Improve Thinking in Adolescents with Yoga Practice

Improve Thinking in Adolescents with Yoga Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul creates the symphony of life.” B.K.S. Iyengar

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a large number of beneficial effects on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of the individual and is helpful in the treatment of mental and physical illness. The acceptance of yoga practice has spread from the home and yoga studios to its application with children in schools. Studies of these school programs have found that yoga practice produces a wide variety of positive emotional, psychosocial, and physical benefits.

Teachers also note improvements in their students following yoga practice. These include improved classroom behavior, social–emotional, and cognitive skills. In addition, school records, academic tests, and physiological measures have shown that yoga practice produces improvements in student grades and academic performance.

 

To better understand the effects of yoga practice on adolescents it is important to take into consideration that yoga is a not only a mindfulness practice, but it is also a physical exercise. It is important to compare yoga practice in schools to other forms of physical exercise to determine if yoga produces its benefits because of improved mindfulness or because of the physical exercise provided.

 

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/PMC6521753/), Vhavle and colleagues recruited adolescents and randomly assigned them to participate in school in 1-hour daily practice for 2 months of either yoga or physical exercise. They were measured before and after training for executive function, cognition, attention, visual scanning, and memory with a numerical and an alphabetical trail making test.

 

All participants had fast times in completing the trail making tests indicating high levels of ability. The researchers found that both groups took significantly longer after training than before for the numerical trail making test. Only the yoga group took a significantly shorter time to complete the alphabetical trail making test after training than before and this was significantly different from the exercise group.

 

The numerical trail making test emphasizes visual scanning and cognitive function. The scores were very fast and so all of the students were very adept at this test. Hence, there may have been a ceiling effects making it impossible to detect further improvements. On the other hand, the alphabetical trail making test measures executive function, attention, and working memory and yoga practice produced significant improvement s in performance. These results then, suggests that school-based yoga practice may enhance adolescents’ thinking skills better than physical exercise. This suggests that the mindfulness component and not the exercise component of yoga practice is the most important aspect of the practice for the improvement of thinking ability in the youths.

 

So, improve thinking in adolescents with yoga practice.

 

Studies also show that exercise facilitates children’s executive function (i.e., processes required to select, organize, and properly initiate goal-directed actions) by increasing activation in the prefrontal cortex and serotonergic system. By integrating physical movement with breathing exercises and mindful awareness, yoga serves as a promising form of physical and cognitive training to enhance learning-related outcomes.” – Yoga4Classrooms

 

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

 

Vhavle, S. P., Rao, R. M., & Manjunath, N. K. (2019). Comparison of Yoga versus Physical Exercise on Executive Function, Attention, and Working Memory in Adolescent Schoolchildren: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International journal of yoga, 12(2), 172–173. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_61_18

 

Abstract

Purpose:

Executive function, attention, and memory are an important indicator of cognitive health in children. In this study, we analyze the effect of yoga and physical exercise on executive functioning, attention, and memory.

Methods:

In this prospective two-armed randomized controlled trial, around 802 students from ten schools across four districts were randomized to receive daily 1 h yoga training (n = 411) or physical exercise (n = 391) for 2 months. Executive function, attention, and memory were studied using Trail Making Test (TMT). Yoga (n = 377) and physical exercise (n = 371) students contributed data to the analyses. The data were analyzed using intention-to-treat approach using Student’s t-test.

Results:

There was a significant increase in numerical TMT (TMTN) values within yoga (t = −2.17; P < 0.03) and physical activity (PA) (t = −3.37; P < 0.001) groups following interventional period. However, there was no significant change in TMTN between yoga and PA groups (t = 0.44; P = 0.66). There was a significant increase in alphabetical TMT (TMTA) values within yoga (t = 6.21; P < 0.00) and PA groups (t = 1.19; P < 0.234) following interventional period. However, there was no significant change in TMTA between yoga and PA groups (t = 3.46; P = 0.001).

Conclusion:

The results suggest that yoga improves executive function, attention, and working memory as effectively as physical exercise intervention in adolescent schoolchildren.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521753/

 

Spirituality is associated with Character Strength, Well-Being, and Prosociality in Adolescents

Spirituality is associated with Character Strength, Well-Being, and Prosociality in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Given that adolescents are at the crossroads of life and face many issues and challenges that are unique, uncertain and value-conflict, they need to critically reflect on practical interests and examine broad issues on religiously tethered and untethered spirituality in their lives.” – Charlene Tan

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred.” Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. It makes sense, then, to investigate the influence of spirituality on the ability of youths to navigate this difficult time and develop positive qualities and better mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400865/), Kor and colleagues recruited adolescents (aged 13 to 17 years) from middle schools in Israel. They were measured at three points over 14 months for optimism, prosociality, spirituality, religious practices, personal devotion, spiritual transcendence, positive and negative emotions, satisfaction with life, and 24 character strengths consisting of curiosity, love of learning, judgment, creativity, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality.

