Improve the Behavior of Prisoners and Prison Staff with Mindfulness

Improve the Behavior of Prisoners and Prison Staff with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I have seen how men in maximum security prison were able to support not only their own resilience, but also that of their guards, nurses, and other prison staff, through the practice of meditation, mindfulness, and deliberate kindness.” – Doug Carnine

 

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

 

Contemplative practices are well suited to the prison environment. Mindfulness training teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Prison: Experiences of Inmates, Instructors, and Prison Staff.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6745607/), Bouw and colleagues examine the effectiveness of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for prisoners. They recruited male prisoners, staff, and instructors from prisons in the Netherlands where the prisoners had attended an MBSR program. The MBSR program consisted of 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The prisoners were also encouraged to perform practice on their own for 45 minutes for 6 days per week.

 

The prisoners were administered a semi-structured interview to obtain the prisoners’ views of level of satisfaction and challenges regarding the program as well as potential effects on stress responsivity, coping style, impulse control, aggression, and self-esteem. The staff members and instructors were also interviewed about the effects or changes they observed in the inmates who underwent the intervention. The prisoners were highly appreciative of the program with 82% attending all MBSR sessions and 64% completing all homework assignments.

 

The prisoners reported that after the program they had significant decreases in both the frequency and intensity of experiencing anger, that they were better able to handle the anger when it did arise, and were more likely to seek solutions to the situation that evoked the anger. They also reported a significant reduction in their reactions to stress, that they were more likely to be relaxed, and less likely to be sad or silent after stress. The prisoners also reported that they were more likely to employ cognitive-oriented coping styles and less emotion-oriented coping styles after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Finally, the prisoners reported a significant increase in self-esteem. The prison staff, and instructors reported that the prisoners had overall improvements in their behavior after the MBSR program including reduced stress responses, anger, aggressive behavior, and hostility and increased self-esteem, emotional stability, dealing with difficult emotions, problem solving skills, and regulation of aggression.

 

It has to be recognized that there was no control, comparison, condition. As such the results are open to confounding factors such as demand characteristics, placebo effects, time-based changes, etc. Nevertheless, the results are very encouraging. Even if they are due to confounding factors rather than the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, there was a significant improvement in the prisoners. From a practical standpoint that was the intent of the program in the first place.

 

So, improve the behavior of prisoners and prison staff with mindfulness.

 

“By working with both prisoners and correctional facilities professionals, mindfulness programs systematically transform the impact of our criminal justice system. Through cultivating greater awareness and compassion, mindfulness “encourages a shift away from fear-based and often anti-social or criminal strategies for meeting needs” – Prison Mindfulness Institute

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Bouw, N., Huijbregts, S., Scholte, E., & Swaab, H. (2019). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Prison: Experiences of Inmates, Instructors, and Prison Staff. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 63(15-16), 2550–2571. doi:10.1177/0306624X19856232

 

Abstract

Mindfulness intervention aims to reduce stress and to improve physical and mental health. The present study investigated feasibility and effectiveness of mindfulness intervention in a prison context, in both a qualitative and quantitative fashion. Specifically, the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention was investigated, in a retrospective pre–post design, in five Dutch prisons. Twenty-two inmates (out of 25 approached, mean age: 40.1 years (SD = 11.1), convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual offenses, drug offenses, robbery with violence, and/or illegal restraint/kidnap, and sentenced to incarceration between 15 and 209 months (M = 5.5 years; SD = 3.8) took part in a semistructured interview after completion of the MBSR intervention. The interviews addressed level of satisfaction and challenges regarding the MBSR intervention as well as potential effects on stress responsivity, coping style, impulse control, aggression, and self-esteem. Ten staff members and four MBSR instructors were interviewed about their own practical issues experienced while providing or facilitating the MBSR intervention, and about the effects or changes they observed in the inmates who underwent the intervention. Both participants and instructors/prison staff reported improvements in all of the addressed domains and expressed satisfaction with the intervention. Challenges were mainly identified in practical issues regarding the organization of the intervention sessions. Future studies should investigate mindfulness in longitudinal randomly controlled designs, should strive for a multi-method approach, and distinguish inmates according to personality characteristics.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6745607/

 

Improve the Brain’s Attentional Networks with Mindfulness

Improve the Brain’s Attentional Networks with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

MBSR and RR body scans both induced a common increased functional connectivity between the brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in attention.” – GORAMA

