Improve Adolescent Psychological Health with Mindfulness

Improve Adolescent Psychological Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

It may be that mindfulness leads to an increase in self-compassion and a decrease in experiential avoidance. It may be selective attention — if you focus on your breath, you have less bandwidth to ruminate. There are a lot of factors that are operative and we’re just beginning to tease out and deconstruct them. It’s like tasting a soup with 10 spices. Is there one main ingredient or is the flavor a combination of things?” – Stuart Eisendrath

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required.

 

Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. Mindfulness training in adults has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression levels and improve emotional regulation. In addition, in adolescents it has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects Of Modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) On The Psychological Health Of Adolescents With Subthreshold Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6758632/), Zhang and colleagues recruited university students (aged 18-22 years) who scored high in depression but were not at clinically diagnosable levels. They were randomly assigned to receive either an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or to a no-treatment control condition. They were measured before and after training for depression, mindfulness, and rumination.

 

The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 1-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants are also encouraged to perform daily practice. The program was modified to be better targeted at adolescents. It instructed the adolescents on the application of mindfulness practices to everyday life, including experiencing the pleasant/sad moments in life, walking, sleeping, eating, breathing and exercising to keep the attitude of “mindfulness”.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control condition the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program produced large and significant decreases in depression and rumination and increases in mindfulness. Hence, the study demonstrated that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) modified for adolescents is a safe and effective treatment to improve the psychological health of adolescents who had subclinical levels of depression.

 

It should be mentioned that the control condition did not include any activities and thus leaves open the possibilities of confounding by experimenter or participant bias or placebo effects. Also, the lack of a standard MBSR program for comparison to the modified program does not allow for a conclusion that the modifications produced an improved program. Nevertheless the results are encouraging that the modified MBSR program may be useful in relieving the suffering of the large numbers of adolescents with sub-clinical depression.

 

So, improve adolescent psychological health with mindfulness.

 

“It is well-documented that mindfulness helps to relieve depression and anxiety in adults.1-4 A small but growing body of research shows that it may also improve adolescent resilience to stress through improved cognitive performance and emotional regulation.” – Malka Main

 

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, J. Y., Ji, X. Z., Meng, L. N., & Cai, Y. J. (2019). Effects Of Modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) On The Psychological Health Of Adolescents With Subthreshold Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 15, 2695–2704. doi:10.2147/NDT.S216401

 

Abstract

Background

Sub-threshold depression (SD) has been associated with impairments in adolescent health which increase the rate of major depression. Researchers have shown the effectiveness of mindfulness on mental health, however whether the traditional mindful skills were suitable for youngsters, it was not clear. This study investigated the effects of a tailed Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on their psychological state.

Methods

A double-blind, randomized controlled trial was carried out. 56 participants who met the inclusion criteria agreed to be arranged randomly to either the MBSR group (n=28) or the control group (n=28). Participants in MBSR group received a tailored 8-week, one time per week, one hour each time group intervention. The effectiveness of intervention was measured using validated scales, which including BDI-II, MAAS, RRS at three times (T1-before intervention; T2-after intervention; T3-three months after intervention). A repeated-measures analysis of variance model was used to analyze the data.

Results

The results showed significant improvements in MBSR group comparing with control group that depression level decreased after the 8-week intervention and the follow up (F =17.721, p < 0.00). At the same time, RRS score was significantly decreased at T2 and T3(F= 28.277, p < 0.00). The results also showed that MBSR promoted the level of mindfulness and the effect persisted for three months after intervention (F=13.489, p < 0.00).

Conclusion

A tailored MBSR intervention has positive effects on psychology health among SD youngsters, including decrease depression and rumination level, cultivate mindfulness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6758632/

 

Mindfulness and Sense of Control are Independently Associated with Emotions

Mindfulness and Sense of Control are Independently Associated with Emotions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the truth is that meditation does not eradicate mental and emotional turmoil. Rather, it cultivates the space and gentleness that allow us intimacy with our experiences so that we can relate quite differently to our cascade of emotions and thoughts. That different relationship is where freedom lies.” – Sharon Salzburg

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

This may indicate that mindfulness training improves the sense of control over our inner life.

In today’s Research News article “The Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness, Sense of Control, and Affect in a National Sample of Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093486/), Imel and colleagues examine the relationship of sense of control with mindfulness’ ability to improve emotions. They recruited a large sample of adults (from 28 to 84 years of age) and had them complete measures of mindfulness, sense of control, positive and negative emotions, religiousness and spirituality, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion.

