Increase Altruism with Mindfulness

Increase Altruism with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness can boost the intention to help others, even at a cost to oneself.” – Hooria Jazaieri

 

Homo Sapiens is a very successful species. In part its success has been due to it being a very social species. Members of the species form groups beyond the family unit and work together for the common good. Members also take care of one another. Individuals will sometimes sacrifice their own well-being and safety to help another. This is termed altruistic behavior. The fact that it sometimes actually reduces the likelihood of the individual’s survival appears to be a contradiction to the ideas of evolution that emphasize individual survival.

 

Altruistic behavior, however, is not rare. It is, in fact, often the rule and not the exception. Doctors and nurses risking infection, rush into Covid-19 riddled ICUs. This is an extreme example but altruistic behavior occurs in many simple ways on a daily basis. We routinely give to charities which benefit people on the other side of the world. We donate our time as volunteers to build houses for the disadvantaged. We roll down our car windows and hand money to a homeless person on a street corner.  Mindfulness has been shown to increase altruistic behavior. But it is unclear how much practice is sufficient to activate altruism.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation Activates Altruism.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7162971/), Iwamoto and colleagues recruited adults online and had them watch a 10 minute video either on breathing meditation or on drawing. After answering questions to verify that they actually watched the video they were told that their compensation was either $1, $2, or $3, They were then asked if they wanted to make a charitable contribution to the United Way.

 

They found that the participants who watched the breathing meditation video contributed 11% of their compensation while those that watched the drawing video contributed 6%. They also found that the mindfulness meditation video produced greater charitable contributions from younger participants (under 25 years of age), those with lower levels of education (Never attended College), from Hispanic participants, and from participants from India..

 

This study is fairly artificial and the ability to generalize the results are limited. In addition, they did not determine if watching the breathing meditation video actually increased mindfulness. So, it cannot be determined if increased mindfulness increased giving. It is also possible that watching a drawing video actually suppresses giving. Nevertheless, the results are interesting and corroborate previous findings that mindfulness can increase altruistic behavior.

 

So, increase altruism with mindfulness.

 

In my experience, the calmer you are, the more you think about and practice altruism and other good things, the more you benefit. . . . A compassionate attitude and a sense of caring are good not only for your peace of mind but also very good for your health… It is very important to utilize our existence for constructive purposes.” – Dalai Lama

 

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

 

Iwamoto, S. K., Alexander, M., Torres, M., Irwin, M. R., Christakis, N. A., & Nishi, A. (2020). Mindfulness Meditation Activates Altruism. Scientific reports, 10(1), 6511. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-62652-1

 

Abstract

Clinical evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and improves emotion regulation due to modulation of activity in neural substrates linked to the regulation of emotions and social preferences. However, less was known about whether mindfulness meditation might alter pro-social behavior. Here we examined whether mindfulness meditation activates human altruism, a component of social cooperation. Using a simple donation game, which is a real-world version of the Dictator’s Game, we randomly assigned 326 subjects to a mindfulness meditation online session or control and measured their willingness to donate a portion of their payment for participation as a charitable donation. Subjects who underwent the meditation treatment donated at a 2.61 times higher rate than the control (p = 0.005), after controlling for socio-demographics. We also found a larger treatment effect of meditation among those who did not go to college (p < 0.001) and those who were under 25 years of age (p < 0.001), with both subject groups contributing virtually nothing in the control condition. Our results imply high context modularity of human altruism and the development of intervention approaches including mindfulness meditation to increase social cooperation, especially among subjects with low baseline willingness to contribute.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7162971/

 

Mindful Independence Day

Mindful Independence Day

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“If today is a celebration of freedom, I think we as a nation, as a people, have squandered an opportunity. We have sought outer freedoms and ignored inner freedoms. We have pursued these freedoms with scandal, exploitation, and domination. Today, instead, I urge you to consider inner freedom.” – Arnie Kozak

 

Virtually every country in the world sets aside one day each year to celebrate its independence. In the U.S. that day is July 4th. On this day the country’s citizens celebrate their freedom and independence and the fight that achieved it. It’s normally a pleasant holiday filled with patriotism, flags, parades, picnics, and fireworks displays. But this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic the celebration will likely be subdued.

 

Although the founding of the great American democracy is something to celebrate, a mindful look at it produces a recognition that there are significant limitations on independence and freedom. We are nowhere near as free and independent as we think we are and with Covid-19 we’re even less free.

 

Independence from what? It’s certainly not from the imposition of government on the individual. July 4th only celebrates the changeover from government by the British monarchy to government by a more local political system. It’s certainly not independence from the imposition of laws and restrictions on the individual’s freedom. Perhaps there was a change of a few laws and regulations, but actually only a small number. It’s certainly not even the production of self-determination. In fact, the U.S. democracy was crafted and established by a few elite individuals and not by each individual in the country. In addition, democracy is rule by the majority, with the will of a significant number of people ignored. What we appear to be celebrating is the replacement of one system of control with another, perhaps better, system of control, but nevertheless a system of control; hardly independence.

