Improve Obese Individuals’ Ability to Respond Adaptively to Stressors with Mindfulness

Improve Obese Individuals’ Ability to Respond Adaptively to Stressors with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“patients with obesity do better at reducing stress with mindfulness exercises.” – Sharon Basaraba

 

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. Stress responses are blunted and variable in obese individuals. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve the individuals physiological and psychological responses to stress. One of the ways that mindfulness may be effective for obese individuals is by improving their adaptive responses to stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindfulness-Based Weight Loss Intervention on Cardiovascular Reactivity to Social-Evaluative Threat Among Adults with Obesity.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138245/ ) Daubenmeir and colleagues recruited adults with abdominal obesity (BMI>30) and provided them with a 12-week program of diet and exercise. Half were randomly assigned to also receive mindfulness training similar to the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. In previously reported results, the mindfulness training produced greater improvements in metabolism but non-significant improvements in body weight.

 

In the present study they report the results of studies of the obese participants stress responsivity. They were measured before and after the 12-week diet and exercise training with a social stress test that involved giving a speech and verbally doing math problems while being evaluated by strangers. In addition, cardiovascular factors were measured including the electrocardiogram (EKG), blood pressure and cardiac impedance.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control condition, the mindfulness trained participants reported that the social stress tasks was a significantly greater positive challenge and produced significantly less anxiety. They also found that the mindfulness group had significantly greater cardiac output and significantly lower total peripheral resistance while the control group had a significant increase in total peripheral resistance.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training increases the obese individual’s ability to adapt psychologically and physiologically to stress. That mindfulness reduces anxiety and improves adaptation to stress has been previously reported using different evaluation techniques and different participant populations. The present study extends these findings by demonstrating that mindfulness has similar benefits for the obese. Since stress reactivity can be a particular problem for the obese, the improved adaptive responses to stress after mindfulness training may be especially helpful for these individuals.

 

So, improve obese individuals’ ability to respond adaptively to stressors with mindfulness.

 

restricted diets may in fact increase anxiety in obese children. However, practicing mindfulness, as well dieting, may counteract this and promote more efficient weight loss,” – Mardia López-Alarcón

 

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

 

Daubenmier, J., Epel, E. S., Moran, P. J., Thompson, J., Mason, A. E., Acree, M., Goldman, V., Kristeller, J., Hecht, F. M., & Mendes, W. B. (2019). A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindfulness-Based Weight Loss Intervention on Cardiovascular Reactivity to Social-Evaluative Threat Among Adults with Obesity. Mindfulness, 10(12), 2583–2595. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01232-5

 

Objective:

Mindfulness-based interventions have been found to reduce psychological and physiological stress reactivity. In obesity, however, stress reactivity is complex, with studies showing both exaggerated and blunted physiological responses to stressors. A nuanced view of stress reactivity is the “challenge and threat” framework, which defines adaptive and maladaptive patterns of psychophysiological stress reactivity. We hypothesized that mindfulness training would facilitate increased challenge-related appraisals, emotions, and cardiovascular reactivity, including sympathetic nervous system activation paired with increased cardiac output (CO) and reduced total peripheral resistance (TPR) compared to a control group, which would exhibit an increased threat pattern of psychophysiological reactivity to repeated stressors.

Methods:

Adults (N=194) with obesity were randomized to a 5.5-month mindfulness-based weight loss intervention or an active control condition with identical diet-exercise guidelines. Participants were assessed at baseline and 4.5 months later using the Trier Social Stress Task. Electrocardiogram, impedance cardiography, and blood pressure were acquired at rest and during the speech and verbal arithmetic tasks to assess pre-ejection period (PEP), CO, and TPR reactivity.

Results:

Mindfulness participants showed significantly greater maintenance of challenge-related emotions and cardiovascular reactivity patterns (higher CO and lower TPR) from pre to post-intervention compared to control participants, but groups did not differ in PEP. Findings were independent of changes in body mass index.

Conclusions:

Mindfulness training may increase the ability to maintain a positive outlook and mount adaptive cardiovascular responses to repeated stressors among persons with obesity though findings need to be replicated in other populations and using other forms of mindfulness interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138245/

 

Improve Chronic Low Back Pain with Mindfulness

Improve Chronic Low Back Pain with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy often work better than pain meds and other medical treatments for chronic back pain.” – Nancy Shute

 

Low Back Pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects between 6% to 15% of the population. It is estimated, however, that 80% of the population will experience back pain sometime during their lives. There are varied treatments for low back pain including chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage, surgery, opiate pain killing drugs, steroid injections, and muscle relaxant drugs. These therapies are sometimes effective particularly for acute back pain. But, for chronic conditions the treatments are less effective and often require continuing treatment for years and opiate pain killers are dangerous and can lead to abuse, addiction, and fatal overdoses.

 

Obviously, there is a need for safe and effective treatments for low back pain that are low cost and don’t have troublesome side effects. Mindfulness practices are effective in treating pain and have been shown to be safe and effective in the management of low back pain. The research has been accumulating and it is useful to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review of Mindfulness Practices for Improving Outcomes in Chronic Low Back Pain.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7735497/ ) Smith and Langen review, and summarize the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for the relief of chronic low back pain. MBSR is generally delivered as an 8-week program including training in meditation, body scan, and yoga along with group discussion and daily home practice.

