Improve Health Behaviors in Adolescents with Mindfulness

Improve Health Behaviors in Adolescents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Your teenager may react with skepticism at first when you suggest meditation. But, with all the noise in the world and on the internet these days, teens can definitely benefit from taking time to quiet the noise and meditate. It’s a handy practice that can help them through all kinds of confusing and stressful situations in life.” – Cleveland Clinic

 

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

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to promote health and improve illness. It is well established that if patterns and habits of healthy behaviors can be established early in life, long-term health can be promoted and ill health can be prevented. In today’s Research News article “Integrating mindfulness training in school health education to promote healthy behaviors in adolescents: Feasibility and preliminary effects on exercise and dietary habits.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5840835/ ), Salmoirago-Blotcher and colleagues explore the relationship of mindfulness to health behaviors in adolescents.

 

They recruited 9th grade classes in two high schools and assigned one to receive either 6-months of the usual health education class for 45 minutes 4 days per week combined with mindfulness training for 45 minutes one day per week or to receive the 4 days health education plus 1-day attention control. Students were measured before and after the 6-month training period for physical activity and dietary intake. Over the 6-month training period class attendance was high at 96%.

 

They did not find differences between groups before and after training for students who had low physical activity at baseline and did not find differences in dietary intakes. But, for students, particularly males, who were physically active at baseline participation in the health education plus mindfulness class produced significant increases in activity levels at the end of training. This was not true for the health education plus attention control condition.

 

These findings suggest that incorporating mindfulness training into the health education curriculum may increase health behaviors in adolescents. It is unfortunate that this intervention did not appear to work with the students who needed it the most, the sedentary students and did not work for dietary intake, with overweight and obesity a major problem. Perhaps a more refined and targeted program my work with this group. Unfortunately, the research did not explore other known benefits of mindfulness training for adolescents such as psychological health. This should be explored with future research. Regardless, the results suggest that mindfulness training should be further explored to increase health behaviors in adolescents. Strengthening these behaviors at a relatively early age may have positive health consequences throughout their lives.

 

So, improve health behaviors in adolescents with mindfulness.

 

“Qualitative data collection reveals that adolescents are less anxious and sleep better after doing yoga; in addition, their self-awareness and ease in their body increase, and their worldview begins to shift toward a more positive alignment.” – Sat Bir S. Khalsa

 

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

 

Salmoirago-Blotcher, E., Druker, S., Frisard, C., Dunsiger, S. I., Crawford, S., Meleo-Meyer, F., … Pbert, L. (2018). Integrating mindfulness training in school health education to promote healthy behaviors in adolescents: Feasibility and preliminary effects on exercise and dietary habits. Preventive Medicine Reports, 9, 92–95. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.01.009

 

Abstract

Whether mindfulness training (MT) could improve healthy behaviors is unknown. This study sought to determine feasibility and acceptability of integrating MT into school-based health education (primary outcomes) and to explore its possible effects on healthy behaviors (exploratory outcomes). Two high schools in Massachusetts (2014–2015) were randomized to health education plus MT (HE-MT) (one session/week for 8 weeks) or to health education plus attention control (HE-AC). Dietary habits (24-h dietary recalls) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA/7-day recalls) were assessed at baseline, end of treatment (EOT), and 6 months thereafter. Quantile regression and linear mixed models were used, respectively, to estimate effects on MVPA and dietary outcomes adjusting for confounders. We recruited 53 9th graders (30 HEM, 23 HEAC; average age 14.5, 60% white, 59% female). Retention was 100% (EOT) and 96% (6 months); attendance was 96% (both conditions), with moderate-to-high satisfaction ratings. Among students with higher MVPA at baseline, MVPA was higher in HE-MT vs. HE-AC at both EOT (median difference = 81 min/week, p = 0.005) and at 6 months (p = 0.004). Among males, median MVPA was higher (median difference = 99 min/week) in HE-MT vs. HEAC at both EOT (p = 0.056) and at 6 months (p = 0.04). No differences were noted in dietary habits. In sum, integrating school-based MT into health education was feasible and acceptable and had promising effects on MVPA among male and more active adolescents. These findings suggest that MT may improve healthy behaviors in adolescents and deserve to be reproduced in larger, rigorous studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5840835/

 

MindFULLness

MindFULLness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius
It is a basic instruction of contemplative practices such as meditation, to work to empty the mind and thereby quiet it. It doesn’t take long for the practitioner to realize that this seemingly simple and easy instruction is very, very difficult to do. The practice feels like a “whack-a-mole” process where as soon as a mental content is eliminated, another rushes in to fill the vacuum, and the process has to begin again, and again, and again. This seems like a never-ending process. The practitioner is taught to seek emptiness, but is cautioned that that doesn’t really mean empty! In fact, it is very, very full; full of everything. As has been pointed out, a glass that has no fluid in it is not empty, it contains air. It is empty only of fluid. Many novices become so frustrated with these paradoxes that they give up and quit contemplative practice.

 

Another instruction is to “let go” of thoughts and desires. But, the mind, like nature, abhors a vacuum. As soon as one thing is let go of, another arises to take its place; another “whack-a-mole” process. “Letting go” as it turns out is as difficult as emptying the mind. In fact, the desire to let go is itself a desire that has to be let go of. This sort of conundrum is typical of what confronts the practitioner who when in frustration asks “tell me what to do,” is told do nothing. As if the mind is ever capable of doing nothing.

 

The term mindfulness is a synonym of attention. But, attention is ambiguous as there is always attention to something. The word mindfulness by itself, does not indicate attention to what. Trying to attend is not “letting go” and attending to something is not emptying the mind. These are such conundrums that they can bring the uninitiated to the point of complete frustration and abandonment of practice.