 

Employing a moderation analysis, they demonstrated that the sense of control was strongly positively associated with positive emotions and negatively associated with negative emotions. In addition, mindfulness was also associated with positive and negative emotions. But mindfulness was not associated with sense of control. These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness did not affect emotions by altering the individuals’ sense that they were in control of themselves. Rather, it would appear that mindfulness and sense of control are independently associated with emotions.

 

Thus, mindfulness and sense of control are independently associated with emotions.

 

“The key to overcoming these difficult emotions is mindfulness! Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm down and soothe yourself. In this state, you have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than react.” – Toni Parker

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Imel, J. L., & Dautovich, N. D. (2018). The Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness, Sense of Control, and Affect in a National Sample of Adults. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 73(6), 996–1005. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbw092

 

Abstract

Objectives

The present study examined factors associated with better affective experiences across the life span, extending existing research to older adults. Specifically, we investigated dispositional mindfulness and sense of control as predictors of affect and sense of control as a potential mediator of the mindfulness—affect associations.

Method

We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness mediated by sense of control would predict affective outcomes. An archival analysis of a sample of 4,962 adults, aged 28 to 84 years, was conducted using the Midlife in the U.S. national survey (MIDUS-II). Exploratory analyses were conducted with age as a moderator in all associations.

Results

Greater dispositional mindfulness predicted more positive and negative affect irrespective of age. Dispositional mindfulness did not predict sense of control. Greater sense of control predicted more positive and less negative affect, and these associations were significantly moderated by age. Sense of control did not mediate the dispositional mindfulness—affect associations.

Discussion

The present study extends existing research on the dispositional mindfulness—positive affect association to older ages. The sense of control and positive and negative affect associations are enhanced and buffered, respectively, at older ages, indicating that the association between control and affect differs by age.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093486/

 

Mindfulness Training is Effective with Widely Diverse Populations

Mindfulness Training is Effective with Widely Diverse Populations

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In the last two decades, references to mindfulness-based treatments have proliferated. Its benefits are touted for many medical conditions and seem to be universally accepted as a technique to improve mental health across diverse populations.” – Sara Davin

 

Disadvantaged populations have a disproportionate share of mental health issues. Indeed, the lower the socioeconomic status of an individual the greater the likelihood of a mental disorder. It is estimated that major mental illnesses are almost 3 times more likely in the disadvantaged, including almost double the incidence of depression, triple the incidence of anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders. These higher incidences of mental health issues occur, in part, due to mental health problems leading to unemployment and poverty, but also to the stresses of life in poverty.

 

Most psychotherapies were developed to treat disorders in affluent western populations and are not affordable or sensitive to the unique situations and education levels of the diverse populations. Hence, there is a great need for alternative treatments for diverse populations. One increasingly popular alternative is mindfulness practices. These include meditationtai chi, qigongyoga, guided imagery, prayer, etc. The research on the effectiveness of mindfulness practices with diverse populations is accumulating, so it makes sense to stop and summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Addressing Diversity In Mindfulness Research On Health: A Narrative Review Using The Addressing Framework.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746558/),Chin and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness practice for various populations.

 

They report that the published studies found that mindfulness practice was beneficial regardless of age, being effective in children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, regardless of ethnicity, including black, Hispanic, native American, and Asian populations, and regardless of sexual orientation, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender participants. Mindfulness training was also found to improve the well-being of patients with acquired disabilities including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis. Mindfulness appears to be effective regardless of socioeconomic status, being beneficial in both affluent and poor participants and regardless of nationality, being beneficial for European Americans, Taiwanese, South Africans, British and Swedes. Finally, there’s only a small number of studies that compare the effectiveness of mindfulness practice for males versus females. In general, mindfulness practice appears to be beneficial for both genders, but possibly more beneficial for women than men.

 

These findings are quite striking and suggest that mindfulness training is beneficial for a wide variety of people with a wide variety of conditions. It is no wonder that mindfulness practice appears to be spreading rapidly, with meditation practice increasing from 4% to 14% of the US population over the last 5 years.

 

Hus, mindfulness training is effective with widely diverse populations.

 

“The application of mindfulness to diversity and inclusion is about opening and appreciating rather than rejecting difference.” – Joshua Ehrlich

 

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

 

Chin, G., Anyanso, V., & Greeson, J. (2019). Addressing Diversity In Mindfulness Research On Health: A Narrative Review Using The Addressing Framework. Cooper Rowan medical journal, 1(1), 2.

