Relieve Pain with Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Relieve Pain with Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The mechanisms behind how mindfulness reduces pain . . . continue to include mindfulness meditation’s ability to provide pain relief by cultivating the ability to parse between the objective sensory dimension of pain, and the more subjective judgement that we attach to the pain that constructs the way we experience it.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to lower the psychological distress and improve the individual’s ability to cope with the pain.

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings that demonstrate that mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating pain. What is not known is the most effective approach to teaching mindfulness for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain. There are very brief mindfulness trainings that are practical methods, requiring minimal time and effort, for inducing mindfulness. The question is are they effective for reducing pain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Acute and Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6437625/ ) McClintock and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effective of Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions (BMBI), with total contact time of less than 1.5 hours, for the treatment of pain. They identified 20 published research studies.

 

They report that 11 of 19 quantitative studies reported that Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions (BMBI) resulted in significant reductions in pain intensity or unpleasantness. But BMBIs less than 5 minutes or delivered by audio recording did not produce consistent results. On the other hand, when the BMBI was longer than 5 minutes and were delivered through direct participant-provider contact, there was a consistent significant reduction in pain intensity or unpleasantness This was true for both clinical and non-clinical participants.

 

It should be kept in mind that these findings relate to very brief mindfulness interventions. Longer interventions consistently produce reductions in pain regardless of whether the intervention is delivered in person or over the internet. But the present findings are interesting and potentially significant because of the brevity of the interventions. These Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions (BMBI) can be provided quickly and conveniently without a long-term commitment by the patient or the provider. This makes them inexpensive and acceptable to a wide range of patients. This allows for widespread use of mindfulness to relieve the suffering of pain patients.

 

So, relieve pain with brief mindfulness-based interventions.

 

the goal of those [mindfulness] practices is typically not to remove pain entirely, but to change your relationship with it so that you are able to experience relief and healing in the middle of uncomfortable physical sensations.” – Andrea Uptmor

 

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Andrew S. McClintock, Shannon M. McCarrick, Eric L. Garland, Fadel Zeidan, Aleksandra E. Zgierska. Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Acute and Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Mar 1; 25(3): 265–278. Published online 2019 Mar 9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0351

 

Abstract

Objectives: Nonpharmacologic approaches have been characterized as the preferred means to treat chronic noncancer pain by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is evidence that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are effective for pain management, yet the typical MBI may not be feasible across many clinical settings due to resource and time constraints. Brief MBIs (BMBIs) could prove to be more feasible and pragmatic for safe treatment of pain. The aim of the present article is to systematically review evidence of BMBI’s effects on acute and chronic pain outcomes in humans.

Methods: A literature search was conducted using PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar and by examining the references of retrieved articles. Articles written in English, published up to August 16, 2017, and reporting on the effects of a BMBI (i.e., total contact time <1.5 h, with mindfulness as the primary therapeutic technique) on a pain-related outcome (i.e., pain outcome, pain affect, pain-related function/quality of life, or medication-related outcome) were eligible for inclusion. Two authors independently extracted the data and assessed risk of bias.

Results: Twenty studies meeting eligibility criteria were identified. Studies used qualitative (n = 1), within-group (n = 3), or randomized controlled trial (n = 16) designs and were conducted with clinical (n = 6) or nonclinical (i.e., experimentally-induced pain; n = 14) samples. Of the 25 BMBIs tested across the 20 studies, 13 were delivered with audio/video recording only, and 12 were delivered by a provider (participant–provider contact ranged from 3 to 80 min). Existing evidence was limited and inconclusive overall. Nevertheless, BMBIs delivered in a particular format—by a provider and lasting more than 5 min—showed some promise in the management of acute pain.

Conclusions: More rigorous large scale studies conducted with pain populations are needed before unequivocally recommending BMBI as a first-line treatment for acute or chronic pain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6437625/

 

Novelty Seeking Lowers the Ability of Mindfulness Training to Increase Self-Compassion.