 

A helpful way to look at the issues of practice is to realize that the mind is always going to be full. It’s not a question of emptying it, but rather of what that content should be. It’s not a question of letting go, but rather what should remain. It’s not a question of emptiness, but rather what actually is there. It’s not a question of mindfulness, but rather what we should be mindful of. It’s not a question of attention, but rather what should be attended to. In other words, realize that the mind is always full, the issue for the practitioner is to fill it with things that will lead to insight and greater happiness.

 

The mind always contains something. What exactly the mind contains is studied using a technique called time sampling. The individual is provided a signal at random times during the day and is simply asked to report on exactly what was in the mind when the signal occurred. Studies using this technique revealed the nearly half of the time, regardless of what the person is actually doing, the mind is wandering. The individual is thinking about something other than what is presently in front of them. When wandering, 42.5% of the time, people’s minds were on pleasant topics, 26.5% on unpleasant topics, and 31% on neutral topic. When asked how happy they were at the moment, they reported that they were no happier when thinking about pleasant topics than about their current activity, but, were considerably unhappier when thinking about neutral topics or unpleasant topics. So, the mind is always full of something, the question is of what. The thought sampling studies suggest that we’re happiest when the mind is focused on the present moment. So, the notion that the mind should be full of the present moment makes sense. It will increase happiness and lower suffering.

 

It is a trap to get carried away with present moment awareness. Don’t think that to gain insight and happiness one must be constantly focused solely on the present moment. In fact, the mind should not be perpetually paying attention only to the present moment. Thinking, planning, remembering are not bad things. In fact, they are very adaptive human qualities that allow us to better control our environment, learn from the past, and be prepared for the future. It is the case that sometimes, it is best if the mind is full of things other than the present moment. The instructions to empty the mind and let go of thinking are not absolute. So, practitioners shouldn’t feel bad when the mind is not full of the present moment. Rather it’s a matter of how often our mind is full of the present and how often of other thoughts.

 

The complexity of modern life demands more thinking and planning than was needed in the past. But, in addition to the needed attention to thinking, the modern world has developed a vast array of distractions from the present moment. Television, movies, social media, email, cell phones, video games, etc. are ever present and take up a substantial proportion of our time. It might be argued that when paying attention to social media we are paying attention to the present moment. In fact, no matter what we’re involved in, is the present moment. But, what is really being alluded to with present moment awareness is attention to the stimuli immediately present in the environment at the expense of thinking.

 

When we’re told to empty the mind, we’re not being literally told to get rid of all mental content, rather we’re being instructed to empty the mind of thoughts. What’s left then, what the mind should be full of, are the physical stimuli around and in us. In part, filling the mind with present moment sights, smells, tastes, sounds, feelings forces thoughts out. So, one way to empty the mind is actually to fill it up, fill it up with sensations. This replacement of thoughts with sensations makes us happier and begins to truly quiet the mind. The instruction to follow the breath is an attempt to do just that, fill the mind with internal stimuli, the sensations of the lungs filling and emptying, and the consequent changes to the abdomen, chest and head.

 

So, quieting the mind is not about emptying it out, rather it’s about filling it up completely. Filling it with awareness of sensations and emptying it of thoughts. This by itself will bring greater peace and happiness. But that’s not all that’s possible. When the mind is full of sensory experience the practitioner slowly begins to recognize that, underneath these experiences is a ground on which the experiences are perceived. This is the next great insight of the practice and is the first glimpse at the practitioner’s true nature.

 

As the process continues, sometimes very slowly and sometimes with flashes of insight the practitioner comes to see that ground on which the experiences are perceived is pure awareness. One reason for quieting the mind of thoughts is that thoughts block the perception of this ground. That’s why the instruction to empty the mind of thoughts exists. Not because there’s anything fundamentally wrong with thoughts, but because they prevent the individual from seeing their true nature.

 

The more time spent in present moment sensation awareness the more the ground of our being becomes apparent and becomes an object of awareness itself; awareness becoming aware of itself. Slowly or suddenly, it reveals that this pure consciousness is a completely empty state of nothingness, that is pure awareness. This is sometimes referred to as a void. But actually, it is not. It is a space of infinite potential. A space where anything can appear and/or disappear at any moment. It is an emptiness that is alive, bubbling over with potential. But, it is empty of thoughts and sensations. This is our true nature. This is what is called Buddha Nature. This is what is called the spirit. This is what is called the soul. It is all there to be witnessed if the individual is willing to patiently invest the time and effort it takes to first empty the mind of thoughts and fill it up with present moment sensations, allowing the ground of being to emerge into consciousness.

 

So, practice MindFULLness.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ― Henry David Thoreau

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

 

Improve Stress, Sleep, and Memory with Mindfulness

Improve Stress, Sleep, and Memory with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation trains you to be mindful of your incoming thoughts, weakening both the physiological link and strength that each thought has on you, as well as decreasing the frequency of incoming sleep-preventing thoughts. Meditation forces the worrywart, insomnia causing mind to shift into the present moment, while realizing that the day is now over, and tomorrow is not yet here.” – EOC Institute

 

It is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and about half of these have a chronic disorder. It has been estimated that about 4% of Americans revert to sleeping pills. But, these do not always produce high quality sleep and can have problematic side effects. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness and can even lead to memory problems. So, there is a need to find better methods to improve sleep. Mindfulness-based practices have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality, reduce stress and improve memory. It is not known, however, how these effects of mindfulness are related.

 

In today’s Research News article “Dispositional Mindfulness and Memory Problems: The Role of Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363402/ ), Brisbon and Lachman measured adult participants in the Boston Longitudinal Study for mindfulness, perceived stress, sleep quality, memory problems, physical health, openness, and neuroticism. The relationships between these measured were then explored with a regression analysis.

