Change the Brain with Mindfulness Apps

Change the Brain with Mindfulness Apps

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Rather than treating the usage of smartphones and mindfulness as oxymorons, we should consider ways to use our smartphones as a tool to aid our mindfulness practices.” – Courtney Ackerman

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with reducing the physical and psychological reactions to stress and increasing resilience in the face of stress. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. The nervous system changes in response to how it is used and how it is stimulated in a process called neuroplasticity. Highly used areas grow in size, metabolism, and connectivity. Mindfulness practices in general are known to produce these kinds of changes in the structure and activity of the brain.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with busy employee 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 and their ability to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Impact of App-Delivered Mindfulness Meditation on Functional Connectivity and Self-Reported Mindfulness Among Health Profession Trainees.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7543678/ ) Smith and colleagues recruited surgery residents and physicians assistant students and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to practice mindfulness meditation for 12 minutes per day for 8 weeks  guided by the “10% Happier” smartphone app. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness with the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire and had their brains scanned with a resting state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control conditions that the mindfulness app group had a significantly higher Describe facet of mindfulness. They report that the greater the amount of app practice, the greater the increase in the Describe facet of mindfulness. The brain scans revealed that using the mindfulness app resulted in changes in the connectivity of a number of systems within the brain. They found that there was increased connectivity between the Central Executive Network and the Nucleus Accumbens and also between the Default Mode Network and the Salience Network. In addition, the greater the Describe mindfulness facet and the greater the amount of practice the greater the increase in these connectivities.

 

These networks are very important for the functioning of the brain. The Central Executive Network is involved in high level thinking, the Default Mode Network is involved in mind wandering and self-referential thinking, and the Salience Network is involved in attentional processing. The increased connectivity observed with the systems after using the mindfulness app suggests that the app was successful in increasing mindfulness which in turn improved the processing of important neural systems, effectively improving the brain.

 

So, change the brain with mindfulness Apps.

 

meditation, which changes the brain for the better, is a very specific technique rooted in age old philosophies. How meditation apps work on the brain has been debated, but a recent study . . .  shows that mindfulness changes cells in the brain.” – Sophia Quaglia

 

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

 

Smith, J. L., Allen, J. W., Haack, C., Wehrmeyer, K., Alden, K., Lund, M. B., & Mascaro, J. S. (2020). The Impact of App-Delivered Mindfulness Meditation on Functional Connectivity and Self-Reported Mindfulness Among Health Profession Trainees. Mindfulness, 1–15. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01502-7

 

Abstract

Objectives

Previous research indicates that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety and depression and enhances well-being. We examined the impact of app-delivered mindfulness meditation on resting state functional MRI (fMRI) connectivity among physician assistant (PA) students and surgery residents.

Methods

PA students and residents were randomized to receive a popular meditation app or to wait-list control group. Before and after the 8-week meditation period, we acquired fMRI scans of participants’ resting state, and participants completed a self-report measure of mindfulness. We used a 2 × 2, within- and between-group factorial design and leveraged a whole-brain connectome approach to examine changes in within- and between-network connectivity across the entire brain, and to examine whether changes in connectivity were associated with app use or to changes in self-reported mindfulness.

Results

Meditation practitioners exhibited significantly stronger connectivity between the frontoparietal network and the left and right nucleus accumbens and between the default mode (DMN) and salience networks, among other regions. Mindfulness practice time was correlated with increased connectivity between the lateral parietal cortex and the supramarginal gyrus, which were also positively correlated with increased scores on the “Describing” subscale of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire between baseline and post-meditation. These findings are consistent with previous research indicating that mindfulness-based interventions alter functional connectivity within the DMN and between the DMN and other networks both during meditation and at rest, as well as increased connectivity in systems important for emotion and reward.

Conclusions

Recent commentaries call for healthcare provider and trainee wellness programs that are sustainable and preventive in nature rather than reactive; these data indicate that even brief sessions of app-delivered mindfulness practice are associated with functional connectivity changes in a dose-dependent manner.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7543678/

 

Improve Psychological Health with a Mindfulness App

Improve Psychological Health with a Mindfulness App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The Mindfulness App opens up a world of professional guided meditations. It helps you towards a more peaceful and healthier state of mind. Newbie or guru? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. The Mindfulness App offers guided meditations for everyone.” – Google Play

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with reducing the physical and psychological reactions to stress and increasing resilience in the face of stress. Indeed, these practices have been found to reduce stress and improve psychological health in college students.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients 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, mindfulness training over the internet 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. In addition, research has indicated that mindfulness training online can be effective for improving the health and well-being of the participants.