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. These brain changes with mindfulness practice are important and need to be further investigates.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction-related changes in posterior cingulate resting brain connectivity.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6778831/), Kral and colleagues recruited healthy meditation-naïve adults and randomly assigned them to 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, 8 weeks of a Health Education Program, or to a wait-list control condition. The MBSR program consisted of 8 weekly group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants were also encouraged to perform daily practice at home. The amount of home practice time was recorded. Before and after the 8-week intervention they were measured for emotional styles and participated in 14 days of experience sampling with 6 to 8 prompts per day via cellphone to indicate attention to task or mind wandering. They also underwent brain scanning with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) before and after the intervention and 5.5 months later.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the health education and wait-list control groups, the participants who underwent the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program had a significant increase in the functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. They also found that the higher the self-reported attention levels and the greater the number of days of practice the MBSR participants engaged in, the greater the increase in functional connectivity. The connectivity increases and the relationships with attention and practice were no longer significant at the 5.5-month follow-up. There were no significant changes in mind-wandering.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that participation in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program produces short-term changes in the brain’s system that underlies executive function and attention (the posterior cingulate cortex and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex). The results further suggest that the amount of change in the brain system is associated with attentional changes and the amount of practice.

 

That mindfulness training in general and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in particular improves attention and the neural systems underlying attention and executive function have been previously demonstrated. The present study demonstrates that these changes are related to the amounts of continuing practice suggesting the importance of practice outside of formal training sessions.

 

So, improve the brain’s attentional networks with mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the part of the brain that is in charge of mind-wandering and self-centeredness. Although we all struggle with taming that Monkey Mind, meditators are better at snapping out of it when the brain gets into a cycle of overthinking or negativity.” –  Jaime Carlo-Casellas

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Kral, T., Imhoff-Smith, T., Dean, D. C., Grupe, D., Adluru, N., Patsenko, E., … Davidson, R. J. (2019). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction-related changes in posterior cingulate resting brain connectivity. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 14(7), 777–787. doi:10.1093/scan/nsz050

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation training has been shown to increase resting-state functional connectivity between nodes of the frontoparietal executive control network (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [DLPFC]) and the default mode network (posterior cingulate cortex [PCC]). We investigated whether these effects generalized to a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and tested for structural and behaviorally relevant consequences of change in connectivity. Healthy, meditation-naïve adults were randomized to either MBSR (N = 48), an active (N = 47) or waitlist (N = 45) control group. Participants completed behavioral testing, resting-state fMRI scans and diffusion tensor scans at pre-randomization (T1), post-intervention (T2) and ~5.5 months later (T3). We found increased T2–T1 PCC–DLPFC resting connectivity for MBSR relative to control groups. Although these effects did not persist through long-term follow-up (T3–T1), MBSR participants showed a significantly stronger relationship between days of practice (T1 to T3) and increased PCC–DLPFC resting connectivity than participants in the active control group. Increased PCC–DLPFC resting connectivity in MBSR participants was associated with increased microstructural connectivity of a white matter tract connecting these regions and increased self-reported attention. These data show that MBSR increases PCC–DLPFC resting connectivity, which is related to increased practice time, attention and structural connectivity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6778831/

 

Have a Mindful Thanksgiving

Have a Mindful Thanksgiving

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

 “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.– Henry David Thoreau

 

“The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves.”
Br. David Steindl-Rast

 

Thanksgiving is a time for gratefulness. Most people, most of the time, rue what they want and don’t have. So Thanksgiving is particularly important as a reminder of how lucky we are for all the blessings we have. It is a time to recognize that despite all our negative thoughts we have everything that we really need and probably much, much, more.

 

At this time of year the fall harvest is in and almost universally there is a celebration of the abundance provided. These crops will sustain us through the cold winter and till new crops can be planted, grow, mature, and are harvested. Hence, thanksgiving is very much a celebration of nature and all that it provides. In a modern world we lose track of all that is entailed in bringing us this food. When we are grateful for the food we need to recognize that we should be also be grateful for the seeds, the sun, the rain, the soil, the insects and birds that pollinate the crops, and even the worms and grubs that prepare the soil. Without any of these the food would not grow. In a sense, if we look carefully, we understand that our gratefulness is not just for the particular food item. It is in fact for the entire universe to which we and the food are intimately connected.

 

These interconnections extend into society and technology. The steel to build the plow, the engines that move the plow, the trains and trucks that transport the food, the farmers, drivers, and engineers, the fuel for the engine, the oil wells and refineries that produce the fuel, the engineers who designed and built the machinery and factories, the men and women who educated the scientists, engineers, and farmers. I’m sure by now that you’ve got the picture. A little reflection soon reveals the vast network of interconnections, even stretching back in time.

 

Thanksgiving is also a time to celebrate the people we are closest to, our friends and especially our family. They are our origin and our support through development. They are our connections to the past and future. They are the emotional fuel that sustains us. They give us hope and purpose. Yes, there is dysfunction. That goes with all forms of human interactions. But, should we lose any of them we will quickly realize how important they are to our flourishing and happiness.  Remember, that on the deathbed, one of the biggest regrets is not having spent more time with family and friends. Thanksgiving is a time to recognize these interconnections, to be grateful for these people and their importance to our existence.