 

They found that stress was a key, with higher levels of perceived stress associated with poorer sleep quality and greater memory problems and neuroticism. Mindfulness was only slightly associated with lower perceived stress and neuroticism and greater openness and no significant relationship with sleep quality. A mediation analysis revealed that mindfulness was associated with lower memory problems indirectly by being associated with lower perceived stress which was associated with memory problems. Hence, high mindfulness was related to lower perceived stress which was, in turn, related to memory problems.

 

It should be kept in mind that the preset study was correlational and no conclusions about causation can be reached. But, these results suggest that stress is a key factor in sleep and memory problems and that mindfulness, by being associated with lower stress, is related to improved memory. It remains for future research to manipulate mindfulness and thereby determine if there are causal connections. But, given the increased memory problems associated with aging, it would be important to establish whether mindfulness may be helpful in delaying or reversing the deterioration of memory.

 

So, improve stress, sleep, and memory with mindfulness.

 

“We were surprised to find that the effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality was large and above and beyond the effect of the sleep hygiene education program, Not only did the researchers find that mindfulness could help reduce sleep problems in older adults, but that “this effect on sleep appears to carry over into reducing daytime fatigue and depression symptoms.” – David S. Black

 

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

 

Brisbon, N. M., & Lachman, M. E. (2017). Dispositional Mindfulness and Memory Problems: The Role of Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality. Mindfulness, 8(2), 379–386. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0607-8

 

Abstract

There is a growing body of evidence exploring the beneficial effects of mindfulness on stress, sleep quality, and memory, though the mechanisms involved are less certain. The present study explored the roles of perceived stress and sleep quality as potential mediators between dispositional mindfulness and subjective memory problems. Data were from a Boston area subsample of the Midlife in the United States study (MIDUS-II) assessed in 2004–2006, and again approximately one year later (N=299). As expected, higher dispositional mindfulness was associated with lower perceived stress and better sleep quality. There was no direct association found between mindfulness and subjective memory problems, however, there was a significant indirect effect through perceived stress, although not with sleep quality. The present findings suggest that perceived stress may play a mediating role between dispositional mindfulness and subjective memory problems, in that those with higher mindfulness generally report experiencing less stress than those with lower mindfulness, which may be protective of memory problems in everyday life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363402/

 

Improve Sleep with Mindfulness

Improve Sleep with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we lose awareness of the present moment, our minds get stuck in maladaptive ways of thinking. For example, you might be trying to go to sleep but your mind gets lost thinking about all the groceries you need to buy. Deep, relaxed breathing is forgotten. And once you realize sleep isn’t happening, your muscles tense and your thought process quickly shifts to “I’m not falling asleep! I have XYZ to do this week and I won’t be able to function tomorrow.” The body seizes up, breathing and heart rate can both quicken, and falling sleep becomes more difficult.” – Shelby Freedman Harris

 

Modern society has become more around-the-clock and more complex producing considerable pressure and stress on the individual. The advent of the internet and smart phones has exacerbated the problem. The resultant psychological distress can impair sleep. Indeed, it is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness. So, non-drug methods to improve sleep are needed. Contemplative practices have been reported to improve mindfulness and, in turn, improve sleep amount and quality and help with insomnia. But, how mindfulness improves sleep has not been explored.

 

In today’s Research News article “Potential Mechanisms of Mindfulness in Improving Sleep and Distress.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866834/ ), Lau and colleagues examine possible intermediaries that are effected by mindfulness and which, in turn, influence sleep. They recruited a large sample of meditation naïve, Chinese, adults and measured them over the internet for mindfulness, sleep quality, depression, anxiety, and stress. They then performed regression analysis of the associations among these variables.

 

Replicating previous findings, they found that the higher the levels mindfulness, especially acceptance (non-react facet of mindfulness), the greater the sleep quality and the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. They also found that the higher the levels of psychological distress, the higher the levels of anxiety, depression, and stress and the lower the levels of mindfulness and sleep quality. So, mindfulness, especially acceptance, was associated with better psychological health and sleep, while psychological distress acted in the opposite direction.

 

They then tested models that asserted various pathways whereby mindfulness affected sleep quality. They found that the higher the level of acceptance (non-react facet of mindfulness), the greater the impact of awareness (observe facet of mindfulness) on lower general psychological distress and higher the sleep quality. This suggests that acceptance associations with higher sleep quality may be in part mediated by the association of acceptance with lower levels of psychological distress and in turn improved sleep quality.

 

These findings begin the unravel the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves sleep. It suggests that acceptance (non-react facet of mindfulness) is a very important component of the associations with better sleep and that it, in part, works through associations with lower levels of psychological distress.

 

So, improve sleep with mindfulness.

 

“When I first started using mindfulness to get sleep, I believed I needed to be meditating at bedtime if I wanted to cure my insomnia. I was completely wrong! I learned that my worries about sleep were happening all day long. I started using mindfulness during the day to notice those worries and learn to accept that I may not get as much sleep as I hope for each night. . . . worrying about sleep works against the process of falling asleep. All of those concerns about your insomnia just might be making it harder to let go at the end of the day, to relax and let your body rest.” – Mary Sauer

 

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

Lau, W. K. W., Leung, M.-K., Wing, Y.-K., & Lee, T. M. C. (2018). Potential Mechanisms of Mindfulness in Improving Sleep and Distress. Mindfulness, 9(2), 547–555. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0796-9

 