 

They found that spirituality was relatively stable over time and was moderately associated with interpersonal character strengths. High levels of spirituality were significantly associated with high levels of life satisfaction, positive emotions, and prosociality at all three measurement times. Hence, spirituality was associated with the character strength and well-being of the adolescents.

 

These results are correlational and as such caution must be exercised in reaching causal conclusions. But the study suggests that being spiritual is associated with positive characters in the adolescents and greater well-being and attentiveness to the needs of others (prosociality). This further suggests that being spiritual may help adolescents navigate the complex and difficult terrain of adolescence. It remains to be seen if promoting spirituality may produce improvements in adolescent character and well-being.

 

So, spirituality is associated with character strength, well-being, and prosociality in adolescents.

 

Adolescent well-being has received extensive attention, with ample evidence of the positive role of religion and spirituality in youth development.” – Chris Boyatzis

 

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

 

Kor, A., Pirutinsky, S., Mikulincer, M., Shoshani, A., & Miller, L. (2019). A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 377. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377

 

Abstract

Using data from 1,352 middle-school Israeli adolescents, the current study examines the interface of spirituality and character strengths and its longitudinal contribution to subjective well-being and prosociality. Participants were approached three times over a 14-months period and completed measures of character strengths, spirituality, subjective well-being (positive emotions, life satisfaction), and prosociality. Findings revealed a fourth-factor structure of character strengths that included the typical tripartite classification of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual strengths together with spirituality emerging as a statistically autonomous factor. Spirituality was stable over time and contributed to higher subjective well-being and prosociality both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Discussion focuses on spirituality as a fundamental character strength and an important aspect of positive development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400865/

 

Improve the Symptoms of HIV Infection in Children with Yoga

Improve the Symptoms of HIV Infection in Children with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It’s about going deep under the waves—the hurricane that’s HIV—and finding a stillness. As debilitating and emotional as HIV is, yoga helps me transcend it so that I can rediscover myself. Then I remember I am not HIV; I am not the face of AIDS. I am me.” – River Huston

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. These include a significant number of children and adolescents. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20-year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Hence, living with HIV is a long-term reality for a very large group of people. People living with HIV infection experience a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms which decrease their perceived quality of life. The symptoms include chronic pain, muscle aches, anxiety, depression, weakness, fear/worries, difficulty with concentration, concerns regarding the need to interact with a complex healthcare system, stigma, and the challenge to come to terms with a new identity as someone living with HIV.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve psychological well-being, lower depression and strengthen the immune system of patients with HIV infection. Yoga practice has also been found to be effective in treating HIV. Most studies, however, focus on adult patients with HIV. There are, however, a large number of children and adolescents who are infected with HIV. Hence it makes sense to examine the ability of yoga training to treat HIV infection in children and adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yoga on Immune Parameters, Cognitive Functions, and Quality of Life among HIV-Positive Children/Adolescents: A Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521755/), Chandra and colleagues recruited children and adolescents (aged 8 to 18 years) who had HIV infection from a HIV/AIDS rehabilitation center. Treatment as usual was continued while they were provided with daily 1-hour yoga practice sessions for 6 months. They were measured before and after training for immune system function, health-related quality of life, fatigue-related quality of life, depression, and cognitive function.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline, yoga practice produced a significant decrease in in HIV viral load and a significant increase in plasma CD4 counts. There was also a significant increase in health-related quality of life, including the health and general activities, feelings, getting along with others, and about school subscales, and fatigue-related quality of life, including general fatigue (b) sleep fatigue, and (c) cognitive fatigue. After yoga practice the children and adolescents had significant improvements in cognitive function and increases in depression.

 

The observed effectiveness of yoga practice for the treatment of HIV infected children and adolescents, parallels that observed in prior studies with adults. These include reducing the presence of the virus in the blood, improvement of immune system function, quality of life, and mental abilities. This was a pilot study and did not have a control condition, so conclusions need to be tempered. The results, though are encouraging and should motivate conducting a large randomized controlled trial. Regardless, the results are very encouraging and suggest that yoga practice is beneficial for the health and well-being of youths infected with HIV.