 

In today’s Research News article “Feasibility and Acceptability of a Mobile Mindfulness Meditation Intervention Among Women: Intervention Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298633/) Rung and colleagues recruited adult women and had them train for at least 30 days with 10-minute sessions of an online mindfulness app (Headspace) based upon the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. They were measured before participation and 45 days later for feasibility and acceptability of the mindfulness app, mindfulness, depression, perceived stress, sleep quality, physical activity, body size, and healthy eating.

 

Of the women enrolled only 14% completed the Headspace program while 60% of the women completed all measures but did not engage in the Headspace program. Of the women who used the Headspace App three quarters liked or loved the program while 85% stated that they would recommend the app to others. They found that in comparison to baseline and to the participants who did not participate with Headspace, there were significant reductions in depression, sleep latency, and perceived stress, and increases in sleep quality and duration, and physical activity. Interestingly, there was no significant increase in mindfulness.

 

The fact that improvements in psychological health and sleep occurred without an increase in mindfulness is puzzling. Online apps have been found previously to increase mindfulness and mindfulness has been shown to decrease depression and perceived stress, and improve sleep quality. This suggests that the app can be beneficial independent of changes in mindfulness. This needs to be further explored in future research.

 

The willingness to use the mindfulness app was disappointingly low indicating that many of the women did not have the time or desire to use it. But if they used it, they tended to like it, recommend it to others, and have improvements in their psychological health and sleep. Obviously, more research is needed to identify why so few women were willing to utilize the app as this markedly limits its usefulness.

 

So, improve psychological health with a mindfulness app.

 

Meditation apps aren’t just a boon for consumers hoping to learn how to be more present at an affordable price. If effective, they also have implications for workplaces, schools, and even nations, who want to cultivate happier and healthier communities.” – Kira Newman

 

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

 

Rung, A. L., Oral, E., Berghammer, L., & Peters, E. S. (2020). Feasibility and Acceptability of a Mobile Mindfulness Meditation Intervention Among Women: Intervention Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 8(6), e15943. https://doi.org/10.2196/15943

 

Abstract

Background

Traditional mindfulness-based stress reduction programs are resource intensive for providers and time- and cost-intensive for participants, but the use of mobile technologies may be particularly convenient and cost-effective for populations that are busy, less affluent, or geographically distant from skilled providers. Women in southern Louisiana live in a vulnerable, disaster-prone region and are highly stressed, making a mobile program particularly suited to this population.

Objective

This study aimed to (1) assess the feasibility and acceptability of a mobile mindfulness app in real-world conditions in a pilot study of a community sample of women residing in southern Louisiana, (2) describe predictors of app usage, and (3) assess the effect of the app on secondary health outcomes.

Methods

Women were recruited from an oil spill study on health. A total of 236 women completed a baseline survey, were offered the mobile mindfulness program, and completed a follow-up survey. Subjects were asked to download and use the app for at least 30 days for 10 min. All study procedures were completed on the web. Primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptability of the app and characteristics of app utilization. Secondary outcomes included mindfulness, depression, perceived stress, sleep quality, physical activity, BMI, and healthy eating.

Results

Overall, 74.2% (236/318) of subjects completed the follow-up survey, and 13.5% (43/318) used the app. The main barrier to app usage was lack of time, cited by 37% (16/43) of users and 48.7% (94/193) of nonusers of the app. Women who chose to use the app were more highly educated (16/43, 63% had a college education vs 65/193, 33.7% of nonparticipants; P<.001), had higher incomes (23/43, 58% had incomes >US $50,000 per year vs 77/193, 43.0% of nonparticipants), and were employed (34/43, 79% vs 122/193, 63.2% of nonparticipants; P=.047). Those who engaged with the app did so at high levels, with 72% (31/43) of participants self-reporting the completion of some or all sessions and 74% (32/43) reporting high levels of satisfaction with the app. Participation with the app had a beneficial impact on depression (odds ratio [OR] 0.3, 95% CI 0.11-0.81), sleep quality (OR 0.1, 95% CI 0.02-0.96), sleep duration (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.07-0.86), sleep latency (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.11-0.81), and physical activity (2.8 95% CI 1.0-7.8), but mindfulness scores did not change from baseline to follow-up.

Conclusions

The Headspace mobile mindfulness app was easy and cost-effective to implement and acceptable to those who participated, but few women elected to try it. The unique characteristics of this southern Louisiana population suggest that more intense promotion of the benefits of mindfulness training is needed, perhaps in conjunction with some therapist or researcher support. Several short-term benefits of the app were identified, particularly for depression and sleep.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298633/

 

Mindfulness Trained Over the Internet Improves Stress Management in Healthy Adults

Mindfulness Trained Over the Internet Improves Stress Management in Healthy Adults

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness gently builds an inner strength, so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being.” – Shamash Alidina

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. One reason for these benefits is that mindfulness training improves the individual’s physical and psychological reactions to stress. Stress is an integral part of life, that is actually essential to the health of the body. In moderation, it is healthful, strengthening, and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths.

