Improve the Behavior of Prisoners and Prison Staff with Mindfulness

Improve the Behavior of Prisoners and Prison Staff with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I have seen how men in maximum security prison were able to support not only their own resilience, but also that of their guards, nurses, and other prison staff, through the practice of meditation, mindfulness, and deliberate kindness.” – Doug Carnine

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

Contemplative practices are well suited to the prison environment. Mindfulness training teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Prison: Experiences of Inmates, Instructors, and Prison Staff.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6745607/), Bouw and colleagues examine the effectiveness of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for prisoners. They recruited male prisoners, staff, and instructors from prisons in the Netherlands where the prisoners had attended an MBSR program. The MBSR program consisted of 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The prisoners were also encouraged to perform practice on their own for 45 minutes for 6 days per week.

 

The prisoners were administered a semi-structured interview to obtain the prisoners’ views of level of satisfaction and challenges regarding the program as well as potential effects on stress responsivity, coping style, impulse control, aggression, and self-esteem. The staff members and instructors were also interviewed about the effects or changes they observed in the inmates who underwent the intervention. The prisoners were highly appreciative of the program with 82% attending all MBSR sessions and 64% completing all homework assignments.

 

The prisoners reported that after the program they had significant decreases in both the frequency and intensity of experiencing anger, that they were better able to handle the anger when it did arise, and were more likely to seek solutions to the situation that evoked the anger. They also reported a significant reduction in their reactions to stress, that they were more likely to be relaxed, and less likely to be sad or silent after stress. The prisoners also reported that they were more likely to employ cognitive-oriented coping styles and less emotion-oriented coping styles after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Finally, the prisoners reported a significant increase in self-esteem. The prison staff, and instructors reported that the prisoners had overall improvements in their behavior after the MBSR program including reduced stress responses, anger, aggressive behavior, and hostility and increased self-esteem, emotional stability, dealing with difficult emotions, problem solving skills, and regulation of aggression.

 

It has to be recognized that there was no control, comparison, condition. As such the results are open to confounding factors such as demand characteristics, placebo effects, time-based changes, etc. Nevertheless, the results are very encouraging. Even if they are due to confounding factors rather than the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, there was a significant improvement in the prisoners. From a practical standpoint that was the intent of the program in the first place.

 

So, improve the behavior of prisoners and prison staff with mindfulness.

 

“By working with both prisoners and correctional facilities professionals, mindfulness programs systematically transform the impact of our criminal justice system. Through cultivating greater awareness and compassion, mindfulness “encourages a shift away from fear-based and often anti-social or criminal strategies for meeting needs” – Prison Mindfulness Institute

 

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

 

Bouw, N., Huijbregts, S., Scholte, E., & Swaab, H. (2019). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Prison: Experiences of Inmates, Instructors, and Prison Staff. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 63(15-16), 2550–2571. doi:10.1177/0306624X19856232

 

Abstract

Mindfulness intervention aims to reduce stress and to improve physical and mental health. The present study investigated feasibility and effectiveness of mindfulness intervention in a prison context, in both a qualitative and quantitative fashion. Specifically, the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention was investigated, in a retrospective pre–post design, in five Dutch prisons. Twenty-two inmates (out of 25 approached, mean age: 40.1 years (SD = 11.1), convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual offenses, drug offenses, robbery with violence, and/or illegal restraint/kidnap, and sentenced to incarceration between 15 and 209 months (M = 5.5 years; SD = 3.8) took part in a semistructured interview after completion of the MBSR intervention. The interviews addressed level of satisfaction and challenges regarding the MBSR intervention as well as potential effects on stress responsivity, coping style, impulse control, aggression, and self-esteem. Ten staff members and four MBSR instructors were interviewed about their own practical issues experienced while providing or facilitating the MBSR intervention, and about the effects or changes they observed in the inmates who underwent the intervention. Both participants and instructors/prison staff reported improvements in all of the addressed domains and expressed satisfaction with the intervention. Challenges were mainly identified in practical issues regarding the organization of the intervention sessions. Future studies should investigate mindfulness in longitudinal randomly controlled designs, should strive for a multi-method approach, and distinguish inmates according to personality characteristics.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6745607/

 

Reduce Eating Disorders with Effective Coping and Mindfulness

Reduce Eating Disorders with Effective Coping and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“For individuals suffering from an eating disorder, becoming mindful, or aware of the present moment, can help save individuals from the critical voices inside of their heads.”

 

Around 30 million people in the United States of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder; either anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. Eating disorders are not just troubling psychological problems, they can be deadly, having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Eating disorders can be difficult to treat because eating is necessary and cannot be simply stopped as in smoking cessation or abstaining from drugs or alcohol. One must learn to eat appropriately not stop. So, it is important to find methods that can help prevent and treat eating disorders. Contemplative practices, mindfulness, and mindful eating have shown promise for treating eating disorders.

