study without a control group. Hence the conclusions must be tempered with caution until a definitive randomized controlled trial can be conducted. The results are encouraging enough that such a trial is warranted.


Nevertheless, tone down the ringing in the ears with mindfulness.


“participants commented that tinnitus no longer seemed like a dreadful curse; it was just another sensation that could be annoying but was not insurmountable.” – Jennifer Gans


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Google+


Study Summary

Roland, L. T., Lenze, E. J., Hardin, F. M., Kallogjeri, D., Nicklaus, J., Wineland, A., … Piccirillo, J. F. (2015). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy On Subjective Bother And Neural Connectivity In Chronic Tinnitus. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery : Official Journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 152(5), 919–926.



Objective: To evaluate the impact of an MBSR program in patients with chronic bothersome tinnitus on the 1) severity of symptoms of tinnitus and 2) functional connectivity in neural attention networks.

Study Design

Open-label interventional pilot study.

Setting: Outpatient academic medical center.

Subjects: A total of 13 adult participants with a median age of 55 years, suffering from bothersome tinnitus.

Methods: An 8-week MBSR program was conducted by a trained MBSR instructor. The primary outcome measure was the difference in patient-reported tinnitus symptoms using the Tinnitus Handicap Index (THI) andTinnitus Functional Index (TFI) between pre-intervention, post-MBSR, and 4-week post-MBSR assessments. Secondary outcomes included change in measurements of depression, anxiety, mindfulness and cognitive abilities. Functional connectivity MRI was performed at pre- and post- MBSR intervention time points to serve as a neuroimaging biomarker of critical cortical networks.

Results: Scores on the THI and TFI showed statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement over the course of the study with a median ΔTHI of −16 and median ΔTFI of −14.8 between baseline and 4-week follow-up scores. Except for depression, there was no significant change in any of the secondary outcome measures. Analysis of the rs-fcMRI data showed increased connectivity in the post-MBSR group in attention networks but not the default network.

Conclusion: Participation in an MBSR program is associated with decreased severity in tinnitus symptoms and depression, and connectivity changes in neural attention networks. MBSR is a promising treatment option for chronic bothersome tinnitus that is both noninvasive and inexpensive.


Increase Hemispheric Blood Oxygenation with Yogic Nostril Breathing


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Breathing in through your left nostril will access the right “feeling” hemisphere of your brain, and breathing in through your right nostril, will access the left “thinking” hemisphere of your brain.  Consciously alternating your breath between either nostril will allow you to activate and access your whole brain.” – Carole Bourne


Mindfulness practices have been shown to alter the brain, including short-term changes in activity and longer-term changes in the size and connectivity of brain areas and the chemistry of the nervous system. It is thought that many of the beneficial effects of mindfulness practices are mediated by these changes in the nervous system. Yoga practice is a mindfulness technique that has documented benefits for the individual’s psychological and physical health and well-being. It has also been shown to produce short- and long-term changes in the brain. It is thus likely that yoga practice also produces its beneficial effects by altering the brain.


Yoga consists of a number of components including, poses, breathing exercises, meditation, concentration, and philosophy/ethics.  So, it is difficult to determine which facet or combination of facets of yoga are responsible for which benefit. Hence, it is important to begin to test each component in isolation to determine its effects. In a previously reviewed study the effects of yogic breathing techniques, specifically, left or right or alternating nostril breathing, it was found that these forms of breathing produce improvements in spatial and verbal memory ability. (LINK to Garg et al. study) These effects of left or right nostril breathing are thought to be produced by changing the oxygen flows to the individual neural hemispheres.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of uninostril yoga breathing on brain hemodynamics: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study.” See:

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

Singh and colleagues examine the effects of left or right nostril breathing on oxygen and blood volume flows to the left and right hemispheres. They measured blood volume and oxygen levels in experienced yoga practitioners using a sophisticated optical imaging technique called Functional near-infrared spectroscopy. They were measured on separate days for the effects of left nostril, right nostril, or breath awareness (control condition) on hemispheric blood flows.