 

Certainly one of the most taken for granted amazing blessings that we have is our own awareness. We’ve always been aware. We’ve never, not been aware. So, it is so easy for it to go unrecognized and unappreciated. But, reflect for a moment what a miracle it is. There is an essence to us that is forever present and unchanging. What we are aware of is constantly changing, but that which is aware is not. Without our awareness we are nothing but biological automatons, robots. With it we are suddenly human and spiritual. We would not be able to be grateful or enjoy Thanksgiving without it. So, do not forget on Thanksgiving to be grateful for this wonder that forms the essence of what we are.

 

There is a very subtle kind of gratefulness that we should also adopt. It’s what the great sage Thich Nhat Hahn calls our “non-toothache.” He points out that if we had a toothache we would be thinking how grateful we’d be if it ended. But once it does, we take it for granted. We need to be thankful not only for what we have but also for many things that we don’t. The health of our bodies is taken for granted, but we should be intensely grateful for our non-disease. We may not be happy in our job, but if we didn’t have one we’d think how grateful we’d be to find one. We may be unhappy for the police officer who gave us a speeding ticket. But, we don’t recognize that our safety on the roads depends upon enforcement of the laws. We should be thankful for our non-accident. We are so fortunate in so many ways that we take for granted like our “non-toothache”. But, at Thanksgiving it is good to reflect upon all of these unnoticed blessings.

 

Finally, it is illuminating to reflect on whether you’re a source of thanksgiving for others. Specifically, what have you done that would make someone grateful to you. In other words, what have you given. This is important as it is not always what we have or what we get that’s important but what we share, what we do for others, and what we give. This is often the source of genuine happiness. The things that we have are never satisfying in a lasting way, but the things that we give forever bring joy. So, ask yourself on Thanksgiving, have you truly and sincerely given to others without expecting something in return?

 

It is very useful to reflect upon all of these things at Thanksgiving. The modern world, with its emphasis on self-sufficiency and individuality, produces feelings of independence and isolation. But these thanksgiving reflections soon reveal that this is an illusion. We are inextricably connected to the entire fabric of the universe, the tapestry of our physical, social, and spiritual existence. There is so much to be grateful for that upon reflection we can see that our sufferings are silly and small by comparison. We should revel in the vast interconnected blessings that make up everything about our world and ourselves. We should celebrate the miracle of life and our awareness of it.

 

So, eat, drink, and be merry on Thanksgiving, enjoy the wonderful celebration, but also invest a few moments in reflecting upon all that we have to be thankful for.

 

He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.

~J.A. Shedd

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

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Improve Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Symptoms with Qigong

Improve Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Symptoms with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Along with traditional medical treatments, pulmonary exercise has been utilized to increase endurance during physical activity and decrease breathlessness.  Reports using TaiQi and Qigong have shown better functional capacity and pulmonary function in patients with COPD.” – Ryan Killarney

 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) are progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is very serious being the third leading cause of death in the United States, over 140,000 deaths per year and the number of people dying from COPD is growing. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing it. COPD causes serious long-term disability and early death. Symptoms develop slowly. Over time, COPD can interfere with the performance of routine tasks and is thus a major cause of disability in the United States. COPD is not contagious. Most of the time, treatment can ease symptoms and slow progression.

 

There is no cure for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicine, bronchodilators, steroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and surgery. They all attempt to relieve symptoms, slow the progress of the disease, improve exercise tolerance, prevent and treat complications, and improve overall health. Mindful Movement practices such Tai Chi and qigong are ancient Chinese practices involving mindfulness and gentle movements. They are easy to learn, safe, and gentle. So, it may be appropriate for patients with COPD who lack the ability to engage in strenuous exercises to engage in these gentle practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Qigong on self-rating depression and anxiety scale scores of COPD patients: A meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6708806/), Wu and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research findings of the effectiveness of Qigong practice in the treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). They found 6 published randomized controlled trials including a total of 415 participants.

 

They report that the research studies found that Qigong practice produced significant improvements in lung function and significant reductions in anxiety and depression in the patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). It is not known if the improvement in lung function was responsible for the mood improvements in the patients or if this was an independent effect of  Qigong practice. Since Qigong is usually practiced in groups, the increased socialization may also have been responsible for the improvements in mood.

 

These are interesting and important findings. Qigong practice is a very gentle exercise that only mildly increases respiration and as such it is surprising that there were such marked improvements in lung function. But the results clearly suggest that Qigong practice is an excellent safe and effective treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) improving the patients physical and psychological well-being.

 

So, improve Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) symptoms with Qigong.