Novelty Seeking Lowers the Ability of Mindfulness Training to Increase Self-Compassion.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion insofar as we can only respond self-compassionately when we know we are struggling.” – Pittman McGehee

 

One of the more remarkable aspects of Western culture is that in general people do not like themselves. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and since there can only one best, virtually everyone falls short. So, we constantly criticize ourselves for not being the smartest, the swiftest, the strongest, the most liked, the most handsome or beautiful. If there wasn’t something wrong with us, then we would be the best. As a result, we become focused and obsessed with our flaws. This can lead to anxiety and worry and poorer mental health.

 

Mindfulness promotes experiencing and accepting ourselves as we are, which is a direct antidote to seeing ourselves in comparison to others and as we wish to be. In other words, mindfulness promotes self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being warm and understanding about ourselves rather than self-criticism. If we have that attitude, we will like ourselves more and suffer less. So, it is important to study what factors affect the ability of mindfulness training to increase self-compassion.

 

In today’s Research News article “More Purpose in Life and Less Novelty Seeking Predict Improvements in Self-Compassion During a Mindfulness-Based Intervention: The EXMIND Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146234/ ) Akase and colleagues recruited adult participants and randomly assigned them to receive either 8 weekly mindfulness training sessions or 4 weeks of mindfulness training followed by 4 weeks of existential approach. Both groups required daily home practice. The mindfulness training included raisin exercise, mindful breathing, body scan, walking meditation, and sitting meditation. The participants were measured before, at 4 weeks and after training for mindfulness, self-compassion, temperament, reading ability, depression, parental bonding, and purpose in life.

 

They found that mindfulness training produced significantly increased self-compassion at 4 weeks and significantly greater increased self-compassion at the end of training. They also found that the higher the levels at baseline of purpose in life and the lower the levels of novelty seeking the greater the change in self-compassion produced by mindfulness training. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of purpose in life, but not novelty seeking, the higher the levels of self-compassion.

 

The findings found as has been seen in previous research that mindfulness training improves self-compassion. This is important as higher levels of self-compassion are associated with better mental health, greater resistance to stress, and less burnout. The current study found also that the effectiveness of mindfulness training in increasing self-compassion was best in participants who were low in novelty seeking and high in purpose in life.

 

That self-compassion and purpose in life are related may be due to conceptual overlap between the two. Indeed, many of the questions in the scales measuring purpose in life and self-compassion are very similar. Novelty seeking, on the other hand, is not directly related to self-compassion, rather it appears to modulate the effectiveness of mindfulness training to improve self-compassion. It was speculated that novelty seeking makes it more difficult to disengage from spontaneous thoughts (mind wandering) during mindfulness exercises and thereby decreases the effectiveness of mindfulness training.

 

Hence, novelty seeking lowers the ability of mindfulness training to increase self-compassion.

 

The growing movements of self-compassion and mindfulness are linked by the growing awareness and evidence from a huge body of research that indicate that treating ourselves (and others) with kindness not only feels better but also allows us to make healthy changes and face new challenges with more success.” – Samantha Price

 

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

 

Akase, M., Terao, T., Kawano, N., Sakai, A., Hatano, K., Shirahama, M., Hirakawa, H., Kohno, K., & Ishii, N. (2020). More Purpose in Life and Less Novelty Seeking Predict Improvements in Self-Compassion During a Mindfulness-Based Intervention: The EXMIND Study. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 252. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00252

 

Abstract

Objectives

Recently, a 4-week mindfulness-based intervention followed by a 4-week existential approach was found to be as effective for increasing self-compassion as an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention. The purpose of the present study was to identify the factors that predicted change in self-compassion during the 8-week mindfulness-based intervention.

Methods

Fifty-seven of the 61 completers of the 8-week mindfulness-based intervention provided baseline, 4-week, and 8-week self-compassion scale scores. The mean age of the 47 females and 10 males was 49.6 years. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were generated on the associations between the change of total self-compassion scale scores from baseline to 8 weeks with age; gender; and the baseline scores on the Temperament Evaluation of Memphis, Pisa and San Diego Auto-questionnaire, Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), Mini-Mental State Examination, Japanese Adult Reading Test, Young Mania Rating Scale, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Parental Bonding Instrument, and purpose in life (PIL). Multiple regression analysis was performed to identify the predictors of the change in total self-compassion scale scores.