They found that with right nostril breathing there was an increase in blood oxygen and blood volume to the left prefrontal cortex while left nostril breathing produced an increase in blood oxygen and blood volume to the right prefrontal cortex. Hence, nostril breathing produces increased flow and oxygenation to the contralateral hemisphere. This would suggest that right nostril breathing would produce increments in left hemisphere functions such as verbal, mathematical, or logical functions, while left nostril breathing would produce increases in right hemisphere functions such as spatial, emotional, or artistic functions. It will be up to future research to test this conjecture.


The results, though, do demonstrate that yogic nostril breathing differentially effects blood flows and oxygenation to the contralateral hemisphere. This provides an underlying mechanism for the effects of yogic nostril breathing.


So, increase hemispheric blood oxygenation with yogic nostril breathing.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


“Breathing consciously is a powerful act. The process of breathing sits directly at the interface of our voluntary nervous system (aspects of our physiology under our conscious control) and our autonomic nervous system (aspects generally not under conscious control). It’s a direct path for us to communicate quickly to the brain via what we do with our body. – Paula Watkins


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Google+


Study Summary

Singh, K., Bhargav, H., & Srinivasan, T. (2016). Effect of uninostril yoga breathing on brain hemodynamics: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study. International Journal of Yoga, 9(1), 12–19.



Objectives: To measure the effect of the right and left nostril yoga breathing on frontal hemodynamic responses in 32 right handed healthy male subjects within the age range of 18–35 years (23.75 ± 4.14 years).

Materials and Methods: Each subject practiced right nostril yoga breathing (RNYB), left nostril yoga breathing (LNYB) or breath awareness (BA) (as control) for 10 min at the same time of the day for three consecutive days, respectively. The sequence of intervention was assigned randomly. The frontal hemodynamic response in terms of changes in the oxygenated hemoglobin (oxyHb), deoxygenated hemoglobin (deoxyHb), and total hemoglobin (totalHb or blood volume) concentration was tapped for 5 min before (pre) and 10 min during the breathing practices using a 16 channel functional near-infrared system (FNIR100-ACK-W, BIOPAC Systems, Inc., U.S.A.). Average of the eight channels on each side (right and left frontals) was obtained for the two sessions (pre and during). Data was analyzed using SPSS version 10.0 through paired and independent samples t-test.

Results: Within group comparison showed that during RNYB, oxyHb levels increased significantly in the left prefrontal cortex (PFC) as compared to the baseline (P = 0.026). LNYB showed a trend towards significance for reduction in oxyHb in the right hemisphere (P = 0.057). Whereas BA caused significant reduction in deoxyHb (P = 0.023) in the left hemisphere. Between groups comparison revealed that oxyHb and blood volume in the left PFC increased significantly during RNYB as compared to BA (oxyHb: P =0.012; TotalHb: P =0.017) and LNYB (oxyHb: P =0.024; totalHb: P =0.034).

Conclusion: RNYB increased oxygenation and blood volume in the left PFC as compared to BA and LNYB. This supports the relationship between nasal cycle and ultradian rhythm of cerebral dominance and suggests a possible application of uninostril yoga breathing in the management of psychopathological states which show lateralized cerebral dysfunctions.


Driving the Eightfold Path

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


 “We are not proving ourselves spiritually worthy of our material progress. We have not been neighborly, courteous, and kind upon the highway. Our lack of decency toward our fellow men is a definite black mark against us.” ~Cary T. Grayson


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 solitary or monastic life. But 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 in the complexities of the modern world. I find that driving an automobile is an almost perfect context in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, the Buddha’s prerequisites for the cessation of suffering; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Actions, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.