 

In today’s Research News article Mindfulness, rumination, and coping skills in young women with Eating Disorders: A comparative study with healthy controls.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6420013/), Hernando and colleagues explored the relationship between eating disorders and mindfulness. They recruited female patients diagnosed with an eating disorder and a matched healthy female control group. The participants completed measures of mindfulness, rumination, effective coping, and coping styles.

 

They found that in comparison to the matched healthy controls, the women with eating disorders had significantly lower levels of mindfulness and effective coping and higher levels of rumination. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness or the higher the levels of effective coping, the lower the likelihood of an eating disorder. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of rumination, the greater the likelihood of an eating disorder.

 

It should be kept in mind that the study was cross-sectional in nature and thus caution must be exercised in reaching conclusions especially regarding causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that mindfulness is associated with less likelihood of an eating disorder and the higher the levels of rumination the greater the likelihood of and eating disorder. This makes sense as being able to be focused in the present moment is the antithesis of rumination which is being focused in the past (worry) or the future (anxiety). The results also suggest that being able to effectively cope with negative feeling is also associated with less likelihood of and eating disorder. This suggests that disordered eating may be a means that the patient uses to cope with negative feelings. If the patient has other more effective means of coping, disordered eating is less likely.

 

Reduce eating disorders with effective coping and mindfulness.

 

“It is common for individuals with eating disorders to numb emotions through restricting, binging or choosing foods that are not pleasurable while eating. Mindful eating can help a person reconnect to the joy and experience of eating by creating an awareness of thoughts, emotions, feeling, and behaviors associated with the eating experience.” – Julia Cassidy

 

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

 

Hernando, A., Pallás, R., Cebolla, A., García-Campayo, J., Hoogendoorn, C. J., & Roy, J. F. (2019). Mindfulness, rumination, and coping skills in young women with Eating Disorders: A comparative study with healthy controls. PloS one, 14(3), e0213985. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0213985

 

Abstract

Eating Disorders (ED) have been associated with dysfunctional coping strategies, such as rumination. Promoting alternative ways of experiencing mental events, based on a mindfulness approach, might be the clue for learning more effective coping and regulatory strategies among young women with ED. This study examined the comparison between patients with ED diagnosis and healthy subjects in mindfulness, rumination and effective coping. In addition, we analyzed the independent association of those with the presence of ED. The study sample was formed by two groups of young women ranged 13–21 years: Twenty-five with an ED diagnosis and 25 healthy subjects. They were assessed by using the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) and the Responses Styles Questionnaire (RSQ). Our findings show that ED patients have significantly lesser average scores in mindfulness and effective coping than the healthy sample (p < .05). Also, our data concludes that mindfulness and effective coping independently predict the presence or absence of ED in young women. The study results suggest that training mindfulness abilities may contribute to making effective coping strategies more likely to occur in ED patients, which is incompatible with some eating-related symptoms. Further studies are needed, trough prospective and experimental designs, to evaluate clinical outcomes of mindfulness training among young women with ED.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6420013/

 

Improve Coping Strategies to Stress with Mindfulness

Improve Coping Strategies to Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Student life can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean students have to let stress take over their lives. By incorporating mindfulness and meditation into daily routines, students can not only relieve the pressure, but also improve their memory, focus and ultimately their grades.” – Todd Braver

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance. It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur.

 

So, it would seem important to examine various techniques to improve coping strategies for stress in college students. Contemplative practices including meditationmindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, these practices have been found to reduce stress and improve psychological health in college students.  In today’s Research News article “Differential Effect of Level of Self-Regulation and Mindfulness Training on Coping Strategies Used by University Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210926/ ), Fuente and colleagues examined the ability of students to cope with the stress of final exams and the ability of mindfulness training to produce more effective coping strategies.

 

They recruited college students and randomly assigned them to receive either 10 weeks, once a week for 1.5 hours, mindfulness training or to a no-treatment control condition. They were measured before and after training (during final exams) for self-regulation, including goal setting, perseverance, decision-making, and learning from mistakes, and coping strategies, including avoidant distraction, reducing anxiety and avoidance, preparing for the worst, emotional venting and isolation, resigned acceptance, family help and counsel, self-talk, positive reappraisal and firmness, communicating feelings and social support, and seeking alternative reinforcements.

 

They found that there was an increase in coping strategies at the end of training during final exams for those students who were high in self-regulation. With students with low levels of self-regulation mindfulness training appeared to help by decreasing emotion-focused coping particularly preparing for the worst, resigned acceptance, emotional venting, and isolation, and by increasing positive coping including positive reappraisal and firmness, self-talk, help for action.

 

These results suggest that students who have difficulty with regulating their own behavior benefit the most from mindfulness training, decreasing ineffective coping strategies and increasing effective strategies. So, mindfulness training improves the student’s ability to cope with stress effectively when the student has difficulty regulating themselves. This makes sense as students who are self-disciplined can deal with stress without mindfulness, but those who are not self-disciplined need the assistance of the non-judgmental awareness characteristic of mindfulness to identify the most effective coping strategies to deal with the stress.

 

So, improve coping strategies to stress with mindfulness.