Results

Novelty seeking (TCI) was significantly and negatively associated with the change in total self-compassion scale scores, whereas the PIL scores were significantly and positively associated with the change in total self-compassion scale scores. Novelty seeking was not significantly associated with baseline, 4-week, or 8-week total self-compassion scale scores, whereas the PIL scores were significantly and positively associated with baseline, 4-week, and 8-week total self-compassion scale scores. The limitation of the present study was a relatively small number of subjects which deterred a more sophisticated analysis of the pathways involved.

Conclusions

The present findings suggest that more PIL and less novelty seeking predict improvements in self-compassion during mindfulness-based interventions, although novelty seeking might substantially predict the improvement but self-compassion scale and PIL might somewhat conceptually overlap.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146234/

 

A Healthy Lifestyle is Promoted by Mindfulness

A Healthy Lifestyle is Promoted by Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Let’s say you find yourself eating a bag of chips in front of the TV — your evening pattern. Being mindful can help you break free from the autopilot trance and take a moment to make a different choice. You could trade the chips for carrots, or decide to skip TV and take a walk around the block instead.” – WebMD

 

We tend to think that illness is produced by physical causes, disease, injury, viruses, bacteria, etc. But many health problems are behavioral problems or have their origins in maladaptive behavior. This is evident in car accident injuries that are frequently due to behaviors, such as texting while driving, driving too fast or aggressively, or driving drunk. Other problematic behaviors are cigarette smoking, alcoholism, drug use, or unprotected sex. Problems can also be produced by lack of appropriate behavior such as sedentary lifestyle, not eating a healthy diet, not getting sufficient sleep or rest, or failing to take medications according to the physician’s orders. Additionally, behavioral issues can be subtle contributors to disease such as denying a problem and failing to see a physician timely or not washing hands. In fact, many modern health issues, costing the individual or society billions of dollars each year, and reducing longevity, are largely preventable. Hence, promoting healthy behaviors and eliminating unhealthy ones has the potential to markedly improve health.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to promote health and improve illness. It is well established that if patterns and habits of healthy behaviors can be promoted, ill health can be prevented. There is, however, little research on the effects of mindfulness practice on promotion healthy behaviors.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468720/) Soriano-Ayala and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control group or to receive 7 weekly 2-hour sessions of mindfulness training. Mindfulness training involved breath and body scan meditations, and training on letting thoughts flow. Before and after training they completed measures of lifestyle choices, including alcohol consumption, cannabis consumption, tobacco use, eating habits, and rest habits. They were also measured for eating consumption patterns and eating responses to negative emotions.

 

They found that in comparison to the wait-list control group, the group that received mindfulness training had significant improvements in healthy lifestyles, including eating a balanced diet, rest habits, and alcohol consumption. It is, however, not possible to determine from the current study how lasting these changes may be. The authors did not state how long they waited before the post-test. So, it is not clear that there was sufficient time for the mindfulness training to register an alteration of the lifestyle behaviors.   In addition, the control condition was a passive wait-list control. This leave open the possibility of confound variables like placebo, attentional, or experimenter bias effects being responsible for the observed differences. Nevertheless, these improved lifestyle behaviors would predict better future health and better college performance for the students after mindfulness training.

 

So, promote a healthy lifestyle with mindfulness.

 

While meditation can help you manage stress, sleep well and feel better, it shouldn’t replace lifestyle changes like eating healthiermanaging your weight, and getting regular physical activity. It’s also not a substitute for medication or medical treatment your doctor may have prescribed.” – Heart.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

 

Encarnación Soriano-Ayala, Alberto Amutio, Clemente Franco, Israel Mañas. Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle through Mindfulness in University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2020 Aug; 12(8): 2450. Published online 2020 Aug 14. doi: 10.3390/nu12082450

 