Driving is a wonderful opportunity to practice Right View. The impermanence of everything is on display. No matter how bad or good the traffic condition we can be sure that they will change. By recognizing this we not only practice Right View but also relax and accept what is. Driving is also a situation that reflects how interconnected everything is including the thing we label self. Driving is a cooperative venture. Without everyone’s cooperation, there would be chaos on the roads. How other people drive effects how we drive at the moment and in the future. In this context if we take a moment to look, it is easy to develop Right View. We can also view the transitoriness of our thoughts and emotions as they arise and fall away in response to the experiences occurring while driving and our reactions to them, how this thing called self that we think of a permanent and static actually changes moment to moment in reaction to our experiences while driving. This is a tremendous learning experience and laboratory to develop Right View.


It is hard to find a better context than driving to observe our suffering, unsatisfactoriness, and its roots. While driving we seem to want everything to be exactly as we want it to be and when it isn’t we suffer. We want other drivers to drive the speeds we want so they are not in our way, we want traffic signals to always be green, we want the sun or other drivers’ high beams not to be in our eyes, we want a parking space to be available close to our destination, etc. In other words, we can learn, if we are observant of what is happening during driving, that our suffering is caused by our lack of acceptance of how things are. So, driving constitutes an ideal laboratory to practice Right View. We can learn to accept things as they are, to see things without judgment, to view the road and other vehicles just as they are, and to understand how we drive has consequences, affecting ourselves and others, in other words, we learn Right View.


We can quite readily practice Right Intentions while driving and this can lead to Right Actions. These intentions include the abandonment of unwholesome desires. If we drive with anger, impatience, selfishness, resentment we are likely to harm others and ourselves. The harm may not be major or direct, but indirect by affecting the other drivers in negative ways. Perhaps cutting another off produces anger in them that causes them suffering and elicits poor driving from them or anger and aggression toward others. Perhaps, not moving over to allow faster traffic to pass may induce impatience and elicit inappropriate passing on their part or simply to unnecessarily cause them to suffer. But sometimes direct physical harm to others can be produced as in the case of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But if we practice Right Intentions with sincere intentions to create good and happiness, relieve suffering in ourselves and others, and not harm any living thing, we will drive sober, with courtesy, with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will. When I move over to allow someone to pass or I react to an aggressive driver with patience and tolerance, I sometimes reflect that I may have prevented great harm. Had I aggravated the other driver their emotions could provoke even more dangerous driving or resulted in later anger or aggression toward others. I like to reflect on the ripples of good that I may have created with unknown consequences well into the future.


Intentions are a key. They become our moral compass. They tend to lead us in the right direction even though we may at times stumble.  It is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of our actions. It is also very difficult not to create some harm. Just the fact of driving is producing carbon emissions contributing to global warming. We need to try to not only have Right Intentions,” but to discern how even the best of intentions can sometime produce harmful outcomes. We have to sometimes balance the good we’re doing with the harm produced by the same actions. This requires Right View. This is where driving can be such a great practice as we 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 we form Right Intentions and aspire to create good and happiness we’ll be better drivers and will produce more harmony and good will on the roads and more importantly will be moving ourselves along the eightfold path.


There are many opportunities to practice Right Speech while driving. This can include non-verbal communications such as the use of turn signals. This is a form of Right Speech on the roads, communicating for the greater good. But, predominantly Right Speech is verbal. I have a bad habit of often reacting to driving situations with reflexive emotional expletives. This can occur in response to something as simple as being caught at a red light to another driver’s dangerous actions. This can also include gestures. They do no good and create harm in myself and sometimes aggravate and harm others. By practicing Right Speech. I work toward alleviating the suffering my habit produces in myself and others. I’ve started to develop a habit of simply reacting, rather than with expletives, with words such as “be safe” or a recitation of the loving kindness meditation wishes for health, happiness, safety etc. It’s a work in progress, but I can clearly feel the benefit when I do.


Right Livelihood. only applies literally to a few drivers on the road, such as truck drivers, taxi drivers, police, tow truck drivers, etc.  But if we fall into the category of people who make their living driving it is good to reflect on the effects of our activities on others. Does our livelihood produce harm to others, such as delivering weapons, cigarettes, or harmful drugs, or driving animals to slaughter, or does it produce greater good and happiness? It is not ours to judge the “rightness” of other people’s occupations. This is a personal matter where intention matters, that must be reflected upon deeply by each of us. But driving is more frequently a secondary component of our livelihood, perhaps as a means to get to our workplace. So, it can be conceived as part of our livelihood. So, driving is for many an opportunity to reflect upon our Right Livelihood.