 

The gentle movements of tai chi can improve the lives and boost the exercise endurance of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” – Matt McMillen

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Wu, J. J., Zhang, Y. X., Du, W. S., Jiang, L. D., Jin, R. F., Yu, H. Y., … Han, M. (2019). Effect of Qigong on self-rating depression and anxiety scale scores of COPD patients: A meta-analysis. Medicine, 98(22), e15776. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000015776

 

Abstract

Objective:

To explore the clinical efficacy and safety of Qigong in reducing the self-rating depression scale (SDS) and self-rating anxiety scale (SAS) scores of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Methods:

We searched CNKI, Wan fang, Chongqing VIP, China Biology Medicine disc, PubMed, Cochrane Library, and EMBASE for studies published as of Dec 31, 2018. All randomized controlled trials of Qigong in COPD patients, which met the inclusion criteria were included. The Cochrane bias risk assessment tool was used for literature evaluation. RevMan 5.3 software was used for meta-analysis.

Results:

Six studies (combined n = 415 patients) met the inclusion criteria. Compared with conventional therapy alone, Qigong in combination with conventional therapy significantly improved the following outcome measures: SDS score [mean difference (MD) −3.99, 95% CI (−6.17, −1.82), P < .001, I2 = 69%]; SAS score[MD −4.57, 95% CI (−5.67, −3.48), P < .001, I2 = 15%]; forced expiratory volume in one second/prediction (FEV1% pred) [MD 3.77, 95% CI (0.97,6.58), P < .01, I2 = 0]; forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) [MD 0.21, 95% CI (0.13, 0.30), P < .001, I2 = 0%]; forced vital capacity (FVC) [MD 0.28, 95% CI (0.16, 0.40), P < .001, I2 = 0]; 6-minute walk test (6MWT) distance [MD 39.31, 95% CI (18.27, 60.34), P < .001, I2 = 32%]; and St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) total score [MD −11.42, 95% CI (−21.80, −1.03), P < .05, I2 = 72%].

Conclusion:

Qigong can improve the SDS and SAS scores of COPD patients, and has auxiliary effects on improving lung function, 6MWT distance, and SGRQ score.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6708806/

 

Brain Activity Predicts the Effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder

Brain Activity Predicts the Effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). . . is a type of psychotherapy, sometimes called “talk therapy,” used to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).” – Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault

 

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very serious mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6% of the U.S. population. It involves unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. BPD is associated with high rates of co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Needless to say, it is widespread and debilitating.

 

One of the few treatments that appears to be effective for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is targeted at changing the problem behaviors characteristic of BPD including self-injury. Behavior change is accomplished through focusing on changing the thoughts and emotions that precede problem behaviors, as well as by solving the problems faced by individuals that contribute to problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In DBT five core skills are practiced; mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. It is unknown how Dialectical Behavior Therapy may interact with brain systems to improve the responsiveness of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

 

In today’s Research News article “Individualized treatment response prediction of dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality disorder using multimodal magnetic resonance imaging.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6749487/), Schmitgen and colleagues recruited female patients suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who were treated with a 12-week program of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). They were classified into patients who had significantly benefited from treatment (responders) and those who did not (non-responders). Prior to the therapy the participants underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of their brains while performing cognitive reappraisal, sensory distraction and cognitive distraction tasks. They were also measured for BPD symptom severity, emotion regulation, dissociative experiences, anxiety, depression, and working memory.

 

They found that before treatment responders had significantly higher levels of borderline symptoms and borderline severity and higher anxiety levels than non-responders. They also found that activation of the amygdala and parahippocampus areas during a cognitive reappraisal task, along with borderline personality disorder severity and the gray matter volume of the amygdala produced the best predictors of responders vs. non-responders.

 

It appears that Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) works best with patients who have the most severe symptoms and whose amygdala and parahippocampus areas are largest and respond most to a cognitive reappraisal task. These areas are associated with the brain systems underlying emotion regulation. Hence, the results suggest that particularly severe borderline patients whose brains respond best to emotional stimuli are the best responders to DBT. This suggests that the patients whose brains are best able to regulate emotions respond best to DBT.

 

Hence, brain activity predicts the effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

 

“one thing that has really helped in my recovery process, I would say dialectical behavior therapy. I eat, sleep and breathe DBT. I can give you a damn good crash course in mindfulness, which is a core concept in DBT. I can teach you about self-validation. I can spoon-feed you lessons and lessons on interpersonal effectiveness. DBT has truly been a gift to me.” – Borderline Beauty

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Schmitgen, M. M., Niedtfeld, I., Schmitt, R., Mancke, F., Winter, D., Schmahl, C., & Herpertz, S. C. (2019). Individualized treatment response prediction of dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality disorder using multimodal magnetic resonance imaging. Brain and behavior, 9(9), e01384. doi:10.1002/brb3.1384

 

Abstract

Introduction

Individualized treatment prediction is crucial for the development and selection of personalized psychiatric interventions. Here, we use random forest classification via pretreatment clinical and demographical (CD), functional, and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) to predict individual treatment response.

Methods

Before dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), 31 female patients underwent functional (three different emotion regulation tasks) and structural MRI. DBT response was predicted using CD and MRI data in previously identified anatomical regions, which have been reported to be multimodally affected in BPD.