Abstract

The mechanisms of mindfulness-improved sleep quality are not extensively studied. Recently, attention monitoring/awareness and acceptance in mindfulness have been proposed to be the underlying mechanisms that tackle distress and related disorders. The current study tested if acceptance moderated the relationship of awareness with psychological distress and sleep quality, and verified that psychological distress mediated the relationship between mindfulness and sleep quality in a group of community-dwelling healthy adults. Three hundred and sixty-four healthy Chinese non-meditators (age 18–65, 59% female) completed a set of online self-reported questionnaires in Chinese via SurveyMonkey. Awareness and acceptance were measured by Observe and Nonreact facets in the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), respectively. General psychological distress levels and sleep quality were reflected in the global score of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), respectively. Model 1 and model 8 in the PROCESS macro for SPSS were used to assess the moderation and moderated mediation effects. Increased level of acceptance (Nonreact) weakened the positive relationship between awareness (Observe) and poor sleep quality (β = −0.0154, p = 0.0123), which was partially mediated through perceived psychological distress (β = −0.0065, 95% bias-corrected bootstrap CI = −0.0128, −0.0004) in a group of community-dwelling healthy adults. Our findings suggested that awareness and acceptance could be the mechanisms of mindfulness interventions in improving sleep quality, partly via reducing psychological stress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866834/

 

The Middle Way in Mindfulness Practice

The Middle Way in Mindfulness Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable. Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana.”  – Siddhārtha  Gautama

 

I have a life-long habit of trying too hard. In American culture, that is not considered a fault, but in the contemplative life it often is. The Buddha taught the middle way as the proper approach. He tried the extremes from the excess in the life of a prince to the opposite excess in the life of an ascetic. He found after years of futile effort that neither worked in ending suffering. But, when he rejected both and compromised, exerting effort but not too much, he found success and attained enlightenment. So, he taught his followers the middle way.

 

The Buddha likened the spiritual path to a stringed musical instrument. If no effort is exerted the string is slack and does not produce music. If too much effort is exerted, the string is tightened too much and breaks. Only when the string is tightened moderately does it produce beautiful music. He taught this middle way of moderation in all things to achieve success in all phases of life but particularly in spiritual endeavors.

 

The modern sage Thich Nhat Hahn visited the San Francisco Zen Center; a center noted for its rigor. After his visit, he was asked by the leader how the Center could improve. He stated that first he would sleep later, and that they shouldn’t be so grim and dour, and should smile much more. What he was pointing to is the middle way; being less strict and rigorous and practicing with greater joy; keeping the body and spirit at a moderate level that allows for the practice to be relaxed and joyful.

 

I learned this lesson during this most recent retreat. It was a personal retreat with no one but myself setting the schedule of activities. The first couple of days it was raining hard, so I took the opportunity to meditate frequently and for extended periods; as it turns out too frequently and too long. After two days, I was physically and mentally exhausted. Meditation became painful and unproductive. I decided to take the afternoon and evening of the third day off. I simply rested, maintaining silence, but read a novel. Many teachers would reprimand me from breaking from the focus on silent meditation. But, as it turned out, it worked wonderfully. The next day I was refreshed, the pain was gone and my level of concentration was wonderful.

 

I scaled back on the frequency and duration of the meditation and rested more often and for longer times. There was no more novel reading or time off. I had learned the middle way as the way to practice in retreat. Previously on a formal retreat with scheduled meditations, I would scoff at participants who would skip a scheduled meditation or a dharma talk and believed that they were wasting a valuable opportunity. Now I see that I was being unfairly judgmental. I now realize that they were being wise, tailoring the retreat to their own level of energy and physical endurance. They were keeping the practice within the middle way.

 

Psychological research has demonstrated that there is an optimum level of motivation for any task and it is not at the extremes, but in the middle. The research has also demonstrated that what the optimum level is varies from person to person. For some, a low level works best, while for others only very high levels produce optimum results. For most, somewhere in the middle is best. It is up to each of us to find our own optimum level and practice accordingly. I found mine on this personal retreat and once I practiced at this level, the results were good. The Buddha taught to judge an activity, not by its nature, but by the results it produces. Clearly, following my own middle way had positive results for me.

 

Happiness is more likely to be found on the middle way. Studies of happiness have shown that people with very low incomes are generally unhappy. Surprising, those who are quite rich tend to be generally unhappy. It’s the people in the middle, with sufficient, but not excessive income, are generally the happiest. A surprising fact in this regard is that people who have one large amounts of money in the lottery afterward are much less happy than before. It is clear that the middle way with wealth leads to the greatest happiness.

 

Athletes have learned the benefits of the middle way. Trying too hard results in poorer performance and often times injury. Not working hard enough, being too lax, similarly leads to poor performance. Exerting the right amount of effort and relaxing, the middle way, leads to excellence in athletic achievement. Every yoga student knows that to improve flexibility muscles and tendons can’t be stretched too hard. The muscles will resist the stretch or could get injured. Similarly, too little stretch produces no benefits. On the other hand, moderate, middle way, stretching produces the best results.

 

Even something as simple as eating is best practiced on the middle way. We all know that we have to eat. Eating too little is damaging to health and eating too much leads to obesity and disease. During the evolutionary development of humans, the problem was a lack of consistency in the supply of food. Food was plentiful at times, but scarce at others. It was adaptive for humans to overeat during times of plenty in order to store the energy needed to withstand the times of scarcity. In modern times, though, where food can be plentiful at all times, the tendency to overeat doesn’t solve a problem, it creates one, obesity. Here, also, the middle way is best; eating sufficiently for health but not more than is needed. This is promoted by mindful eating. Eat carefully on the middle way.

 

Driving a car is a clear example of the need for a middle way. Driving too fast can lead to loss of control or inability to stop quickly in an emergency, which can be fatal. On the other hand, driving too slowly can also be dangerous as it can lead to being rear ended, prompt overly aggressive passing by other cars, or major back-ups in traffic. Driving too aggressively van be dangerous, while driving too passively can also be. It is best to be driving the middle way, not meaning down the center of the road, but with moderation with speed and assertiveness.

 

I spent many years as a teacher and observed students who were very highly motivated getting exhausted cramming and then were so nervous during exams that they performed poorly. It has been established that too high a level of motivation interferes with learning and memory. Similarly, students who were lackadaisical and don’t apply themselves also performed poorly. But those students who were moderately motivated so that they studied but who could relax, performed the best. Hence, in academics as in meditation, athletics, and work, the middle way is best.