Abstract

The present study explored the effects of a second-generation mindfulness-based intervention known as flow meditation (Meditación-Fluir) in the improvement of healthy life behaviors. A sample of university students (n = 51) in Spain were randomly assigned to a seven-week mindfulness treatment or a waiting list control group. Results showed that compared to the control group, individuals in the mindfulness group demonstrated significant improvements across all outcome measures including healthy eating habits (balanced diet, intake rate, snacking between meals, decrease in consumption by negative emotional states, increased consumption by negative emotional states, amount of consumption, meal times, consumption of low-fat products), tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis consumption, and resting habits. There were differences between males and females in some of these variables and a better effect of the treatment was evident in the females of the experimental group when compared to the males. The flow meditation program shows promise for fostering a healthy lifestyle, thus decreasing behaviors related to maladaptive eating, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis consumption as well as negative rest habits in university students. This mindfulness program could significantly contribute to the treatment of eating disorders and addictions, wherein negative emotional states and impulsivity are central features of the condition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468720/

 

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Training in Nature

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Training in Nature

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Outdoor meditation is an excellent way to improve mental health, reduce anxiety and lessen stress. The use of nature and outdoor space in meditation has been proven to yield major health benefits. Beyond just the physical impacts of lower blood pressure and other cardiovascular benefits—like what comes along with most exercise—meditation can leave you with an enhanced sense of energy and a better mood.” – EHE Health

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve mood. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if mindfulness training occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly improve the effectiveness of mindfulness practice. Pictures in the media of meditation almost always show a practitioner meditating in a beautiful natural setting. But there is little systematic research regarding the effects of mindfulness training in nature. It’s possible that the combination might magnify the individual benefits of each.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Restoration Skills Training (ReST) in a Natural Setting Compared to Conventional Mindfulness Training: Psychological Functioning After a Five-Week Course.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7438830/) Lymeus and colleagues recruited college students with self-perceived stress and  little or no meditation experience. They were randomly assigned to receive either Conventional Mindfulness Training or Restoration Skills Training in weekly 90-minute classes over 5 weeks with daily homework assignments. A no-treatment control group was separately recruited.

 

Both trainings were modelled after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program with open monitoring and body scan meditation practices. The Conventional Mindfulness Training was conducted inside in a plain room while the Restoration Skills Training was conducted in a botanical garden both outside and inside in a greenhouse. It also emphasized “exploration of experiences emanating from sensory connection with stimuli in the environment.” The students were measured before and after training for mindfulness, cognitive function, and perceived stress.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control group both the Conventional Mindfulness Training and Restoration Skills Training groups had significant increases in mindfulness and cognitive functions and decreases in perceived stress with medium to large effect sizes. There were no significant differences between the 2 mindfulness training programs.

 

The present study replicates the findings that have been repeatedly demonstrated in previous research that mindfulness training increases cognitive function and decreases perceived stress. A strength of the present study was that mindfulness training in nature was compared to comparable classical mindfulness training. This allows for a direct assessment of the benefits of training in nature. Although mindfulness training in nature was found to be greatly psychologically beneficial it was not found to be superior to training inside in a plain room.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training in nature is a viable and effective practice for the improvement of the well-being of college students. But there was no evidence that the benefits of being in nature supplemented the impact of mindfulness training. It should be noted that there may have been a ceiling effect present where both mindfulness training produced such strong benefits that there was no further room for practicing in nature to further increase the effects.

 

So, improve psychological health with mindfulness training in nature.

 

“you don’t have to choose between meditation and taking advantage of nature. Meditating outdoors is a great way to invigorate your practice and keep it going strong.” – Mindworks

 

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

Freddie Lymeus, Marie Ahrling, Josef Apelman, Cecilia de Mander Florin, Cecilia Nilsson, Janina Vincenti, Agnes Zetterberg, Per Lindberg, Terry Hartig. Mindfulness-Based Restoration Skills Training (ReST) in a Natural Setting Compared to Conventional Mindfulness Training: Psychological Functioning After a Five-Week Course. Front Psychol. 2020; 11: 1560. Published online 2020 Aug 12. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01560

 

