Religion/Spirituality Overall Increases HIV Prevention Behaviors

Religion/Spirituality Overall Increases HIV Prevention Behaviors

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality plays a critical role in the prognosis of HIV in many patients. The type of spiritual beliefs and practices determines whether spirituality is a protective or risk factor to the progression of HIV.” – Joni Utley

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. These include a significant number of children and adolescents. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20-year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Even with these treatment advances it is still essential to prevent the transmission of HIV in the first place. There are a number of prevention techniques including drugs, condom use, HIV testing, reducing the number of sexual partners, and reducing intravenous drug use. But, in order for these activities to be effective, the individual must actively engage in them.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. Spirituality and religion, however, have a complex relationship with HIV prevention activities. It can be supportive in encouraging morals, norms, structures and institutions that can positively affect the individual’s behavior. On the other hand, religious strictures regarding sexuality can interfere with HIV prevention by discouraging behaviors such as condom use.

 

A number of research studies have been conducted on the effects of religion/spirituality on HIV prevention behaviors. So, it makes sense to step back and review what has been learned about the effects of religion/spirituality on the prevention of HIV transmission. In today’s Research News article “Religion, faith, and spirituality influences on HIV prevention activities: A scoping review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297313/) Vigliotti and colleagues review and summarize the published scientific research on the effects of religion/spirituality on HIV prevention. They identified 29 published peer-reviewed research studies.

 

They report that the majority of studies found that attendance at religious services, religiosity/spirituality, and religion were significantly associated with increased use of condoms and increased HIV testing except in the cases where their religious beliefs and values related to sex and sexuality were against it. Hence, the published research supports the contention that for the most part religion/spirituality improves the likelihood that the individual will engage in behaviors that contribute to the prevention of HIV transmission. This is tempered, however, with the facts that some forms of religion/spirituality incorporate norms and values regarding sexuality that tend to interfere with engaging in behaviors that reduce the prevention of HIV transmission.

 

These findings were correlative and as such no conclusions about causation can be reached. It is difficult to perform manipulative studies to determine causation so this correlative evidence may be the best available. In addition, many of the studies employed weak designs that included the possibility of confounding. As a result, care must be taken in reaching conclusions regarding the effects of religion/spirituality on HIV prevention.

 

So, religion/spirituality overall increases HIV prevention behaviors.

 

overcoming spiritual guilt” is a factor in helping HIV-positive people stay healthy, widespread stigma and condemnation may have ushered those people more quickly toward death.” – Emma Green

 

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

 

Vigliotti, V., Taggart, T., Walker, M., Kusmastuti, S., & Ransome, Y. (2020). Religion, faith, and spirituality influences on HIV prevention activities: A scoping review. PloS one, 15(6), e0234720. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234720

 

Abstract

Introduction

Strategies to increase uptake of next-generation biomedical prevention technologies (e.g., long-acting injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)) can benefit from understanding associations between religion, faith, and spirituality (RFS) and current primary HIV prevention activities (e.g., condoms and oral PrEP) along with the mechanisms which underlie these associations.

Methods

We searched PubMed, Embase, Academic Search Premier, Web of Science, and Sociological Abstracts for empirical articles that investigated and quantified relationships between RFS and primary HIV prevention activities outlined by the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services: condom use, HIV and STI testing, number of sexual partners, injection drug use treatment, medical male circumcision, and PrEP. We included articles in English language published between 2000 and 2020. We coded and analyzed studies based on a conceptual model. We then developed summary tables to describe the relation between RFS variables and the HIV prevention activities and any underlying mechanisms. We used CiteNetExplorer to analyze citation patterns.

Results

We identified 2881 unique manuscripts and reviewed 29. The earliest eligible study was published in 2001, 41% were from Africa and 48% were from the U.S. RFS measures included attendance at religious services or interventions in religious settings; religious and/or spirituality scales, and measures that represent the influence of religion on behaviors. Twelve studies included multiple RFS measures. Twenty-one studies examined RFS in association with condom use, ten with HIV testing, nine with number of sexual partners, and one with PrEP. Fourteen (48%) documented a positive or protective association between all RFS factors examined and one or more HIV prevention activities. Among studies reporting a positive association, beliefs and values related to sexuality was the most frequently observed mechanism. Among studies reporting negative associations, behavioral norms, social influence, and beliefs and values related to sexuality were observed equally. Studies infrequently cited each other.

Conclusion

More than half of the studies in this review reported a positive/protective association between RFS and HIV prevention activities, with condom use being the most frequently studied, and all having some protective association with HIV testing behaviors. Beliefs and values related to sexuality are possible mechanisms that could underpin RFS-related HIV prevention interventions. More studies are needed on PrEP and spirituality/subjective religiosity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297313/

 

Decrease Teacher Stress and Improve Mental Health with a 4-Day Intensive Mindfulness Program

Decrease Teacher Stress and Improve Mental Health with a 4-Day Intensive Mindfulness Program

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

when teachers practice mindfulness, students’ misbehavior and other stressors become like water off a duck’s back, allowing them to stay focused on what teachers really want to do: teach.” – Vickie Zakrzewski

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This often produces burnout; fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and professional inefficacy. Teachers experience burnout at high rates. Roughly a half a million teachers out of a workforce of three million, leave the profession each year and the rate is almost double in poor schools compared to affluent schools. Indeed, nearly half of new teachers leave in their first five years.

 

Burnout frequently results from emotional exhaustion. This exhaustion not only affects the teachers personally, but also the students, as it produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion. Regardless of the reasons for burnout or its immediate presenting consequences, it is a threat to schools and their students. In fact, it is a threat to the entire educational systems as it contributes to the shortage of teachers. Hence, methods of reducing stress and improving teacher psychological health needs to be studied.

 

Mindfulness techniques are gaining increasing attention for the treatment of the symptoms of stress and burnout. They have been demonstrated to be helpful in reducing the psychological and physiological responses to stress and for treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments including schools. Teachers, though, have very busy schedules and it is often difficult to find the time for mindfulness training. So, abbreviated programs may be very useful but their efficacy needs to be established.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of a Four-Day Mindfulness Intervention on Teachers’ Stress and Affect: A Pilot Study in Eastern China.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01298/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1373328_69_Psycho_20200709_arts_A) Song and colleagues recruited school teachers online and randomly assigned them to a wait-list or to receive a 4-day mindfulness training. The mindfulness training was based upon the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) that consists of discussion, meditation, yoga and body scan practices. They met for 8 hours per day for 4 days. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, and positive and negative emotions.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list group, the teachers who received the mindfulness training had significantly higher levels of mindfulness and lower levels of perceived stress and negative emotions. Hence, a short-term, 4-day, mindfulness training is effective in reducing stress and negative emotions in school teachers.