Results

Amygdala and parahippocampus activation during a cognitive reappraisal task (in contrasts displaying neural activation for emotional challenge and for regulation), along with severity measures of BPD psychopathology and gray matter volume of the amygdala, provided best predictive power with neuronal hyperractivities in nonresponders. All models, except one model using CD data solely, achieved significantly better accuracy (>70.25%) than a simple all‐respond model, with sensitivity and specificity of >0.7 and >0.7, as well as positive and negative likelihood ratios of >2.74 and <0.36 each. Surprisingly, a model combining all data modalities only reached rank five of seven. Among the functional tasks, only the activation elicited by a cognitive reappraisal paradigm yielded sufficient predictive power to enter the final models.

Conclusion

This proof of principle study shows that it is possible to achieve good predictions of psychotherapy outcome to find the most valid predictors among numerous variables via using a random forest classification approach.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6749487/

 

Increase Self-Compassion and Decrease Mind Wandering in Depression with Mindfulness

Increase Self-Compassion and Decrease Mind Wandering in Depression with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“MBCT program is a group intervention that allows participants to become aware of how conditioned patterns of mind and mood can trigger depression relapse and sustain current symptoms of depression.  Through the practice of mindful awareness, they develop the capacity to mindfully disengage from distressing moods and negative thoughts.” – Center for Mindfulness in Medicine

 

Clinically diagnosed depression is the most common mental illness, affecting over 6% of the population. But, of patients treated initially with drugs only about a third attained remission of the depression. After repeated and varied treatments including drugs, therapy, exercise etc. only about two thirds of patients attained remission. But drugs often have troubling side effects and can lose effectiveness over time.

 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an alternative treatment to drugs that was specifically developed to treat depression. MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting, walking and body scan meditations, and cognitive therapy that attempts to teach patients to distinguish between thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors, and to recognize irrational thinking styles and how they affect behavior. MBCT has been found to be effective in treating depression. The exact mechanisms by which MBCT improves depression need exploration.

 

In today’s Research News article “Compassionate Hearts Protect Against Wandering Minds: Self-compassion Moderates the Effect of Mind-Wandering on Depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6426326/), Greenberg and colleagues recruited depressed adults and randomly assigned them to receive either 8 weekly 2-hour sessions of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or to a wait list control condition. MBCT participants were also asked to practice at home. All participants continued to receive their usual treatments. They were measured before and after treatment for depression, self-compassion, and mind wandering.

 

They found that prior to treatment the higher the levels of depression, the higher the levels of mind wandering and the lower the levels of self-compassion and that the higher the levels of self-compassion the lower the levels of mind wandering. They also found that participants who were low in mind wandering were significantly lower in depression, but only for participants who were also low in self-compassion. For those high in self-compassion there was no relationship between mind wandering and depression. Only those participants who were both low in self-compassion and high in mind wandering were depression scores high.

 

Compared to baseline and the wait-list controls, participants who received Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) had significantly greater reductions in depression and mind wandering and increases in self-compassion.  They also found that the higher the levels of self-compassion at the beginning of training the larger the improvement in depression produced by MBCT. The improvements in depression were also associated with improvements in mind wandering.

 

The study reveals that self-compassion moderates the relationship of mind wandering with depression such that mind wandering is only associated with depression when self-compassion is low. In other words, when a participant has low levels of compassion for themselves they are vulnerable to the ability of a wandering mind to make depression worse. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was shown to improve depression, mind wandering, and self-compassion and the degree of impact of MBCT on depression was dependent on the levels of self-compassion, with high self-compassion associated with greater improvement.

 

So, self-compassion appears to be a critical variable in the relationship of mind wandering with depression and the effectiveness of MBCT on depression. This further suggests that training in self-compassion may be able to help reduce depression and improve the impact of mindfulness-based treatments on depression.

 

So, increase self-compassion and decrease mind wandering in depression with mindfulness.

 

“ When you’re struggling with depression, the last thing you want to do is be self-compassionate. But this is precisely what can help.” – Margarita Tartakovsky

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Greenberg, J., Datta, T., Shapero, B. G., Sevinc, G., Mischoulon, D., & Lazar, S. W. (2018). Compassionate Hearts Protect Against Wandering Minds: Self-compassion Moderates the Effect of Mind-Wandering on Depression. Spirituality in clinical practice (Washington, D.C.), 5(3), 155–169. doi:10.1037/scp0000168

 