 

They identified 12 published research studies. They report that the published studies found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) significantly reduced pain severity and improved the quality of life of patients with chronic low back pain. These improvements were still present at long-term follow-up. Hence, mindfulness training appears to a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of chronic low back pain.

 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a complex of different practices. It is not known which of the components or which combination of components is necessary and sufficient to produce the pain reductions and quality of life improvement. But meditation practice by itself has been shown to reduce perceived pain and quality of life and yoga practice alone has also been shown to reduce perceived pain and quality of life. So, all of the components may be effective. It is not known, however, if their effects are additive so that the combination of practices produces greater benefits than the individual practices alone. This remains for future research to investigate.

 

So, improve chronic low back pain with mindfulness.

 

meditation may help change the individual’s relationship to pain and other experiences, rather than focusing on changing the content of the experience itself (which, of note, may not be possible), and has the potential to uncouple the physical experience of pain from pain-related suffering.” –  Aleksandra Zgierska

 

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, S. L., & Langen, W. H. (2020). A Systematic Review of Mindfulness Practices for Improving Outcomes in Chronic Low Back Pain. International journal of yoga, 13(3), 177–182. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_4_20

 

Abstract

Background:

Chronic pain is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques offer an accessible treatment modality for chronic pain patients that may complement or replace pharmacological treatment. This article reviews the literature on the efficacy of MBSR training in patients with back chronic pain syndromes for the outcomes of pain measures, quality of life (QOL), mental health, and mindfulness.

Methods:

A systemized search was conducted in September of 2018 for studies published between 2008 and 2018 on mindfulness and chronic low back pain. Out of 50 articles on mindfulness and chronic pain, 12 empirical studies were selected for the inclusion in this review.

Results:

Subjective pain scores and QOL improved for chronic pain patients after mindfulness interventions, compared to control groups, in most of the studies reviewed. Limitations of the studies reviewed included the varied pain measurement instruments, the small sample sizes, and the inability to blind participants to MBSR intervention.

Conclusions:

MBSR interventions show significant improvements in chronic pain patients for pain measures, QOL, and mental health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7735497/

 

Poor Mental Health in Patients with Fibromyalgia is Associated with Brain Systems

Poor Mental Health in Patients with Fibromyalgia is Associated with Brain Systems

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

practicing mindfulness techniques may be a low-cost, side effect free option for people wishing to reduce the severity of their fibromyalgia.” – Kim Jones

 

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder whose causes are unknown. It is very common affecting over 5 million people in the U.S., about 2% of the population with about 7 times more women affected than men. It is characterized by widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that lead to psychological distress. Fibromyalgia may also have morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, thinking and memory problems, and painful menstrual periods. The symptoms are so severe and debilitating that about half the patients are unable to perform routine daily functions and about a third have to stop work. Although it is not itself fatal, suicide rates are higher in fibromyalgia sufferers. Clearly, fibromyalgia greatly reduces the quality of life of its’ sufferers.

 

There are no completely effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Symptoms are generally treated with pain relievers, antidepressant drugs and exercise. But these only reduce the severity of the symptoms and do not treat the disease directly. Mindfulness practices have also been shown to be effective in reducing pain from fibromyalgia. Some of the effects of mindfulness practices are to alter thought processes, changing what is thought about. In terms of pain, mindfulness training, by focusing attention on the present moment has been shown to reduce worry and catastrophizing. Pain is increased by worry about the pain and the expectation of greater pain in the future. Brain systems are involved in pain processing. It is not known, however, what brain systems may be involved in the psychological effects of fibromyalgia.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis as a Brain Correlate of Psychological Inflexibility in Fibromyalgia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7074535/ ) Feliu-Soler and colleagues recruited adult women who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia and assigned them to either treatment as usual or to receive and 8-week program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). They were measured before and after the program for psychological inflexibility in pain, functional impairment, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, pain catastrophizing, mindfulness, and self-compassion. They also underwent measurements of the gray matter volume in the brain with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that the higher the levels of psychological inflexibility in pain, the higher the gray matter volume of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Further they found that the higher the gray matter volume of the BNST the higher the levels of functional impairment, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and pain catastrophizing and the lower the levels of mindfulness and self-compassion. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program did not significantly alter the BNST volume or psychological inflexibility in pain.

 

These results are correlative and as such caution must be exercised in causal inferences. It was disappointing that mindfulness training did not produce a change in either psychological inflexibility or BNST volume. But the results are clear that the gray matter volume of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is associated with poor mental health in patients with fibromyalgia. This brain structure is associated with physiological and psychological responses to stress. Since, the constant pain associated with fibromyalgia is very stressful it is not surprising that enlargement of the BNST would be associated with poor mental health in these patients.

 

So, poor mental health in patients with fibromyalgia is associated with brain systems.