 

The results demonstrate that a short-term intensive training can significantly increase mindfulness. Such a program is valuable in that it can be implemented before the start of a school year when the teachers have the available time to participate. In addition, it produces results that are similar to those observed in previous studies using trainings occurring over longer periods where mindfulness training decreases perceived stress and negative emotions. It will be important in future work to determine the long-term effectiveness of the training and whether it reduces burnout in teachers.

 

So, decrease teacher stress and improve mental health with a 4-day intensive mindfulness program.

 

“mindfulness training for teachers can help them cope better with stress on the job while also making the classroom environment more productive for learning.” – Jill Suttie

 

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

 

Song X, Zheng M, Zhao H, Yang T, Ge X, Li H and Lou T (2020) Effects of a Four-Day Mindfulness Intervention on Teachers’ Stress and Affect: A Pilot Study in Eastern China. Front. Psychol. 11:1298. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01298

 

Stress is becoming increasingly prevalent among teacher groups, and this is problematic for education. Mindfulness training (MT) is a well-supported way to help various populations cope with and reduce stress. In this study, a 4-day intensive MT program that aimed to increase teachers’ emotional health was developed and implemented into the existing post-service education for teachers in eastern China. A total of 161 teachers voluntarily enrolled in the course and were assigned to either the mindfulness group or the waitlist group. Participants completed measures of mindfulness, positive affect, negative affect, and perceived stress before and after the program. The results showed that MT had statistically significant positive effects on mindfulness, negative affect, and stress. The present findings indicate that a 4-day intensive MT program is a promising way to decrease teachers’ stress and improve their emotional health. The practical meaning of the short-term intensive MT program for teachers is discussed. It is easier for teachers to enroll such a short-term training program, as it may have higher acceptance and feasibility than an 8-week training program in some areas.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01298/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1373328_69_Psycho_20200709_arts_A

 

Improve Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Survival in African Americans with Meditation

Improve Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Survival in African Americans with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Twice-a-day Transcendental Meditation helped African Americans with heart disease reduce risk of death, heart attack and stroke. Meditation helped patients lower their blood pressure, stress and anger.” – Science Daily

 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths, roughly 1,000 deaths each day, had high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.  It is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. Hypertension is more prevalent in African American populations with 40% having high blood pressure. African Americans were 20 percent more likely to die from heart disease.

 

High blood pressure, because it doesn’t have any primary symptoms, is usually only diagnosed by direct measurement of blood pressure usually by a health care professional. When hypertension is chronically present over three quarters of patients are treated with antihypertensive drugs. But these medications often have adverse side effects. So, patients feel lousy when taking the drugs, but fine when they’re not. So, compliance is a major issue with many patients not taking the drugs regularly or stopping entirely. Obviously, there is a need for alternative to drug treatments for hypertension.

 

Mindfulness practices have been shown to aid in controlling hypertension. Indeed, meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. These practices have also been shown to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress and to be helpful for producing the kinds of lifestyle changes needed to prevent heart disease such as smoking cessation, and weight reduction. They have also been shown to be effective in maintaining cardiovascular health and the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Hence it is reasonable to study the effects of meditation training on cardiovascular health in African Americans.

 

In today’s Research News article “Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in Blacks. Circulation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7269100/) Schneider and colleagues recruited African American patients with a history of coronary artery disease. They were randomly assigned to receive either health education or Transcendental Meditation. Both interventions consisted of training for 1.5 hours weekly for the first month, biweekly for the next two months, and monthly thereafter along with home practice. They were measured before and after training and every 6 months thereafter for 9 years for mortality, blood pressure, diet, alcohol and tobacco use, physical activity, depression, anger, and hostility.

 

They found that in comparison to the health education group, the participants who practiced meditation had significantly lower all-cause mortality rates (44% vs, 54% respectively) and lower rates of myocardial infarction and stroke over the 9-year follow-up period. They also found that the greater the amount of home practice the lower the mortality rate. In addition, at the 5-year follow-up the meditation group had significantly lower systolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, and anger.

 

These are excellent results that suggest that meditation practice significantly improves survival in African American patients with a history of coronary artery disease. The fact that they were followed for 9 years is remarkable and strengthens the conclusions. Similar to the current results, it has previously been found that mindfulness practices produce significant improvements in cardiovascular function and reduces anger responses. It is not known but it is reasonable to hypothesize that the reduction in blood pressure and heart rate along with anger contributed to the heightened survival.

 

So, improve cardiovascular risk factors and survival in African Americans with meditation.

 

“Meditation can serve many purposes. It can help regulate breathing, reduce stress, and aid some in getting in touch with their inner spiritual selves. When it comes to heart health, meditation can take on another role — a preventative one.” – Tri Cities Medical Center

 

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

 

Schneider, R. H., Grim, C. E., Rainforth, M. V., Kotchen, T., Nidich, S. I., Gaylord-King, C., Salerno, J. W., Kotchen, J. M., & Alexander, C. N. (2012). Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in Blacks. Circulation. Cardiovascular quality and outcomes, 5(6), 750–758. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.112.967406

 

Abstract

Background:

African Americans have disproportionate rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Psychosocial stress may contribute to this disparity. Previous trials on stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program have reported improvements in CVD risk factors, surrogate endpoints and mortality in African Americans and other populations.

Methods and Results:

This was a randomized controlled trial of 201 African American men and women with coronary heart disease (CHD) who were randomized to the TM program or health education. The primary end point was the composite of all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, or stroke. Secondary endpoints included the composite of cardiovascular mortality, revascularizations, and cardiovascular hospitalizations; blood pressure (BP); psychosocial stress factors; and lifestyle behaviors. Over an average follow-up of 5.4 years, there was a 48% risk reduction in the primary end point in the TM group (hazard ratio [HR], 0.52; 95% confidence interval[CI], 0.29-0.92)(P =.025). The TM group also showed a 24% risk reduction in the secondary end point (HR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.51-0.1.13) (P =.17). There were reductions of 4.9 mm Hg in systolic BP (95% CI −8.3 to –1.5 mm Hg) (P =.01) and anger expression (P < .05 for all scales). Adherence was associated with survival.

Conclusion:

A selected mind-body intervention, the Transcendental Meditation program, significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction and stroke in CHD patients. These changes were associated with lower BP and psychosocial stress factors. Therefore, this practice may be clinically useful in the secondary prevention of CVD.