Abstract

Depression is associated with high levels of mind-wandering and low levels of self-compassion. However, little is known about whether and how these two factors interact with one another to influence depressive symptoms. The current study examined the interaction between mind-wandering, self-compassion and depressive symptoms in a depressed sample and tested the effects of an eight-week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program on these constructs. At baseline, mind-wandering was associated with higher depressive symptoms only among individuals with low self-compassion. Self-compassion additionally predicted depressive improvement. As expected, MBCT increased self-compassion and reduced mind-wandering compared to a treatment-as-usual control group. Overall, longitudinal changes in self-compassion produced a moderation effect similar to the one at baseline so that increases in mind-wandering were associated with increases in depressive symptoms only among those who decreased in self-compassion. Results provide the first evidence that self-compassion can protect against the deleterious effects of mind-wandering among depressed participants, both at baseline and longitudinally. Findings also suggest that self-compassion is an effective predictor of depressive improvement. Finally, MBCT is effective not only at reducing depressive symptoms, but also at targeting protective and risk factors associated with depression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6426326/

 

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Nunchi

 

I read a wonderful article in the New York Times by Euny Hong entitled “The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/opinion/sunday/nunchi.html). It emphasizes the impact of the Korean word “nunchi” on their world view and their way of life. “Nunchi” is literally translated as “eye measure.” It suggests that every situation should be seen as a whole and the individual’s actions should be appropriate for the entire human context.

 

The fact is that most human behavior is affected mainly by a few aspects of the situation that the individual deems particularly salient and important. These might be people who are particularly important, or special friends or family, or enemies. Although this to some extent makes sense, it results in relegating everything and everyone else to the background. The totality of the situation is lost.

 

To students of mindfulness, it should be apparent that “nunchi” is the same as present moment awareness. It is being totally conscious of what is going on in the immediate environment. It is also non-judgmental, perceiving everything just as it is. But it is more in that the interrelationships of all things, what the Buddha called “interdependent co-arising” has to be seen, “eye measured.” It involves seeing the total picture as a gestalt, with not only the immediate components but also how they all interrelate.

 

There’s a Korean saying that “half of social life is nunchi.” This implies that seeing the entire social context in total in the present moment is extremely important to successfully navigating the social situation. When apprising a room full of people, the practice of “nunchi” would dictate taking in the whole scene and feeling the mood of the entire room, be it celebratory, somber, gleeful, sad, angry, etc.. Each individual in the room is then seen within the context. If there’s an angry sense to the room, the behavior of each person is seen against that backdrop. If one individual is neutral, they will actually be viewed as positive, as neutral is in the positive direction from angry. This better allows the individual to react and interact with the person with greater understanding and a more accurate interpretation of the behavior, which, in turn, allows for more calibrated and effective responses. Others tend to like better and interact more with people who practice “nunchi.”

 

In the process of “eye measuring” there is little opportunity for talking. So, “nunchi” usually involves more listening and less talking. It’s been said that we learn nothing new when we’re speaking. So, by practicing “nunchi” and listening more we have the opportunity to learn and be better positioned for future interactions. People respond very positively when they feel that they are being heard. Listening is a rare yet extremely valuable skill that is promoted by the practice of “nunchi.”

 

“Nunchi” allows for better identification of what can be controlled and what can’t. Seeing things and people as they are and as a whole should make it clear what kinds of impacts our behavior can have and what are the likely consequences of those behaviors. In other words, being completely in the present moment strengthens the ability to intervene for the good.

 

The Korean’s clearly understand the importance of present moment awareness and by making it an important word in the language, “nunchi”, make it front and center in their minds. They have long recognized it importance for effective interactions. The mindfulness revolution in the western world is simply helping us catch up.

 

So, practice “nunchi”, being mindful and aware, and be happier.

 

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

 

Reduce the Complexity of Brain Activity with Meditation

Reduce the Complexity of Brain Activity with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention.” – Anthony Zanesco

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that meditation practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

It is important to understand what are the exact changes in the brain that are produced by meditation. Studies of changes in brain activity with meditation suggest that meditators have more complicated information processing going on in their nervous systems at rest but during meditation greatly simplify that activity. But there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques that may have different consequences for brain changes. One category of these techniques is focused attention meditation, where the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future.

 

In today’s Research News article “Controlling the Temporal Structure of Brain Oscillations by Focused Attention Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6585826/), Irrmischer and colleagues examine the changes in brain activity with focused meditation. They recruited experienced meditators (> 5 years of experience) and meditation naïve control participants. They measured their brain activity with an Electroencephalogram (EEG) after eye closed rest and after 5 minutes of focused meditation. In a second study they recruited experienced meditators and healthy control participants. They again measured their brain activity with an Electroencephalogram (EEG) during and after eye closed rest and during and after 5 minutes of focused meditation.