 

Mindful reflection quickly produces an understanding that we’re never really independent. It’s certainly not even complete independence from another country. To this day the U.S. and the U.K. are very much dependent upon one another for trade of goods, ideas, culture, and mutual security. They’re locked together by treaties, cultural similarities, and close economic ties. The current political system that we’re celebrating is itself a recognition of how dependent upon one another we are. The system functions to set down the rules by which our relationships with one another are conducted. It’s there to insure orderly cooperation supposedly for the benefit of all participants.

 

Mindful reflection reveals that we’re not only dependent upon each other but we’re also dependent upon our environment, animate and inanimate. We’re dependent upon the air we breathe that is in turn dependent upon all other living organisms. We’re dependent upon the water we drink that is in turn dependent on global weather systems and solar evaporative power. We’re dependent upon the food we eat that is in turn dependent upon air, water, soil, and sun, and the farmers who grow it. In fact, we are so dependent upon everything and everybody that it may be more appropriate to be celebrating Dependence Day.

 

Well maybe then on July 4th we’re celebrating freedom and liberty. But, is any individual truly free. As the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said “Man is born free: and everywhere else he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.” Regardless of the political independence each individual’s behavior is highly regulated by law and regulation. Our freedoms are actually very limited. They are bounded not only by law but also the practicalities of earning a living, maintaining a residence, having a family, and limitations on resources. Our freedom is also highly constrained by the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. After all, we can’t fly, become taller, change our eye color, stay underwater for protracted periods, stay awake continuously, or withstand cold or heat outside of a fairly small range, and we’re not faster than a speeding bullet. How much freedom do we actually have in any particular day?

 

Independence Day, though, does celebrate acquiring many soft freedoms. The freedoms to think and express our opinions and ideas, to worship as we please, to vote for whoever we like, to associate with whomever we choose, to live wherever we like, etc. Although there are bounds to many of these freedoms by the requirements of public safety, economics, cultural norms, and the practicalities of existence, these are very important and significant freedoms. Perhaps that is what we’re really celebrating, these soft freedoms that were provided by our Constitution as a result of the War for Independence.

 

Regardless, Independence Day should be celebrated mindfully. It is often spent with family and friends and the pleasure of these interactions can be amplified by doing it mindfully; by being truly present for them and deeply listening to them rather than thinking about our next response. By being mindful we can see them with compassion and understanding. Being in, and focusing on, the present moment we can enjoy these interactions, we can enjoy the picnics and parades, we can enjoy the fireworks, rather than thinking about where we would rather be or where we’re going next. We can find happiness precisely where we are.

 

But are we truly free. A bit of mindful reflection reveals that we find existence very unsatisfactory. In fact, unsatisfactoriness is everywhere. We’re not satisfied with things as they are and want them to be different. We’re not satisfied with where we live and want to have a nicer home.  We’re not satisfied with our appearance and want to lose weight. We’re not satisfied with what people think of us and want to be universally liked. We’re not satisfied with how we’re treated by our spouses and want them to be more understanding. We’re not satisfied with our children and want them to be obedient, respectful, straight “A” students and star athletes. We’re not satisfied with our health and want to have fewer aches and pains. We’re not satisfied with our jobs and want to make more money, have more time off and be appreciated by our bosses and coworkers. Even on the very short-term, things are not satisfactory. We want the car ahead of us to be moving faster, we want time to pass quickly so that we can be done with work for the day, we want to stop ruminating about past indiscretions, we want to finish a meal quickly so we can get back to the TV, etc. In other words, we’re not free from our desires. In fact, we’re slaves to them. We’re not happy with the way things are. In fact, we seem to want everything to be different. So, we can’t be truly free as long as we’re slaves to our desires.

 

True freedom can only be produced when we are liberated from our incessant needs and wants. That is not to say that we shouldn’t have desires, but rather that we will not be controlled by them. True freedom comes from equanimity. It comes when we’re able to desire something, seek it out, but be OK whether we get it or not. It comes when we not only accept the way things are but enjoy each second for what it is, a precious moment in a limited lifetime. It comes when what other people do and say is seen as a reflection of them and not of us and comes when we look at them with compassion and understanding. In other words, we can want ourselves, things, people, and circumstances to be different but we accept them as they are and appreciate and enjoy life and each experience as a gift.

 

This sounds wonderful, but is it achievable? It sure doesn’t seem so as ourselves and the people we know haven’t achieved it. Is it possible to actually get to this state of complete freedom? It is, but it takes effort and discipline. There have been many instances throughout history and there are many exemplars present right now of people who have achieved complete equanimity. Jesus is a wonderful example. He worked hard and suffered to make his world a better place but in the end accepted what was. The Buddha, Christian mystics, Sufi masters, Zen masters, Gandhi, and a host of everyday people have all achieved true liberation. So, it is possible.

 

We do not, however, have to be aiming only at complete liberation. It is far better to work to simply improve on our current state and thereby become more and more liberated. We can do this by engaging in mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, contemplative prayer, etc. we can learn to focus more and more on the present moment. We can learn to appreciate what is. We can learn to enjoy every moment. Just by improving a little we can become happier and happier, more accepting, and more liberated from our desires. We can achieve greater equanimity and with it greater freedom. But, we get there slowly and incrementally, building toward our complete liberation. Now wouldn’t that be a reason to celebrate Independence Day.