 

It is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it. Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. and this appears to be important for health. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with busy employee schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, training over the internet  has been developed. This has 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 this approach in inducing mindfulness and reducing stress and improving psychological well-being in healthy individuals in real-world work settings.

 

The evidence has been accumulating. So, it is reasonable to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effects of mindfulness provided over the internet on the individual’s ability to manage stress. In today’s Research News article “A meta-analysis: Internet mindfulness-based interventions for stress management in the general population.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7360300/) Zhang and colleagues reviewed, summarized, and performed a meta-analysis of the published research controlled trials investigating the effects of mindfulness training provided over the internet on the management of stress in healthy participants. They identified 16 controlled trials.

 

They report that the published research found that mindfulness training of healthy participants provided over the internet produced significant increases in mindfulness and significant decreases in perceived stress with moderate effect sizes and significant decreases in anxiety and depression with small effect sizes. These results occurred regardless of the method of delivery of mindfulness training and whether students, staff, or both were the subjects. In addition, they found that when therapist guidance was present the effect sizes were larger.

 

It has been well established the mindfulness training decreases perceived stress, anxiety, and depression in a variety of healthy and ill populations and with a variety of delivery methods. The present meta-analysis demonstrates that mindfulness training over the internet is effective in improving stress management and mental health in healthy individuals. The results also suggest that having some guidance from a therapist provided along with the internet-based training improves the effectiveness of the treatments.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training is widely effective and can be delivered cheaply and conveniently to large numbers of geographically diffuse populations. Since, stress is so ubiquitous in modern society, mindfulness training may be a way to counter the effects of that stress on physical and mental health.

 

So, mindfulness trained over the internet improves stress management in healthy adults.

 

Learning how to accept your present-moment experience is really important for reducing stress. It seems to be a key element of mindfulness training.” – Emily Lindsay

 

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

 

Zhang, Y., Xue, J., & Huang, Y. (2020). A meta-analysis: Internet mindfulness-based interventions for stress management in the general population. Medicine, 99(28), e20493. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000020493

 

Abstract

Background:

Psychological stress was an important mental health problem among the general population and warrant research to inform strategies for effective prevention. iMBIs provide a possibility to offer easily accessible, efficacious, convenient, and low-cost interventions on a wide scale. However, the efficacy of iMBIs in the general population remains unclear. The aim of this meta-analysis is to evaluate the effects of iMBIs for stress reduction in the general population.

Methods:

A systematic search in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Medline, Cochrane Library, CNKI, and Wanfang Data databases was performed up to April 10, 2019. The overall effect sizes of the iMBIs on stress, depression, anxiety, and mindfulness were recorded by the metric of Hedges’ g with 95% confidence interval (CI), Z-value, and P value.

Results:

Sixteen eligible studies were included in the meta-analysis. The overall results indicated that iMBIs had small to moderate effects on stress (Hedges’ g = −0.393) and mindfulness (Hedges’ g = −0.316) compared with the control group. Results from subgroup analyses revealed that the type of sample and delivery mode had a greater impact on heterogeneity across the studies. Meta-regression found that the overall effect might be moderated by guidance for iMBIs.

Conclusion:

The present meta-analysis suggested that iMBIs had small to moderate effects in reducing stress and improving mindfulness of the general population in comparison with the control group. Future research is needed to explore how iMBIs are remolded to improve adherence and suit specific individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7360300/

 

Reduce Anxiety and Depression in College Student with an Online Mindfulness Virtual Community

Reduce Anxiety and Depression in College Student with an Online Mindfulness Virtual Community

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Student life can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean students have to let stress take over their lives. By incorporating mindfulness and meditation into daily routines, students can not only relieve the pressure, but also improve their memory, focus and ultimately their grades.” – Kenya McCullum

 

There is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance. Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. Indeed, these practices have been found to improve psychological health in college students.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients 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, mindfulness training over the internet 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. In addition, research has indicated that mindfulness training online can be effective for improving the health and well-being of the participants.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of an 8-Week Web-Based Mindfulness Virtual Community Intervention for University Students on Symptoms of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7395254/) El Morr and colleagues recruited undergraduate students and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive an 8 week online mindfulness virtual community program. The program incorporated brief online modules on mindfulness and student issues, online group discussions, and moderated 20-minute online videoconferences on mindfulness. The participants were measured before and after training for depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and mindfulness.

 

They found that compared to baseline and the waitlist control condition, participants in the online mindfulness virtual community had significantly higher mindfulness and significantly lower levels of depression and anxiety, with medium to large effect sizes. These findings suggest that online group training in mindfulness improves the mental health of college students.

 

College can be a difficult and stressful time for the students. There is pressure to perform academically while in a novel environment outside of the family with social pressures. This study suggests that the students can be helped in their adjustment with online mindfulness training, improving their psychological health. More research is needed, however, to determine if the mindfulness training produces not just short-term but lasting benefits for the students.