Abstract

Restoration skills training (ReST) is a mindfulness-based course that draws on restorative nature experience to facilitate the meditation practice and teach widely applicable adaptation skills. Previous studies comparing ReST to conventional mindfulness training (CMT) showed that ReST has important advantages: it supports beginning meditators in connecting with restorative environmental qualities and in meditating with less effort; it restores their attention regulation capabilities; and it helps them complete the course and establish a regular meditation habit. However, mindfulness theory indicates that effortful training may be necessary to achieve generalized improvements in psychological functioning. Therefore, this study tests whether the less effortful and more acceptable ReST approach is attended by any meaningful disadvantage compared to CMT in terms of its effects on central aspects psychological functioning. We analyze data from four rounds of development of the ReST course, in each of which we compared it to a parallel and formally matched CMT course. Randomly assigned participants (total course starters = 152) provided ratings of dispositional mindfulness, cognitive functioning, and chronic stress before and after the 5-week ReST and CMT courses. Round 4 also included a separately recruited passive control condition. ReST and CMT were attended by similar average improvements in the three outcomes, although the effects on chronic stress were inconsistent. Moderate to large improvements in the three outcomes could also be affirmed in contrasts with the passive controls. Using a reliable change index, we saw that over one third of the ReST and CMT participants enjoyed reliably improved psychological functioning. The risk of experiencing deteriorated functioning was no greater with either ReST or CMT than for passive control group participants. None of the contrasts exceeded our stringent criterion for inferiority of ReST compared with CMT. We conclude that ReST is a promising alternative for otherwise healthy people with stress or concentration problems who would be less likely to complete more effortful CMT. By adapting the meditation practices to draw on restorative setting characteristics, ReST can mitigate the demands otherwise incurred in early stages of mindfulness training without compromising the acquisition of widely applicable mindfulness skills.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7438830/

 

Improve Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Compassion Meditation

Improve Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Compassion Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“self-compassion provides a promising vision for trauma treatment . . . Self-compassion is strongly linked to emotional well-being, is an important mechanism of change in psychotherapy, and touches the core of trauma related symptomatology.” – Christopher Germer

 

Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. But only a fraction will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But this still results in a frightening number of people with 7%-8% of the population developing PTSD at some point in their life.

 

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

 

Obviously, these are troubling symptoms that need to be addressed. There are a number of therapies that have been developed to treat PTSD. One of which, mindfulness training has been found to be particularly effective. Increasing self-compassion is important for improvement in PTSD symptoms. Mindfulness has been shown to increase self-compassion. So, it makes sense to explore the relationships between mindfulness, self-compassion, and PTSD symptoms.

 

In today’s Research News article “Compassion Meditation for Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a Nonrandomized Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7223870/) Lang and colleagues recruited veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD. They were provided with 8-10 sessions of 1.5-2 hours of group Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT) with daily meditation homework. CBCT was developed with a standardized manual and includes a set of meditation practices designed to increase attention to the present moment and compassion for self and others. The participants were measured before and after the training for PTSD symptoms, emotional experiences, social connectedness, and self-compassion including self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness, self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification subscales. They were measured after the intervention for satisfaction with the intervention and semi-structured interviews about the understandability, applicability, and efficacy of the intervention.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline after treatment there was a large significant reduction in PTSD symptoms and depression. Surprisingly, there were no significant changes in positive and negative emotions or self-compassion. 61% of the veterans completed 6 or more sessions and they indicated overall satisfaction with the Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT) intervention.

 

This was a pilot feasibility study without a control group. So, conclusions have to be reached cautiously. But the intent of the study was to establish feasibility and acceptability of the new intervention and was successful at that. It also provided preliminary evidence that the Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT) intervention was safe and effective for veterans diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These results provide the empirical basis justifying a large randomized controlled trial in the future.

 

So, improve Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with compassion meditation.

 

“increases in self-compassion, notably self-kindness and mindfulness, were associated with decreases in PTSD symptoms.” – NICABM

 

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

 

Lang, A. J., Casmar, P., Hurst, S., Harrison, T., Golshan, S., Good, R., Essex, M., & Negi, L. (2020). Compassion Meditation for Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a Nonrandomized Study. Mindfulness, 11(1), 63–74. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0866-z

 