 

In our live in general, overly stressing one aspect of life almost always leads to unhappiness. Balance, the middle way, is needed. Many people, particularly Americans, work excessively at their jobs, working long hours and rarely taking vacations. They may have successful careers, but be miserable. On the deathbed, people virtually never wish that they had spent more time or effort on developing their resumes, on working harder or being more successful. Rather, they most often decry the fact that they didn’t spend enough time and energy on family and friends. A palliative care nurse once recorded the top five regrets of the dying. They were

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

 

When I was younger and went to a new interesting place, I was determined to see all the sights. I got up early and ran from sight to sight till closing time. By evening, I and any companions were exhausted. I had seen many great things; what the place had to offer. But, upon reflection, I realized that I really didn’t enjoy or truly appreciate any of them. I’ve learned to take the middle way, to slow down, to relax, to see less, but enjoy and learn from it more. Spending the day ticking off as many items as possible from the to-do list is a recipe for unhappiness. Take the middle way in everything you do.

 

Raising children is best guided by the middle way. Young children must learn boundaries to their behavior in order to function at home and in society. They can’t have everything they want and they can’t do everything they want. If parenting is too lax the child will grow unruly and difficult and will have problems integrating into school and social groups. On the other hand, if parenting is too severe and intrusive the child will be fearful, the child will have a damaged self-concept, creativity will be stifled, and the child will avoid authority. At extreme levels the child may experience abuse and trauma that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. Mindful parenting takes the middle road, maintaining boundaries but doing so with love and understanding, valuing the child, and guiding development with unconditional positive regard. With this middle way, children grow and are socialized while maintaining creativity and a positive self-regard. They grow into psychologically health adults.

 

So, practice the middle way in mindfulness practice and in life in general, finding the level of effort what works for you. Don’t string yourself too loosely or too tightly, enjoy the symphony of life, and play beautiful spiritual music.

 

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ― Jalaluddin Rumi

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Mindful People Better Regulate Their Emotions

Mindful People Better Regulate Their Emotions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

“With MM training or practice (even a little practice has been shown to make a difference), we become more able to allow disturbing emotions and thoughts to pass through awareness. We develop the ability to NOT act or react to every emotion or thought we have.” – Timothy Pychyl

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But, when they get extreme they can produce misery and even mental illness. 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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Dampens Cardiac Responses to Motion Scenes of Violence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866822/ ), Brzozowski and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness with the ability of college students to regulate emotional responses to viewing a violent video.

 

In the first experiment they had the students complete a mindfulness scale and then view a 5-minute violent video. Afterwards they were measured for positive and negative emotions and arousal. They found that students high in mindfulness experienced the film less negatively. In the second experiment the students completed mindfulness and anxiety scales and were measured with and electrocardiogram (ECG) for cardiovascular activity, before, during, and after viewing the 5-minute violent video. They found that students high in mindfulness had lower heart rates before watching the clip, had lower heart rate increases during the clip, and reduced their heart rates to baseline levels faster after the clip.

 

This is a laboratory correlational study and as such is artificial, not necessarily representative of responses to emotions in everyday contexts. It also limits causal conclusions. In addition, there wasn’t a control comparison condition so it cannot be concluded that the recorded responses were due to watching violence or the reactivity to engaging in a scientific study in a laboratory. Nevertheless, the results suggest that mindful individuals have smaller negative emotional responses and less cardiovascular reactivity to watching a violent video. This suggests that mindfulness improves both psychological and physiological responses to viewing violence. Hence, it appears that mindfulness is associated with improved emotion regulation. It remains for future research to examine causation by actively training mindfulness, having a comparison condition, and making the situation more like real life.

 

But, it can be tentatively concluded that mindful people better regulate their emotions.

 

“So rather than getting rid of emotional experience altogether, . . . we can prevent or limit the disruptive aspects of emotions, like rumination. And this can be done by monitoring your thoughts and sensations, but also by adopting a non-judgmental attitude towards them.” – Emily Nauman

 

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

 

Brzozowski, A., Gillespie, S. M., Dixon, L., & Mitchell, I. J. (2018). Mindfulness Dampens Cardiac Responses to Motion Scenes of Violence. Mindfulness, 9(2), 575–584. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0799-6

 

Abstract

Mindfulness is linked with improved regulatory processes of attention and emotion. The potential benefits of mindfulness are vast, including more positive emotional states and diminished arousal in response to emotional stimuli. This study aims to expand of the current knowledge of the mechanisms of mindfulness by relating the latter to cardiovascular processes. The paper describes two studies which investigated the relationship of trait mindfulness to self-report measures of emotions elicited during a violent video clip and cardiovascular responses to the clip. Both studies recruited male and female participants, mainly university undergraduate students. The clip was 5-min-long and evoked mainly feelings of tension and disgust. In study 1, we found that higher scores for trait mindfulness were associated with increased scores for valence (r = .370, p = .009), indicating a more positive interpretation of the clip. In study 2, the average heart rate during the clip was lower than during the preceding (p < .05) and following (p < .01) non-exposure conditions. Higher trait mindfulness was related to diminished heart rate reactivity (r = −.364, p = .044) and recovery (r = −.415, p = .020). This latter effect was obtained only when trait anxiety was used as a statistical covariate. Additionally, increased trait mindfulness was accompanied by higher resting heart rate (r = .390, p = .027). These outcomes suggest that mindfulness is linked with reductions in negative feelings evoked by violent motion stimuli.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866822/

 

Sustain Attention, Vigilance, and Energy in Nurses with Mindfulness

Sustain Attention, Vigilance, and Energy in Nurses with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“As attention is rooted more firmly in the present and less on the past and/or future, depression, rumination, and anxiety decrease,” the article explains. “The resulting effect is energy that was once spent clinging to the past or worrying about the future can now be spent in the present.” Mindful nurse leaders are likewise aware of the employees and organizations behind their day-to-day work. They’re authentic. They connect with others. They stay in touch with their values.”