 

So, improve the symptoms of HIV infection in children with yoga.

 

“Yoga is an ideal exercise for people with HIV. It not only helps build muscle and energy, but also reduces stress. . .  stress greatly increases the risk that HIV will progress to AIDS.” – Matt McMillen

 

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

 

Hari Chandra, B. P., Ramesh, M. N., & Nagendra, H. R. (2019). Effect of Yoga on Immune Parameters, Cognitive Functions, and Quality of Life among HIV-Positive Children/Adolescents: A Pilot Study. International journal of yoga, 12(2), 132–138. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_51_18

 

Abstract

Context:

HIV/AIDS individuals have problems relating to immune system, quality of life (QOL), and cognitive functions (CFs). Yoga is found to be useful in similar conditions. Hardly, any work is reported on yoga for HIV-positive adults/adolescents. Hence, this study is important.

Aim:

The aim of the study is to determine the effect of yoga on immune parameters, CFs, and QOL of HIV-positive children/adolescents.

Settings and Design:

Single-group, pre–post study with 4-month yoga intervention.

Methods:

The study had 18 children from an HIV/AIDS rehabilitation center for children/adolescents. CD4, CD8, CD4/CD8 ratio, and viral loads were studied. CF tests included six letter cancellation test, symbol digit modalities test, digit-span forward backward test, and Stroop tests. QOL was assessed using PedsQL-QOL and fatigue questionnaire. Depression was assessed using CDI2-SR.

Statistical Analysis Used:

t-test and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, as applicable.

Results:

The study included 18 children/adolescents. There was improvement in general health of the participants. There was statistically significant increase in CD4 cells counts (p = 0.039) and significant decrease in viral load (p = 0.041). CD4/CD8 ratio moved to normal range. QOL significantly improved. CFs had mixed results with improved psychomotor performance (PP) and reduced executive functions.

Conclusions:

There was improvement in general health and immune parameters. While depression increased, QOL improved. CFs showed mixed results with improved PP and reduced executive functions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521755/

 

Improve Adolescent Emotion Regulation and Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Adolescent Emotion Regulation and Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

But a growing body of evidence suggests that mindfulness practice could be beneficial to teens, helping them cultivate empathy, as well as skills for concentration and impulse control. In short, mindfulness can help adolescents navigate the challenges of adolescence.” – Sarah Rudell Beach

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

Mindfulness training in adults has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and perceived stress levels and improve emotional regulation. In addition, in adolescents it has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health. There is a need to explore the relationship between these effects of mindfulness training in adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Adolescents’ Mindfulness and Psychological Distress: The Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567674/), Ma and Fang recruited middle school students between the ages of 12-18 years and had them complete scales measuring mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, difficulties with emotion regulation, and emotion regulation.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and difficulties with emotion regulation, including all subscales; “lack of emotional clarity (Clarity), difficulty in engaging in goal-directed behavior under negative emotions (Goals), loss of control under negative emotions (Impulse), limited strategies for emotion regulation (Strategies), and non-acceptance of emotional responses (Non-acceptance).” Using a mediation model, they found that high levels of mindfulness were related to lower levels of anxiety, depression, and perceived stress directly and indirectly as a results of mindfulness’ negative relationship with difficulties with emotion regulation. In other words, mindfulness was directly related to lower levels of psychological distress and also indirectly by its relationship with lower levels of difficulties with emotion regulation which were in turn related to less psychological distress.

 

The study is correlational and as such causation cannot be concluded. But prior research has demonstrated that mindfulness causes reductions in anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and difficulties with emotional regulation. Hence, it would be reasonable to conclude that the present findings were also due to the effects of mindfulness on psychological health.

 

Adolescence is a time of strong emotions that the adolescents have not yet learned how to effectively regulate. This makes this period of life very difficult with high levels of emotional distress. The finding though indicate that mindfulness may be a way to mitigate the emotional upheavals of adolescence of improve the psychological health of the teens by improving their ability to deal with their emotions.