 

INTRODUCTION

Over the past 5 years, the number of Americans practicing meditation has more than tripled, rising from 4% of adults in 2010 to 14% in 2017.1 This rise is likely related to the increasing focus on preventive and integrative approaches to healthcare in the United States, such as meditation, which is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain in conjunction with improving health and well-being.2 While many different meditative practices exist, mindfulness meditation emphasizes nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. Although substantial research supports mindfulness-related improvements in patient-reported mental and physical health,3 the replication crisis in social science and medicine, alongside numerous methodological concerns about extant mindfulness studies,4 invites questions regarding the generalizability of research on the reported health-promoting effects of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness as an innate, dispositional quality (trait mindfulness). Moreover, as much of mindfulness research over-samples middle-to-upper class, Caucasian, women,5 the extent to which results generalize to a broader, more diverse population is unclear. One possible reason for this overrepresentation could be that this population has the time and/or finances to participate in mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) from which researchers draw samples.

In 2001, Dr. Pamela Hays published Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice,6 introducing the ADDRESSING framework as a guide to help clinicians better identify and understand the relevant cultural identities of their clients. According to Dr. Hays, the facets of identity include: Age, Developmental and acquired Disabilities, Religion, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous heritage, National origin, and Gender. This framework allows room for intersectionality between identity facets and does not inherently exclude non-minority individuals. As such, the ADDRESSING framework, with its attention to multiple aspects of identity, provides an effective structure for organizing research published on different populations and identifying 1) which populations are represented and underrepresented in various categories and 2) what is known about underrepresented groups in research. The main purpose of this review, therefore, was to use the ADDRESSING framework to highlight mindfulness research conducted on historically underrepresented groups as both a method to summarize what has been done and to point out gaps for future research.

Overall, mindfulness can reduce stress and improve mental health in diverse populations. Given the unique stressors and mental health disparities individuals in diverse groups experience, mindfulness-related changes in mental health likely support improvements in health-related behavior, QoL and well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746558/

 

Improve Mindfulness Training with Natural Settings

Improve Mindfulness Training with Natural Settings

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our deepest origins lie in the natural world and time in the great outdoors can be calming, invigorating, beautiful… and lots of fun! Mindfulness is paying attention without judgement to the present moment and it’s the perfect way to enhance our connection with nature.”- Claire Thompson

 

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 “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747393/), Diernis and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effects of combining mindfulness training with natural environments. They found 26 published studies.

 

They report that the published research studies found that mindfulness practice in nature produced greater improvements in psychological, social, and physical well-being with moderate to small effect sizes. These effects were present regardless of whether the study employed a no-treatment or active control condition. In addition, natural environments that were wild and/or forested tended to produce greater effects than natural environments that were garden or park environments.

 

The meta-analysis suggests that mindfulness training in the natural environment, especially in wild environments, produces greater benefits than similar training in non-natural settings. It is not clear why this would be true. Perhaps, removing the individual from the environments that their accustomed to, potentiates mindfulness training. Or perhaps, returning the individual to the type of environments that reflect their evolutionary history, reduces stress and produces greater relaxation and improved attention. Regardless, it’s clear that practicing mindfulness in nature is very beneficial.

 

So, improve mindfulness training with natural settings.

 

During my first mindfulness-in-nature retreat, when my hand touched the sun-warmed ground, I felt a connection to the Earth I didn’t know was possible. It was as if the energy of the Earth connected with my own. There was no separation. It was grounding, warm, and it felt like home.” – Sara Overton

 

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

 

Djernis, D., Lerstrup, I., Poulsen, D., Stigsdotter, U., Dahlgaard, J., & O’Toole, M. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(17), 3202. doi:10.3390/ijerph16173202

 

Abstract

Research has proven that both mindfulness training and exposure to nature have positive health effects. The purpose of this study was to systematically review quantitative studies of mindfulness interventions conducted in nature (nature-based mindfulness), and to analyze the effects through meta-analyses. Electronic searches revealed a total of 25 studies to be included, examining 2990 participants. Three analyses were conducted: Nature-based mindfulness interventions evaluated as open trials (k = 13), nature-based mindfulness compared with groups in non-active control conditions (k = 5), and nature-based mindfulness compared with similar interventions but without contact with nature (k = 7). The overall combined psychological, physiological, and interpersonal effects from pre- to post-intervention were statistically significant and of medium size (g = 0.54, p < 0.001). Moderation analyses showed that natural environments characterized as forests/wild nature obtained larger numerical effects than environments characterized as gardens/parks, as did informal mindfulness compared with formal mindfulness. The small number of studies included, as well as the heterogeneity and generally low quality of the studies, must be taken into consideration when the results are interpreted