Once again, driving presents a great context to practice Right Effort. It takes substantial effort to drive mindfully. If one drives automatically as most of us do most of the time, there is little or no mindfulness and little or no effort. When we first get in the driver’s seat we have to set the intention to drive in such a way as to lessen suffering in ourselves and others, to drive 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 on the road the intention to promote well-being and happiness. Right Effort is driving the “Middle Way.” That is not trying too hard and getting stressed about driving mindfully, and also not being lackadaisical, but rather to try but relax. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re not driving mindfully and congratulate yourself when you do. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.


Mindless driving is probably the norm. Most people navigate the roads and traffic while their minds are elsewhere, ruminating about the past, planning for the future, or off in fantasy and daydreams. This provides us 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 driving? Right Mindfulness while driving precludes the dangerous activities of texting or engaging in other distractions that are known to amplify the dangers of driving. Right Mindfulness makes us acutely aware of what is happening and how we’re feeling during every moment of our drive. This makes not only for a more enjoyable drive, but also for much better driving. Awareness of how we’re feeling and what’s producing those feelings, and how we’re reacting to them makes us better able to drive safely without emotional outbursts eliciting unsafe behaviors. Right Mindfulness while driving is not just part of the eightfold path it is a prerequisite for the practice of the seven other components of the path. So, driving mindfully is a fundamental practice and driving 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. Mindfulness is paying attention to whatever arises, but concentration is paying attention to one thing to the exclusion of everything else. This is usually developed during contemplative practice such as meditation and is nearly impossible to practice while driving. But, improvement in attentional ability is a consequence of practicing Right Concentration in other contexts which can improve driving by reducing distractions and mind wandering. In addition, it is thought that Right Concentration requires Right Effort, Right Intention, and Right Mindfulness and these can be practiced and developed while driving. So, although driving is not a situation for the practice of Right Concentration directly, the prerequisites for Right Concentration can be practiced and the benefits of its development can be appreciated.


Driving the eightfold path is not easy. But, remember that it is a practice. Over time I have gotten better and better at it, but nowhere near perfect. Frequently the discursive mind takes over or my emotions get the better of me. But, by continuing the practice I’ve slowly progressed. I’ve become a better driver and I’ve become a more relaxed and happier driver. I arrive at my destination relaxed with a smile on my face as opposed to the anger and stress that used to accompany me there.


Can we drive ourselves to enlightenment? Probably not! But we can practice the eightfold path that the Buddha taught leads there. The strength of driving the eightfold path practice 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. I like to 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, driving the eightfold path leads to greater harmony and happiness and as such should definitely should be included in our spiritual practice.


“It helps if you don’t see it as traffic but rather as thousands of individuals resolved to press on another day.” ~Robert Brault


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Google+

Improve PTSD with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Very often, depression can be about the past, ruminating over and over about losses or other terrible things that happened in the past. Anxiety, meanwhile, very often involves ruminating about terrible things that you’re afraid are going to happen in the future. But in the present, very often, there’s actually nothing terrible going on, and the act of recognizing that can be helpful.” – Anthony King


Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. But, only a fraction will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But this still results in a frightening number of people with 7%-8% of the population developing PTSD at some point in their life. For military personnel it’s much more likely for PTSD to develop with about 11%-20% of those who have served in a war zone developing PTSD.


PTSD involves a number of troubling symptoms including reliving the event with the same fear and horror in nightmares or with a flashback (Experiencing). PTSD sufferers avoid situations that remind them of the event this may include crowds, driving, movies, etc. and may avoid seeking help because it keeps them from having to think or talk about the event (Avoidance). They often experience negative changes in beliefs and feelings including difficulty experiencing positive or loving feelings toward other people (Emotional Numbing), avoiding relationships, memory difficulties, or see the world as dangerous and no one can be trusted. Sufferers may feel hyperarousal, feeling keyed up and jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger (Hyperarousal). They may experience sudden anger or irritability, may have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.