What is known

Psychosocial stress is associated with the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease in African Americans and the general population

Stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation program has previously been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors e.g., hypertension, psychological stress, smoking, insulin resistance and myocardial ischemia.

What this article adds

This randomized controlled trial found that adding stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation to usual care in patients with coronary heart disease resulted in a 48% reduction in the risk for cardiovascular clinical events, i.e., mortality, myocardial infarction and stroke over more than five years of follow up.

Potential mechanisms for the observed outcomes differences included lower blood pressure and anger scores. There was evidence for dose-response effect between regularity of meditation practice and longer survival.

A transcendental meditation program may be useful in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7269100/

 

Improve the Quality of Life of Patients Living with HIV with Yoga

Improve the Quality of Life of Patients Living with HIV with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

yoga can have positive impact on mental health for people living with HIV,” – Eugene Dunne

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. These include a significant number of children and adolescents. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20-year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Hence, living with HIV is a long-term reality for a very large group of people.

 

People living with HIV infection experience a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms which decrease their perceived quality of life. The symptoms include chronic pain, muscle aches, anxiety, depression, weakness, fear/worries, difficulty with concentration, concerns regarding the need to interact with a complex healthcare system, stigma, and the challenge to come to terms with a new identity as someone living with HIV. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve psychological well-being, lower depression and strengthen the immune system of patients with HIV infection. Yoga practice has also been found to be effective in treating HIV.

 

In today’s Research News article “Feasibility and Impact of a Yoga Intervention on Cognition, Physical Function, Physical Activity, and Affective Outcomes among People Living with HIV: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7318828/) Quigley and colleagues recruited patients living with HIV infection who were over the age of 35 years and randomly assigned them to receive 12 weeks of 3 times per week 1-hour Hatha yoga practice or to a no treatment control condition. They were measured before and after the practice period for cognitive ability, HIV-specific cognitive difficulties, balance, physical activity, medication adherence, HIV medical outcomes, quality of life, anxiety, depression, and mental health.

 

They found that the yoga classes were well attended, 82% of all classes and all participants reported satisfaction with the intervention. They also found that the yoga group had a significant improvement in health-related quality of life for cognitive function, and trends toward significance for depression and health -related quality of life for health transitions.

 

This was a small pilot study that did not have an active control condition and was not powered to detect small differences. As such, conclusions must be limited. But the study was successful in establishing that yoga practice for patients living with HIV is feasible and acceptable and appreciated by the participants, and that improvement in quality of life occurred with the yoga practice. These results are promising and thus strongly suggest that a large randomized controlled clinical trial with an active control condition be conducted in the future.

 

So, improve the quality of life of patients living with HIV with yoga

 

“Yoga quiets the mind, improves breathing and circulation, and reduces stress. Daily practice can help support the immune system in conjunction with a comprehensive HIV treatment program.” – Jon Kaiser

 

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

 

Quigley, A., Brouillette, M. J., Gahagan, J., O’Brien, K. K., & MacKay-Lyons, M. (2020). Feasibility and Impact of a Yoga Intervention on Cognition, Physical Function, Physical Activity, and Affective Outcomes among People Living with HIV: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, 19, 2325958220935698. https://doi.org/10.1177/2325958220935698

 

Abstract

The purpose of this pilot randomized controlled trial is to assess the feasibility and impact of a triweekly 12-week yoga intervention among people living with HIV (PLWH). Additional objectives included evaluating cognition, physical function, medication adherence, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and mental health among yoga participants versus controls using blinded assessors. We recruited 22 medically stable PLWH aged ≥35 years. A priori feasibility criteria were ≥70% yoga session attendance and ≥70% of participants satisfied with the intervention using a postparticipation questionnaire. Two participants withdrew from the yoga group. Mean yoga class attendance was 82%, with 100% satisfaction. Intention-to-treat analyses (yoga n = 11, control n = 11) showed no within- or between-group differences in cognitive and physical function. The yoga group improved over time in HRQoL cognition (P = .047) with trends toward improvements in HRQoL health transition (P =.063) and depression (P = .055). This pilot study provides preliminary evidence of feasibility and benefits of yoga for PLWH.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7318828/

 

Improve the Mental Health of Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Cancer Patients with a Mindfulness App

Improve the Mental Health of Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Cancer Patients with a Mindfulness App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Results show promise for mindfulness-based interventions to treat common psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression in cancer survivors and to improve overall quality of life.” — Linda E. Carlson

 

Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs) are blood cancers that occur when the body makes too many white or red blood cells, or platelets” (Cancer Support Community). It typically occurs in older adults and is fairly rare (1-2 cases/100,000 per year) and has a very high survival rate. It produces a variety of psychological and physical symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, depression, pain, and sleep disturbance, reduced physical, social, and cognitive functioning resulting in a reduced quality of life.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health including fatigueanxietydepressionpain, and sleep disturbance, and improves physical, social, and cognitive functioning as well as quality of life in cancer patients. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained therapist. This results in costs that many patients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient.

 

As an alternative, Apps for smartphones have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of these Apps in relieving the psychological and physical symptoms of cancer and improving their quality of life.

 

In today’s Research News article “Associations Between Global Mental Health and Response to an App-Based Meditation Intervention in Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Patients.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7307391/) Puzia and colleagues recruited patients with Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs) and randomly assigned them to either receive a pamphlet on MPN symptom management or to practice mindfulness for 4 weeks using the “Calm” App for 10 minutes every day. “Calm meditations are developed using a combination of techniques drawn from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, encouraging users to practice moment-to-moment awareness without judgement and to develop awareness of their thoughts, interpretations, and emotional and physiological responses in order to alter their perception or create new, more balanced thoughts.” They were measured before and after the 4-week treatment period for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and mental and physical health.

 

They found that the results differed depending upon the participants’ levels of mental health. For those participants who had poor mental health at the beginning of the trial, using the “Calm” App produced significantly lower levels of depression and anxiety. These results replicate the previous findings that mindfulness meditation training produces significant decreases in depression and anxiety in a wide array of healthy and sick individuals. The present findings extend these benefits to patients with Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs) and appear to have maximum benefits for those who need it the most, the patients with the greatest mental health problems.

 

The findings that the use of an internet App is effective in improving the mental health of patients with MPN is important. These Apps make treatment available to large numbers of patients over widespread geographic areas, conveniently and inexpensively. This greatly expands the ability of mindfulness meditation for the treatment of the patients’ emotional problems.

 

Mindfulness meditation promotes present moment awareness with a non-judging and non-reacting attitude. Depression and anxiety are rooted in the individuals’ processing of past or projected future events and the judging and reacting to them. By focusing on the present moment this processing is interrupted and emphasizes what is actually present in the moment. In addition, not judging or reacting allows for a moderated emotional reaction and greater ability to regulate the emotions. This greatly improves the mental health of the patient.