Abstract

Compassion meditation (CM) is a contemplative practice that is intended to cultivate the ability to extend and sustain compassion toward self and others. Although research documents the benefits of CM in healthy populations, its use in the context of psychopathology is largely unexamined. The purpose of this study was to refine and initially evaluate a CM protocol, Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT®), for use with Veterans with PTSD. To this end, our research team developed and refined a manualized protocol, CBCT-Vet, over 4 sets of groups involving 36 Veterans. This protocol was delivered in 8–10 sessions, each lasting 90–120 min and led by a CBCT®-trained clinical psychologist. Quantitative and qualitative data were used to identify areas to be improved and to assess change that occurred during the treatment period. Based on pooled data from this series of groups, CM appears to be acceptable to Veterans with PTSD. Group participation was associated with reduced symptoms of PTSD (partial eta squared = .27) and depression (partial eta squared = .19), but causality should not be inferred given the nonrandomized design. No change was observed in additional outcomes, including positive emotion and social connectedness. The results of this open trial support additional exploration of CM as part of the recovery process for Veterans with PTSD.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7223870/

 

Improve Anxiety and Depression in Iranian Chronic Pain Patients with Mindfulness

Improve Anxiety and Depression in Iranian Chronic Pain Patients with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.” – Julie Corliss

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to lower the psychological distress and improve the individual’s ability to cope with the pain.

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating pain. Chronic pain patients tend to also suffer from anxiety and depression and mindfulness has been shown to improve anxiety and depression. A lot of research has been done on various psychological treatments for chronic pain and its associated anxiety and depression. So, it makes sense to step back and take a look at what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychological interventions for depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis of Iranian chronic pain trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7420174/) Jandaghi and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis on treatments for chronic pain and its associated anxiety and depression in Iranian patients. They identified 30 randomized controlled trials with a total of 1021 participants.

 

They report that the published randomized controlled trials found that psychological interventions in general improve anxiety and depression in patients with chronic pain and these effects persist for at least several months. On average mindfulness-based therapies produced superior results to Cognitive Behavioral and other therapeutic approaches; producing greater relief of anxiety and depression.

 

Thus, the accumulated findings suggest that psychological treatments and especially mindfulness-based therapies are safe and effective treatment for anxiety and depression in chronic pain patients. This is important not only for the psychological well-being of the patients but also for their pain as anxiety and depression can amplify the levels of experienced pain in the patients.

 

So, improve anxiety and depression in Iranian chronic pain patients with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness exercises help people to focus their mind and body in the moment without judgment. . . Being able to focus on relaxing the body, noticing the breath and body sensations as being there just as they are, can help manage pain, as well as reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.” – Mayo Clinic

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Jandaghi, G., Firoozi, M., & Zia-Tohidi, A. (2020). Psychological interventions for depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis of Iranian chronic pain trials. Health promotion perspectives, 10(3), 180–191. https://doi.org/10.34172/hpp.2020.31

 

Abstract

Background: Chronic pain is commonly associated with anxiety and depression, making it more challenging to be managed. Psychological interventions are suggested for such complicated issues which are well evident in the United States and Europe. However, generalizing the evidence to Iranian population – as a Middle Eastern society – might be questionable. We aimed to synthesize our evidence on the effectiveness of these interventions among Iranian populations.

Methods: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis. Persian and English literature were searched through Iran-doc, Elm-net, and PubMed until March 2019 using the following terms (or its Persian synonyms): chronic pain; persistent pain; chronic fatigue; fibromyalgia; neuropath*; LBP; irritable bowel; CFS; psycho*; cogniti*; acceptance; meaning; mindfulness; relaxation; biopsychosocial; rehabilitation; educat*. Eligible trials were randomized trials that evaluated the effectiveness of psychological interventions on Iranian adults with chronic pain. No setting restriction was considered. Risk of bias for each trial was assessed, and the random-effect model was used to pool summary effect across trials.

Results: In all 30 eligible RCTs, the risk of bias for randomization was low except for one study. The pooled standardized mean difference (SMD) for depression and anxiety were 1.33 (95%CI: -1.42 to -0.68) and 1.25 (95% CI: -1.55 to -0.96), respectively.