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747393/

 

Improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with Mindfulness

Improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness meditation for people with ADHD? It may seem like a stretch, since difficulty with mindfulness is the very challenge for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And yet recent research shows that mindfulness training can be adapted for this condition and that it can improve concentration.” – Lynda McCollough

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is most commonly found in children, but for about half it persists into adulthood. It’s estimated that about 5% of the adult population has ADHD. Hence, this is a very large problem that can produce inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional issues, and reduce quality of life. The most common treatment is drugs, like methylphenidate, Ritalin, which helps reducing symptoms in about 30% of the people with ADHD. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the drugs appears to be markedly reduced after the first year. In addition, the drugs often have troublesome side effects, can be addictive, and can readily be abused. So, drugs, at present, do not appear to be a good solution, only affecting some, only for a short time, and with unwanted side effects.

 

There are indications that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for ADHD. It makes sense that it should be, as the skills and abilities strengthened by mindfulness training are identical to those that are defective in ADHD,  attentionimpulse controlexecutive functionemotion control, and mood improvement. In addition, unlike drugs, it is a relatively safe intervention that has minimal troublesome side effects. Since mindfulness is so promising as a treatment, it is important to step back and summarize what has been learned in the scientific research of the effectiveness of mindfulness training for ADHD.

 

In today’s Research News article “A meta-analytic investigation of the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on ADHD symptoms.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571280/), Xue and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies of the effectiveness of mindfulness training for the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They included 11 controlled published research studies.

 

They report that the published research found that mindfulness training produced significant improvements in mindfulness and in the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms of  inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity with large effect sizes. The effect sizes were smaller, albeit still significant, when mindfulness training was compared to wait-list control groups as opposed to active control conditions.

 

These results are exciting and important as they suggest that mindfulness training is safe and effective for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms in both children and adults. It has been well established that mindfulness training improves attention and relaxation and reduces impulsivity in a variety of non-ADHD populations. This meta-analysis suggests that these same improvements occur in patients with ADHD. Training in paying attention non-judgmentally to the present moment appears to calm and improve the ability of ADHD patients to focus just as it does with people without ADHD.

 

So, improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with mindfulness

 

They discovered 78% of the study participants who practiced ADHD mindfulness reported reductions in ADHD symptoms, and 30% of the participants reported “clinically” reduced symptoms, which means they had a 30% or more reduction. They also found participants who did the mindfulness training did significantly better for “measures of attentional conflict” (when two or more things compete for your attention). And, as a bonus, participants also made improvements on measures of depression and anxiety.” – Casey Dixon

 

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

 

Xue, J., Zhang, Y., & Huang, Y. (2019). A meta-analytic investigation of the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on ADHD symptoms. Medicine, 98(23), e15957. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000015957

 

Abstract

Background:

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been reported to be efficacious in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, the value of the control effect of MBIs on ADHD core symptoms remains controversial. To clarify the literature on the control effect of MBIs on the symptoms of ADHD and guide future researches, an effect-size analysis was conducted.

Methods:

A systematic search in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Medline, Cochrane Library, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and Wangfang Data databases was performed up to January 11, 2019. The overall effect size of MBIs on ADHD core symptoms (ie, inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) was recorded by the metric of Hedges’ g with 95% confidence interval, Z-value, and P-value.

Results:

Eleven eligible studies featuring 682 participants were included in the meta-analysis. The overall results indicated that MBIs had large effects on inattention (Hedges’ g = −0.825) and hyperactivity/impulsivity (Hedges’ g = −0.676) relative to the control group. Results from subgroup analyses between self- and observer rating on ADHD symptoms revealed that the effect of MBIs both remained in a large range and self-rated ADHD core symptom had a greater impact on heterogeneity across the studies. Meta-regression found that the overall effect might be moderated by participant age group and control condition.