 

So, improve the mental health of myeloproliferative neoplasm cancer patients with a mindfulness App.

 

“The intent of this practice is to help you begin to see that the traditional things you may consider important in defining your place in the world are often transitory. There’s a more stable and enduring part of your being, and connecting with this possibility through your meditation practice may help soothe the pain of changes to your self-image and identity that cancer triggers.” — Linda E. Carlson

 

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

 

Puzia, M. E., Huberty, J., Eckert, R., Larkey, L., & Mesa, R. (2020). Associations Between Global Mental Health and Response to an App-Based Meditation Intervention in Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Patients. Integrative cancer therapies, 19, 1534735420927780. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735420927780

 

Abstract

Background: Depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance are common problems that greatly affect quality of life for many myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients. App-based mindfulness meditation is a feasible nonpharmacologic approach for managing symptoms. However, previous research has not considered how patients’ overall mental health may influence their responsiveness to these interventions. Objective: The purpose of this study was to conduct an exploratory, secondary analysis of the effects of a smartphone meditation app, Calm, on depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance in MPN patients based on patients’ baseline levels of Global Mental Health (GMH). Methods: Participants (N = 80) were a subset of MPN patients from a larger feasibility study. Patients were enrolled into an intervention (use Calm for 10 minutes daily for 4 weeks) or educational control group. Results: In multilevel models, there were significant 3-way interactions between time, group, and baseline GMH for depression and anxiety symptoms, with participants in the meditation intervention who reported the poorest baseline GMH experiencing the greatest reduction in symptoms over time. For both intervention and control participants, poorer initial GMH was associated with increases in sleep disturbance symptoms over time. Conclusions: Mindfulness meditation apps, such as Calm, may be effective in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms in MPN patients, particularly for those experiencing mental health difficulties. Given the need for accessible tools to self-manage chronic cancer–related symptoms, especially strong negative emotions, these findings warrant larger efficacy studies to determine the effects of app-based meditation for alleviating depression and anxiety in cancer populations.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7307391/

Mindfulness Reduces the Impact of Job Climate on Healthcare Workers Job Satisfaction

Mindfulness Reduces the Impact of Job Climate on Healthcare Workers Job Satisfaction

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

being mindful at work can reduce your level of emotional exhaustion, help keep your emotions on an even keel, and increase your job satisfaction.” – Fox News

 

In high stress occupations, like healthcare work, burnout is all too prevalent. It is characterized by fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, professional inefficacy, and low job satisfaction that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion.

 

It is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur and thereby make them better healthcare providers. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to reduce burnout and improve well-being, and job satisfaction in healthcare workers.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness as a Protective Factor for Dissatisfaction in HCWs: The Moderating Role of Mindful Attention between Climate Stress and Job Satisfaction.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7312809/) Ramaci and colleagues recruited nurses from an emergency hospital and had them complete measures of occupational stress, including managerial roles, relationships with other people, organizational structure, and power subscales, mindfulness, job control, and job satisfaction.

 

They found that occupational work climate was negatively related to job satisfaction. But mindful attention was found to moderate this relationship such that the higher the nurses’ levels of mindful attention the smaller the negative impact of occupational work climate on job satisfaction.

 

Stressful organizational climates are characterized by limited participation in decisions, use of punishment and negative feedback, conflict avoidance or confrontation, and non-supportive group and leader relations. The study reports, not surprisingly, that this type of climate is related to low job satisfaction in nurses. These organizational climates tend to poison the work environment leading to unhappiness and low satisfaction with their jobs. But mindfulness may help nurses cope with such a negative climate. High levels of mindfulness lessen the negative relationship between organizational climate and job satisfaction.

 

Mindfulness has been shown to decrease the physiological and psychological impact of stress. This may account for its moderating effect on the impact of organizational climate on job satisfaction. The mindful nurses are simply less stressed by the climate. It may also be the case that mindful nurses are more focused on the immediate job, with less intrusive thoughts about a negative climate. By focusing on the job itself, they are more affected by the satisfaction of helping others and thereby less impacted by the organizational climate. Regardless, it is clear the being mindful is an asset that can assist nurses in coping with the organizational climate. It remains for future research to determine causation by training nurses in mindfulness and observing the effects of this training on the stresses produced by negative organizational climates.

 

So, mindfulness reduces the impact of job climate on healthcare workers job satisfaction.

 

Mindfulness in the workplace is most likely beneficial, whether the end goal is productivity or – more broadly speaking – employee wellness.” – Marlynn Wei

 

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

 

Ramaci, T., Rapisarda, V., Bellini, D., Mucci, N., De Giorgio, A., & Barattucci, M. (2020). Mindfulness as a Protective Factor for Dissatisfaction in HCWs: The Moderating Role of Mindful Attention between Climate Stress and Job Satisfaction. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(11), 3818. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17113818

 

Abstract

With the aim of investigating the possible moderating effect of job control and dispositional mindfulness between different sources of organizational stress and job satisfaction, a correlational study was designed involving health care workers (HCWs). The following questionnaires were administered and completed by 237 HCWs: (1) Occupational Stress Indicator (OSI), to measure the sources of stress at work (managerial role, climate power, climate structure, internal relationships), and job satisfaction; (2) Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) to assess the individual’s level of attention to what is taking place in the present; (3) Job Control Scale (JCS) to assess the perceived control at work. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the hypothesized relationships between variables; the results showed that, between the different sources of stress, the organizational climate dimension was negatively associated with job satisfaction; moreover, mindfulness attention moderated the relationship between climate stress and job satisfaction; unexpectedly, the interaction between job control and the organizational climate dimension was not significant in affecting job satisfaction. This study can provide useful information for Human Resources Management (HRM) practices regarding job and mental control interventions and empowerment, and possibly offer a new interpretation of the role of attention to what is happening in the present moment and autonomy between climate stressors and occupational satisfaction.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7312809/

 

Improve Body Image with Exposure to Nature and Mindfulness

Improve Body Image with Exposure to Nature and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Exposure to natural environments may, therefore, offer a novel and cost-effective means of promoting healthier body image,” – Viren Swami

 

The media is constantly presenting idealized images of what we should look like. These are unrealistic and unattainable for the vast majority of people. But it results in most everyone being unhappy with their body.  This can lead to problematic consequences. In a number of eating disorders there’s a distorted body image. This can and does drive unhealthy behaviors. As a treatment mindfulness has been shown to improve eating disorders.