Conclusion: This study suggests that psychological interventions are highly effective in reducing depression and anxiety in Iranian patients with chronic pain, compared to what observed in the U.S. and European studies. However, there are still some methodological issues to be addressed. Future research should focus on high-quality trials with considerations on the methodological issues reported in the present study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7420174/

 

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 Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Patients with Mindfulness

Reduce Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Patients with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Practicing mindfulness can assist with uncertainty about the future, depression, fear of recurrence and anxiety as well as mitigate physical symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and sleep disturbance.” – Erin Murphy-Wilczek

 

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 stress,  sleep disturbancefear, and anxiety and depression. There has been considerable research conducted on the effectiveness of mindfulness practices in treating the psychological issues associated with cancer. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effectiveness of mindfulness in treating anxiety in cancer patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Association of Mindfulness-Based Interventions With Anxiety Severity in Adults With Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7414391/) Oberoi and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research on the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing anxiety in adult cancer patients. They found 28 published trials. The most common forms of mindfulness treatment were Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (13 studies) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (6 studies).

 

They report that the published research found that mindfulness training reduced anxiety and depression and increased quality of life over the short and medium term (up to 6 months post-treatment) with moderate effect sizes. The reduction in anxiety and depression may be responsible for the improvement in the patients’ quality of life. But 2 trials had longer term follow up measures (over 6 months) and did not find significant reductions. The fact that the effects do not appear to last beyond 6 months suggests that continued mindfulness practice or periodic booster sessions may be needed.

 

Fighting cancer is very stressful and amplifies negative emotions like anxiety and depression. The stress produced by these emotions can in turn interfere with the body’s ability to fight the cancer. So, treating these negative emotional states may be very important not only for the individual’s mental health but also to their physical well-being. So, mindfulness training may be important to the overall health of the cancer patient by reducing anxiety and depression.

 

So, reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients with mindfulness.

 

“In summary, 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 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

 

Oberoi, S., Yang, J., Woodgate, R. L., Niraula, S., Banerji, S., Israels, S. J., Altman, G., Beattie, S., Rabbani, R., Askin, N., Gupta, A., Sung, L., Abou-Setta, A. M., & Zarychanski, R. (2020). Association of Mindfulness-Based Interventions With Anxiety Severity in Adults With Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA network open, 3(8), e2012598. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.12598

 

Abstract

Importance

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), grounded in mindfulness, focus on purposely paying attention to experiences occurring at the present moment without judgment. MBIs are increasingly used by patients with cancer for the reduction of anxiety, but it remains unclear if MBIs reduce anxiety in patients with cancer.

Objective

To evaluate the association of MBIs with reductions in the severity of anxiety in patients with cancer.

Data Sources

Systematic searches of MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and SCOPUS were conducted from database inception to May 2019 to identify relevant citations.

Study Selection

Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that compared MBI with usual care, waitlist controls, or no intervention for the management of anxiety in cancer patients were included. Two reviewers conducted a blinded screening. Of 101 initially identified studies, 28 met the inclusion criteria.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

Two reviewers independently extracted the data. The Cochrane Collaboration risk-of-bias tool was used to assess the quality of RCTs, and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses reporting guideline was followed. Summary effect measures were reported as standardized mean differences (SMDs) and calculated using a random-effects model.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Our primary outcome was the measure of severity of short-term anxiety (up to 1-month postintervention); secondary outcomes were the severity of medium-term (1 to ≤6 months postintervention) and long-term (>6 to 12 months postintervention) anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life of patients and caregivers.

Results

This meta-analysis included 28 RCTs enrolling 3053 adults with cancer. None of the trials were conducted in children. Mindfulness was associated with significant reductions in the severity of short-term anxiety (23 trials; 2339 participants; SMD, −0.51; 95% CI, −0.70 to −0.33; I2 = 76%). The association of mindfulness with short-term anxiety did not vary by evaluated patient, intervention, or study characteristics. Mindfulness was also associated with the reduction of medium-term anxiety (9 trials; 965 participants; SMD, −0.43; 95% CI, −0.68 to −0.18; I2 = 66%). No reduction in long-term anxiety was observed (2 trials; 403 participants; SMD, −0.02; 95% CI, −0.38 to 0.34; I2 = 68%). MBIs were associated with a reduction in the severity of depression in the short term (19 trials; 1874 participants; SMD, −0.73; 95% CI; −1.00 to −0.46; I2 = 86%) and the medium term (8 trials; 891 participants; SMD, −0.85; 95% CI, −1.35 to −0.35; I2 = 91%) and improved health-related quality of life in patients in the short term (9 trials; 1108 participants; SMD, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.20 to 0.82; I2 = 82%) and the medium term (5 trials; 771 participants; SMD, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.06 to 0.52; I2 = 57%).