 

So, improve adolescent emotion regulation and mental health with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness teaches teenagers to recognize the downward spiral of thoughts before it gets out of hand, perhaps learning to label it as simply “worrying.” They can acknowledge the anxiety without getting caught up in it, without it leading to the rumination that ultimately ruins their mood.” – Sarah Rudell Beach

 

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

 

Ma, Y., & Fang, S. (2019). Adolescents’ Mindfulness and Psychological Distress: The Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1358. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01358

 

Abstract

Mindfulness has been widely linked with psychological well-being in general population. There are emerging studies supporting the relationship between adolescents’ mindfulness and their mental health. However, the mechanisms through which mindfulness may influence adolescents’ psychological distress have only recently been explored, and more related research is still needed. This study investigated the relationship between adolescents’ dispositional mindfulness and psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The mediating variables were also explored in perspective of two common emotion regulation theories, which were measured through Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ). DERS has been used as a comprehensive assessment of emotion regulation difficulties. ERQ is also widely accepted to measure the emotion regulation process including dimensions of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Measures assessing mindfulness, emotion regulation, and psychological distress were administered to 1067 adolescents in mainland China. The results confirmed that adolescents’ dispositional mindfulness was negatively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. DERS, especially the sub-dimensions of Acceptance and Strategies, significantly mediated the relationship between mindfulness and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Whereas, ERQ including subscales of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression exerted limited mediating effect. These findings provided insights for the potential underlying mechanism between adolescents’ mindfulness and psychological distress, demonstrating that DERS might be more pervasive than ERQ. Further research was suggested to explore other mediating variables underlying mindfulness and psychological distress among adolescents and develop mindfulness-based programs to improve adolescents’ mindfulness and emotion regulation ability.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567674/

 

Improve Children and Adolescents Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Children and Adolescents Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In the last few years mindfulness has emerged as a way of treating children and adolescents with conditions ranging from ADHD to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression and stress. And the benefits are proving to be tremendous.” – Julianne Garey

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This occurs almost without any intervention from the adults as the child appears to be programmed to learn. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual.

 

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

 

Mindfulness training for children and adolescents has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health of adolescents. Importantly, mindfulness training with children and adolescents appears to improve the self-conceptimproves attentional ability and reduces stress. The research findings and evidence are accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and review and summarize what has been learned regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness training for the cognitive growth and mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Research Review: The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on cognition and mental health in children and adolescents – a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6546608/), Dunning and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effects of mindfulness training on the cognitive ability, psychological health, and well-being of children and adolescents. They identified 33 published randomized controlled trials, 17 of which had active control conditions.

 

They found that over all published studies, mindfulness training resulted in improved cognition and executive function, with larger effects for older children and adolescents. Mindfulness training also produced significantly increased mindfulness and decreased negative behaviors, stress, anxiety and depression. increased mindfulness and decreased stress, anxiety and depression were still significant. But when mindfulness practices were compared to active control conditions cognitive improvements were no longer significant but there were still significant increases in mindfulness and decreases in stress, anxiety and depression.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness training produces significant improvements in the mental health of children and adolescents. The results, however, suggest that reported improvements in cognition and behavior may be due to placebo or experimenter bias effects as these same improvements occurred with active control conditions. The improvements in cognitive ability appears to be maximized in adolescents when high level executive functions are developing. The lack of significant effects in studies with active control conditions may have been due to the small number of studies, 7, that had active controls and studied cognition.

 

Regardless, the accumulated research suggests that training children and adolescents in mindfulness may help them navigate the difficult emotional challenges confronting them during development.

 

So, improve children and adolescents’ mental health with mindfulness.

 

“For children, mindfulness can offer relief from whatever difficulties they might be encountering in life. It also gives them the beauty of being in the present moment.” – Annaka Harris

 

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

 

Dunning, D. L., Griffiths, K., Kuyken, W., Crane, C., Foulkes, L., Parker, J., & Dalgleish, T. (2019). Research Review: The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on cognition and mental health in children and adolescents – a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 60(3), 244–258. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12980

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are an increasingly popular way of attempting to improve the behavioural, cognitive and mental health outcomes of children and adolescents, though there is a suggestion that enthusiasm has moved ahead of the evidence base. Most evaluations of MBIs are either uncontrolled or nonrandomized trials. This meta-analysis aims to establish the efficacy of MBIs for children and adolescents in studies that have adopted a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) design.

Methods

A systematic literature search of RCTs of MBIs was conducted up to October 2017. Thirty-three independent studies including 3,666 children and adolescents were included in random effects meta-analyses with outcome measures categorized into cognitive, behavioural and emotional factors. Separate random effects meta-analyses were completed for the seventeen studies (n = 1,762) that used an RCT design with an active control condition.

Results

Across all RCTs we found significant positive effects of MBIs, relative to controls, for the outcome categories of Mindfulness, Executive Functioning, Attention, Depression, Anxiety/Stress and Negative Behaviours, with small effect sizes (Cohen’s d), ranging from .16 to .30. However, when considering only those RCTs with active control groups, significant benefits of an MBI were restricted to the outcomes of Mindfulness (d = .42), Depression (d = .47) and Anxiety/Stress (d = .18) only.