 

People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. But it has also been reported that exposure to nature improves body image. Recently it has been shown that mindfulness training in the natural environment, especially in wild environments, produces greater benefits than similar training in non-natural settings. This suggests that mindfulness and exposure to nature may interact and supplement one another producing greater benefits. But there is little systematic research regarding the effects of exposure to nature and mindfulness on body image.

 

In today’s Research News article “Nature exposure and positive body image: (Re-)examining the mediating roles of connectedness to nature and trait mindfulness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320863/) Swami and colleagues recruited healthy adults over the internet and had them complete measures of body appreciation, exposure to nature, connectedness to nature, mindful awareness and mindful acceptance.

 

They found that all variables were positively related to all other variables. For example, the higher the levels of mindful awareness the higher the levels of body appreciation, exposure to nature, connectedness to nature, and mindful acceptance. Path analysis revealed that exposure to nature was positively related to body appreciation directly and also indirectly by being positively related to connectedness to nature which in turn was related to body appreciation. Exposure to nature was positively related to connectedness to nature directly and also indirectly by being positively related to mindful awareness which in turn was related to connectedness to nature.

 

This study was correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the study demonstrated that higher levels of exposure to nature are associated with higher levels of appreciation of one’s body. They also demonstrate that this association is both direct and indirect via mindful awareness and connectedness to nature. The direct connection has been previously demonstrated. The indirect paths, on the other hand are new.

 

The results suggest that getting out into natural settings is associated with an improved body image. It is possible that nature contains a wide variety of different shapes and sizes of all of its elements and this makes one more accepting of the naturally occurring differences in human shapes and sizes. The fact that exposure to nature also is related to higher levels of mindful awareness supports this contention. Mindfulness awareness involves seeing things just as they are without judgement including the body and this appears to be related to exposure to nature.

 

Getting out into nature has been shown to have widespread benefits for the psychological health and well-being of humans. The present study suggests that an additional benefit is to promote an acceptance and appreciation of one’s own body. Although not studied here, this suggests that getting out into nature may help prevent eating disorders that are often connected to a distorted image of the body.

 

So, improve body image with exposure to nature and mindfulness.

 

An environment that does not require undivided attention may provide people with cognitive quiet, which in turn may foster self-compassion such as respecting your body and appreciating it is part of a wider ecosystem requiring protection and care.” – Science Daily

 

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

 

Swami, V., Barron, D., Todd, J., Horne, G., & Furnham, A. (2020). Nature exposure and positive body image: (Re-)examining the mediating roles of connectedness to nature and trait mindfulness. Body image, 34, 201–208. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.06.004

 

Abstract

Previous studies have reported a significant association between nature exposure and positive body image, but understandings of the mechanisms that help to explain this link remain nascent. Here, we considered the extent to which trait mindfulness and connectedness to nature, respectively, mediate the aforementioned relationship both in parallel and serially. An online sample of 398 participants (199 women, 196 men, 3 other; age M = 28.1 years) from the United Kingdom completed measures of self-reported nature exposure, mindful awareness and acceptance, connectedness to nature, and body appreciation. Results indicated that inter-correlations between scores on all measures were significant and positive. Following the elimination of non-significant pathways, path analysis resulted in an adequately-fitting model in which the direct relationship between nature exposure and body appreciation was significant. In addition, connectedness to nature – but not trait mindfulness – significantly mediated the direct relationship. Finally, we also found evidence of a serial mediation, where the association between nature exposure and body appreciation was mediated by mindful awareness followed by connectedness to nature. The implications of these results for scholarly and practitioner understanding of the impact of nature exposure on positive body image are discussed in conclusion.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320863/

 

The Psychology of Ending Suffering

The Psychology of Ending Suffering

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” – anonymous

 

The Buddha taught that every one of us is already enlightened We simply need to remove those things that are preventing us from realizing our true nature, and those things are our sufferings. But suffering unsatisfactoriness is rampant in our daily lives. But these unsatisfactorinesses have causes and by eliminating the causes of unsatisfactoriness we can bring about equanimity and happiness. The Buddha and his followers have developed many methods for eliminating unsatisfactoriness and many of them are identical to the teachings of modern Psychology on how to eliminate unwanted behaviors.

 

The usual way most people tend to think about stopping a behavior is to punish it. This is the ubiquitous solution in our society, particularly exemplified by our treatment of criminal behavior. But we do it also at work. B. F. Skinner analyzed the work environment as dominated by punishers and the avoidance of punishers. He taught that the salary that is earned sets up a lifestyle and we become reliant upon the income to support it. Behavior at work is then controlled by threatening to withdraw this lifestyle, e.g. threat of firing or layoff, lack of raises or promotions, etc. But, psychological research has clearly shown that for the most part, punishment is ineffective in removing unwanted behaviors. Instead, it at best temporarily suppresses behaviors that can reemerge at any time or it leads to the individual avoiding the punisher, the supervisor, the police, or often parents and teachers.

 

The frequent use of punishment is apparent in our contemplative practice, where we frequently punish ourselves for not being or doing what we think we should be. We get angry at ourselves when we fail at quieting our mind in meditation. We get upset at ourselves when our mind wanders. We feel ashamed when we let our desires control our behavior. We feel bad when we see how we’re constantly wanting things in our lives to be different than they are. But, these punishers, like those in society are ineffective. Instead of improving our practice, they can lead to our avoiding or abandoning the practice.

 

But, the science of Psychology has a lot to offer in place of punishment in our quest to end unsatisfactoriness. Much has been learned through the years of research of how things are learned and unlearned and how to change behaviors. One of the key notions in Psychology is known as Thorndike’s Law of Effect. Simply stated it teaches that when we do things that lead to a pleasant state of affairs, we tend to repeat them while those that lead to an unpleasant state of affairs tend to become less likely to be repeated. This simple, seemingly obvious principle is actually quite powerful and suggests how we should proceed.

 

As we’ve discussed, applying unpleasant states, punishment, is not generally effective. Note, the Law of Effect states that we tend not to repeat behaviors that lead to an unpleasant state of affairs. So, if our contemplative or spiritual practice leads to self-punishments, it doesn’t lead to better practice, rather it leads to our becoming less likely to practice. This is the exact opposite of what we want to happen. So punishing ourselves for our failures in practice, instead of correcting them, leads to less practice.