 

being overly observant of symptoms or trying to avoid pain can actually contribute towards the development of fibromyalgia and worsen the existing symptoms. Mindfulness practice can actually change the way you relate to your pain, . . the mindfulness group showed less avoidant and hypervigilance behaviour, supporting the idea that mindfulness encourages a non-judgemental and accepting relationship with pain, rather than trying to push it away.” – Vidyamala Burch

 

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

 

Feliu-Soler, A., Martínez-Zalacaín, I., Pérez-Aranda, A., Borràs, X., Andrés-Rodríguez, L., Sanabria-Mazo, J. P., Fayed, N., Stephan-Otto, C., Núñez, C., Soriano-Mas, C., & Luciano, J. V. (2020). The Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis as a Brain Correlate of Psychological Inflexibility in Fibromyalgia. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(2), 374. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9020374

 

Abstract

This study explored the brain structural correlates of psychological flexibility (PF) as measured with the Psychological Inflexibility in Pain Scale (PIPS) in patients with fibromyalgia (FM). Structural magnetic resonance imaging data from 47 FM patients were used to identify Gray Matter Volume (GMV) alterations related to PIPS scores. Brain GMV clusters related to PIPS were then correlated with clinical and cognitive variables to further explore how emerged brain clusters were intertwined with FM symptomatology. Longitudinal changes in PIPS-related brain clusters values were assessed by studying pre–post data from 30 patients (15 allocated to a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and 15 to treatment-as-usual). Changes in PIPS-related brain clusters were also explored in participants showing greater/lower longitudinal changes in PIPS scores. PIPS scores were positively associated with GMV in a bilateral cluster in the ventral part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Significant associations between BNST cluster with functional impairment, depressive symptomatology, perceived stress and the nonjudging mindfulness facet were observed. Participants reporting greater pre–post increases in PIPS scores showed greater increases in BNST cluster values. These findings contribute to the understanding on the neurobiological bases of PF in FM and encourage further explorations of the role of the BNST in chronic pain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7074535/

 

Improve Mood in Patients with HIV with Mindfulness

Improve Mood in Patients with HIV with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Given the stress-reduction benefits of mindfulness meditation training. . . there can be health protective effects not just in people with HIV but in folks who suffer from daily stress,” – David Creswell

 

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.

 

In today’s Research News article “). A randomized, controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction in HIV infection.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7656978/ ) Hecht and colleagues recruited adult patients with HIV who were not on antiretroviral therapy and randomly assigned to receive 8 weeks of either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or education on managing HIV. The MBSR program met once a week for 2.5 hours and included meditation, body scan, and yoga practice, daily home practice, and discussion. HIV management education met once a week for 1,5 hours. The participants were measured before and after training and 3 and 9 months later for depression, positive and negative emotions, perceived stress, and mindfulness. In addition, blood was drawn and assayed for CD-4+ T cell counts, viral load, and the inflammatory markers of C-reactive protein, D-dimer, and Interleukin 6.

 

They found that both groups decreased in CD-4+ T cell counts over the 12 months of the study with no change in viral load or the inflammatory markers. The group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had significant reductions in depression and perceived stress and increases in positive emotions 3 months but not 12 months after training. There were no significant improvements in the HIV education group. Mindfulness increased significantly in the MBSR group and was sustained at the 9 month follow-up.

 

The lack of effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on CD4+ T-cell counts and viral load in comparison to HIV education were disappointing. Previous studies had found that mindfulness training improved these measures. The authors attributed this to their having a more active control condition than previous studies. As a result, they cautioned against making inferences about mindfulness training effectiveness without an equivalent active control condition.

 

On the other hand, the study found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) produced improvements in the psychological state of the patients which lasted for 3 months after the conclusion of training but tended to wane thereafter. These results are not surprising as improvements in depression, positive emotions, and perceived stress as a result of mindfulness training have been routinely reported in prior research. Hence, mindfulness training appears to improve the mood but not the HIV infection or inflammatory responses of HIV patients.

 

So, improve mood in patients with HIV with mindfulness.

 

“The results also support a role for MBSR in enhancing problem solving, life-satisfaction, and emotional regulation in youth with HIV-infection.” – AMRA

 

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

 

Hecht, F. M., Moskowitz, J. T., Moran, P., Epel, E. S., Bacchetti, P., Acree, M., Kemeny, M. E., Mendes, W. B., Duncan, L. G., Weng, H., Levy, J. A., Deeks, S. G., & Folkman, S. (2018). A randomized, controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction in HIV infection. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 73, 331–339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2018.05.017

 

Abstract

Objective:

Evidence links depression and stress to more rapid progression of HIV-1 disease. We conducted a randomized controlled trial to test whether an intervention aimed at improving stress management and emotion regulation, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), would improve immunological (i.e. CD4+ t-cell counts) and psychological outcomes in persons with HIV-1 infection.

Methods:

We randomly assigned participants with HIV-1 infection and CD4 T-cell counts > 350 cells/μl who were not on antiretroviral therapy in a 1:1 ratio to either an MBSR group (n=89) or an HIV disease self-management skills group (n=88). The study was conducted at the University of California at San Francisco. We assessed immunologic (CD4, c-reactive protein, IL-6, and d-dimer) and psychological measures (Beck Depression Inventory for depression, modified Differential Emotions Scale for positive and negative affect, Perceived stress-scale, and mindfulness) at 3, 6 and 12 months after initiation of the intervention; we used multiple imputation to address missing values.