“Happy 4th of July.  Celebrate your freedom mindfully- express love and gratitude for all situations, people, places and things you encounter today. This practice of loving what is, is a mindful behavior. When we celebrate our freedom as a country, we bring love to the abundance we are free to encounter today. Take each situation you encounter as an opportunity to express your love, gratitude  – any kindness will do – that is freedom!” –  Regina Huelsenbeck

 

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

Improve Primary School Students’ Attention and Behavior with Mindfulness

Improve Primary School Students’ Attention and Behavior with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

For kids who have suffered from prolonged stress or trauma, mindfulness seems to offer a way of “short-circuiting” the fight-or-flight response. It helps kids with the greatest self-regulation challenges adapt to slower, more methodical classroom settings.” – Amanda Moreno

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But what is absorbed depends on the environment. If it is replete with speech, the child will learn speech, if it is replete with trauma, the child will learn fear, if it is replete with academic skills the child will learn these, and if it is replete with interactions with others, the child will learn social skills.

 

Elementary school environments have a huge effect on development. They are also excellent times to teach children the skills to adaptively negotiate its environment. Mindfulness training in school, at all levels has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve the student’s self-concept. It also improves attentional ability and reduces stress, which are keys to successful learning in school. Since, what occurs in the early years of school can have such a profound, long-term effect on the child it is important to further study the impact of mindfulness training on the development of thinking skills in elementary school children.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effect of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Attention, Self-Control, and Aggressiveness in Primary School Pupils.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7178275/), Suárez-García and colleagues recruited two 3rd grade primary school classes with children between the ages of 7 to 10 years. One class received 8 weekly mindfulness training sessions with 10 minutes of daily practice. At the end of the 8 weeks of training for the first class, the second class received the mindfulness training. They were measured before and after each intervention for intellectual ability and attentional ability. In addition, the teachers were asked to evaluate the children for attentional problems, self-control deficits, and aggressiveness.

 

They found that in comparison to the control classroom and the baseline the mindfulness trained children had significant reductions in attentional problems and self-control deficits. The second class after their mindfulness training also showed significant reductions in attentional problems and self-control deficits. No significant changes in aggressiveness were observed.

 

The results are similar to findings with adults that mindfulness training improves attention and self-control and that mindfulness training can be successfully implemented in schools producing improvements in attentional ability. The findings that mindfulness training in 3rd grade classrooms can also improve attention and self-control is important as these abilities are essential to the education of the students. The improvements would also contribute to better management of the classroom. Changes in academic progress were not measured. But the results suggest that the children would perform better in school after mindfulness training.

 

So, improve primary school students’ attention and behavior with mindfulness.

 

for students specifically, mindfulness has been shown to improve cognitive performance, so students can focus and concentrate better.” – Anya Kamenetz

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Suárez-García, Z., Álvarez-García, D., García-Redondo, P., & Rodríguez, C. (2020). The Effect of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Attention, Self-Control, and Aggressiveness in Primary School Pupils. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(7), 2447. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17072447

 

Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine the effect of Mindkeys Training, a mindfulness-based educational intervention, on attention, self-control, and aggressiveness in third-year primary school pupils. In order to achieve this aim, a switching replications design was used. Two groups of third year primary students (nGE1 = 40; nGE2 = 33), aged between 7 and 10 years old (M = 8.08; DT = 0.49), had the intervention at different time points, such that while one served as the experimental group, the other served as the control group. Longitudinal differences were examined in both groups, and cross-sectional differences were examined between the two groups at three time points; at the start of the study, and following the intervention with each group. To that end, measurements of problems of attention, deficits of self-control, and aggressiveness for students were obtained via a teacher rating scale. The intervention program demonstrated a positive effect on the reduction of pupils’ attention problems, deficits of self-control, and aggressiveness. The effects were greater on the cognitive variables that the intervention worked on directly (attention and self-control). Attention was the variable on which the intervention exhibited the longest term effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7178275/

 

Reduce Distress and Increase Pregnancy in Women with Fertility Problems with Mind-Body Practices

Reduce Distress and Increase Pregnancy in Women with Fertility Problems with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness becomes the perfect antidote for the paradoxical land mines infertility presents. Mindfulness starts from the perspective that you are whole and complete already, regardless of flaws or imperfections. It is based on the concept of original goodness: your essential nature is good and pure. Proceeding from this vantage point gives you freedom from the bondage of inadequacy and insecurity.” – Janetti Marrota

 

Infertility is primarily a medical condition due to physiological problems. It is quite common. It is estimated that in the U.S. 6.7 million women, about 10% of the population of women 15-44, have an impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term and about 6% are infertile. Infertility can be more than just a medical issue. It can be an emotional crisis for many couples, especially for the women. Couples attending a fertility clinic reported that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives.