 

So, reduce anxiety and depression in college student with an online mindfulness virtual community.

 

“Learning how to meditate and be more mindful was one of the best things I’ve done as a student here. I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years, and became really overwhelmed by everything by my sophomore year. My grades started to fall as I slept less and tried to take on more and more. I’m so thankful for the skills I learned in this class. It’s not only made me a better student, but it’s also made me a happier person!”

 

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

 

El Morr, C., Ritvo, P., Ahmad, F., Moineddin, R., & MVC Team (2020). Effectiveness of an 8-Week Web-Based Mindfulness Virtual Community Intervention for University Students on Symptoms of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mental health, 7(7), e18595. https://doi.org/10.2196/18595

 

Abstract

Background

A student mental health crisis is increasingly acknowledged and will only intensify with the COVID-19 crisis. Given accessibility of methods with demonstrated efficacy in reducing depression and anxiety (eg, mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT]) and limitations imposed by geographic obstructions and localized expertise, web-based alternatives have become vehicles for scaled-up delivery of benefits at modest cost. Mindfulness Virtual Community (MVC), a web-based program informed by CBT constructs and featuring online videos, discussion forums, and videoconferencing, was developed to target depression, anxiety, and experiences of excess stress among university students.

Objective

The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of an 8-week web-based mindfulness and CBT program in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress (primary outcomes) and increasing mindfulness (secondary outcome) within a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with undergraduate students at a large Canadian university.

Methods

An RCT was designed to assess undergraduate students (n=160) who were randomly allocated to a web-based guided mindfulness–CBT condition (n=80) or to a waitlist control (WLC) condition (n=80). The 8-week intervention consisted of a web-based platform comprising (1) 12 video-based modules with psychoeducation on students’ preidentified life challenges and applied mindfulness practice; (2) anonymous peer-to-peer discussion forums; and (3) anonymous, group-based, professionally guided 20-minute live videoconferences. The outcomes (depression, anxiety, stress, and mindfulness) were measured via an online survey at baseline and at 8 weeks postintervention using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ9), the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and the Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire Short Form (FFMQ-SF). Analyses employed generalized estimation equation methods with AR(1) covariance structures and were adjusted for possible covariates (gender, age, country of birth, ethnicity, English as first language, paid work, unpaid work, relationship status, physical exercise, self-rated health, and access to private mental health counseling).

Results

Of the 159 students who provided T1 data, 32 were males and 125 were females with a mean age of 22.55 years. Participants in the MVC (n=79) and WLC (n=80) groups were similar in sociodemographic characteristics at T1 with the exception of gender and weekly hours of unpaid volunteer work. At postintervention follow-up, according to the adjusted comparisons, there were statistically significant between-group reductions in depression scores (β=–2.21, P=.01) and anxiety scores (β=–4.82, P=.006), and a significant increase in mindfulness scores (β=4.84, P=.02) compared with the WLC group. There were no statistically significant differences in perceived stress for MVC (β=.64, P=.48) compared with WLC.

Conclusions

With the MVC intervention, there were significantly reduced depression and anxiety symptoms but no significant effect on perceived stress. Online mindfulness interventions can be effective in addressing common mental health conditions among postsecondary populations on a large scale, simultaneously reducing the current burden on traditional counseling services.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7395254/

 

Reduce Internet Addiction with Mindfulness

Reduce Internet Addiction with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

teaching teens to be mindful—through exercises or school programs—might help prevent and treat our modern digital obsession.” – Kira Newman

 

Over the last few decades, the internet has gone from a rare curiosity to the dominant mode of electronic communications. In fact, it has become a dominant force in daily life, occupying large amounts of time and attention. As useful as the internet may be, it can also produce negative consequences. “Problematic Internet Use” is now considered a behavioral addiction, with almost half of participants in one study considered “Internet addicts”, developing greater levels of “tolerance” and experiencing “withdrawal” and distress when deprived. This phenomenon is so new that there is little understanding of its nature, causes, and consequences and how to treat it.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with each of the components of addictions, decreasing cravingsimpulsiveness, and psychological and physiological responses to stress, and increasing emotion regulation.  It is no wonder then that mindfulness training has been found to be effective for the treatment of a variety of addictions. It also has been found to be helpful in overcoming internet and smartphone addictions. But there is a need to further explore the effectiveness of mindfulness training on internet addiction.