Conclusions and Relevance

In this study, MBIs were associated with reductions in anxiety and depression up to 6 months postintervention in adults with cancer. Future trials should explore the long-term association of mindfulness with anxiety and depression in adults with cancer and determine its efficacy in more diverse cancer populations using active controls.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7414391/

 

Increase Empathy with Mindfulness

Increase Empathy with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

as we pay attention to our breath, our body, our lives, in this simple and gentle way, a natural consequence is the opening of the heart.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism. “empathy seems to play a key role in forgiveness and compassion toward oneself and others, allowing the maintenance, reconciliation and repair of social relationships.” So, promoting empathy is important for not only for the individual’s well-being but also for the individual’s relationships with others.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01915/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1401267_69_Psycho_20200811_arts_A) de la Fuente-Anuncibay and colleagues recruited university students and had them complete measures of mindfulness practice, empathy, and mindfulness, including describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting subscales. The data were examined with regression analysis and mediation analysis.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of empathy. This was true for overall mindfulness and the describing and observing facets of mindfulness. In examining the effect of mindfulness practice on empathy they found that there was no direct effect of practice on empathy but rather practice was associated with higher levels of mindfulness which was in turn associated with higher levels of empathy. Again, this was true for overall mindfulness and the describing and observing facets of mindfulness. Gender was not found to moderate these associations.

 

These results are correlational and as such caution must be exercised in concluding causation. Nevertheless, previous studies have shown that mindfulness training results in increase in empathy. So, the present results probably represent causal relationships. These results then suggest that mindfulness produces greater empathy and that mindfulness is enhanced by mindfulness practice. It is interesting that these relationships are similar for both men and women as there is a societal belief that women are more empathetic. These findings demonstrate that mindfulness improves empathy regardless of gender.

 

It is interesting that the relationship of mindfulness with empathy was true not only for overall mindfulness but also for the describing and observing facets of mindfulness. These facets represent that individual’s ability to observe and describe their internal state. Mindful individuals are more aware of how they are feeling. This suggests that awareness of one’s own feelings helps to better understand the feelings of others which is the essence of empathy.

 

So, increase empathy with mindfulness.

 

“By learning to bring our thoughts and feelings into the present and allowing them to be as they are, we become more mindful of ourselves. That enhanced mindfulness of ourselves makes it easier to read-across to the experiences of others. Just a small amount of mindfulness training can make it easier to read people’s inner states. Mindful people tend to experience more compassion and more empathy, because they have more control over their thinking.” – Mindfulness Works

 

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

 

de la Fuente-Anuncibay R, González-Barbadillo Á, Ortega-Sánchez D and Pizarro-Ruiz JP (2020) Mindfulness and Empathy: Mediating Factors and Gender Differences in a Spanish Sample. Front. Psychol. 11:1915. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01915

 

Numerous research studies link mindfulness training to improved empathy. However, few studies focus on the mediating factors of empathy. This work has three objectives: (a) to analyze the possible mediation of mindfulness as a feature in this relation, (b) to analyze the mindfulness factors that mediate in the increase of empathy and (c) to analyze the moderating role of gender. The sample was composed of 246 Spanish-speaking university students (M = 24.08 years, SD = 8.43). The instruments used were the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ). For data analysis, the indirect effect was calculated using 10000 bootstrap samples for the bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals (BCI). The improvement of empathy is mediated by the changes in mindfulness trait (B = 0.233, p < 0.001), disappearing in the presence of this mediator, the direct effect of mindfulness practice on empathy (B = 0.161, p = 0.394). We did not find a differential functioning of this mediation according to gender. Observing and describing are the FFMQ factors that mediate significantly between mindfulness practice and empathy.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01915/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1401267_69_Psycho_20200811_arts_A