 

Women with infertility reported feeling as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. In addition, infertility can markedly impact the couple’s relationship, straining their emotional connection and interactions and the prescribed treatments can take the spontaneity and joy from lovemaking making it strained and mechanical. The stress of infertility and engaging in infertility treatments may exacerbate the problem. Since mindfulness training has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress it is reasonable to believe that mind-body training may be helpful in reducing the distress in women with fertility issues.

 

In today’s Research News article “An internet-based mind/body intervention to mitigate distress in women experiencing infertility: A randomized pilot trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7080396/), Clifton and colleagues recruited childless adult women who were seeking care for infertility. They were randomly assigned to either a wait-list control condition or to receive a 10-week online program of mind/body for fertility including weekly online modules and homework assignments. “The skills and strategies taught included: (a) knowledge regarding the relationship between stress, lifestyle, and fertility; (b) relaxation techniques including diaphragmatic breathing and Hatha Yoga; (c) mindfulness; (d) cognitive restructuring; (e) stress reduction strategies; (f) listening and communication skills; (g) strategies for emotional expression and effective coping with anger; and (h) assertiveness training and goal-setting skills.” They were measured before and after training for anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and fertility problems.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the women who received the training had significantly lower levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and infertility related stress specific to sexual and social concerns. At the end of the study the women who received the training had significantly higher self-reported pregnancy rates. 53% of the trained women reported successful pregnancy while only 20% of the wait-list control women did.

 

The study was a randomized controlled trial but the control condition, wait-list, was passive. It would be important for future research to include an active control condition, such as online health education. In addition, the program included a complex set of practices and it is impossible to tease apart what components or combination of components were necessary for the effects observed. It would be interesting in future research to examine the effectiveness of the individual components.

 

Nevertheless, these are interesting and potentially important findings. The online mind/body for fertility program produced significant reductions in the distress levels of the women and increased the likelihood of becoming pregnant. By reducing the psychological distress produced by infertility the program appeared to markedly improve the likelihood of becoming pregnant. This is very helpful in reducing the suffering produced by infertility and thereby improving pregnancy success..

 

In addition, the fact that the program was implemented online makes it scalable at low cost to large groups of women over wide geographic areas and the women can engage in the program at times and places that were most comfortable and convenient for them. This greatly expands the usefulness of the program.

 

So, reduce distress and increase pregnancy in women with fertility problems with mind-body practices.

 

“Many women fear that becoming mindful and starting to meditate will make them passive in their quest for a child.  This simply isn’t so.  The wish for a child remains vibrant and active – it’s simply that happiness doesn’t depend on the fulfillment of this wish.” – Beth Heller

 

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

 

Clifton, J., Parent, J., Seehuus, M., Worrall, G., Forehand, R., & Domar, A. (2020). An internet-based mind/body intervention to mitigate distress in women experiencing infertility: A randomized pilot trial. PloS one, 15(3), e0229379. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229379

 

Abstract

Objective

To determine if an internet-based mind/body program would lead to participants experiencing infertility (1) being willing to be recruited and randomized and (2) accepting and being ready to engage in a fertility-specific intervention. Secondary exploratory goals were to examine reduced distress over the course of the intervention and increased likelihood to conceive.

Methods

This was a pilot randomized controlled feasibility trial with a between-groups, repeated measure design. Seventy-one women self-identified as nulliparous and meeting criteria for infertility. Participants were randomized to the internet-based version of the Mind/Body Program for Fertility or wait-list control group and asked to complete pre-, mid- and post-assessments. Primary outcomes include retention rates, number of modules completed, and satisfaction with intervention. Secondary exploratory outcomes sought to provide preliminary data on the impact of the program on distress (anxiety and depression) and self-reported pregnancy rates relative to a quasi-control group.

Results

The retention, adherence, and satisfaction rates were comparable to those reported in other internet-based RCTs. Although time between pre- and post-assessment differed between groups, using intent-to-treat analyses, women in the intervention group (relative to the wait-list group) had significant reduction in distress (anxiety, p = .003; depression, p = .007; stress, p = .041 fertility-social, p = .018; fertility-sexual, p = .006), estimated as medium-to-large effect sizes (ds = 0.45 to 0.86). The odds of becoming pregnant was 4.47 times higher for the intervention group participants as compared to the wait-list group, OR 95% CI [1.56, 12.85], p = .005 and occurred earlier. The findings suggest that the research design and program specific to this population are feasible and acceptable. Replication efforts with an active control group are needed to verify distress reduction and conception promotion findings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7080396/

 

Cope Better with Cognitive Dissonance with Mindfulness

Cope Better with Cognitive Dissonance with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

‘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

 

When there is a mismatch between what you say you want and what you do, it is a formula for unhappiness. In psychology it is called cognitive dissonance and it produces an uncomfortable state with a diffuse anxiety. It is psychological conflict resulting from incongruous or conflicting beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. Cognitive dissonance may increase physiological activation, sympathetic nervous system activity which produces a measurable level of discomfort. To resolve this dissonance and reduce aversive activation, people in a dissonant state change their attitudes.