Results:

We observed statistically significant improvements from baseline to 3-months within the MBSR group in depression, positive and negative affect, perceived stress, and mindfulness; between group differences in change were significantly greater in the MBSR group only for positive affect (per item difference on DES-positive 0.25, 95% CI 0.049, 0.44, p = .015). By 12 months the between group difference in positive affect was not statistically significant, although both groups had trends toward improvements compared to baseline in several psychological outcomes that were maintained at 12-months; these improvements were only statistically significant for depression and negative affect in the MBSR group and perceived stress for the control group. The groups did not differ significantly on rates of antiretroviral therapy initiation (MBSR = 39%, control = 29%, p = .22). After 12 months, the mean decrease in CD4+ T-cell count was 49.6 cells/μl in participants in the MBSR arm, compared to 54.2 cells/μl in the control group, a difference of 4.6 cells favoring the MBSR group (95% CI, −44.6, 53.7, p=.85). The between group differences in other immunologic-related outcomes (c-reactive protein, IL-6, HIV-1 viral load, and d-dimer) were not statistically significant at any time point.

Conclusions:

MBSR improved positive affect more than an active control arm in the 3 months following the start of the intervention. However, this difference was not maintained over the 12-month follow-up and there were no significant differences in immunologic outcomes between intervention groups. These results emphasize the need for further carefully designed research if we are to translate evidence linking psychological states to immunological outcomes into evidence-based clinical practices.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7656978/

 

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness can enhance our ability to remember this new, less-fearful reaction, and break the anxiety habit.” It’s a tool that interrupts those old, fear-inducing memories, and creates new, less threatening associations in the mind.” – Nate Klemp

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology.  The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “). Hippocampal circuits underlie improvements in self-reported anxiety following mindfulness training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507558/ ) Sevinc and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to receive weekly 2-hour sessions of either stress management education or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) along with 40-minutes of daily home practice. The stress management education consisted of discussion of sources of stress and light exercise. MBSR consisted of discussion, meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, mindfulness, and anxiety.

 

All participants underwent classical fear conditioning with 2 different light colors presented just prior to an irritating shock to the finger and a third color light not followed by shock. The conditioning was then extinguished for one light color but not the other by repeated presentations of the light without shock. After training the participants underwent brain scanning focused on the subfields of the hippocampus with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The size of the hippocampal subfields was measured along with the connectivity between the hippocampus and other brain areas while the participants were shown the different colored lights used in the fear conditioning.

 

They found that after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) there was an increase in the volume of the hippocampal subfield of the subiculum. They also found a decrease in the connectivity of the hippocampus with the occipital cortex during presentation of the extinguished fear conditioning lights. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in volume of the subiculum, the greater the decrease in anxiety levels after MBSR.

 

The subiculum has been implicated in memory consolidation and retrieval. So, the increased volume detected after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) suggests that MBSR improves the memory process. Indeed, mindfulness training has previously been shown to improve memory processes.  The decrease in hippocampal connectivity during extinction recall after MBSR training suggests that the individual may be better able to ignore previously associated fear stimuli. This could well underlie a reduction in anxiety by not responding to fear stimuli that are no longer associated with frightening circumstances. This may be a mechanism that, at least in part, underlies the ability of mindfulness training to improve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless, the results suggest that mindfulness training alters the brain in such a way to reduce anxiety.

 

So, change the brain to reduce anxiety with mindfulness.

 

“In mindfulness practice . . . you have an opportunity—the mental time and space, if you will—to see more elements of the story, a richer picture. “You may see more clearly as you anticipate a difficult encounter what the underlying emotion is that’s triggered and how it’s showing up in your body.” – Barry Boyce

 

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

 

Sevinc, G., Greenberg, J., Hölzel, B. K., Gard, T., Calahan, T., Brunsch, V., Hashmi, J. A., Vangel, M., Orr, S. P., Milad, M. R., & Lazar, S. W. (2020). Hippocampal circuits underlie improvements in self-reported anxiety following mindfulness training. Brain and behavior, 10(9), e01766. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1766

 

Abstract

Introduction

Mindfulness meditation has successfully been applied to cultivate skills in self‐regulation of emotion, as it employs the unbiased present moment awareness of experience. This heightened attention to and awareness of sensory experience has been postulated to create an optimal therapeutic exposure condition and thereby improve extinction learning. We recently demonstrated increased connectivity in hippocampal circuits during the contextual retrieval of extinction memory following mindfulness training.

Methods

Here, we examine the role of structural changes in hippocampal subfields following mindfulness training in a randomized controlled longitudinal study using a two‐day fear‐conditioning and extinction protocol.

Results

We demonstrate an association between mindfulness training‐related increases in subiculum and decreased hippocampal connectivity to lateral occipital regions during contextual retrieval of extinguished fear. Further, we demonstrate an association between decreased connectivity and decreases in self‐reported anxiety following mindfulness training.

Conclusions

The results highlight the role of the subiculum in gating interactions with contextual stimuli during memory retrieval and, also, the mechanisms through which mindfulness training may foster resilience.