Conclusion:

The present meta-analysis suggested that MBIs had large effects in reducing ADHD core symptoms in comparison with the control group. Future researches are needed to assess follow-up effects of MBIs on ADHD core symptoms and explore the correlation between the individual level of mindfulness and reduction of ADHD symptoms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571280/

 

Improve Episodic Memory and Alter Brain Activity during Memory Retrieval with Mindfulness

Improve Episodic Memory and Alter Brain Activity during Memory Retrieval with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A critical part of attention (and working memory capacity) is being able to ignore distraction. There has been growing evidence that meditation training (in particular mindfulness meditation) helps develop attentional control, and that this can start to happen very quickly.” – About Memory

 

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

 

One way to observe the effects of meditation techniques is to measure the effects of each technique on the brain’s activity. This can be done by recording the electroencephalogram (EEG). The brain produces rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. It is usually separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 13-30 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 30-100 cycles per second band.

 

In today’s Research News article “Increases in Theta Oscillatory Activity During Episodic Memory Retrieval Following Mindfulness Meditation Training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6738165/), Nyhus and colleagues recruited adult participants and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to receive 4-weeks of once a week for 1 hour of mindfulness meditation training along with 20 minutes of daily home practice. They were measured for episodic memory and mindfulness before and after training. They learned words either by imagining a place associated with them or rating their pleasantness. The electroencephalogram (EEG) was measured from the scalp as the participants were engaged in an episodic memory task.

 

They found that meditation training produced a significant increase in mindfulness, especially the observe, describe, and act with awareness facets. The meditation group were also significantly better at identifying the source (place or pleasantness) of the word in the episodic memory task. With the EEG they found that the meditation group after training had significant increases in power in the Theta frequency band (4-7.5 hz.) in the frontal and parietal cortical areas of the brain. The increase in theta power were correlated with the level of the describe facet of mindfulness.

 

Theta power has been previously found to increase during tasks that test episodic memory. That was true here also. But in the present study the increases in theta power were greater after mindfulness meditation training. This suggests that the training altered the nervous system making it more responsive to episodic memories. The fact that mindfulness has been found to improve memory and that source memory was improved in the present study would appear to support this assertion. Hence, it would appear that mindfulness meditation improves episodic memory by enhancing brain processing of memories.

 

So, improve episodic memory and alter brain activity during memory retrieval with mindfulness.

 

“The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, . . . . The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” – Alice Walton

 

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

 

Nyhus, E., Engel, W. A., Pitfield, T. D., & Vakkur, I. (2019). Increases in Theta Oscillatory Activity During Episodic Memory Retrieval Following Mindfulness Meditation Training. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 311. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00311

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve episodic memory and increase theta oscillations which are known to play a role in episodic memory retrieval. The present study examined the effect of mindfulness meditation on episodic memory retrieval and theta oscillations. Using a longitudinal design, subjects in the mindfulness meditation experimental group who underwent 4 weeks of mindfulness meditation training and practice were compared to a waitlist control group. During the pre-training and post-training experimental sessions, subjects completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and studied adjectives and either imagined a scene (Place Task) or judged its pleasantness (Pleasant Task). During the recognition test, subjects decided which task was performed with each word (“Old Place Task” or “Old Pleasant Task”) or “New.” FFMQ scores and source discrimination were greater post-training than pre-training in the mindfulness meditation experimental group. Electroencephalography (EEG) results revealed that for the mindfulness meditation experimental group theta power was greater post-training than pre-training in right frontal and left parietal channels and changes in FFMQ scores correlated with changes in theta oscillations in right frontal channels (n = 20). The present results suggest that mindfulness meditation increases source memory retrieval and theta oscillations in a fronto-parietal network.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6738165/

 

Improve Personal Growth in Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness and Spirituality

Improve Personal Growth in Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness and Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“religion and spirituality can help cancer patients find meaning in their illness and provide comfort in the face of fear.” – American Cancer Society

 

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. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatiguestress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. In addition, religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they’re diagnosed with cancer or when living with cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality and mindfulness may be useful tools for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality and mindfulness on the ability of cancer survivors to positively adjust to their situation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340393/), Rudaz and colleagues recruited cancer survivors and had them complete questionnaires measuring spiritual coping (using spirituality as a comfort during difficulties), spiritual mindfulness, personal growth, and positive reinterpretation (interpreting stressful events in a positive way).

 

They found that for the cancer survivors, the greater the levels of mindfulness, the greater the levels of personal growth and the greater the levels of positive reinterpretation. Hence mindfulness was associated with positive adjustments to their illness. Further they found that higher levels of spiritual coping were associated with higher levels of personal growth and higher levels of positive reinterpretation only when mindfulness was high. No relationship was present when mindfulness was low. Younger participants and those with higher levels of education had significantly higher levels of personal growth.