 

In today’s Research News article “Reducing compulsive Internet use and anxiety symptoms via two brief interventions: A comparison between mindfulness and gradual muscle relaxation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044623/) Quinones and colleagues recruited adults who lived with a partner, worked more than 40 hours per week, and showed signs of compulsive internet use. They were randomly assigned to a wait-list control group, a mindfulness group, or a gradual relaxation group. The interventions were delivered by 10-minute podcasts of either mindfulness (Headspace) or relaxation daily for 2 weeks. The participants were measured before and after training for compulsive internet use, anxiety, depression, and mindfulness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group both the mindfulness and relaxation groups had significant reductions in anxiety and depression. Only the mindfulness group had a significant increase in mindfulness. Although both the mindfulness and relaxation groups had significant reductions in compulsive internet use, the mindfulness group had a significantly greater reduction than the relaxation group.

 

These results suggest that a brief, simple, online training in mindfulness produces greater immediate increases in mindfulness and reductions in compulsive internet use than relaxation training. Both interventions were effective in reducing the negative emotions of anxiety and depression. There is a need, however, to follow-up these findings to determine if the effects are lasting or only temporary immediately after training. But these findings are encouraging and suggest that further research is warranted.

 

Compulsive internet use is a new phenomenon but like other addictions and compulsions is disruptive of the individual’s life. It is unknown how mindfulness influences compulsive internet use. But it can be speculated that training in paying attention to the present moment may allow for other aspects of life to break into the compulsive focus on the internet and thereby disrupt the compulsion.

 

So, reduce internet addiction with mindfulness.

 

“just as technology is increasingly being developed to attract and hold our attention, with mindfulness we can develop the capability to be much more aware of where the spotlight of our attention is being drawn to, and consciously choose to direct and place our attention and energy on an activity of our choosing.” – Neil Trantor

 

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

 

Quinones, C., & Griffiths, M. D. (2019). Reducing compulsive Internet use and anxiety symptoms via two brief interventions: A comparison between mindfulness and gradual muscle relaxation. Journal of behavioral addictions, 8(3), 530–536. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.8.2019.45

 

Abstract

Background

Compulsive Internet use (CIU) refers to those individuals who experience a loss of control regarding their online use. Although suffered by a minority, a much larger proportion of adults report to be experiencing early signs of CIU, which can become more problematic if sustained over time, especially when used as a coping mechanism for stress. Since compulsive behaviors are characterized by executing behaviors on “automatic pilot,” mindfulness techniques, which help individuals relate more consciously with their environment, could help develop a more adaptive relationship with technology. However, mindfulness interventions are often lengthy hence not ideal for busy individuals with early signs of CIU.

Aims

This study tested the effectiveness of a brief mindfulness intervention (10 min a day for 2 weeks) to reduce CIU and anxiety and depression symptoms, in relation to an equivalent length classic arousal descending technique (i.e., gradual-muscle-relaxation), and a wait-list control group.

Methods

A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was used with assessments at pre- and post-phases. Participants showing initial signs of CIU were allocated to a mindfulness-group (n = 343), gradual-relaxation (n = 301), or a wait-list control group (n = 350).

Results

The mindfulness and gradual-muscle-relaxation participants were equally effective in reducing anxiety and depression. The mindfulness intervention was more effective reducing CIU symptoms.

Discussion

Given the large sample sizes of this RCT, these results are promising, although follow-up studies are needed. Considering health hazards of the “always-on-culture” and the popularity of bite-sized learning, the effectiveness of easy-to fit-in daily life health practices is a positive development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044623/

 

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/

Reduce Smartphone Addiction and Improve Stress Coping in Adolescents with Meditation

Reduce Smartphone Addiction and Improve Stress Coping in Adolescents with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

over a third of us check our phones in the middle of the night. And a further third check our phones within five minutes of waking up. The same survey also revealed that about a third of us have argued with our partners about using their phones too much.” – Neil Tranter

 

Over the last few decades, the internet has gone from a rare curiosity to the dominant mode of electronic communications. In fact, it has become a dominant force in daily life, occupying large amounts of time and attention. The dominant mode of accessing the internet is through smartphones creating smartphone addictions. Individuals with smartphone addiction develop greater levels of “tolerance” and experience “withdrawal” and distress when deprived. This phenomenon is so new that there is little understanding of its nature, causes, and consequences and how to treat it.

 

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. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges and stresses. 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 can feel overwhelmed and stressed and unable to cope with all that is required.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with addictions, decreasing cravings, impulsiveness, and psychological and physiological responses to stress, and increasing emotion regulation.  Mindfulness has also been shown to be effective for the treatment of a variety of addictions. Meditation, a core mindfulness training technique, has been shown to be effective in treating addictions. Hence, there is a need to further explore the ability of meditation training to treat smartphone addiction in adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Mind Subtraction Meditation Intervention on Smartphone Addiction and the Psychological Wellbeing among Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246924/), Choi and colleagues recruited High School sophomores at two different schools and provided one group with school based meditation training for 20 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks while the second group received no treatment. They were measured before and after training and 4 weeks later for smartphone addiction, self-control, perceived stress, and stress coping skills.