 

Mindfulness is known to improve cognition and reduce aversive feelings. It allows the individual to view their thoughts and feelings dispassionately. So, mindfulness may be helpful in resolving cognitive dissonance. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness is not associated with dissonant attitudes but enhances the ability to cope with them.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146909/),Muschalik  and colleagues explore the ability of mindfulness to help resolve cognitive dissonance.

 

They recruited healthy adults online who ate red meat. They were measured at baseline and one and 3 months later for their attitudes regarding red meat, implicit attitudes (positive or negative) toward red meat, intention to eat less red meat, red meat consumption, and mindfulness. Cognitive dissonance was measured as the difference between the explicit and implicit attitudes toward red meat; the difference between what the participants overtly said and what they covertly felt.

 

They found that neither mindfulness nor any of its subscales were associated with cognitive dissonance. But the higher the levels of cognitive dissonance the lower the levels of red meat consumption. So, having dissonance produced actions. Mindfulness was not found to moderate this relationship. They found, though that the higher the levels of cognitive dissonance the higher the levels of intention to reduce red meat consumption and this relationship was significantly lower when the participant was high in mindful acceptance without judgment.

 

These results are interesting but are correlative, so no conclusions about causation can be made. But the results suggest that mindfulness is not related to cognitive dissonance. One can be highly mindful yet maintain different explicit and implicit attitudes. But mindfully accepting things as they are without judgment appear to reduce the relationship between dissonance and intention to act. In other words, mindful acceptance appears to assist in coping with cognitive dissonance, being able to accept the dissonance without judging it interrupts the intention to act on it.

 

So, cope better with cognitive dissonance with mindfulness.

 

Mindful awareness, as we will see, actually involves more than just simply being aware: It involves being aware of aspects of the mind itself.  Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible.” – Daniel Siegel

 

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

 

Muschalik, C., Crutzen, R., Elfeddali, I., & de Vries, H. (2020). Mindfulness is not associated with dissonant attitudes but enhances the ability to cope with them. BMC psychology, 8(1), 32. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-0377-x

 

Abstract

Background

Explicit and implicit attitudes have been studied extensively, but there is less attention to reducing dissonance between them. This is relevant because this dissonance (IED) results in distress and has inconsistent effects on behavior, e.g. less physical activity but more smoking. Mindfulness decreases dissonance between self-related explicit and implicit constructs. This study investigates if, and which, specific mindfulness subskills are associated with decreased dissonance between explicit and implicit attitudes, and whether mindfulness subskills moderate the relationship between IED and intention/behavior.

Method

At baseline and one and three months thereafter, participants’ (N = 1476) explicit attitudes, implicit attitudes, red meat consumption (RMC), intention to reduce RMC as well as levels of trait mindfulness were assessed.

Results

Mindfulness subskills were not associated with decreased IED. IED was associated with lower RMC and a higher intention to reduce RMC. The mindfulness subskill acceptance buffered the effect of IED on intention, seemingly offering a skill to deal with dissonant attitudes, which was unidentified until now.

Conclusion

The mindfulness subskill accepting without judgment functions as a way to deal with dissonance. Future research should use this novel finding and investigate whether mindfulness can be used as a buffer in contexts where dissonance results in maladaptive behaviors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146909/

 

Reduce Stress and Increase Self-Compassion in Medical Students with Online Mindfulness Training

Reduce Stress and Increase Self-Compassion in Medical Students with Online Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

What we found should encourage even the busiest medical students and physicians. There are shorter, sustainable ways to bring meditation into your life, and they can help you reduce stress and depression and improve your medical study and practice.” – Periel Shapiro

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system as it contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. It would be best to provide techniques to combat burnout early in a medical career. Medical School is extremely stressful and many students show distress and express burnout symptoms. Medical school may be an ideal time to intervene.

 

In today’s Research News article “Determining the feasibility and effectiveness of brief online mindfulness training for rural medical students: a pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7137339/), Moore and colleagues recruited medical students focusing on rural health care who were undergoing training in widespread rural healthcare facilities. They had them complete an 8-week online mindfulness training program. They were measured before and after training and 4 months later for amount of mindfulness practice, perceived stress, self-compassion, and compassion. In addition, they submitted a self-reflective essay on how the mindfulness training program affected them.

 

They found that at the end of training and at the 4-month follow-up there was a significant decrease in perceived stress and increase in self-compassion. The greater the perceived stress and the lower the self-compassion at baseline, the greater the change after training. The essays revealed that although the students found the program valuable, they had difficulty in engaging in the practice amid their busy schedules. The students also commented that the program improved their self-awareness, self-compassion. and performance, and reduced their stress levels.

 

The results are compatible with prior research that mindfulness training decreases perceived stress and increases self-compassion. These benefits would likely contribute to reducing burnout during their education and perhaps later in their careers. Importantly, the study demonstrated that mindfulness training can be successfully delivered to medical students over the internet. This latter point is particularly important as the students were spread out in disparate rural communities and so in-person training was impossible. This underscores that importance of implementing the training over the internet.

 

So, reduce stress and increase self-compassion in medical students with online mindfulness training.