Conclusions

This meta-analysis reinforces the efficacy of using MBIs for improving the mental health and wellbeing of youth as assessed using the gold standard RCT methodology. Future RCT evaluations should incorporate scaled-up definitive trial designs to further evaluate the robustness of MBIs in youth, with an embedded focus on mechanisms of action.

Key points

  • Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are a popular way of attempting to improve the mental and physical health outcomes of children and adolescents.
  • This is the first meta-analysis of MBIs with youth composed exclusively of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) including RCTs with active control groups – the gold standard in intervention studies.
  • When using the gold standard research design results showed that MBIs are useful in improving Depression and Anxiety outcomes, but not behavioural or cognitive outcomes,
  • The meta-analysis advocates the use of MBIs for improving mental health in young people.
  • Future RCT evaluations should incorporate scaled-up definitive trial designs to further evaluate the robustness of MBIs in youth, with an embedded focus on mechanisms of action.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6546608/

 

Increase Positive Emotions and Decrease Emotional Disturbance in Adolescents with Meditation

Increase Positive Emotions and Decrease Emotional Disturbance in Adolescents with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Adolescence is a time of change and growth. It is the period of life reserved for rebellion and self-discovery, but as the demands in life increase for teens, this time is often fraught with confusion, anxiety or depression. For many teens these challenges lead to disconnection and isolation.” – Making Friends with Yourself

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown in adolescents to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health. Since adolescent girls are more likely to have emotional issues than boys, it would seem reasonable to hypothesize that mindfulness would have greater psychological benefits for adolescent girls than for boys.

 

In today’s Research News article “Gender differences in response to a school-based mindfulness training intervention for early adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174072/), Kang and colleagues recruited male and female 6th grade students and randomly assigned them to receive a school-based, 6-week program, 4-5 times per week for, on average, 5 minutes per day of either guided meditations or brief lessons on African history. Before and after training the students were measured for global emotional disturbance, positive emotions, mindfulness, and self-compassion.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the active controls, the adolescents who meditated had significantly higher positive emotions and significantly lower global emotional disturbance. For males there were significant increases in positive emotions for both groups while for females there were significant increases in positive emotions only for the meditation group. A similar trend was present for global emotional disturbance. In addition, they found that for females the higher the levels of self-compassion the higher the levels of positive emotions and the lower the levels of global emotional disturbance. This was not true for males.

 

The results appear to show that meditation training is particularly effective in improving emotions in female but not male adolescents. But the difference was not in the meditation condition but rather in the control condition. Whereas the female controls did not show any improvement in emotions while the meditation group improved. For the males, both groups improved. So, both males and female adolescents had improved emotions following 6-weeks of meditation practice. Adolescents is a turbulent time with strong emotions. The present results suggest that providing meditation training in school may be helpful in controlling and leveling these emotions.

 

So, increase positive emotions and decrease emotional disturbance in adolescents with meditation.

 

“Adolescence is a developmental moment of peak stress, and a teen’s heightened self-consciousness (“Do I look weird? Did I just sound stupid in class?”) cranks up the volume of the inner critic. Self-compassion encourages mindfulness, or noticing your feelings without judgment; self-kindness, or talking to yourself in a soothing way; and common humanity, or thinking about how others might be suffering similarly.” – Rachel Simmons

 

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

 

Kang, Y., Rahrig, H., Eichel, K., Niles, H. F., Rocha, T., Lepp, N. E., … Britton, W. B. (2018). Gender differences in response to a school-based mindfulness training intervention for early adolescents. Journal of school psychology, 68, 163–176. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2018.03.004

 

Abstract

Mindfulness training has been used to improve emotional wellbeing in early adolescents. However, little is known about treatment outcome moderators, or individual differences that may differentially impact responses to treatment. The current study focused on gender as a potential moderator for affective outcomes in response to school-based mindfulness training. Sixth grade students (N = 100) were randomly assigned to either the six weeks of mindfulness meditation or the active control group as part of a history class curriculum. Participants in the mindfulness meditation group completed short mindfulness meditation sessions four to five times per week, in addition to didactic instruction (Asian history). The control group received matched experiential activity in addition to didactic instruction (African history) from the same teacher with no meditation component. Self-reported measures of emotional wellbeing/affect, mindfulness, and self-compassion were obtained at pre and post intervention. Meditators reported greater improvement in emotional wellbeing compared to those in the control group. Importantly, gender differences were detected, such that female meditators reported greater increases in positive affect compared to females in the control group, whereas male meditators and control males displayed equivalent gains. Uniquely among females but not males, increases in self-reported self-compassion were associated with improvements in affect. These findings support the efficacy of school-based mindfulness interventions, and interventions tailored to accommodate distinct developmental needs of female and male adolescents.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174072/