 

It has to be kept in mind that the study was correlational and as such no conclusions about causation can be reached. But the results suggest that spiritual mindfulness is associated with two positive characteristics in cancer survivors, personal growth and positive reinterpretation. In other words, being mindful was associated with an ability to interpret the illness in a positive way and use it as a springboard for greater personal growth. Being able to take solace in spirituality (spiritual coping) was only an effective strategy when the cancer survivors had high levels of mindfulness. Hence, mindfulness is an important characteristic on its own but also one that allows for spirituality to be associated with growth. They appear to have to work together.

 

So, improve personal growth in cancer survivors with mindfulness and spirituality.

 

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

 

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

 

Rudaz, M., Ledermann, T., & Grzywacz, J. G. (2018). Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors. Journal of psychosocial oncology, 36(5), 609–623. doi:10.1080/07347332.2018.1464091

 

Abstract

Purpose.

This study examined the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness on the association between spiritual coping and perceived growth in individuals with and without current treatment for cancer.

Design/Sample.

Adults with a cancer history (N = 534) from the Midlife in the United States study completed a telephone interview and self-administered questionnaires.

Methods/Findings.

Moderated regression analyses, controlled for age and educational attainment, showed that mindfulness moderated the effect of spiritual coping on personal growth and on positive reinterpretation. High mindfulness amplified the effect of spiritual coping on both personal growth and positive reinterpretation. Further, this moderating effect was significantly different for adults with versus without current treatment for cancer for positive reinterpretation but not for personal growth.

Conclusions/Implications.

These findings highlight the potential amplifying effect of spiritual mindfulness on the effect of spiritual coping on perceived growth in cancer survivors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340393/

 

Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness

Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

When we engage in mindful practices, we can bring greater awareness, clarity, and equanimity to our day to day experiences. This leads to greater balance and less of the intense swings in mood that can throw us off kilter for days at a time.” – Sean Fargo

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders. Aerobic exercise can also improve emotions and their regulation. So, it makes sense to study the relationship between exercise and mindfulness in effecting emotion regulation.

 

In today’s Research News article “How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718717/), Zhang and colleagues recruited healthy female postgraduate students who did not have meditation experience and who did not engage in exercise. They were randomly assigned to a wait-list control condition or to engage in exercise 3 times per week over 8 weeks. The exercise alternated between jogging for 40 minutes and yoga practice for 60 minutes. The yoga practice consisted of postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. They were measured before and after the intervention for emotion regulation, negative emotions, aerobic fitness, and mindfulness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the aerobic exercise and yoga group had significant increases in emotion regulation, aerobic fitness, and mindfulness and decreases in negative emotions. They also found that increases in aerobic fitness were associated with increases in emotion regulation. But this association was only significant with participants who had high or moderate increases in their levels of mindfulness. At low levels of improvements in mindfulness there was no significant relationship between aerobic fitness and emotion regulation.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that aerobic exercise and yoga improves the individual’s ability to regulate their emotions. But mindfulness is required for aerobic exercise to be effective. The increases in mindfulness would be expected as the exercise intervention contained yoga and meditation components. Aerobic exercise is known to improve mood. It is new to show that it also improves emotion regulation. Perhaps that’s the reason for the improvements in mood. But in order for the emotion regulation to be improved by exercise, it must be accompanied by improvements in mindfulness. This suggests that the ability to pay attention in the present moment nonjudgmentally to one’s emotions is required for the exercise to affect the ability to regulate the emotions. Here mindfulness plays a permissive role allowing the exercise to have its effect on the participants ability to regulate their emotions.

 

So, Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness.

 

By acting mindfully, people are not only aware of their own feelings but become able to distance from it, avoiding feeling overpowered and acting out.” – Joan Swart

 

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., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1888. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888

 

Abstract

Purpose: The primary aim of the present study is to examine the effect of 8-week mind-body exercise intervention combining aerobic jogging and mindfulness-based yoga on implicit emotion regulation ability. The secondary aim is to explore the specific potential pathways by which the mind-body exercise intervention fosters implicit emotion regulation. This may help us to understand how the key components of exercise intervention contribute to emotional benefits.

Methods: Sixty participants were randomly allocated to one of two parallel groups: (1) the intervention group (n = 29) and (2) the waitlist control group (n = 31). Participants were asked to fill out scales measuring mindfulness and instructed to complete an emotion regulation task to assess implicit emotion regulation ability as well as the PWC 170 Test to evaluate aerobic fitness before and after the intervention.