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation has successfully been applied to cultivate skills in self‐regulation of emotion, as it employs the unbiased present moment awareness of experience. This heightened attention to and awareness of sensory experience has been postulated to create an optimal therapeutic exposure condition and thereby improve extinction learning. Here, we examine the role of structural changes in hippocampal subfields and further demonstrate an association between mindfulness training‐related increases in subiculum and decreased hippocampal connectivity to lateral occipital regions during contextual retrieval of extinguished fear. Further, we demonstrate an association between decreased connectivity and decreases in self‐reported anxiety following mindfulness training. These results highlight the role of the subiculum in gating interactions with contextual stimuli during memory retrieval and, also, the mechanisms through which mindfulness training fosters resilience.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507558/

 

Mindfulness Improves Breast Cancer Symptoms in Women with Particular Genetic Polymorphisms

Mindfulness Improves Breast Cancer Symptoms in Women with Particular Genetic Polymorphisms

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness-based stress reduction can be effective in alleviating anxiety and depression, decreasing long-term emotional and physical side effects of treatments and improving the quality of sleep in breast cancer patients.” – BCRF

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer. These symptoms markedly reduce the quality of life of the patients.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to relieve chronic pain. It can also help treat the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stresssleep disturbancefear of reoccurrence, and anxiety and depression. The genes are known to be highly involved in the development of cancer and mindfulness training has been shown to alter the genes. The genes differ considerably between different individuals. It is possible that mindfulness training may improve cancer symptoms in patients with particular genetic polymorphisms. Identifying these polymorphisms could then help in identifying patients who would respond best to mindfulness training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Translational genomic research: the role of genetic polymorphisms in MBSR program among breast cancer survivors (MBSR[BC]).” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7184864/ ) Park and colleagues recruited adult women who were at least 2 weeks since the end of treatment for breast cancer and randomly assigned them to a usual care wait-list control condition or to receive 6 weekly 2-hour sessions of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The program consists of discussion, meditation practice, body scan, and yoga along with daily home practice. They were measured before and after training and 6 weeks later for anxiety, depression, perceived stress, fatigue, pain, and quality of life.

 

At baseline blood was drawn for genetic analysis. They assayed the blood for 10 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that had been shown in the past to be associated with the symptoms of women recovering from breast cancer. They found that 3 SNPs, rs4680 in COMT, rs6314 in HTR2A, and rs429358 in APOE were associated with improvements in symptoms produced by the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The symptom improvements associated with these SNPs were depression, fatigue, pain, and quality of life.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve the residual symptoms present in women recovering from breast cancer. The present results suggest that the effectiveness of mindfulness training in improving these symptoms is different for women with different genetic profiles. These findings may prove useful in tailoring treatment for the women to maximize its impact. Women with single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rs4680 in COMT, rs6314 in HTR2A, and rs429358 in APOE would be good candidates for treatment with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Women without these SNPs may be better treated with other treatments.

 

So, mindfulness improves breast cancer symptoms in women with particular genetic polymorphisms.

 

When used in a cancer setting, mindfulness can help patients cope with their disease and its treatment.” – Carrie Ernhout

 

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

 

Park, J. Y., Lengacher, C. A., Reich, R. R., Alinat, C. B., Ramesar, S., Le, A., Paterson, C. L., Pleasant, M. L., Park, H. Y., Kiluk, J., Han, H., Ismail-Khan, R., & Kip, K. E. (2019). Translational genomic research: the role of genetic polymorphisms in MBSR program among breast cancer survivors (MBSR[BC]). Translational behavioral medicine, 9(4), 693–702. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/iby061

 

Abstract

Genetic variations of breast cancer survivors (BCS) may contribute to level of residual symptoms, such as depression, stress, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. The objective of this study was to investigate whether particular single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) moderated symptom improvement resulting from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Breast Cancer (MBSR[BC]) program. An overarching goal of personalized medicine is to identify individuals as risk for disease and tailor interventions based on genetic profiles of patients with diseases including cancer. BCS were recruited from Moffitt Cancer Center and University of South Florida’s Breast Health Program and were randomized to either the 6-week MBSR(BC) program (n = 92) or Usual Care (n = 93). Measures of symptoms, demographic, and clinical history data were attained at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. A total of 10 SNPs from eight genes known to be related to these symptoms were studied using genomic DNA extracted from blood. Our results were examined for effect sizes, consistency, and statistical significance (p < .05). Three SNPs (rs4680 in COMT, rs6314 in HTR2A, and rs429358 in APOE) emerged as having the strongest (though relatively weak) and most consistent effects in moderating the impact of the MBSR program on symptom outcomes. Although effects were generally weak, with only one effect withstanding multiple comparisons correction for statistical significance, this translational behavioral research may help start the identification of genetic profiles that moderate the impact of MBSR(BC). The ultimate goal of this study is the development of personalized treatment programs tailored to the genetic profile of each patient.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7184864/

Relieve Anxiety Disorders with Mindfulness

Relieve Anxiety Disorders with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“a way to reduce the symptoms of anxiety is to be fully, mindfully, anxious. As anxiety reveals itself to be a misperception, symptoms will dissipate.” – George Hofmann

 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18% of the population. A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is that the sufferer overly identifies with and personalizes their thoughts. The sufferer has recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders.