 

All of this is also true in our everyday lives. Punishing our boss by getting angry at him or her is likely not going to change his or her behavior, except maybe to prompt the boss to punish us. Honking, making obscene gestures, or tailgating a driver who cuts us off is unlikely to make the driver stop cutting people off. Rather it’s likely to anger the driver and make for a more dangerous driving situation. Yelling at your life’s partner when he or she does something that we don’t approve of is more likely to sour our relationships than change our partners’ behavior. Telling people whose political opinions vary from our own that they’re stupid or ignorant, is not likely to change their opinions, but rather to cause them to avoid talking politics with us in the future. Getting upset at ourselves when we’re not as fast, adept, or as effective as we want to be in our exercises, is unlikely to make us faster or more adept or effective, but rather to make it less likely that we’ll engage in exercise in the future. In a nutshell, punishment doesn’t work to change behaviors in our lives. So, it is unlikely to work in helping us eliminate our unsatisfactorinesses and remove the obstacles toward spiritual realization. We need to find another way.

 

The Law of Effect, though, does provide a powerful prescription for changing behavior. If you want to change a behavior you need to remove what is reinforcing or supporting it. Discover the pleasant state of affairs that is produced by the behavior and eliminate it and the behavior will gradually go away. This is a process called extinction and it is very effective in eliminating unwanted behaviors. So, in our practice, if we want to reduce mind wandering, then we just simply watch it, not punishing it nor giving it any energy. Slowly mind wandering will go through extinction, becoming less frequent. It will sometimes happen so slowly that you won’t notice its changing, but it will inevitably slowly dissipate.

 

While driving a car, we may want to decrease our impatience with traffic and stop lights. We should first look at removing what’s supporting it and that means reflecting on the impatience to investigate why we feel that way. We may be able to see that it’s supported by the idea that getting somewhere else will make us happy. The thought of it reinforces the desire to get there quickly. But, we should remember that in the past whenever we got to that next place it didn’t make us happy. So, we again became impatient to get to another somewhere else where we feel we’ll really be happy. Hopefully, we can see our delusion that happiness is elsewhere is supporting our impatience. Recognizing this, each time we sense ourselves becoming impatient we bring this thought to mind that where we’re going will not necessarily make us happy, we can only be happy in the present moment. This can begin to extinguish the impatience. There’s no need to be impatient as it’s not going to get us what we want. So, impatience slowly lessens and becomes less frequent. We’ve eliminated a suffering by removing its cause. We’ve extinguished it.

 

There’s a problem with extinction that modern Psychology has discovered and that is over a period of time the lost behavior can reemerge. This is called spontaneous recovery. To overcome this the behavior must be extinguished again and if spontaneous recovery occurs again, it must be again extinguished. So, patience and persistence must be practiced. Eventually, the behavior will cease and no spontaneous recovery will happen again. So, if impatience while driving occurs again, we need to repeat our extinction process until we stop impatience completely and simply enjoy the present moment.

 

Psychology has also discovered that learning in one situation will generalize to other similar situations. This can be quite helpful as what we learn is not just effective in the exact circumstances in which we learned it. As a result, if we extinguish impatience while driving we’ll tend to have less impatience at work, with our life partner, with political discussions, and with exercise. Impatience will still be there in these other situations but the generalization from driving results in a lessening in its intensity. Impatience then becomes easier to extinguish in these other situations. If we go through the process we used with driving with our impatience with work and extinguish it, it will also generalize producing a further reduction in impatience with our life partner, with political discussions, and with exercise. Continuing this process will make us much more patient and happier people in virtually every circumstance.

 

Another method that Psychology has developed for eliminating an unwanted behavior is to replace it with an incompatible behavior. This is called counterconditioning. In this process positive reinforcement, reward, is used to build up a behavior that cannot coexist with the behavior we wish to eliminate. For example, to eliminate a phobia to spiders, a psychologist may attempt to have the patient relax in the face of thinking about spiders, replacing fear with relaxation. Similarly, a child that is hyperactive and engages in problematic behaviors in the schoolroom can be rewarded for paying attention. Since, paying attention cannot occur at the same time as disruptive behaviors, strengthening attention, reduces disruptive behaviors.

 

For example, we may feel unhappy because our life’s partners have a habit of not picking up after themselves. This feeling of unsatisfactoriness can build up and produce a nasty outburst and upset our partner. But, if when confronted with the mess, we simply remember a wonderful endearing characteristic of our partner, we can begin to replace the unsatisfactoriness with pleasant thoughts. The good feelings then begin to replace the irritation toward our partners. If we continue this practice we will slowly begin to react to the mess with loving feelings and can then confront the behavior with kindness and love, making it more likely to have a positive effect on our partners lack of tidiness. This is the process of eliminating our unsatisfactoriness through counterconditioning. Tangible rewards are not available, but pleasant memories are, and they can be used to reinforce the incompatible behavior.

 

Positive Psychology has clearly shown that we can replace unsatisfactoriness by strengthening satisfactory states, such as happiness, contentment, joy, and bliss. By simply working to amplify the positive the negative declines. Simple things such as putting a smile on our faces, can brighten our day. Smiling at other people when we pass them in the corridors and streets not only lifts their spirits but also our own and a return smile amplifies the contentment even more. We become so much happier and more content when we focus on the good things in life rather than the bad. When we do, unsatisfactoriness fades away.

 

The great sage Thich Nhat Hahn teaches us to focus on our non-toothaches. When we have a toothache we’re miserable and suffering and find this very unsatisfactory. We think, if we can just get over this painful condition then things will be good again. But, once it’s gone, we quickly forget and focus on something else that’s unsatisfactory. We need instead to be happy that our teeth are sound, without pain. Simply notice it and rejoice in it. It is a simple miracle that our bodies work so well that we can enjoy great oral health. Simply, occasionally, reflect on our good health and the miracle of being alive with most everything working well. What a beautiful state! What a joy! How can we find our lives unsatisfactory when we appreciate all that is right with our lives.

 

Psychology has found that positive reinforcement is extraordinarily powerful in changing behavior. So, we should reward ourselves for making strides in our practice and in our lives, rather than punishing ourselves for our failures. During contemplative practice when our minds wander, we shouldn’t get upset that we lost focus, rather celebrate the fact that we returned to focus. When we realize that our mind is wandering we punish ourselves by getting upset with ourselves, what we are effectively doing is punishing returning to focus. As we’ve seen, this leads to making it less likely that we’ll return to focus in the future. But, if we rejoice when we realize our minds are wandering and congratulate ourselves for returning to focus, we increase the likelihood that the next time our minds wander we’ll be more likely to detect it and get back to focusing on our practice. This is far more satisfactory

 

The other day I was riding my bicycle and got extremely tired before completing my scheduled ride. So, I stopped and rested even though I only had a couple of miles to go. Rather than getting angry and upset at myself for not pacing my ride properly, I congratulated myself for knowing my body and recognizing that a rest was necessary. So, I replaced an unsatisfactory state of self-anger with a satisfactory state. Rather than suffer about my failure, I celebrated my good sense. So, use positive reinforcement and reduce unsatisfactoriness, building happy and satisfying states.