 

Medical professionals have to pay close and sustained attention to their jobs. The consequences of lapses and error can be catastrophic. Yet often their jobs are repetitive which can tax attention and reduce needed vigilance. Contemplative practices have been shown to improve attention and vigilance and to maintain high levels of performance on the job. In today’s Research News article “Positive Effects of Mindfulness-Based Training on Energy Maintenance and the EEG Correlates of Sustained Attention in a Cohort of Nurses.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5838011/ ), Wong and colleagues investigate the effectiveness of mindfulness training to improve attention and vigilance in nurses tested in a laboratory environment.

 

They recruited nurses and trained them in mindfulness with an 8-week, once a week for 90 minutes, program based upon the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, containing meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. Training attendance was monitored and recorded. They were measured before and after training with a 20-minute psychomotor task requiring sustained attention and vigilance. In addition, the nurses were measured for sleep duration for two nights. They also completed scales of energy and mood and had their brain activity monitored during rest and during meditation, and with an electroencephalogram (EEG). They also recorded the event related potentials (ERP) in the EEG evoked by stimulus presentation during the attention and vigilance task.

 

They found that following mindfulness training the nurses had significantly smaller reduction in energy during performance of the attention and vigilance task and the greater the attendance at the mindfulness training sessions, the greater the energy sustainment. This was also true for their attention and vigilance, with nurses with high training attendance having significantly smaller reductions in response speed and significantly smaller increases in attentional lapses over the 20-minute task duration. Hence, those nurses with high mindfulness training attendance sustained their energy and attention better over the task period.

 

With the electroencephalogram (EEG), they found that after mindfulness training there were significantly smaller reductions in alpha rhythm power during meditation, suggesting improved attention. These improvements were higher in nurses who attended training more regularly. Similar findings were present with the EEG event related potentials (ERP), such that P3 amplitude reductions were lower over the attention and vigilance task, indicating greater sustainment of arousal and attention. Hence, brain electrical activity also suggested greater sustainment of attention following mindfulness training.

 

The results are interesting and potentially important. They suggest that mindfulness training can improve nurses’ abilities to sustain attention and vigilance over a prolonged period. This was evidenced by both behavioral and EEG indicators of sustained attention and vigilance. This is potentially important as it may suggest that mindfulness training may improve performance on the job, reducing lapses and errors. Future research is needed to verify if, indeed, mindfulness training has similar effects on the job that it has in the laboratory.

 

So, sustain attention, vigilance, and energy in nurses with mindfulness.

 

“Burnout continues to be a significant occupational hazard in the nursing profession. Mindfulness may be the necessary approach to help combat nursing burnout, affording considerable promise for the future of the nursing profession.” – Pamela Heard

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Wong, K. F., Teng, J., Chee, M. W. L., Doshi, K., & Lim, J. (2018). Positive Effects of Mindfulness-Based Training on Energy Maintenance and the EEG Correlates of Sustained Attention in a Cohort of Nurses. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 80. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00080

 

Abstract

Mindfulness based training (MBT) is becoming increasingly popular as a means to improve general wellbeing through developing enhanced control over metacognitive processes. In this preliminary study, we tested a cohort of 36 nurses (mean age = 30.3, SD = 8.52; 2 male) who participated in an 8-week MBT intervention to examine the improvements in sustained attention and its energetic costs that may result from MBT. Changes in sustained attention were measured using the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) and electroencephalography (EEG) was collected both during PVT performance, and during a brief period of meditation. As there was substantial variability in training attendance, this variable was used a covariate in all analyses. Following the MBT program, we observed changes in alpha power across all scalp regions during meditation that were correlated with attendance. Similarly, PVT performance worsened over the 8-week period, but that this decline was mitigated by good attendance on the MBT program. The subjective energy depletion due to PVT performance (measured using self-report on Likert-type scales) was also less in regular attendees. Finally, changes in known EEG markers of attention during PVT performance (P300 and alpha-band event-related desynchronization) paralleled these behavioral shifts. Taken together, our data suggest that sustained attention and its associated costs may be negatively affected over time in the nursing profession, but that regular attendance of MBT may help to attenuate these effects. However, as this study contained no control condition, we cannot rule out that other factors (e.g., motivation, placebo effects) may also account for our findings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5838011/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Fewer Worries about Cessation of the Use of Sleeping Pills for Insomnia

Mindfulness is Associated with Fewer Worries about Cessation of the Use of Sleeping Pills for Insomnia

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“If insomnia is at the root of your sleepless nights, it may be worth trying meditation. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.” – National Sleep Foundation

 

It is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness. Yet over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and about half of these have a chronic disorder. It has been estimated that about 4% of Americans revert to sleeping pills. But, these do not always produce high quality sleep and can have problematic side effects. In addition, these medications can become addictive such that the individual cannot sleep without them. So, there is a need to find better methods to improve sleep.

 

Mindfulness-based practices have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality and to help treat addictions. Indeed, Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) was developed to specifically assist in relapse prevention and has been shown to be effective. In today’s Research News article “Dispositional mindfulness, anticipation and abstinence symptoms related to hypnotic dependence among insomniac women who seek treatment: A cross-sectional study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5856331/ ), Barros and colleagues examined the relationship between mindfulness and addiction to sleeping pills in women.