 

mindfulness training positively influences the way students approach and reflect on their well-being and education within the medical education context.” – Alice Malpass

 

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

 

Moore, S., Barbour, R., Ngo, H., Sinclair, C., Chambers, R., Auret, K., Hassed, C., & Playford, D. (2020). Determining the feasibility and effectiveness of brief online mindfulness training for rural medical students: a pilot study. BMC medical education, 20(1), 104. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-020-02015-6

 

Abstract

Background

We sought to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of a mindfulness training program, delivered online to medical students at a Rural Clinical School.

Methods

An 8-week online training program was delivered to penultimate-year medical students at an Australian Rural Clinical School during 2016. Using a mixed methods approach, we measured the frequency and duration of participants’ mindfulness meditation practice, and assessed changes in their perceived stress, self-compassion and compassion levels, as well as personal and professional attitudes and behaviours.

Results

Forty-seven participants were recruited to the study. 50% of participants were practising mindfulness meditation at least weekly by the end of the 8-week program, and 32% reported practising at least weekly 4 months following completion of the intervention. There was a statistically significant reduction in participants’ perceived stress levels and a significant increase in self-compassion at 4-month follow-up. Participants reported insights about the personal and professional impact of mindfulness meditation training as well as barriers to practice.

Conclusions

The results provide preliminary evidence that online training in mindfulness meditation can be associated with reduced stress and increased self-compassion in rural medical students. More rigorous research is required to establish concrete measures of feasibility of a mindfulness meditation program.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7137339/

 

Reduce Stress at Work with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress at Work with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I think of mindfulness as the ability not to be yanked around by your own emotions. That can have a big impact on how you are in the workplace.” – Dan Harris

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological, social, and physical health. But, nearly 2/3 of employees worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. These programs attempt to increase the employees’ mindfulness at work and thereby reduce stress. It is not known, however, the amount of mindfulness training that is needed to improve employee well-being or whether the training affects moment-to-moment stress levels and the individual’s ability to cope with the stress in the actual work environment.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Reduces Stress At Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6433409/), Chin and colleagues recruited healthy adults at their workplace who had not received training in mindfulness or actively practiced mindfulness. They were provided a 4-hour mindfulness workshop and then randomly assigned to either a low- or high-dose mindfulness training. Low-dose participants received no further training while high-dose participants were provided 6 weekly instructions in mindfulness and also practiced at home for 25-minutes per day for 5 days per week with pre-recorded guided mindfulness instructions.

 

The participants were measured before and after training for perceived stress. They also completed momentary ecological assessments of stress, coping, and emotions. For these assessments they were prompted on their smartphones 4 times throughout the day for 3 days before and 3 days after treatment and were asked to rate on their smartphones their levels of momentary perceived stress, their ability to cope with the momentary stress, and the levels of positive or negative emotions experienced at that moment.

 

They found that after training, the high-dose but nor the low-dose participants had significant reductions in overall perceived stress after training. This was also true for the momentary positive emotions and perceived stress experienced including perceived stress severity, coping efficacy, and coping success, with high-dose participants having significantly greater changes in than low-dose participants after training. In addition, low-dose participants increased in their levels of negative emotions from baseline, while the high-dose participants did not.

 

These results are interesting and demonstrate, as has previous research, that mindfulness training reduces overall perceived stress. It is significant that the comparison condition also contained mindfulness training but at a low dose. This suggests that a small amount of mindfulness training is not sufficient to alter perceived levels of stress.

 

The present study also demonstrated that the effects of mindfulness training are not only on overall levels of perceived stress but also on these levels in momentary real-time work situations. They also show that during actual workplace stress mindfulness training improves the individuals’ ability to cope with the stress and experience more positive emotions and less negative emotions. This all suggests that mindfulness training doesn’t just work overall but moment-to-moment in the work environment to reduce stress levels and their impact on the worker. This should promote the overall psychological and physical health and well-being of the worker.

 

So, reduce stress at work with mindfulness.

 

Work is a very commonplace of stress, but with a few minutes of mindfulness each day, we can improve our feelings regarding these stressors, reduce their impact on our mental health, and improve our mood as well, leaving us ready for anything ahead.” – Paul Jozsef

 

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, B., Slutsky, J., Raye, J., & Creswell, J. D. (2019). Mindfulness Training Reduces Stress At Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness, 10(4), 627–638. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-1022-0

 

Abstract

Mindfulness-based interventions have been suggested as one way to improve employee well-being in the workplace. Despite these purported benefits, there have been few well-controlled randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating mindfulness training in the workplace. Here we conducted a two-arm RCT at work among employees of a digital marketing firm comparing the efficacy of a high dose six-week mindfulness training to a low dose single-day mindfulness training for improving multiple measures of employee well-being assessed using ecological momentary assessment. High dose mindfulness training reduced both perceived and momentary stress, and buffered employees against worsened affect and decreased coping efficacy compared to low dose mindfulness training. These results provide well-controlled evidence that mindfulness training programs can reduce momentary stress at work, suggesting that more intensive mindfulness training doses (i.e., 6-weeks) may be necessary for improving workplace well-being outcomes. This RCT utilizes a novel experience sampling approach to measure the effects of a mindfulness intervention on employee well-being and considers potential dose-response effects of mindfulness training at work.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6433409/

 

Reduce Hallucinations in Schizophrenia with Mindfulness

Reduce Hallucinations in Schizophrenia with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So, reduce hallucinations in schizophrenia with mindfulness.