Results: The results of the two-way repeated ANOVA revealed that 8 weeks of intervention improved implicit emotion regulation, mindfulness, and aerobic fitness levels. Path analysis showed that only improved aerobic fitness mediated the intervention effect on implicit emotion regulation ability, controlling for change in negative affect. Notably, the relationship between the effects on implicit emotion regulation ability and aerobic fitness was moderated by improved mindfulness.

Conclusion: Eight weeks of mind-body exercise intervention improves implicit emotion regulation ability. The aerobic fitness may be an essential pathway which mediates the efficacy on implicit emotion regulation ability. Furthermore, different components, such as aerobic fitness and mindfulness, may interactively contribute to such emotional benefits.

Keywords: mind-body exercise, aerobic jogging, mindfulness-based yoga, implicit emotion regulation ability, aerobic fitness, mindfulness, potential pathway

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718717/

 

Better Mental Health During Pregnancy is Associated with Mindfulness

Better Mental Health During Pregnancy is Associated with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness is a seriously beneficial practice during pregnancy, too? Simply tuning in and being aware can be a powerful tool to lessen stress, calm anxiety, and help you feel more connected during those long nine months.” – Carrie Murphy

 

The period of pregnancy is a time of intense physiological and psychological change. Anxiety, depression, and fear are quite common during pregnancy. More than 20 percent of pregnant women have an anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms, or both during pregnancy. A debilitating childbirth fear has been estimated to affect about 6% or pregnant women and 13% are sufficiently afraid to postpone pregnancy. It is difficult to deal with these emotions under the best of conditions but in combinations with the stresses of pregnancy can turn what could be a joyous experience of creating a human life into a horrible worrisome, torment.

 

The psychological health of pregnant women has consequences for fetal development, birthing, and consequently, child outcomes. Depression during pregnancy is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. Hence, it is clear that there is a need for methods to treat depression, and anxiety during pregnancy. Since the fetus can be negatively impacted by drugs, it would be preferable to find a treatment that did not require drugs. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve anxiety and depression normally and to relieve maternal anxiety and depression during pregnancy.

 

In today’s Research News article “An investigation of dispositional mindfulness and mood during pregnancy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6676599/), Krusche and colleagues recruited pregnant women and had them complete measures of mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, pregnancy distress, worries about labor, prenatal distress, pregnancy related discomforts, and pregnancy expectancies.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, worries about labor, pregnancy distress, prenatal distress, first and second trimester discomfort, and frequency and intensity of negative pregnancy experiences, and greater frequency and intensity of positive pregnancy experiences.

 

This study was correlational, so no conclusions can be reached about causation. But the results are striking that mindfulness is associated with better pregnancy related experiences, mood, and mental health. This portends well for the outcome of pregnancy and the health of the child. Future research should attempt to investigate the effects of mindfulness training during pregnancy on the mood, experiences, and mental health of the women.

 

So, better mental health during pregnancy is associated with mindfulness.

 

cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings seem to help pregnant women keep their stress down and their spirits up. . . it may also lead to healthier newborns with fewer developmental problems down the line.” – Kira Newman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Krusche, A., Crane, C., & Dymond, M. (2019). An investigation of dispositional mindfulness and mood during pregnancy. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 19(1), 273. doi:10.1186/s12884-019-2416-2

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness courses are being offered to numerous groups and while a large body of research has investigated links between dispositional mindfulness and mood, few studies have reported this relationship during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to investigate this relationship in pregnant women to offer insight into whether an intervention which may plausibly increase dispositional mindfulness would be beneficial for this population.

Methods

A cross-sectional analysis was conducted to explore potential relationships between measures of mindfulness and general and pregnancy-specific mood. A sample of pregnant women (n = 363) was recruited using online advertising and community-based recruitment and asked to complete a number of questionnaires online.

Results

Overall, higher levels of mindfulness were associated with improved levels of general and pregnancy-related mood in pregnant women. Controlling for general stress and anxiety, higher scores for mindfulness in (psychologically) healthy women were associated with lower levels of pregnancy-related depression, distress and labour worry but this relationship was not apparent in those with current mental health problems. In participants without children, higher mindfulness levels were related to lower levels of pregnancy-related distress.