 

They recruited adult women who used sleeping pills on a daily basis and had them complete paper and pencil measures of mindfulness, insomnia severity, anxiety, and dependence on sleeping pills, including problematic use, preoccupation with availability, lack of compliance with prescription, and withdrawal symptoms. They performed a regression analysis to examine the relationships between these variables.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and particularly the observing facet of mindfulness, the lower the preoccupation with the availability of sleeping pills. This preoccupation frequently involves anxiety about not having the medication available for use. In addition, the higher the levels of mindfulness and particularly the non-reacting facet of mindfulness, the lower the lack of compliance with prescription. The women with high mindfulness were less likely to use the sleeping pills more often or in different circumstances than prescribed by their physician. Finally, the higher the levels of the mindfulness facets of observing and non-reacting, the lower the belief that withdrawal would produce severe uncomfortable experiences.

 

This study was correlative and as such conclusions regarding causation cannot be reached, Nevertheless, the results suggest that the levels of mindfulness prior to treatment for sleeping pill addiction are associated with the characteristics of the addiction and the patients’ anxieties regarding the availability of the pills and the consequences of withdrawal. This suggests that more mindful women would find it easier to withdraw from their use and treatment for the addiction would be more likely to be effective. It remains for future research to examine whether high levels of mindfulness prior to treatment is predictive of greater success in treatment.

 

Imagine a country where we no longer have to depend on medication to help manage depression, chronic pain, or insomnia. . . mindfulness is just as effective as side-effect loaded medications. “ – Ruth Buczynski

 

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

 

Barros, V. V., Opaleye, E. S., Demarzo, M., Bowen, S., Curado, D. F., Hachul, H., & Noto, A. R. (2018). Dispositional mindfulness, anticipation and abstinence symptoms related to hypnotic dependence among insomniac women who seek treatment: A cross-sectional study. PLoS ONE, 13(3), e0194035. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194035

 

Abstract

Introduction

Dispositional mindfulness can be described as the mental ability to pay attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally. There is evidence of inverse relation between dispositional mindfulness and insomnia and substance use, but as of yet, no studies evaluating the specific association between dispositional mindfulness and the components of hypnotic use disorder.

Objective

To evaluate the association between dispositional mindfulness and the components of dependence among female chronic hypnotic users.

Design and method

Seventy-six women, chronic users of hypnotics, who resorted to Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for the cessation of hypnotic use were included in the study. The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) evaluated the levels and facets of mindfulness, and the subscales of the Benzodiazepine Dependence Questionnaire (BENDEP) assessed dependence on hypnotics. We also evaluated sociodemographic variables and symptoms of insomnia and anxiety. The associations between the FFMQ facets and the BENDEP subscales were evaluated with binomial logistic regression, adjusted for income, schooling, anxiety, and insomnia.

Results

We observed associations between facets of the FFMQ and specific aspects of hypnotic dependence. The facet “observing” was inversely associated with the “concern about lack of availability of the hypnotic” [aOR = 0.87 95% CI (0.79–0.97)], and the facet “non-reacting to inner experience” with “noncompliance with the prescription recommendations” [aOR = 0.86 95% CI (0.75–0.99)]. The total score of the FFMQ was inversely associated to those two dependence subscales [aOR = 0.94 95% CI (0.89–0.99)]. “Observing” and “non-reactivity to inner experience” were also inversely associated with the “impairments related to the withdrawal symptoms” [aOR = 0.84 95% CI (0.73–0.97)] and [aOR = 0.78 95% CI (0.63–0.96)], respectively. The FFMQ was not associated with “awareness of problematic hypnotic use”.

Conclusion

Dispositional mindfulness, specifically the facets “observing” and “non-reactivity to inner experience, were inversely associated with the components of hypnotic dependence related to the anticipation of having the substance, its expected effect, and the impairments caused by the abstinence. We discuss the implications of those results for the clinical practice and future investigations.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5856331/

Reduce Addictions with Mindfulness

Reduce Addictions with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“it’s tempting to conclude that mindfulness is the “best new thing” for addiction treatment, but that in reality, further study is needed. “It absolutely has promise, we have a lot more to learn. This is the beginning.” – Sarah Bowen

 

Substance abuse is a major health and social problem. There are estimated 22.2 million people in the U.S. with substance dependence. It is estimated that worldwide there are nearly ¼ million deaths yearly as a result of illicit drug use which includes unintentional overdoses, suicides, HIV and AIDS, and trauma. In the U.S. about 17 million people abuse alcohol. Drunk driving fatalities accounted for over 10,000 deaths annually. “Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion a year. In 2013, an estimated 17.8% (42.1 million) U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers.”  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

 

Obviously, there is a need to find effective methods to prevent and treat substance abuse. There are a number of programs that are successful at stopping the drug abuse, including the classic 12-step program emblematic of Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, the majority of drug and/or alcohol abusers relapse and return to substance abuse. Hence, it is important to find an effective method to both treat substance abuse disorders and to prevent relapses. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve recovery from various addictions. In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5907295/ ), Garland and Howard review and summarize the published research findings of the use of mindfulness interventions in the treatment of an array addictive behaviors, including drinking, smoking, opioid misuse, and use of illicit substances like cocaine and heroin.

 

They find that mindfulness training appears to alter brain structures that act to relieve the effects of addictions. They appear to strengthen the prefrontal lobe and its connection to lower brain structures. These alterations of the addict’s brain lead to changes in biological mechanisms underlying reward processing; increasing natural reward processes which in turn replace and reduce drug cravings. They also strengthen decision making executive functions and abilities to control behavior. This interferes with the automatic, reflexive, behaviors of addiction. In addition, the brain changes results in increased mindfulness resulting in improved acceptance and non-judgmental awareness of themselves. The changes also improve physiological and psychological responses to stress; resulting in the addict not reacting to stress with drug use. Also, the changes reduce the addict’s reactivity to the stimuli that usually signal drug use. Finally, they stop the addict’s tendency to try to suppress thoughts about drugs and rather deal with the thoughts directly producing more lasting reductions in drug use. All of this results in decreases in drug cravings and psychological distress, and improved sense of well-being, producing reduced drug use and improved recovery.