Obviously, these are troubling symptoms that need to be addressed. There are a number of therapies that have been developed to treat PTSD. One of which, mindfulness training has been found to be particularly effective. It is important to further investigate mindfulness relationships to PTSD symptoms in order to optimize treatment. In today’s Research News article “Changes in Mindfulness and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Among Veterans Enrolled in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.” See:

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

Stephenson and colleagues investigated changes in mindfulness accompanying Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans. They pooled the data from four trials of MBSR for PTSD, measuring changes in mindfulness, PTSD symptoms, and depression over the course of treatment.


They found that changes in mindfulness were highly related to improvement in PTSD symptoms and depression, with larger increases in mindfulness associated with larger improvements in all PTSD symptoms and also in depression. Two facets of mindfulness, Acting with Awareness and Non-reactivity particularly were strongly associated with improvements. On the other hand, increases in the Observing facet of mindfulness were sometimes associated with worsening symptoms, while the Describing and Non-judging facets were not significantly associated. The greatest changes in PTSD symptoms associated with mindfulness were in the Hyperarousal, followed by Emotional Numbing, Re-Experiencing, and Avoidance symptom clusters.


These are interesting results and help to clarify the nature of mindfulness effects on PTSD symptoms. The actual reasons for the associations are not known. But, some speculative hypotheses can be postulated. The fact that Non-reactivity was highly associated seems intuitively obvious as being overly reactive to the stimuli and events around them is a key symptom of PTSD. In addition, by Acting with Awareness the veterans are engaged in activities while they are more focused on the present moment. Hence, they would be less likely to bring in the past events, particularly traumatic events, into their present moment experience. A worsening of PTSD symptoms was associated with larger change in the Observing facet. By heightening awareness of their internal state, the veterans may become even more sensitive to their troubling emotional responses resulting in heightened anxiety and fear.


Regardless of these speculations, it is clear that improvements in PTSD symptoms with veterans are associated with heightened mindfulness. This further supports the application of MBSR for the treatment of PTSD in veterans. This treatment can be of great help in relieving the torment that is called PTSD, allowing the veterans to resume more normal lives.


So, improve PTSD with mindfulness.


“Part of the psychological process of PTSD often includes avoidance and suppression of painful emotions and memories, which allows symptoms of the disorder to continue,” King says. “Through the mindfulness intervention, however, we found that many of our patients were able to stop this pattern of avoidance and see an improvement in their symptoms.” – Anthony King


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Google+

Study Summary

Stephenson, K. R., Simpson, T. L., Martinez, M. E. and Kearney, D. J. (2016), Changes in Mindfulness and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Among Veterans Enrolled in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. J. Clin. Psychol.. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22323



OBJECTIVES: The current study assessed associations between changes in 5 facets of mindfulness (Acting With Awareness, Observing, Describing, Non-Reactivity, and Nonjudgment) and changes in 4 posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom clusters (Re-Experiencing, Avoidance, Emotional Numbing, and Hyperarousal symptoms) among veterans participating in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

METHOD: Secondary analyses were performed with a combined data set consisting of 2 published and 2 unpublished trials of MBSR conducted at a large Veterans Affairs hospital. The combined sample included 113 veterans enrolled in MBSR who screened positive for PTSD and completed measures of mindfulness and PTSD symptoms before and after the 8-week intervention.

RESULTS: Increases in mindfulness were significantly associated with reduced PTSD symptoms. Increases in Acting With Awareness and Non-Reactivity were the facets of mindfulness most strongly and consistently associated with reduced PTSD symptoms. Increases in mindfulness were most strongly related to decreases in Hyperarousal and Emotional Numbing.

CONCLUSIONS: These results extend previous research, provide preliminary support for changes in mindfulness as a viable mechanism of treatment, and have a number of potential practical and theoretical implications.