 

“a mindfulness intervention can help reduce distress levels in college students during a stressful exam week, as well as increase altruistic action in the form of donating to charity.” – AMRA

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Fuente, J., Mañas, I., Franco, C., Cangas, A. J., & Soriano, E. (2018). Differential Effect of Level of Self-Regulation and Mindfulness Training on Coping Strategies Used by University Students. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(10), 2230. doi:10.3390/ijerph15102230

 

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to verify, in a group of psychology students, whether mindfulness training in conjunction with the individual’s level of self-regulation behavior would produce a change in the use of coping strategies. A total of 38 students participated in this study, with one experimental group and one control group, in a randomized controlled trial. Observation of the experimental group revealed a significant decrease in specific emotion-focused, negative coping strategies (preparing for the worst, resigned acceptance, emotional venting, and isolation), and a significant increase in specific problem-focused, positive coping (positive reappraisal and firmness, self-talk, help for action), in combination with students’ existing low-medium-high level of self-regulation. The importance and usefulness of mindfulness techniques in Higher Education is discussed, in conjunction with differences in university students’ level of self-regulation behavior.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210926/

 

Mindfulness Training has Long-Lasting Positive Effects

Mindfulness Training has Long-Lasting Positive Effects

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“These findings suggest that mindfulness training has both short-term and long-term effects on coping. These effects (six years on) were found despite poor to moderate adherence to formal mindfulness practice.” – de Vibe et al.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies. The vast majority of studies of mindfulness, however, are conducted over relatively short periods of time, often without follow-up and if there is follow-up it is often only for a few weeks. Hence, it is not known whether mindfulness training has long-term persisting benefits that are detectable years later.

 

In today’s Research News article “Six-year positive effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindfulness, coping and well-being in medical and psychology students; Results from a randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5916495/ ), de Vibe and colleagues examine whether mindfulness training has detectable benefits 6 years after training. They recruited second year medical and clinical psychology students and randomly assigned them to either receive a 7-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or a no-treatment control condition. MBSR consists of training in meditation, yoga, and body scan. The students were measured at baseline and then one month and two, four and six years after training for mindfulness, well-being, coping, and class attendance.

 

“During the six-year follow-up period, students in the intervention group were invited to participate in optional 1.5-hour mindfulness booster sessions once every semester.” Two thirds of the students attended one or no booster sessions. “During the six-year follow-up period, the number of participants in the intervention group who reported to practice formal mindfulness exercises decreased from 112 of 140 (80%), one month after the intervention to 28 of 48 (58%), at six-year follow-up.”

 

They found that in comparison to the control group and regardless of attendance at booster sessions or home practice, participants in the MBSR training demonstrated higher levels of mindfulness, improved well-being, decreased avoidance coping, and increased problem focused coping at the six year follow-up. Hence mindfulness training resulted in improvements in mindfulness, well-being, and adaptive coping ability that lasted over a six years period with no trend toward weakening.

 

These are remarkable results that suggest that the benefits of mindfulness training are not fleeting, but rather last over substantial periods of time. To my knowledge, this is the first demonstration that the effects last for such a prolonged, 6-year, period. They underscore the ability of mindfulness training to fundamentally alter the individual’s approach to life resulting in relatively permanent improvements in their mental and physical well-being.

 

So, produce long lasting positive effects with mindfulness training.

 

“mindfulness exercises can result in long-lasting positive psychological effects, especially for people new to these experiences.” – Monique Tello

 

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

 

Michael de Vibe, Ida Solhaug, Jan H. Rosenvinge, Reidar Tyssen, Adam Hanley, Eric Garland. Six-year positive effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindfulness, coping and well-being in medical and psychology students; Results from a randomized controlled trial, PLoS One. 2018; 13(4): e0196053. Published online 2018 Apr 24. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196053

 

Abstract

Longitudinal research investigating the enduring impact of mindfulness training is scarce. This study investigates the six-year effects of a seven-week mindfulness-based course, by studying intervention effects in the trajectory of dispositional mindfulness and coping skills, and the association between those change trajectories and subjective well-being at six-year follow-up. 288 Norwegian medical and psychology students participated in a randomized controlled trial. 144 received a 15-hour mindfulness course over seven weeks in the second or third semester with booster sessions twice yearly, while the rest continued their normal study curricula. Outcomes were subjective well-being, and dispositional mindfulness and coping assessed using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Ways of Coping Checklist. Analyses were performed for the intention-to-treat sample, using latent growth curve models. At six-year follow-up, students receiving mindfulness training reported increased well-being. Furthermore, they reported greater increases in the trajectory of dispositional mindfulness and problem-focused coping along with greater decreases in the trajectory of avoidance-focused coping. Increases in problem-focused coping predicted increases in well-being. These effects were found despite relatively low levels of adherence to formal mindfulness practice. The findings demonstrate the viability of mindfulness training in the promotion of well-being and adaptive coping, which could contribute to the quality of care given, and to the resilience and persistence of health care professionals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5916495/