 

Produce Long-Term Improvements in Depression and Insulin Resistance in Adolescents with Mindfulness

Produce Long-Term Improvements in Depression and Insulin Resistance in Adolescents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“So like with so many topics related to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance can be avoided, and reversed, through living healthfully and mindfully.” – Defeat Diabetes Foundation

 

Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States and nearly 600 million people worldwide have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Type II Diabetes results from a resistance of tissues, especially fat tissues, to the ability of insulin to promote the uptake of glucose from the blood. As a result, blood sugar levels rise producing hyperglycemia. Diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes.

 

Type 2 diabetes is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. One of the reasons for the increasing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is its association with overweight and obesity which is becoming epidemic in the industrialized world. A leading cause of this is a sedentary life style. Unlike Type I Diabetes, Type II does not require insulin injections. Instead, the treatment and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes focuses on diet, exercise, and weight control. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to be helpful in managing diabetes. This suggests that mindfulness training may be able to reduce insulin resistance in adolescents at risk for Type II diabetes.

 

In today’s Research News article “One-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Trial Piloting a Mindfulness-Based Group Intervention for Adolescent Insulin Resistance.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01040/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_990182_69_Psycho_20190516_arts_A), Shomaker and colleagues recruited overweight and obese adolescent girls (12-17 years of age) with a family history of Type II Diabetes. They were randomly assigned to receive a 6-week program of either a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) or a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) depression prevention. They were measured before and after the interventions and 1-year later for mindfulness, insulin resistance, depression, body size, and body fat.

 

They found that 1 year after the interventions only the mindfulness group had significant improvement in insulin resistance. Although both groups had significant decreases in depression, the mindfulness group had significantly greater decreases than the CBT group. These findings are consistent with prior findings by this research group. But these results demonstrate that the effectiveness of mindfulness training is lasting. This suggests that mindfulness training should be recommended for adolescent girls who are overweight and obese and with a family history of Type II Diabetes. This may prevent the onset of type II diabetes in this at-risk group.

 

So, produce long-term improvements in depression and insulin resistance in adolescents with mindfulness.

 

Research shows that meditation actually helps the body regulate blood sugar by using insulin more efficiently. The stress hormone cortisol is a major contributor to insulin resistance, and meditation leads to lower cortisol levels, which in turn allows insulin to do its job properly.” – Avi Craimer

 

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

 

Shomaker LB, Pivarunas B, Annameier SK, Gulley L, Quaglia J, Brown KW, Broderick P and Bell C (2019) One-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Trial Piloting a Mindfulness-Based Group Intervention for Adolescent Insulin Resistance. Front. Psychol. 10:1040. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01040

 

Introduction: To explore if a brief mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) leads to sustained, improved clinical outcomes in adolescents at-risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Methods: Participants were 12–17y girls with overweight/obesity, elevated depression symptoms, and T2D family history participating in a randomized, controlled pilot trial of a six-session MBI vs. cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) group. At baseline and 1-year, mindfulness, depression, insulin resistance (IR), and body composition were assessed with validated instruments.

Results: One-year retention was 71% (n = 12) in MBI; 81% (n = 13) in CBT. At 1-year, depression decreased (Cohen’s d = 0.68) and IR decreased (d = 0.73) in adolescents randomized to MBI compared to those in CBT. There were no significant between-condition differences in mindfulness, adiposity, or BMI.

Discussion: One-year outcomes from this randomized, controlled pilot trial suggest that brief MBI may reduce depression and IR in at-risk adolescents. Replication and exploration of mechanisms within the context of a larger clinical trial are necessary.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01040/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_990182_69_Psycho_20190516_arts_A

 

Reduce Stress and Enhance Academic Buoyancy in Adolescents with Online Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Reduce Stress and Enhance Academic Buoyancy in Adolescents with Online Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In the last few years mindfulness has emerged as a way of treating children and adolescents with conditions ranging from ADHD to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression and stress. And the benefits are proving to be tremendous.” – Julianne Garey

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

Mindfulness training in adults has been shown in adolescents to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health. A therapeutic technique that contains mindfulness training is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy technique that is employs many of the techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). ACT focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes.