 

It’s useful in this regard to contemplate happiness. Look carefully at when we’re happy, joyful, or content look carefully at exactly what we’re feeling in our bodies. This will help us at becoming better at recognizing these positive states when they are present. When they are there investigate what were the conditions that led up to these good feelings and thereby begin to learn what really makes us happy. We’ll probably be surprised that it is mostly not what we think will make us happy, but often something simple and everyday, particularly with family and friends. Recognize what truly makes us happy, we can learn how to increase our happiness. Doing so markedly reduces unsatisfactoriness. So eliminate suffering by building happiness, joy, and contentment.

 

Sometimes our suffering is too strong to simply replace it. Psychology also has a method to use in this case. It’s a process of slowly replacing similar but less intense unsatisfactoriness with counterconditioning and letting it generalize to more intense situations that can now be addressed. This is called systematic desensitization.

 

We might try this with political discussion where the issues produce so much anger that trying to replace them with good feelings is almost impossible, perhaps discussing abortion. Instead, look for issues of discussion that are contentious but less emotional, perhaps taxes. First practice relaxing by taking a deep breath and focusing on relaxing the facial muscles and smiling. Once, we’ve developed this ability to evoke relaxation and a smile at will we can begin to apply it to replacing anger. After all, it’s impossible to be relaxed and smiling and angry at the same time. Now, we should try this while discussing taxes, while the other people are presenting their viewpoints, produce the relax and smile response and as we’re presenting our viewpoint also produce the relax and smile response. Slowly, anger will be replaced with pleasant feelings so while discussing taxes we are no longer angry.

 

Next, we move to a more contentious subject, perhaps welfare. The previous counterconditioning for the taxes discussion generalizes to the welfare discussion making it substantially less emotion provoking, so it can be more easily addressed. Then repeat the process of conditioning relaxation and smiling while the other people are presenting their viewpoints on welfare and as we’re presenting our viewpoint. Slowly, anger will be replaced with pleasant feelings so while discussing welfare we are no longer angry. The final step, after these and perhaps more intermediary steps, will be to repeat the process with the most anger producing discussion, perhaps abortion. The previous counterconditionings will have generalized to this discussion and the level of anger may be reduced to the point where it is manageable. We then repeat the process of strengthening the relaxation and smiling response while discussing abortion. Eventually, we’ll be able to take on the worst of the worst and do it while relaxing and smiling. Our unsatisfactoriness will have been eliminated by replacing it with a pleasant state.

 

These are some of the methods that Psychology has developed that can help us to eliminate our sufferings, unsatisfactorinesses. Applying extinction, counterconditioning, and systematic desensitization to our unsatisfactorinesses can be an effective means of getting rid of them. As we’ve discussed this is fundamental to unmasking our true nature, our Buddha Nature. So, the principles of modern Psychology can be useful tools on our contemplative and spiritual development. We can use the skills developed by following the principles of Psychology to eliminate our unsatisfactorinesses leading to spiritual awakening.

 

‘if we look deeply into such ways of life as Buddhism, we do not find either philosophy or religion as these are understood in the West. We find something more nearly resembling psychotherapy’. – Alan Watts

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Reduce Depression After Stillbirth with Yoga

Reduce Depression After Stillbirth with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Bereaved mothers with stillbirth (death at >20 weeks of gestation) have more than a 6-fold higher risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) compared to mothers after live birth. . . . Non-pharmacological approaches, such as yoga, may be an alternative option for bereaved women with stillbirth.” – Jennifer Huberty

 

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 with 7%-8% of the population developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It involves a number of troubling symptoms including reliving the event with the same fear and horror in nightmares or with a flashback.

 

Having a stillbirth is a traumatic event for young women. It inevitably produces profound depression, grief, and symptoms of PTSD. Obviously, this is a troubling problem that needs to be addressed. There are a number of therapies that have been developed to treat depression, grief and  PTSD. One of which, mindfulness training has been found to be particularly effective for depression, PTSD symptoms, and grief.  Yoga practice has also been found to reduce depression and PTSD symptoms. There is, however, no studies to date on the effectiveness of yoga practice to help alleviate the trauma produced by stillbirth.

 

In today’s Research News article “Online yoga to reduce post traumatic stress in women who have experienced stillbirth: a randomized control feasibility trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7275350/) Huberty and colleagues recruited women who had experienced stillbirth within the last 2 years and randomly assigned them to receive 12 weeks of either low dose Hatha yoga (60 minutes per week), moderate dose Hatha yoga (150 minutes per week), or stretching and toning practice (60 minutes per week). All practice was led by online videos. They were measured before and after training and 8 weeks later for acceptability and demand for the program, PTSD symptoms, anxiety, depression, grief, self-compassion, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and sleep quality.

 

They found that PTSD symptoms decreased significantly over the measurement period with a 43% and 56% decrease for the low and moderate yoga groups and a 22% decrease for the stretching and toning group. But there were no significant differences between groups. On the other hand, in comparison to the stretching and toning group, both of the yoga groups had significant decreases in depression and grief. Unfortunately, the low dose yoga group only practiced on the average for 44 minutes per week and the high dose yoga only practiced for 77 minutes per week. This was well below the desired amount of practice.

 

The lack of a significant difference between the yoga and control groups was disappointing. Previous research has demonstrated that yoga practice reduces PTSD symptoms. It is possible that attempting to teach yoga remotely, online, to participants who are depressed simply may not be an effective way to encourage practice. Depressed patients lack motivation and it is possible that they need the encouragement of a group and an instructor to motivate their participation. Future research should employ traditional in person yoga classes for the treatment of women who had stillbirths.

 

Nevertheless, the yoga practice, even though it was below the dose desired, did significantly reduce depression. This corroborates previous findings that yoga practice is effective in treating a variety of forms of depression and suggests that it is also effective in treating depression emanating from stillbirth. Perhaps in person yoga classes may potentiate the effects on PTSD and other symptoms in women who had stillbirths.

 

So, reduce depression after stillbirth with yoga.