 

They found that after treatment the meditation but not the control group had a significant reduction in perceived stress and smartphone addiction, including decreases in daily life disturbance, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms. They also found significant increases in self-control and stress coping strategies including problem focusing coping and social support navigation coping. They also found that theses effects were still present and significant 4 weeks after the end of training.

 

These are interesting results that would have been stronger is an active control condition such as exercise was used. Nevertheless, the results suggest that school-based meditation practice can reduce stress, improve stress coping and self-control and decrease addiction to smartphones in adolescents. This should help these young people to better deal with their school stress and be better able to perform academically and socially.

 

So, reduce smartphone addiction and improve stress coping in adolescents with meditation.

 

These devices and capabilities do bring incredible benefits and possibilities for sharing information and creating global interaction than ever before. We simply (and yet with great difficulty) need to learn to hold our technology more lightly—with more awareness.” – Mitch Abblett

 

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

 

Choi, E. H., Chun, M. Y., Lee, I., Yoo, Y. G., & Kim, M. J. (2020). The Effect of Mind Subtraction Meditation Intervention on Smartphone Addiction and the Psychological Wellbeing among Adolescents. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(9), 3263. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17093263

 

Abstract

As the smartphone has become an indispensable device in modern lives, consequential psychosocial problems such as smartphone addiction have been getting attention worldwide, especially regarding adolescents. Based on its positive effect on young individuals’ mental health, mind subtraction meditation has been widely applied to many school-based programs in South Korea. This study aims to identify the effects of a school program based on mind subtraction on the smartphone addiction of adolescents. A total of 49 high school sophomores, 24 from the experimental group (mean age = 16), and 25 from the control group (mean age = 16) are included in this case-control study. The experimental group is given the meditation program sessions in the morning, two times a week for 20 min per session, for a total of 12 weeks. The experimental group shows improvements regarding the ‘smartphone addiction’ section (p < 0.001), for instant satisfaction (p < 0.001) and long-term satisfaction (p < 0.001). Concerning the ‘self-control’ section and decreasing stress (p < 0.001), problem focusing (p < 0.001), and social support navigation (p = 0.018), there are improvements in these ‘stress coping strategies’ sections. This study directly shows the positive effect of mind subtraction meditation on smartphone addiction in adolescents and, thus, provides guidance to the future development of smartphone addiction prevention programs for young individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246924/

 

Reduce Hypertension with a Mindfulness Smartphone App

Reduce Hypertension with a Mindfulness Smartphone App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Investigators found mindfulness was associated with a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure at 1 year and had other gains including better adherence to a recommended diet, lower salt intake, reduced alcohol consumption, and increased physical activity.” – Damian McNamara

 

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. Treatment frequently includes 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. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. 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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of 12-Month Smartphone Breathing Meditation Program upon Systolic Blood Pressure among Non-Medicated Stage 1 Hypertensive Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7143262/), Chandler and colleagues recruited adults with non-medicated stage 1 systolic hypertension; systolic blood pressure of 121–139 mmHg. They were randomly assigned to receive via smartphone app 3 months of either mindfulness training or health education. The mindfulness training app, Tension Tamer, employed twice daily practice of focused meditation for 10-15 minutes. The health education app, Runkeeper, delivered lifestyle health education messages focusing on exercise. They were measured before during and after training and 3 and 9 months later for systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

 

They found that the mindfulness trained group had greater reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure at the end of training and 9 months later. In addition, a greater proportion of mindfulness trained participants achieved reductions sufficient to remove them from being classified as having stage 1 systolic hypertension.

 

There were no significant differences found in perceived stress. Even though mindfulness training has been shown in prior studies to reduce perceived stress, it does not appear to be responsible for decrease blood pressure in the present study. Measures of heart rate during the meditation practice revealed significant decreases in heart rate over the session. This suggests that the mindfulness training was successful in reducing blood pressure by increasing relaxation perhaps by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system.

 

So, reduce hypertension with a mindfulness smartphone app.

 

“mindfulness meditation in combination with conventional medication treatment reduces blood pressure and stress levels, while improving mindfulness and mood more than medication coupled with health education.” – goamra.org

 

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

 

Chandler, J., Sox, L., Diaz, V., Kellam, K., Neely, A., Nemeth, L., & Treiber, F. (2020). Impact of 12-Month Smartphone Breathing Meditation Program upon Systolic Blood Pressure among Non-Medicated Stage 1 Hypertensive Adults. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(6), 1955. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17061955

 