Conclusions

These results suggest a promising relationship between dispositional mindfulness and mood though it varies depending on background and current problems. More research is needed, but this paper represents a first step in examining the potential of mindfulness courses for pregnant women. Increasing mindfulness, and therefore completing mindfulness-based courses, is potentially beneficial for improvements in mood during pregnancy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6676599/

 

Improve Emotions and Thinking with Mindfulness

Improve Emotions and Thinking with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Through mindfulness you can learn to turn your negative emotions into your greatest teachers and sources of strength. . . Instead of ‘turning away’ from pain in avoidance we can learn to gently ‘turn towards’ what we’re experiencing. We can bring a caring open attention towards the wounded parts of ourselves and make wise choices about how to respond to ourselves and to life.” – Melli O’Brien

 

Mindfulness is the ability to focus on what is transpiring in the present moment. It involves a greater emphasis on attention to the immediate stimulus environment. Mindful people generally have better attentional abilities and have fewer intrusive thoughts and less mind wandering. As a result, mindfulness has been shown to be associated with improved cognition (thinking). In addition, mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions.

 

Most of the research studying the effects of mindfulness on emotions and thinking have been conducted with western participants. It is important to assess the generalizability of these findings to eastern populations. In today’s Research News article “Can Mindfulness-Based Training Improve Positive Emotion and Cognitive Ability in Chinese Non-clinical Population? A Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619344/), Zhu and colleagues recruited healthy Chinese college students who never participated in mindfulness practices. They were randomly assigned to receive either a 12 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training or no treatment. The MBSR program met for 2.5 hours once a week along with 30-45 minutes of daily home practice and consisted of discussion, meditation, yoga, and body scan practices. They were measured before, during, and after training for mindfulness, emotions, attention with a Continuous Performance Task, and executive function with a Stroop task.

 

They found that in comparison to the no-treatment control group, after training the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group had significantly higher mindfulness and positive emotions. They had faster responses on the Continuous Performance Task, suggesting better sustained attention.  They further found that the greater the increase in mindfulness, the greater the increases in positive emotions and sustained attention, suggesting that the training effected mindfulness which, in turn, affected emotions and attention.

 

It has been well established that mindfulness trainings, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) are effective in improving emotions, attention, and mindfulness in western participants. The present study demonstrates that similar effects occur in eastern participants. This expands the generalizability of the findings, suggesting that MBSR training is effective regardless of race and culture.

 

So, improve emotions and thinking with mindfulness.

 

Flexing your ability to think about your thinking and practicing brief bouts of daily meditation is good for your health and has an endless list of psychological and physical benefits for your well-being.” – Christopher Bergland

 

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

 

Zhu, T., Xue, J., Montuclard, A., Jiang, Y., Weng, W., & Chen, S. (2019). Can Mindfulness-Based Training Improve Positive Emotion and Cognitive Ability in Chinese Non-clinical Population? A Pilot Study. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1549. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01549

 

Abstract

Objective

Based on eastern philosophy, mindfulness is becoming popular for human being’s mental health and well-being in western countries. In this study, we proposed to explore the effectiveness and potential pathway of mindfulness-based training (MBT) on Chinese Non-clinical higher education students’ cognition and emotion.

Methods

A paired control design was used. 48 higher education students (24 in MBT group, 24 in control group) were recruited in the study. The MBT group engaged in a 12-week MBT. A package of measurements, including sustained attention tasks (The Continuous Performance Test, CPT), executive function task (Stroop) for cognitive functions, the self-reported mindfulness levels (The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, MAAS) and emotion (The Profile of Mood States, POMS), were apply for all participants at baseline and every 4 weeks during next 12 weeks.

Results

There were no differences in baseline demographic variables between two groups. Over the 12-week training, participants assigned to MBT group had a significantly greater reduction in CPT reaction time (Cohen’s d 0.72), significantly greater improvement in positive emotion (Vigor-Activity, VA) (Cohen’s d 1.08) and in MAAS (Cohen’s d 0.49) than those assigned to control group. And, MAAS at 4th week could significantly predict the CPT RT and VA at 8th week in the MBT group. VA at 4th week could significantly predict the CPT RT at 8th week (B = 4.88, t = 2.21, p = 0.034, R2= 0.35).

Conclusion

This study shows the efficiency of 12-week MBT on Chinese Non-clinical students’ cognition and emotion. Mindfulness training may impact cognition and emotion through the improvement in mindfulness level, and may impact cognition through the improvement in positive emotion.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619344/