 

“a trauma-focused hatha yoga program may be a helpful adjunctive treatment for chronic PTSD.” – Sarah Krill Williston

 

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

 

Huberty, J., Sullivan, M., Green, J., Kurka, J., Leiferman, J., Gold, K., & Cacciatore, J. (2020). Online yoga to reduce post traumatic stress in women who have experienced stillbirth: a randomized control feasibility trial. BMC complementary medicine and therapies, 20(1), 173. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-020-02926-3

 

Abstract

Background

About 1 in every 150 pregnancies end in stillbirth. Consequences include symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Yoga has been used to treat PTSD in other populations and may improve health outcomes for stillbirth mothers. The purpose of this study was to determine: (a) feasibility of a 12-week home-based, online yoga intervention with varying doses; (b) acceptability of a “stretch and tone” control group; and (c) preliminary efficacy of the intervention on reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, perinatal grief, self-compassion, emotional regulation, mindfulness, sleep quality, and subjective health.

Methods

Participants (N = 90) were recruited nationally and randomized into one of three groups for yoga or exercise (low dose (LD), 60 min per week; moderate dose (MD), 150 min per week; and stretch-and-tone control group (STC)). Baseline and post-intervention surveys measured main outcomes (listed above). Frequency analyses were used to determine feasibility. Repeated measures ANCOVA were used to determine preliminary efficacy. Multiple regression analyses were used to determine a dose-response relationship between minutes of yoga and each outcome variable.

Results

Over half of participants completed the intervention (n = 48/90). Benchmarks (≥70% reported > 75% satisfaction) were met in each group for satisfaction and enjoyment. Participants meeting benchmarks (completing > 90% of prescribed minutes 9/12 weeks) for LD and MD groups were 44% (n = 8/18) and 6% (n = 1/16), respectively. LD and MD groups averaged 44.0 and 77.3 min per week of yoga, respectively. The MD group reported that 150 prescribed minutes per week of yoga was too much. There were significant decreases in PTSD and depression, and improvements in self-rated health at post-intervention for both intervention groups. There was a significant difference in depression scores (p = .036) and grief intensity (p = .009) between the MD and STC groups. PTSD showed non-significant decreases of 43% and 56% at post-intervention in LD and MD groups, respectively (22% decrease in control).

Conclusions

This was the first study to determine the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of an online yoga intervention for women after stillbirth. Future research warrants a randomized controlled trial.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7275350/

 

Increase Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Women with Yoga

Increase Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Women with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

You get to thinking that yoga and its health benefits, such as stress reduction and improved fitness, are best for thin people, and not so much for the 36 percent of U.S. adults who are obese. Not true. Yoga is for all types of shapes and sizes.” – Laura McMullen

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population are considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others.

 

Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to obese individuals. But, despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment. Mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesityalter eating behavior and improve health in obesity. This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity alone or in combination with other therapies. Yoga may be particularly beneficial for the obese as it is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise. Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. These include significant loss of body weight and improvement in health in the obese.

 

In today’s Research News article “Comparing between the effect of energy-restricted diet and yoga on the resting metabolic rate, anthropometric indices, and serum adipokine levels in overweight and obese staff women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306236/) Yazdanparast and colleagues recruited healthy adulty overweight and obese women and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weeks of either a balanced restricted diet with a reduction in about 500 Kcal per day or to 5 days per week in class and home weekend practice of 1 hour Hatha yoga practice (estimated to expend 200 Kcal per day) in combination with a balanced restricted diet with a reduction in about 300 Kcal per day. They were measured before and after the 8-week practice period for resting metabolic rate, body size, blood lipids, blood glucose, leptin, and blood adiponectin.

 

They found that after the 8-week intervention both groups had significant reductions in body size and blood leptin levels but the yoga plus diet group also had significant increases in the resting metabolic rate and blood adiponectin levels while the diet alone group did not. On the other hand, the diet only group had a significant reduction in blood high density lipoprotein – cholesterol that did not occur in the yoga plus diet group.

 

These results are particularly interesting because the two groups were estimated to have the same deficit in caloric intake plus expenditure with the diet only group having a 500 Kcal per day reduction in intake while the yoga plus diet group had a 300 Kcal per day reduction in intake along with a 200 KCAL per day increase in expenditure. Hence the differences in the results for the two groups were not due to differences in total energy reduction.

 

This suggests that yoga practice has the extra benefit over diet alone of increasing the resting metabolic rate and blood adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is an anti-inflammatory protein that is secreted by fat cells but is decreased with obesity. The reduction in the yoga group suggests that the yoga practice may produce a reduction in inflammation in the women. Indeed, such a reduction in the inflammatory response produced by yoga practice has been documented previously. A reduction in inflammation is greatly beneficial to the overall health of the women.

 

The reduction in the resting metabolic rate represents the baseline caloric expenditure independent of activity. Hence, its reduction in the yoga group suggests that yoga practice increases energy expenditure all day long regardless of activity, increasing overall expenditure. This should, over time, produce an increased weight reduction. Indeed, the current study and  previous research has found the yoga practice reduces body size.

 

So, Increase Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Women with Yoga.

 

“The benefits of practice are endless. As a light form of aerobic exercise, yoga can help to alleviate common symptoms of being affected by obesity.” – Laurel Dierking

 

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

 

Yazdanparast, F., Jafarirad, S., Borazjani, F., Haghighizadeh, M. H., & Jahanshahi, A. (2020). Comparing between the effect of energy-restricted diet and yoga on the resting metabolic rate, anthropometric indices, and serum adipokine levels in overweight and obese staff women. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 25, 37. https://doi.org/10.4103/jrms.JRMS_787_19

 

Abstract

Background:

Weight management is an important strategy to prevent the consequences of obesity. The aim of the study was to compare the effect of yoga practice and energy-restricted diet on resting metabolic rate (RMR), anthropometric indices, and serum adiponectin and leptin in overweight and obese women.

Materials and Methods:

Obese or overweight women were divided into two groups: yoga practicing and energy-restricted diet. Exercise trials consisted of 60-min Hatha yoga equal to 200 kilocalories (kcal) combined with 300 kcal restriction per day, and an energy-restricted diet consisted of 500 kcal restriction per day. The intervention period for both the groups was 8 weeks. RMR, anthropometric indices, and serum adiponectin, leptin, and lipid profiles were measured at baseline and at the end of the study.

Results:

RMR was increased in yoga but not in the diet group (P = 0.001). The level of adiponectin was increased in the yoga group compared with the diet (P = 0.035). The concentration of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol was decreased in the diet group significantly but not in yoga (P = 0.006). The level of leptin was decreased in both the groups (P = 0.001), and there were no significant differences between the two groups.

Conclusion:

The findings of the study demonstrated the effect of yoga practicing on RMR, and serum adiponectin, in overweight and obese women. It seems yoga practice with less energy restriction compared with a common energy restriction diet and is more effective in weight management for those who are in weight loss programs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306236/