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

Background

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

Methods

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

Results

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

Limitations and Discussion

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

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

 

Improve Major Depressive Disorder with Psilocybin and Mindfulness Meditation

Improve Major Depressive Disorder with Psilocybin and Mindfulness Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness training enhances the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, and can increase empathy and permanently reduce ego-centricity. This opens up new therapeutic avenues, for example for the treatment of depression.” – Franz Vollenweider

 

Psychedelic substances have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. People find these experiences very pleasant and eye opening. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. Even though the effects of psychedelic substances have been experienced and reported on for centuries, only very recently have these effects come under rigorous scientific scrutiny.

 

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that is found naturally in a number of varieties of mushrooms. It has been used for centuries particularly by Native Americans for their spiritual practices. When studied in the laboratory under double blind conditions, Psilocybin has been shown to “reliably occasion deeply personally meaningful and often spiritually significant experiences (e.g. mystical-type experiences).” Psilocybin has also been shown to improve clinical depression. Mindfulness training has also been found to improve depression. Since the effects of meditation and psilocybin appear similar, it’s important to look at the mechanism by which mindfulness meditation and psilocybin improve depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “Depression, Mindfulness, and Psilocybin: Possible Complementary Effects of Mindfulness Meditation and Psilocybin in the Treatment of Depression. A Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7136554/), Heuschkel and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness of meditation and psilocybin for the treatment of depression. They identified 95 published articles on the effectiveness of either mindfulness or psilocybin on major depressive disorders.

 

They found that the published reports that both mindfulness meditation and psilocybin produce significant and lasting improvements in mood, cognitive function, and social skills in patients with major depressive disorders. Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research with a variety of healthy and ill individuals to reduce depression, stress responses, and inflammatory responses, and improves cognition, and social skills. It is interesting that both have similar effects.

 

The published research also reports that both mindfulness meditation and psilocybin produce significant neuroplastic changes in the nervous system but act different where mindfulness meditation produces slow changes that accumulate over time while psilocybin produces rapid changes in the brain. They also affect different neural circuits where mindfulness meditation increases activity and connectivity in brain systems associate with interoceptive awareness, psilocybin appears to disrupt function integrity of brain systems, promoting cognitive flexibility.

 

Both mindfulness meditation and psilocybin produce changes in endocrine and immune function. Both produce significant reductions in perceived stress and reduce inflammatory responses, they appear to do so through different mechanisms. Where mindful meditation appears to lower stress responses through the lowering cortisol, psilocybin appears to work through the anti-inflammatory cytokines.

 

Hence, the published research suggests that mindfulness meditation and psilocybin produce similar effects on patients with major depressive disorders, reducing depression, altering the brain both chronically and acutely, and reducing stress and inflammatory responses. But they appear to produce these effects through different biological processes. This suggests that they may complement each other. So, combining the two in a treatment for major depressive disorder may increase overall effectiveness. It remains for future research to investigate the effectiveness of combined treatment.

 

So, improve major depressive disorder with psilocybin and mindfulness meditation.

 

A growing body of evidence suggests that psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin, may be effective at treating a variety of psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety, and could one day be prescribed to patients.” – Traci Pederson

 

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

 

Heuschkel, K., & Kuypers, K. (2020). Depression, Mindfulness, and Psilocybin: Possible Complementary Effects of Mindfulness Meditation and Psilocybin in the Treatment of Depression. A Review. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 224. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00224

 

Abstract

Depression is a major public health problem that affects approximately 4.4% of the global population. Since conventional pharmacotherapies and psychotherapies are only partially effective, as demonstrated by the number of patients failing to achieve remission, alternative treatments are needed. Mindfulness meditation (MM) and psilocybin represent two promising novel treatments that might even have complementary therapeutic effects when combined. Since the current literature is limited to theoretical and empirical underpinnings of either treatment alone, the present review aimed to identify possible complementary effects that may be relevant to the treatment of depression. To that end, the individual effects of MM and psilocybin, and their underlying working mechanisms, were compared on a non-exhaustive selection of six prominent psychological and biological processes that are well known to show impairments in patients suffering from major depression disorder, that is mood, executive functioning, social skills, neuroplasticity, core neural networks, and neuroendocrine and neuroimmunological levels. Based on predefined search strings used in two online databases (PubMed and Google Scholar) 1129 articles were identified. After screening title and abstract for relevance related to the question, 82 articles were retained and 11 were added after reference list search, resulting in 93 articles included in the review. Findings show that MM and psilocybin exert similar effects on mood, social skills, and neuroplasticity; different effects were found on executive functioning, neural core networks, and neuroendocrine and neuroimmune system markers. Potential mechanisms of MM’s effects are enhanced affective self-regulation through mental strategies, optimization of stress reactivity, and structural and functional adjustments of prefrontal and limbic areas; psilocybin’s effects might be established via attenuation of cognitive associations through deep personal insights, cognitive disinhibition, and global neural network disintegration. It is suggested that, when used in combination, MM and psilocybin could exert complementary effects by potentiating or prolonging mutual positive effects, for example, MM potentially facilitating psilocybin-induced peak experiences. Future placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trials focusing on psilocybin-assisted mindfulness-based therapy will provide knowledge about whether the proposed combination of therapies maximizes their efficacy in the treatment of depression or depressive symptomatology.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7136554/

 

Virtual Reality Enhances Online Mindfulness Training

Virtual Reality Enhances Online Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I’ve done meditation before and I just zone out to what they are saying…because your mind’s working to picture something it then is working to daydream as well…Whereas, when it was just there in front of you, I think that it took a bit of pressure off of thinking, and you could be in the present.” – Study Participant

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented.