 

In today’s Research News article “Participant experiences of change in mindfulness-based stress reduction for anxiety disorders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7482889/ ) Schanche and colleagues examine the patients’ experiences with a Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR) program for the relief of clinically significant anxiety. They recruited adult patients diagnosed with either panic disorder, social phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder and provided them with an 8-week group MBSR program including weekly instruction and discussions of meditation, body scan, and yoga along with daily home practice. After the completion of the program the participants were interviewed and asked about “their backgrounds and what made them sign up for the course, their experience of participating in the program, and changes that might have occurred in their life during or after the course.” The transcribed interviews were analyzed “using a team-based explorative–reflective thematic analysis”.

 

Theparticipants’ interviews yielded 5 themes. The participants indicated that the Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR) program provided them with useful strategies to apply when anxiety arose, the ability to let go of negative, self-critical, or ruminative thinking, more bodily comfort and less distress and anxiety, ability to do things that their anxiety previously prevented them from doing, increased ability to engage in relationships with others, and the ability to pause when things became difficult. They indicated that the MBSR program helped with their anxiety but the anxiety was still there and they had more work to do.

 

It has been well established that mindfulness training is effective for anxiety disorders. The present qualitative analysis begins to explore the participants perceptions of benefits from the program toward dealing with their anxiety. It should be mentioned that these are subjective responses and there wasn’t a control condition. So, bias and demand characteristics could have driven some of the responses. But the study underscores some of the perceived skills obtained in Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR) training that they found useful in coping with anxiety. This could help in altering the program to maximize its effectiveness.

 

So, relieve anxiety disorders with mindfulness.

 

For the 6.8 million Americans who live with chronic daily anxiety, meditation can offer a way to finally relax.” – Megan Monohan

 

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

 

Schanche, E., Vøllestad, J., Binder, P. E., Hjeltnes, A., Dundas, I., & Nielsen, G. H. (2020). Participant experiences of change in mindfulness-based stress reduction for anxiety disorders. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 15(1), 1776094. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482631.2020.1776094

 

ABSTRACT

Aim

To explore experiences of change among participants in a randomized clinical trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for anxiety disorders.

Method

Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore the subjective experiences of change for individuals with anxiety disorders after a course in MBSR. Interviews were analysed employing hermeneutic-phenomenological thematic analysis.

Results

Five main themes were identified: 1) Something useful to do when anxiety appears, 2) Feeling more at ease, 3) Doing things my anxiety wouldn’t let me, 4) Meeting what is there, and 5) Better—but not there yet. Most participants used what they had learned for instrumental purposes, and described relief from anxiety and an increased sense of personal agency. A few reported more radical acceptance of anxiety, as well as increased self-compassion.

Conclusion

Participants of MBSR both describe mindfulness as a tool to “fix” anxiety and as bringing about more fundamental change towards acceptance of their anxiety. The complexity of reported change corresponds with better handling of areas representing known transdiagnostic features of anxiety disorder, such as dysfunctional cognitive processes (including attentional biases), emotional dysregulation, avoidance behaviours, and maladaptive self-relatedness. This supports MBSR as a transdiagnostic approach to the treatment of anxiety disorders.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7482889/

 

Improve the Psychological Health of Health Care Professionals with Mindfulness

Improve the Psychological Health of Health Care Professionals with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The front lines for health care providers may feel overwhelming. . . turning to mindfulness practice can help us settle, help us get out of all that thinking for a moment. We can try to settle down and maybe give ourselves a little rest or see a situation with a little different clarity. “ – Mindful

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy 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. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Hence, burnout contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.

 

Preventing the negative psychological consequences of stress in healthcare professionals has to be a priority. Contemplative practices have 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. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness training program that was developed to help deal with stress. MBSR  consists of discussion, meditation, yoga and body scan practices. The evidence has been accumulating regarding MBSR’s effectiveness for the treatment of healthcare professionals, so it makes sense to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the Psychological Functioning of Healthcare Professionals: a Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7511255/ ) Kriakous and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for the psychological health of healthcare workers. They identified 30 published research studies.

 

They report that the published research studies found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) significantly reduced healthcare workers’ levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and increased mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness practices have been previously reported to decrease perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and increase self-compassion in a wide variety of healthy and ill individuals. The present research summarizes these benefits for stressed healthcare professionals. These benefits of mindfulness training are important for reducing burnout, improving the psychological health of healthcare workers, and maintaining the workforce, and thereby improving the levels of care delivered to patients.

 

So, improve the psychological health of health care professionals with mindfulness.

 

health care workforce. There is increasing evidence that learning to practice mindfulness can result in decreased burnout and improved well-being. Mindfulness is a useful way of cultivating self-kindness and compassion, including by bringing increased awareness to and acceptance of those things that are beyond our control.” – Kate Fitzpatrick

 

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

 

Kriakous, S. A., Elliott, K. A., Lamers, C., & Owen, R. (2020). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the Psychological Functioning of Healthcare Professionals: a Systematic Review. Mindfulness, 1–28. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01500-9

 

Abstract

Objectives

Burnout and occupational stress are frequently experienced by healthcare professionals (HCPs). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been found to improve the psychological health outcomes of HCPs. To date, systematic reviews and meta-analyses have primarily focused upon empirical investigations into the reduction of stress amongst HCPs using MBSR and are limited to empirical studies published before December 2019. This systematic review aimed to update the current evidence base and broaden our understanding of the effectiveness of MBSR on improving the psychological functioning of HCPs.