Abstract

(1) Background: Hypertension (HTN) affects ~50% of adults and is a major risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease. In 2017, the SPRINT trial outcomes led to lowering of HTN cutoffs by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA). The Joint National Committee (JNC8) and National High BP Education Program recommend that lifestyle modifications be used as first-line HTN treatment. Chronic stress is a risk factor for HTN and cardiovascular disease. A recently completed 12 month randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a breathing meditation smart phone app (Tension Tamer, TT) involving JNC8 designated pre-HTN adults provided an opportunity to examine its impact upon individuals now classified as having stage 1 HTN. The TT app captures continuous real-time heart rate (HR) from a user’s fingertip placed over a video camera lens during sessions. Users receive immediate feedback graphs after each session, showing their HR changes. They also receive motivational and social reinforcement SMS text messages the following day based upon levels of adherence. We conducted ancillary analyses of a 2-arm, 12-month, small-scale efficacy RCT among a subgroup of our total sample of participants, who are now classified as having stage 1 non-medicated systolic HTN. Primary outcome was change in resting systolic blood pressure (SBP). Secondary outcomes were change in resting diastolic blood pressure, adherence to the TT protocol, and perceived stress levels. (2) Methods: 30 adults (mean age: 45.0 years; 15 males; 16 White; 14 Black) with ACC/AHA 2017 defined systolic HTN (130–139 mmHg) on 3 consecutive sessions (mean SBP: 132.6 mmHg) were randomly assigned to TT or lifestyle education program delivered via smartphone (SPCTL). Each group received a twice-daily dosage schedule of TT or walking (month 1: 15 min; months 2 and 3: 10 min; months 4–12: 5 min). (3) Results: Mixed modeling results revealed a significant group x time effect for SBP (p<.01). The TT group showed greater SBP reductions at months 3 (−8.0 vs. −1.9), 6 (−10.0 vs. −0.7), and 12: (−11.6 vs. −0.4 mmHg; all p-values <0.04). (4) Conclusion: The TT app was beneficial in reducing SBP levels among adults with stage 1 systolic HTN. The TT app may be a promising, scalable first-line tactic for stage 1 HTN. Preparations are underway for an efficacy RCT involving uncontrolled stage 1 HTN patients.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7143262/

 

Reduce Hallucinations in Schizophrenia with Mindfulness

Reduce Hallucinations in Schizophrenia with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness-based interventions can give people a greater acceptance and insight into their experiences of psychosis, so they are less bothered by them, even if hallucinations and other symptoms are not eliminated.” – Adrianna Mendrek

 

Psychoses are mental health problems that cause people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations; seeing, hearing and, in some cases, feeling, smelling or tasting things that aren’t objectively there, or delusions; unshakable beliefs that, when examined rationally, are obviously untrue. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior, making it difficult if not impossible to function in society without treatment. Psychoses appear to be highly heritable and involves changes in the brain. The symptoms of psychoses usually do not appear until late adolescence or early adulthood. There are, however, usually early signs of the onset of psychoses which present as cognitive impairments.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be beneficial for patients with psychosis including reducing hallucinations. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Mediates the Effect of a Psychological Online Intervention for Psychosis on Self-Reported Hallucinations: A Secondary Analysis of Voice Hearers From the EviBaS Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7145894/), Lüdtke and colleagues recruited patients with schizophrenia who have delusions of hearing voices and randomly assigned them to receive online training that included a module on mindfulness or to a waitlist control condition. They completed a online training module online for 8 weeks. The module consisted of trainings on ”mindfulness, worry and rumination, social competence, self-worth, depression, sleep, and metacognitive biases, such as “jumping to conclusions” and took about 1 hour to complete. The mindfulness module consisted of “24 web pages, which contained text, pictures, and audio files.” They were measured before and after training for antipsychotic medication dosage, positive, negative, and global symptoms of schizophrenia, mindfulness, and distress caused by hearing voices.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the waitlist control participants that the online modules training group had significantly higher levels of mindfulness and lower levels of hallucinations. In addition, a mediation analysis found that the reduction in hallucinations was, in part, mediated by mindfulness. That is the training reduced hallucinations directly and also indirectly by increasing mindfulness that, in turn, reduced hallucinations. The online modules were a complex of trainings and mindfulness was just one component. So, it is not possible to ascribe the results to mindfulness training alone.

 

It was surprising that the online modules training did not reduce distress from hearing voices as was the intent of the study, but rather unexpectedly reduced overall hallucinations in the schizophrenic patients. Previous research has shown that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can reduce the distress caused by hearing voices. This suggests that the cognitive therapy component of the treatment which attempts to alter the thought processes used to judge and interpret experiences was critical. Hence, mindfulness training itself may reduce overall hallucinations while alterations of cognitive process is required to decrease the distress produced by hearing voices.