 

In study 1, compared to after a rest condition, after focused meditation there were significant changes in cognitive content with a reduction in theory of mind, planning, sleepiness, verbal thought, health concerns, and discontinuity of mind, and increase in somatic awareness. Also, in comparison to baseline and the control participants, during focused meditation there was a reduction in the complexity of the brain activity with a reduction in long-range temporal correlations across every frequency band and across brain areas. These differences in the EEG were confirmed in study 2 and they found that after 1 year of meditation training there was a further significant reduction in the complexity of brain activity with a reduction in long-range temporal correlations. These differences were also present after eyes closed rest without meditation suggesting that there was an overall reduction in neural activity complexity.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that meditation changes the brain over time to produce less complexity in brain activity. This is similar to previous findings using a different analytic technique that meditation reduces the complexity of neural processing. It is not known but this decrease in complexity of brain activity may be reflective of the ability of meditation practice to increase attention and decrease mind wandering. Greater focus with less distraction would reduce the complexity of brain activity. This would make the brain more efficient and better able to carry out its important cognitive functions. These cognitive changes were reflected in the cognitive contents after meditation.

 

So, reduce the complexity of brain activity with meditation.

 

bringing attention back to the breath each time you feel your mind wandering during meditation helps strengthen the brain’s neural circuitry for focus.” – Nicole Bayes-Fleming

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Irrmischer, M., Houtman, S. J., Mansvelder, H. D., Tremmel, M., Ott, U., & Linkenkaer-Hansen, K. (2018). Controlling the Temporal Structure of Brain Oscillations by Focused Attention Meditation. Human brain mapping, 39(4), 1825–1838. doi:10.1002/hbm.23971

 

Abstract

Our focus of attention naturally fluctuates between different sources of information even when we desire to focus on a single object. Focused attention (FA) meditation is associated with greater control over this process, yet the neuronal mechanisms underlying this ability are not entirely understood. Here, we hypothesize that the capacity of attention to transiently focus and swiftly change relates to the critical dynamics emerging when neuronal systems balance at a point of instability between order and disorder. In FA meditation, however, the ability to stay focused is trained, which may be associated with a more homogeneous brain state. To test this hypothesis, we applied analytical tools from criticality theory to EEG in meditation practitioners and meditation‐naïve participants from two independent labs. We show that in practitioners—but not in controls—FA meditation strongly suppressed long‐range temporal correlations (LRTC) of neuronal oscillations relative to eyes‐closed rest with remarkable consistency across frequency bands and scalp locations. The ability to reduce LRTC during meditation increased after one year of additional training and was associated with the subjective experience of fully engaging one’s attentional resources, also known as absorption. Sustained practice also affected normal waking brain dynamics as reflected in increased LRTC during an eyes‐closed rest state, indicating that brain dynamics are altered beyond the meditative state. Taken together, our findings suggest that the framework of critical brain dynamics is promising for understanding neuronal mechanisms of meditative states and, specifically, we have identified a clear electrophysiological correlate of the FA meditation state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6585826/

 

Meditation Practice is Growing Rapidly Among Children and Adolescents

Meditation Practice is Growing Rapidly Among Children and Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It’s almost as though meditation was designed for kids. They just ‘get it’ – there is this elasticity and freedom in their minds which allows them to be present in the moment and free from any external thoughts or pressures.” – Andy Puddicombe

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This occurs almost without any intervention from the adults as the child appears to be programmed to learn. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops.

 

Childhood and adolescence can be difficult times, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child or adolescent can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required.

 

Mindfulness training for children and adolescents has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health of adolescents. Importantly, mindfulness training with children and adolescents appears to improve the self-conceptimproves attentional ability and reduces stress. These benefits are becoming more widely appreciated and should have led to greater numbers of children and adolescents practicing meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Prevalence, patterns, and predictors of meditation use among U.S. children: Results from the National Health Interview Survey.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502253/), Wang and Gaylord analyzed the data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, separating that  obtained from children and adolescents. They recorded meditation use, health records, and health care utilization.

 

They found that 7.4% of the children and adolescents practiced meditation. This was a very large increase from the 1.6% that was found in 2012. 1.0% of the children and adolescents used mantra meditation, 1.6% used mindfulness meditation, 4.0% used spiritual meditation, and 3.0% practiced meditation as part of yoga, tai chi, or qigong. They also found that meditation was more likely to be used by youths whose parent completed some college, had headaches, depression, or a respiratory allergy, and who lived in the western U.S. Children or adolescents who had medical conditions were more likely to use mindfulness meditation. Surprisingly, neither age, gender, race, nor socioeconomic status was associated with different frequencies of meditation use.

 

These results are interesting and document the tremendous increase in the acceptability and utilization of meditation practice by children and adolescents over the last 5 years. This has probably occurred due to the increased recognition of the benefits of mindfulness practices for the physical and psychological health of children and adolescents and it’s increased practice in schools. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues over the next 5 years.

 

“Our kids’ brains are tired, and children of all ages really need opportunities where they can take time out each day “unplugged” to relax and focus. Meditation offers this break and helps kids function more effectively and clearly.” – Healthy Children

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Wang, C., Li, K., & Gaylord, S. (2019). Prevalence, patterns, and predictors of meditation use among U.S. children: Results from the National Health Interview Survey. Complementary therapies in medicine, 43, 271–276. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.02.004

 

Abstract

Objectives:

The purpose of the study is to examine the characteristics of various types of meditation use (i.e., mantra, mindful, and spiritual meditation) among U.S. children.