Methods

Three electronic databases (Medline, Psych Info and Web of Science) were searched without time frame restrictions. Quantitative studies included randomised controlled trials, clinical controlled trials, pre-post designs and studies with up to a 12-month follow-up period. All studies included in the review employed a MBSR programme, standardised measures of psychological functioning and qualified HCPs as participants.

Results

Using PRISMA guidelines thirty studies were included in the review. The reviewed literature suggested that MBSR was effective in reducing HCPs experiences of anxiety, depression and stress. MBSR was also found to be effective in increasing HCP levels of mindfulness and self-compassion. However, MBSR did not appear as effective in reducing burnout or improving resilience amongst HCPs. Abbreviated MBSR programmes were found to be as effective as the traditional 8-week MBSR programmes.

Conclusions

MBSR is an effective intervention which can help improve the psychological functioning of HCPs. Recommendations include improving the overall quality of the studies by employing more robust controlled designs with randomisation, increased sample sizes with heterogeneous samples, and making active comparisons between interventions used.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7511255/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being, Sleep, and Performance in College Athletes with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Well-Being, Sleep, and Performance in College Athletes with Mindfulness.

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

How much time do you spend training your body, getting to peak performance?  With mindfulness training you can now train your mind. Learn how to focus more effectively, worry less, be more present and increase your ability to respond and react quickly.” – Blair Bowker

 

Athletic performance requires the harmony of mind and body. Excellence is in part physical and in part psychological. That is why an entire profession of Sports Psychology has developed. “In sport psychology, competitive athletes are taught psychological strategies to better cope with a number of demanding challenges related to psychological functioning.” They use a number of techniques to enhance performance including mindfulness training. It has been shown to improve attention and concentration and emotion regulation and reduces anxiety and worry and rumination, and the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, mindfulness training has been employed by athletes and even by entire teams to enhance their performance.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Benefits Psychological Well-Being, Sleep Quality, and Athletic Performance in Female Collegiate Rowers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.572980/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1437459_69_Psycho_20200922_arts_A ) Jones and colleagues recruited women members of a college rowing team and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control condition or to receive 8 weekly 75 minutes group sessions of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This training includes meditation, body scan, yoga, and discussion with daily home practice. They were measured before and after training for athletic coping skills, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, mindfulness, sleepiness, sleep quality, activity during sleep, rumination, and psychological well-being. They were also measured before the treatment and 6 weeks into the 8-week program for rowing performance.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training there were significant increases in mindfulness, psychological well-being, sleep quality, activity during sleep, athletic coping skills, and rowing performance and significant decreases in daytime sleepiness. In addition, they report that the greater the increase in mindfulness the greater the increase in psychological well-being, sleep quality, and athletic coping skills and the greater the decrease in daytime sleepiness.

 

These are interesting results suggesting that mindfulness training improves the psychological well-being and athletic performance in athletes. But the comparison to a no-treatment condition leaves open alternative interpretations of participant expectancy effects, experimenter bias, attentional effects, etc. In addition, only female athletes were included in the study. Future research should include male athletes and employ an active control comparison condition such as group discussions of college life without mindfulness training.

 

The results from  previous studies have demonstrated that mindfulness training improves the psychological well-being and athletic performance in athletes. So, it is likely that the improvements seen in the present study were also due to the mindfulness training. In addition, the fact that in the group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training that the amount of increase in mindfulness was associated with the degree of improvement in the psychological well-being and athletic performance, suggests that mindfulness was the key determinant of the improvements. So, it would appear likely that increasing mindfulness is of great benefit to athletes.

 

So, improve psychological well-being, sleep, and performance in college athletes with mindfulness.

 

mindfulness meditation for athletes can help them control negative thoughts and sports anxiety which allows them to focus on their skills in the present moment and perform better.’ – Ertheo

 

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

 

Jones BJ, Kaur S, Miller M and Spencer RMC (2020) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Benefits Psychological Well-Being, Sleep Quality, and Athletic Performance in Female Collegiate Rowers. Front. Psychol. 11:572980. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.572980

 

Factors such as psychological well-being, sleep quality, and athletic coping skills can influence athletic performance. Mindfulness-based interventions, including mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), have been shown to benefit these factors, suggesting they may, at least indirectly, benefit athletic performance. Moreover, while mindfulness training has been linked to better accuracy in some high-precision sports, whether it can improve non-precision elements of athletic performance is unclear. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of MBSR on psychological well-being, sleep, athletic coping skills, and rowing performance in collegiate rowers in a controlled experimental design. Members of a Division I NCAA Women’s Rowing team completed either an 8-week MBSR course along with their regular athletic training program (Intervention group) or the athletic training program alone (Control group). Measurements of interest were taken at baseline and again either during or shortly following the intervention. In contrast to the Control group, the Intervention group showed improvements in psychological well-being, subjective and objective sleep quality, athletic coping skills, and rowing performance as measured by a 6,000-m ergometer test. Improvements in athletic coping skills, psychological well-being, and subjective sleep quality were all correlated with increases in mindfulness in the Intervention group. These results suggest that mindfulness training may benefit non-precision aspects of athletic performance. Incorporating mindfulness training into athletic training programs may benefit quality of life and performance in student athletes.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.572980/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1437459_69_Psycho_20200922_arts_A

 

Meditation and Exercise Practices can be Maintained Long-Term after Training Completion

Meditation and Exercise Practices can be Maintained Long-Term after Training Completion

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Maintaining your meditation practice after the course has finished is often a struggle. Without the structure of a follow-on course it’s easy to lose track, stop practising and get down-hearted and even give up.”