 

There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits. With impacts so great it is important to know how to promote the development of mindfulness even in individuals who dislike or avoid the discipline of practice. Technology has recently been applied to training in mindfulness. Indeed, mindfulness training carried out completely on-line has been shown to be effective for as number of conditions. There is evidence that virtual reality may be used to enhance the therapeutic effectiveness of mindfulness training. There is a need, however, to explore whether virtual reality enhances the development of mindfulness?

 

In today’s Research News article “Understanding How Virtual Reality Can Support Mindfulness Practice: Mixed Methods Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7113800/), Seabrook and colleagues recruited healthy adults online and trained them in mindfulness with a 15-minute virtual reality experience that included viewing forest scenes with a guided meditation voiceover. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and positive and negative emotions. They were also asked to evaluate the virtual reality with questionnaires on simulator sickness and general systems presence and were asked to engage in a semi-structured interview to assess the VR.

 

They found that after training there were significant increases in mindfulness and positive emotions. They also reported a strong sense of presence and very little simulator sickness during the VR. They rated it as very engaging and that it helped them focus on the present moment and practice mindfulness.

 

The study did not incorporate a comparison, control, condition. So, conclusions must be tempered with the knowledge that the results might reflect participant expectations or demand characteristics. It also had only a brief single session of training. So, it is unclear if virtual reality may be useful in sustained mindfulness training. Nevertheless, the results suggest that virtual reality may be a useful add on to mindfulness training to improve the development of mindfulness.

 

So, virtual reality enhances online mindfulness training.

 

If I were sitting in that same environment in reality I would be thinking…are there other people there… is the car there. But knowing that this environment was virtual, I was able to simply enjoy it.” -– Study Participant

 

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

 

Seabrook, E., Kelly, R., Foley, F., Theiler, S., Thomas, N., Wadley, G., & Nedeljkovic, M. (2020). Understanding How Virtual Reality Can Support Mindfulness Practice: Mixed Methods Study. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(3), e16106. https://doi.org/10.2196/16106

 

Abstract

Background

Regular mindfulness practice has been demonstrated to be beneficial for mental health, but mindfulness can be challenging to adopt, with environmental and personal distractors often cited as challenges. Virtual reality (VR) may address these challenges by providing an immersive environment for practicing mindfulness and by supporting the user to orient attention to the present moment within a tailored virtual setting. However, there is currently a limited understanding of the ways in which VR can support or hinder mindfulness practice. Such an understanding is required to design effective VR apps while ensuring that VR-supported mindfulness is acceptable to end users.

Objective

This study aimed to explore how VR can support mindfulness practice and to understand user experience issues that may affect the acceptability and efficacy of VR mindfulness for users in the general population.

Methods

A sample of 37 participants from the general population trialed a VR mindfulness app in a controlled laboratory setting. The VR app presented users with an omnidirectional video of a peaceful forest environment with a guided mindfulness voiceover that was delivered by a male narrator. Scores on the State Mindfulness Scale, Simulator Sickness Questionnaire, and single-item measures of positive and negative emotion and arousal were measured pre- and post-VR for all participants. Qualitative feedback was collected through interviews with a subset of 19 participants. The interviews sought to understand the user experience of mindfulness practice in VR.

Results

State mindfulness (P<.001; Cohen d=1.80) and positive affect (P=.006; r=.45) significantly increased after using the VR mindfulness app. No notable changes in negative emotion, subjective arousal, or symptoms of simulator sickness were observed across the sample. Participants described the user experience as relaxing, calming, and peaceful. Participants suggested that the use of VR helped them to focus on the present moment by using visual and auditory elements of VR as attentional anchors. The sense of presence in the virtual environment (VE) was identified by participants as being helpful to practicing mindfulness. Interruptions to presence acted as distractors. Some uncomfortable experiences were discussed, primarily in relation to video fidelity and the weight of the VR headset, although these were infrequent and minor.

Conclusions

This study suggests that an appropriately designed VR app can support mindfulness practice by enhancing state mindfulness and inducing positive affect. VR may help address the challenges of practicing mindfulness by creating a sense of presence in a tailored VE; by allowing users to attend to visual and auditory anchors of their choice; and by reducing the scope of the content in users’ mind-wandering. VR has the unique capability to combine guided mindfulness practice with tailored VEs that lend themselves to support individuals to focus attention on the present moment.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7113800/