 

Garland and Howard review the published research and find that well controlled clinical trials of mindfulness-based interventions for a variety of different substance use disorders demonstrate that the interventions produce significant reductions in addictions, improved recovery, and reduced relapse. They note, however, the need for long-term follow-up to better elucidate the long-term effectiveness of the interventions. In general, the published research indicates that mindfulness-based interventions are a safe and effective treatment for a variety of addictions. They act by altering the brain which alters biological and psychological processes that underly addiction, improve psychological health and well-being, and thereby reduce cravings and drug use.

 

So, reduce addictions with mindfulness.

 

“It may not be possible for people to completely escape cravings, but they can learn to live with them. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent tool that allows the individual to have increased control over their mind. There is a saying that, the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” – DARA Thailand

 

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

 

Garland, E. L., & Howard, M. O. (2018). Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 13, 14. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-018-0115-3

 

Abstract

Contemporary advances in addiction neuroscience have paralleled increasing interest in the ancient mental training practice of mindfulness meditation as a potential therapy for addiction. In the past decade, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been studied as a treatment for an array addictive behaviors, including drinking, smoking, opioid misuse, and use of illicit substances like cocaine and heroin. This article reviews current research evaluating MBIs as a treatment for addiction, with a focus on findings pertaining to clinical outcomes and biobehavioral mechanisms. Studies indicate that MBIs reduce substance misuse and craving by modulating cognitive, affective, and psychophysiological processes integral to self-regulation and reward processing. This integrative review provides the basis for manifold recommendations regarding the next wave of research needed to firmly establish the efficacy of MBIs and elucidate the mechanistic pathways by which these therapies ameliorate addiction. Issues pertaining to MBI treatment optimization and sequencing, dissemination and implementation, dose–response relationships, and research rigor and reproducibility are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5907295/

 

Improve Psychological Well-being in Coronary Artery Disease Patients with Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy

Improve Psychological Well-being in Coronary Artery Disease Patients with Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Given the proven role of stress in heart attacks and coronary artery disease, effective meditation would be appropriate for almost all patients with coronary artery disease.”Joon Sup Lee

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.” (Centers for Disease Control). “Coronary artery disease develops when the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients (coronary arteries) become damaged or diseased. Cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque) in your arteries and inflammation are usually to blame for coronary artery disease.” – (Mayo Clinic)

 

A myriad of treatments has been developed for heart disease including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. But the safest effective treatments are lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Safe and effective alternative treatments for cardiovascular disease are contemplative practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. These practices have also been shown to be helpful for producing the kinds of lifestyle changes needed to prevent heart disease such as smoking cessationweight reduction, and stress reduction.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy on Psychological Symptoms in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852419/ ), Jang and colleagues studied the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) on the psychological states of patients with coronary artery disease. They recruited outpatients with coronary artery disease and randomly assigned them to either receive 12 weeks, once a week for 45 minutes, of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) or a treatment as usual control. MBAT was based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program and included meditation, yoga, and body scan practices along with training in expressing their emotions through art and drawing. Patients were measured before and after training for anxiety, depression, and anger.

 

They found that the MBAT trained patients in comparison to baseline and the treatment as usual group had large and significant reduction in depression, anxiety and depression following treatment. In addition, there were large and significant decreases in experiences of anger and expressions of anger and also increases in anger control. Hence, the Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) program was successful in improving the psychological well-being of patients with coronary heart disease.

 

It should be noted that there wasn’t an active control conditions so the conclusions must be tempered with the understanding that there were considerable opportunities for bias and participant expectations to affect the results and there was no long-term follow-up to determine the durability of the effects. The findings, however, are encouraging and should provide encouragement for conducting a larger trial with active control conditions, e.g. aerobic exercise and long-term follow-up.

 

So, improve psychological well-being in coronary artery disease patients with mindfulness-based art therapy.

 

“15 minutes of meditation a day reduced the risk of death, heart attack, and stroke by 48 per cent” – British Heart Foundation

 

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

 

Jang, S.-H., Lee, J.-H., Lee, H.-J., & Lee, S.-Y. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy on Psychological Symptoms in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 33(12), e88. http://doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2018.33.e88

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) induces emotional relaxation in coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, and is a treatment known to improve psychological stability. The objective of this study was to evaluate the treatment effects of MBAT for CAD patients.

Methods

A total of 44 CAD patients were selected as participants, 21 patients belonged to a MBAT group, and 23 patients belonged to the control group. The patients in the MBAT group were given 12 sessions of treatments. To measure depression and anxiety, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Trait Anxiety Inventory (TAI) were used. Anger and anger expression were evaluated using the State Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI). The treatment results were analyzed using two-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA).

Results

The results showed that significant effects for groups, time, and interaction in the depression (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 23.15, P < 0.001]; between groups, [F(1,36) = 5.73, P = 0.022]), trait anxiety (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 13.23, P < 0.001]; between groups, [F(1,36) = 4.38, P = 0.043]), state anger (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 5.60, P = 0.023]), trait anger (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 6.93, P = 0.012]; within group, [F(1,36) = 4.73, P = 0.036]), anger control (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 8.41, P = 0.006]; within group, [F(1,36) = 9.41, P = 0.004]), anger out (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 6.88, P = 0.012]; within group, [F(1,36) = 13.17, P < 0.001]; between groups, [F(1,36) = 5.62, P = 0.023]), and anger in (interaction effect, [F(1,36) = 32.66, P < 0.001]; within group, [F(1,36) = 25.90, P < 0.001]; between groups, [F(1,36) = 12.44, P < 0.001]).

Conclusion

MBAT can be seen as an effective treatment method that improves CAD patients’ psychological stability. Evaluation of treatment effects using program development and large-scale research for future clinical application is needed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852419/