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits. With impacts so great it is important to know how to maintain mindfulness practice over the long run.

 

Exercise can also improve emotions and their regulation.  But like mindfulness training it must be sustained over time. It is unclear, however, exactly what kind of training is essential to produce a sustainable mindfulness or exercise practice. People can differ greatly and it is also important to determine which people are most likely to sustain practice and which not.

 

In today’s Research News article “Predictors of Mindfulness Meditation and Exercise Practice, from MEPARI-2, a randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959135/ ) Barrett and colleagues recruited meditation naïve, non-exercising adults who have had at least one cold per year. They were randomly assigned to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weeks of training in either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or progressive moderate intensity exercise. MBSR was taught in 8 weekly, 2.5 hour, sessions and employed discussion, breath following and body scan meditations, and yoga. progressive moderate intensity exercise was taught in weekly classes and was tailored to the individual employing a combination of walking, jogging, cycling, and exercise machines. Each program incorporated 20-45 minutes of daily practice. They were measured before and after training and every 2 months thereafter for a year for physical activity, mental and physical health, perceived stress, depression, exercise self-efficacy, mindful self-efficacy, positive and negative emotions, mindfulness, feeling loved, social support, and the big 5 personality traits of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Throughout the program the participants reported their daily practice minutes.

 

They found that meditation in the meditation group and exercise in the exercise group was high after training and remained high over the subsequent 13 weeks. They also found that the higher the baseline measures of mental health, smoking, and the personality characteristic of openness and the lower the levels of depression, the greater the weekly average minutes of meditation practice. In addition, the higher the baseline measures of exercise, mindful self-efficacy, and overall physical activity and the lower the levels of perceived stress and neuroticism, the greater the weekly average minutes of exercise practice.

 

These results are remarkable and potentially important in that they demonstrated that meditation practice and exercise practice can be maintained over extended periods time after the completion of training. The authors speculate that the daily reports of practice may have contributed to the maintenance of practice. Maintenance of practice is important to maintain benefits. So, this suggests that with appropriate training and reporting, the benefits of meditation and exercise can be sustained.

 

It would appear that participant characteristics affected the likelihood of practice maintenance. For meditation participants who were smokers, had good mental health, had personalities characterized by openness and were low in depression were likely to maintain high levels of meditation practice while participants who at the beginning were exercisers with high self-efficacy and who were less stressed and neurotic were likely to maintain high levels of exercise practice.

 

So, meditation and exercise practices can be maintained long-term after training completion.

 

Meditation reveals its gifts when practiced consistently and preferably daily. Our beings need to be conditioned spiritually much like fitness.” – Andrew Shykofski

 

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

 

Barrett, B., Torres, E. R., Meyer, J., Barnet, J. H., & Brown, R. (2019). Predictors of Mindfulness Meditation and Exercise Practice, from MEPARI-2, a randomized controlled trial. Mindfulness, 10(9), 1842–1854. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01137-3

 

Abstract

Objectives:

Health-supporting behaviors can be challenging to initiate and maintain. Data from the MEPARI-2 randomized trial were used to assess predictors of sustained exercise and meditation practice.

Methods:

Adults aged 30 to 69 years not exercising regularly and without prior meditation training were randomized to 8-week trainings in mindfulness meditation, moderate intensity exercise, or observational control, and monitored for 8 months. Exercise participants reported day-to-day minutes of moderate and vigorous activity; mindfulness meditation participants reported minutes of informal and formal practice. Demographic characteristics and psychosocial factors were assessed as predictors of practice. Growth mixture modeling was used to identify higher and lower practice subgroups.

Results:

413 participants (75.8% female; mean (SD) age 49.7 (11.6) years) were randomized to exercise (137), mindfulness meditation (138), or control (138), with 390 (95%) completing the study. Seventy-nine percent of exercisers and 62% of meditators reported ≥150 minutes/week practice for at least half of the 37 weeks monitored. Self-reported minutes of mindfulness meditation and/or exercise practice were significantly (p<0.01) predicted by baseline levels of: general mental health, self-efficacy, perceived stress, depressive symptoms, openness, neuroticism, physical activity, smoking status, and number of social contacts. Growth mixture modeling identified subsets of people with moderate (100–200 min/week) and high (300–450 min/week) levels of self-reported practice for both mindfulness meditation (62% moderate; 38% high) and exercise (71% moderate; 29% high).

Conclusions:

In this sample, participants randomized to behavioral trainings reported high levels of practice sustained over 37 weeks. Baseline psychosocial measures predicted practice levels in expected directions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959135/