 

The original form of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), however, required a certified trained therapist. This resulted in costs that many clients couldn’t afford. In addition, the participants had to be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that were not always compatible with busy schedules and at locations that were not always convenient. As an alternative, mindfulness-based treatments delivered over the internet have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of ACT for adolescents when delivered over the internet.

 

In today’s Research News article “Reducing Stress and Enhancing Academic Buoyancy among Adolescents Using a Brief Web-based Program Based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6394525/ ), Puolakanaho and colleagues recruited adolescents in the 9th grade and randomly assigned them to receive a 5-week online program of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) or to a no-treatment control condition. They were measured before and after the program for academic skills, reading fluency, math skills, stress, school stress, and academic buoyancy. Academic buoyancy “refers to a student’s capacity to overcome everyday academic life setbacks and challenges successfully.”

 

They found that 76% of the participants completed the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) program. They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment controls that ACT produced a significant reduction in overall stress levels and a significant increase in academic buoyancy. These findings suggest that ACT can be taught online to adolescents and successfully promote their ability to withstand the stress of adolescence and to promote their ability to overcome the challenges of school.

 

So, reduce stress and enhance academic buoyancy in adolescents with online acceptance and commitment therapy.

 

mindfulness is uniquely able to help adolescents navigate this time of growing autonomy, more complicated life challenges and heightened reactivity to stressors in their lives.” – Karen Pace

 

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

 

Puolakanaho, A., Lappalainen, R., Lappalainen, P., Muotka, J. S., Hirvonen, R., Eklund, K. M., Ahonen, T., … Kiuru, N. (2018). Reducing Stress and Enhancing Academic Buoyancy among Adolescents Using a Brief Web-based Program Based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of youth and adolescence, 48(2), 287-305.

 

Abstract

Acceptance and commitment therapy programs have rarely been used as preventive tools for alleviating stress and enhancing coping skills among adolescents. This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy of a novel Finnish web- and mobile-delivered five-week intervention program called Youth COMPASS among a general sample of ninth-grade adolescents (n= 249, 49% females). The intervention group showed a small but significant decrease in overall stress (between-group Cohen’s d = 0.22) and an increase in academic buoyancy (d= 0.27). Academic skills did not influence the intervention gains, but the intervention gains were largest among high-stressed participants. The results suggest that the acceptance and commitment based Youth COMPASS program may be well suited for promoting adolescents’ well-being in the school context.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6394525/

 

Promote Well-Being in Adolescents with Spirituality

Promote Well-Being in Adolescents with Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Call it faith. Call it spirituality. Call it zealotry. Our consciousness creates the reality that reflects it. If we feel apart, other, afraid, and deadened, we will live in a world that reflects and perpetuates these energies.” – Kelly Brogan

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. ”Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

It makes sense, then, to investigate the influence of spirituality on the ability of youths to navigate this difficult time and develop positive qualities and better mental health. In today’s Research News article “A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A ), Kor and colleagues recruited adolescents aged 13 to 17 years and had them complete scales at baseline and 3 and 14 months later measuring character strength, optimism, spirituality, religiosity, transcendence, devotion, positive and negative emotions, life satisfaction, and prosociality.

 

They found that spirituality in adolescents was composed of spirituality, religiosity, transcendence, and devotion and was relatively stable over the 14-month measurement period. They found that the higher the levels of spirituality, the greater the levels of character strength, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and prosocial behaviors over all three measurement time points.

 

These findings are interesting but correlational. So, conclusions regarding causation cannot be reached. But the findings suggest that, surprisingly, spirituality does not fluctuate greatly over time in adolescents. They also suggest that spirituality is associated with a relatively satisfying and happy life that is engaged positively with other people. Hence, spirituality would appear to be a positive factor that is helpful to youths in maintaining well-being over the turbulent time of adolescence.

 

So, promote well-being in adolescents with spirituality.

 

“Both religion and spirituality can have a positive impact on mental health. In some ways, they provide the same impact. For example: Both religion and spirituality can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose and forgiveness.” – Laura Greenstein

 

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

 

Kor A, Pirutinsky S, Mikulincer M, Shoshani A and Miller L (2019) A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents. Front. Psychol. 10:377. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377

 

Using data from 1,352 middle-school Israeli adolescents, the current study examines the interface of spirituality and character strengths and its longitudinal contribution to subjective well-being and prosociality. Participants were approached three times over a 14-months period and completed measures of character strengths, spirituality, subjective well-being (positive emotions, life satisfaction), and prosociality. Findings revealed a fourth-factor structure of character strengths that included the typical tripartite classification of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual strengths together with spirituality emerging as a statistically autonomous factor. Spirituality was stable over time and contributed to higher subjective well-being and prosociality both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Discussion focuses on spirituality as a fundamental character strength and an important aspect of positive development.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Changing Neural Connectivity in Children and Adolescents