Methods:

Using 2017 National Health Interview Survey, we examined the prevalence, patterns, and potential predictors of meditation use among U.S. children aged 4 to 17 years. Descriptive statistics, Wald F chi-square test, and multivariable logistic regression were used for data analysis (n = 6925).

Results:

Overall meditation use has increased substantially from 1.6% in 2012 to 7.4% in 2017 among children in the US. Children with chronic medical conditions were more likely to use mindful meditation (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 1.9–3.6, 95% CI [1.0–7.4]). Regularly taking prescription medication had an inverse relation with mantra meditation use (AOR = 0.4, 95% CI [0.2–0.9]). Children with delayed medical care due to access difficulties were more likely to use spiritual meditation, compared to those who did not (AOR = 1.7, 95% CI [1.1–2.6]).

Conclusions:

Meditation use has rapidly increased among U.S. children within the past few years. Future studies should explore the underlying reasons for this increase and its potential benefits for pediatric meditators.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502253/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Lower Suicidality in Adolescents

 

Spirituality is Associated with Lower Suicidality in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“suicide is never the right answer. The more we can nurture a sense of connectedness and purpose in our lives (of “spirituality”), the less likely people will be tempted to “end it all.” – Eben Alexander

 

After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause. Around 43,000 people take their own lives each year in the US. Someone dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. It is estimated that worldwide about a million people die by suicide every year. It is much more prevalent with males who account for 79% of suicides. The problem is far worse than these statistics suggest as it has been estimated that for every completed suicide there were 12 unsuccessful attempts. In other words, about a half a million people in the U.S. attempt suicide each year. Yet compared with other life-threatening conditions there has been scant research on how to identify potential suicide attempters, intervene, and reduce suicidality.

 

Depression and other mood disorders are the number-one risk factor for suicide. More than 90% of people who kill themselves have a mental disorder, whether depression, bipolar disorder or some other diagnosis. So, the best way to prevent suicide may be to treat the underlying cause. For many this means treating depression. Spirituality may help to provide meaning and prevent suicide. But there is scant research on the relationship of spirituality and religiosity and suicide.

 

In today’s Research News article “The role of social support and spiritual wellbeing in predicting suicidal ideation among marginalized adolescents in Malaysia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6565529/), Ibrahim and colleagues recruited adolescents from low income families and measured them for suicide ideation, social support, and spiritual well-being.

 

They found that the higher the levels of social support, and spiritual well-being the lower the levels of suicide ideation. It should be recognized that this study was correlational and as such no conclusions regarding causation can be reached. The results suggest clear negative relationships between spirituality and social support and suicide ideation in adolescents from low income families. Being spiritual and having social support are related to having few, if any, thoughts regarding suicide. It remains for future research to establish whether improving spirituality and/or social support would result in fewer thoughts about suicide.

 

So, spirituality is associated with lower suicidality in adolescents.

 

“I personally think spirituality is a part of each of our beings. It has been the difference in my life and has walked me back from the place where I thought suicide was my only option. Maybe spirituality can be the difference in someone else’s life, too.” – Kelli Evans

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Ibrahim, N., Che Din, N., Ahmad, M., Amit, N., Ghazali, S. E., Wahab, S., … A Halim, M. (2019). The role of social support and spiritual wellbeing in predicting suicidal ideation among marginalized adolescents in Malaysia. BMC public health, 19(Suppl 4), 553. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6861-7

 

Abstract

Background

The high number of adolescents and young adults harbouring suicidal ideation, as reported by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, is alarming. This cross-sectional study aims to examine the association between social support and spiritual wellbeing in predicting suicidal ideation among Malaysian adolescents.

Methods

A total of 176 adolescents in selected urban areas in the states of Wilayah Persekutuan and Selangor were selected. The Suicide Ideation Scale (SIS) was used to measure the level of severity or tendency of suicidal ideation. The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) was used to measure the perceived social support received by the respondent while the Spiritual Wellbeing Scale (SWBS) was used to measure the religious wellbeing (RWB), the existential wellbeing (EWB) and the overall score of spiritual wellbeing (SWB).

Results

The study found that both RWB and EWB showed significant negative correlation with suicidal ideation. Similarly, support from family and friends also showed a negative correlation with suicidal ideation. Further analysis using multiple regressions showed that RWB and SWB, and family support predict suicidal ideation in adolescents.

Conclusion

Spiritual wellbeing in combination with family support plays a major role in predicting suicidal ideation. Therefore, intervention for encompassing spirituality and family support may contribute to a more positive outcome in suicidal adolescents.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6565529/