 

So, reduce hallucinations in schizophrenia with mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness skills can provide these individuals with an alternative way of relating to their symptoms, moving from a judgemental and controlling stance to a more compassionate, accepting view. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based approaches for people with psychosis has been demonstrated in controlled clinical settings and in the community.” – Carly Samson

 

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

 

Lüdtke, T., Platow-Kohlschein, H., Rüegg, N., Berger, T., Moritz, S., & Westermann, S. (2020). Mindfulness Mediates the Effect of a Psychological Online Intervention for Psychosis on Self-Reported Hallucinations: A Secondary Analysis of Voice Hearers From the EviBaS Trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 228. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00228

 

Abstract

Background

Psychological online interventions (POIs) could represent a promising approach to narrow the treatment gap in psychosis but it remains unclear whether improving mindfulness functions as a mechanism of change in POIs. For the present study, we examined if mindfulness mediates the effect of a comprehensive POI on distressing (auditory) hallucinations.

Methods

We conducted a secondary analysis on voice hearers (n = 55) from a randomized controlled trial evaluating a POI for psychosis (EviBaS; trial registration NCT02974400, clinicaltrials.gov). The POI includes a module on mindfulness and we only considered POI participants in our analyses who completed the mindfulness module (n = 16).

Results

Participants who completed the mindfulness module reported higher mindfulness (p = 0.015) and lower hallucinations (p = 0.001) at post assessment, compared to controls, but there was no effect on distress by voices (p = 0.598). Mindfulness mediated the POI’s effect on hallucinations (b = −1.618, LLCI = −3.747, ULCI = −0.054) but not on distress by voices (b = −0.057, LLCI = −0.640, ULCI = 0.915).

Limitations and Discussion

Completion of the mindfulness module was not randomized. Hence, we cannot draw causal inferences. Even if we assumed causality, it remains unclear which contents of the POI could have resulted in increased mindfulness and reduced hallucinations, as participants completed other modules as well. In addition, confounding variables could explain the mediation and the sample size was small. Nonetheless, the overall pattern of results indicates that the POI is likely to improve mindfulness, and that increased mindfulness could partially explain the POI’s efficacy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7145894/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being at Work with a Mindfulness App

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being at Work with a Mindfulness App

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

Mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. It’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual, as well as organizational, goals.” Jacqueline Carter

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the people we work with. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. These mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with busy employee 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 inducing mindfulness and reducing stress and improving psychological well-being in employees in real-world work settings.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6215525/), Bostock and colleagues recruited healthy adults in the workplace and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to 45 days of daily mindfulness training with the “Headspace” app for their smartphones. They were measured before and after the intervention and 8 weeks later for blood pressure and daily well-being at 5 different times during the day, psychological well-being, anxiety, depression, job strain, job status, workplace social support, and mindfulness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list controls the participants who used the mindfulness training app had significantly higher levels of psychological well-being, daily positive emotions, and workplace social support and significantly lower levels of blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and job strain. They found that these benefits only occurred in participants who completed 10 or more practice sessions. Most of these improvements were maintained at the 8-week follow-up.

 

The research design contained a control condition but the condition was not active. This leaves open the possibility of placebo effects, demand characteristics, and experimenter bias. Employees that used the app less than 10 times, however, could be seen as an active control and they did not show improvements. Nevertheless, the results suggest that using a mindfulness training smartphone app can improve the psychological well-being of employees in the workplace. Since they can receive the training at their own convenience and schedule, it is especially applicable to busy real-world work environments. The low cost of this training suggests that it can be used over large numbers of employees, at diverse locations.

 

So, improve psychological well-being at work with a mindfulness app.

 

“mindfulness and mindfulness-based practices improve self-regulation of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, linking them to both performance and employee well-being in the workplace.” Theresa Glomb

 

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

 

Bostock, S., Crosswell, A. D., Prather, A. A., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of occupational health psychology, 24(1), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000118

 

Abstract

We investigated whether a mindfulness meditation program delivered via a smartphone application (app) could improve psychological well-being, reduce job strain, and reduce ambulatory blood pressure during the workday. Participants were 238 healthy employees from two large UK companies that were randomized to a mindfulness meditation practice app or a wait-list control condition. The app offered 45 pre-recorded 10–20 minute guided audio meditations. Participants were asked to complete one meditation per day. Psychosocial measures, and blood pressure throughout one working day, were measured at baseline and 8 weeks later; a follow-up survey was also emailed to participants 16 weeks after the intervention start. Usage data showed that during the 8-week intervention period, participants randomized to the intervention completed an average of 17 meditation sessions (range 0 to 45 sessions). The intervention group reported significant improvement in well-being, distress, job strain, and perceptions of workplace social support compared to the control group. In addition, the intervention group had a marginally significant decrease in self-measured workday systolic blood pressure from pre to post intervention. Sustained positive effects in the intervention group were found for well-being and job strain at the 16-week follow-up assessment. This trial suggests that short guided mindfulness meditations delivered via smartphone and practiced multiple times per week can improve outcomes related to work stress and well-being, with potentially lasting effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6215525/