Mindfulness is Associated with Changing Neural Connectivity in Children and Adolescents

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation training increases resting state connectivity between top-down executive control regions, highlighting an important mechanism through which it reduces stress levels.” Daniel Reed

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It even improves high level thinking known as executive function. Its positive effects are so widespread that it is difficult to find any other treatment of any kind with such broad beneficial effects on everything from thinking to mood and happiness to severe mental and physical illnesses. This raises the question of how mindfulness training could produce such widespread and varied benefits. One possibility is that mindfulness practice results in beneficial changes in the nervous system.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The brains of children and adolescents are different from fully mature adult brains. They are dynamically growing and changing. It is unclear how mindfulness affects their maturing brains. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and dynamic functional neural connectivity in children and adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610942/ ), Marusak and colleagues examined the relationship of mindfulness with brain activity in the maturing brain. They recruited children and adolescents aged 7 to 17 years and measured them for mindfulness, anxiety, and depression.

 

The children and adolescents then had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Imaging (fMRI). The scans were evaluated for static connectivity, the relatively permanent connections between brain areas, and dynamic connectivity, the changing connections between areas. They looked specifically at 3 systems in the brain, the central executive network, associated with higher level thinking and attention, the salience and emotion network, associate with the importance of stimuli, and the default mode network, associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking.

 

They found that mindfulness was associated with better mental health of the children and adolescents with high levels of mindfulness significantly associated with low levels of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness was also significantly associated with the amount of present-moment oriented thinking occurring during the brain scan session. Mindfulness was not associated with static connectivity within the children’s and adolescents’ brains.

 

With dynamic connectivity on the other hand, they found that mindfulness was associated with greater numbers of transitions between connectivity states. That is, the higher the levels of mindfulness the greater the number of times the connectivity pattern in the brain changed from one set of connections to another. Finally, they also found that the numbers of transitions between connectivity states mediated the association of mindfulness with lower anxiety, such that mindfulness was associated with lower anxiety both with a direct association of mindfulness with lower anxiety and indirectly by higher mindfulness being associated with greater dynamic connectivity which was in turn associated with lower anxiety.

 

The results suggest that mindfulness is associated with greater brain flexibility in transitioning from different states and this may allow for less anxiety. This suggests that mindfulness allows for greater ability to see things and evaluate what is occurring in different ways and this helps the youths to better appreciate what is happening and thereby lower anxiety. These are incredibly interesting findings that begin to reveal the neural dynamics occurring in children and adolescents that underlie the ability of mindfulness to improve mental health. Mindfulness isn’t associated with different brain connectivity structures in the brains but rather with different abilities to switch around in real time between systems and this improves mental health.

 

“Just 11 hours of learning a meditation technique induce positive structural changes in brain connectivity by boosting efficiency in a part of the brain that helps a person regulate behavior in accordance with their goals.” – University of Oregon

 

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

 

Marusak, H. A., Elrahal, F., Peters, C. A., Kundu, P., Lombardo, M. V., Calhoun, V. D., Goldberg, E. K., Cohen, C., Taub, J. W., … Rabinak, C. A. (2017). Mindfulness and dynamic functional neural connectivity in children and adolescents. Behavioural brain research, 336, 211-218.

 

Abstract

Background

Interventions that promote mindfulness consistently show salutary effects on cognition and emotional wellbeing in adults, and more recently, in children and adolescents. However, we lack understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying mindfulness in youth that should allow for more judicious application of these interventions in clinical and educational settings.

Methods

Using multi-echo multi-band fMRI, we examined dynamic (i.e., time-varying) and conventional static resting-state connectivity between core neurocognitive networks (i.e., salience/emotion, default mode, central executive) in 42 children and adolescents (ages 6–17).

Results

We found that trait mindfulness in youth relates to dynamic but not static resting-state connectivity. Specifically, more mindful youth transitioned more between brain states over the course of the scan, spent overall less time in a certain connectivity state, and showed a state-specific reduction in connectivity between salience/emotion and central executive networks. The number of state transitions mediated the link between higher mindfulness and lower anxiety, providing new insights into potential neural mechanisms underlying benefits of mindfulness on psychological health in youth.

Conclusions

Our results provide new evidence that mindfulness in youth relates to functional neural dynamics and interactions between neurocognitive networks, over time.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610942/