Mind-Body Skills Training Improves College Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Mind-Body Skills Training Improves College Student Mental Health and Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

By focusing on and controlling our breath, we can change how we think and feel. We can use the breath as a means of changing our emotional state and managing stress.” —Tommy Rosen

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that Mind-body practices have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

There is a lot of pressure on college students to excel. 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. Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. Indeed, these practices have been found to improve psychological health in college students. So, it would be expected that training in mind-body practices would improve the psychological health of college students.

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of a University-Wide Interdisciplinary Mind-Body Skills Program on Student Mental and Emotional Well-Being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7686595/ ) Novak and colleagues recruited college students who were enrolled to take a mind-body skills program and an equivalent group of control college students. The program consisted of 9-weeks of once a week for 2 hours training and discussion of “mindfulness, guided imagery, autogenic training, biofeedback, and breathing techniques, as well as art, music, and movement practices” in groups of 10. The students were instructed to practice daily at home for 20 minutes. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, resilience, depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, mindfulness, interpersonal reactivity, and burnout. Subsets of each group were remeasured one year after the completion of the study. There were no significant differences in these measures between the groups at baseline.

 

They found that in comparison to the baseline and the control group, the students who received mind-body skills training had significant decreases in perceived stress, negative affect, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and burnout and significant increases in positive emotions, resilience, mindfulness, empathic concern, and perspective taking. In addition, the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of perceived stress, negative emotions and depersonalization and the higher the levels of positive emotions, resilience, and perspective taking. Unfortunately, these improvements, except for mindfulness, disappeared by the one year follow up.

 

The present study did not have an active control condition. So, it is possible that confounding factors such as participant expectancy, experimenter bias, attention effects etc. may have been responsible for the results. But in prior controlled research it has been demonstrated that mindfulness training produces decreases in perceived stress, negative emotions, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and burnout and significant increases in positive emotions, resilience, and empathic concern. So, it is likely that the benefits observed in the present study were due to the mind-body skills training.

 

These results then suggest that mind-body skills training produces marked improvements in the psychological health and well-being of college students. But the improvements were not lasting. This may signal the need for better training protocols or periodic booster session to maintain the benefits. Given the great academic stress, pressure, and social stresses of college life, the students were much better off for taking the mind-body skills training program. It was not measured but these benefits would predict increased academic performance and improved well-being in these students.

 

So, mind-body skills training improves college student mental health and well-being.

 

mind/body approaches to healing and wellness are gaining in popularity in the U.S. and research supports their efficacy in treating a number of psychological and physical health issues that are not easily treated by mainstream medicine.” – Doug Guiffrida

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Novak, B. K., Gebhardt, A., Pallerla, H., McDonald, S. B., Haramati, A., & Cotton, S. (2020). Impact of a University-Wide Interdisciplinary Mind-Body Skills Program on Student Mental and Emotional Well-Being. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 9, 2164956120973983. https://doi.org/10.1177/2164956120973983

 

Abstract

Background

Positive effects of mind-body skills programs on participant well-being have been reported in health professions students. The success seen with medical students at this university led to great interest in expanding the mind-body skills program so students in other disciplines could benefit from the program.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of a 9-week mind-body skills program on the mental and emotional well-being of multidisciplinary students compared to controls. We also sought to determine if the program’s effects were sustained at 1-year follow-up.

Methods

A cross-sectional pre-post survey was administered online via SurveyMonkey to participants of a 9-week mind-body skills program and a control group of students from 7 colleges at a public university from 2017–2019. Students were assessed on validated measures of stress, positive/negative affect, resilience, depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, mindfulness, empathy, and burnout. Scores were analyzed between-groups and within-groups using bivariate and multivariate analyses. A 1-year follow-up was completed on a subset of participants and controls.

Results

279 participants and 247 controls completed the pre-survey and post-survey (79% response rate; 71% female, 68% white, mean age = 25 years). Participants showed significant decreases in stress, negative affect, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and burnout, while positive affect, resilience, mindfulness, and empathy increased significantly (P < .05). Only sleep disturbance showed a significant decrease in the control group. Follow-up in a subset of participants showed that only mindfulness remained elevated at 1-year (P < .05), whereas the significant changes in other well-being measures were not sustained.

Conclusion

Participation in a 9-week mind-body skills program led to significant improvement in indicators of well-being in multidisciplinary students. A pilot 1-year follow-up suggests that effects are only sustained for mindfulness, but not other parameters. Future programming should focus on implementing mind-body skills booster sessions to help sustain the well-being benefits.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7686595/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Non-Judging and Positive Emotions which Improve Emotional Health

Mindfulness is Associated with Non-Judging and Positive Emotions which Improve Emotional Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Almost any approach for cultivating care for others needs to start with paying attention. The beginning of cultivating compassion and concern, or doing something for the benefit of others, is first noticing what something or someone means to you.” – Erika Rosenberg

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. One way that mindfulness may be producing its benefits is by improving emotion regulation so that mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. This then improves mental health.

 

Mindfulness, though, is not a unitary concept. It has been segregated into five facets; observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judgement, and non-reactivity. People differ and an individual can be high or low on any of these facets and any combination of facets. It is not known what pattern of mindfulness facets are most predictive of good mental health. So, it is important to investigate the interrelationships of mindfulness, compassion, and emotions with negative states such as of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Network Analysis of Mindfulness Facets, Affect, Compassion, and Distress.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7689647/ ) Medvedev and colleagues recruited college students and also mailed questionnaires to the general population (response rate 12%). They had them complete measures of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, compassion, and mindfulness, including observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judgement, and non-reactivity facets. These data were subjected to a network analysis.

 

They found two major clusters of variables. The maladaptive factors of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions were highly associated and strongly clustered into a tight node. The adaptive factors of positive emotions, compassion, and mindfulness, including observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judgement, and non-reactivity facets were also clustered but not as tightly into a second node. Examining which variables were the primary bridge between the two nodes revealed that the mindfulness facet of non-judging of internal experience and positive emotions were by far the strongest negative bridges. Compassion was associated with the maladaptive node by a strong connection with positive emotions that were negatively associated with the maladaptive node.

 

These results are correlative and as such caution must be exercised in reaching causal connections. But mindfulness and its facets have been shown in previous research to reduce anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions. So, the associations observed in the present study likely represent causal connections. Nonetheless, the present findings suggest that mindfulness and compassion work to reduce maladaptive emotions through non-judging of internal experience and positive emotions. That is, they increase these bridging factors and thereby reduce the maladaptive emotions.

 

Non-judging of internal experience involves taking a neutral attitude toward one’s own experience. Accepting one’s internal experiences appears to be the key to reducing anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions. In other words, if a thought arises that predicts a future negative event it does not evoke anxiety or depression if that thought is not judged, just allowed to happen. The adaptive characteristics also appear to improve one’s emotional state producing greater positive feelings. This also appears to be an antidote to negative feelings. So, mindfulness and compassion increase positive emotions that act to counteract negative feelings.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with non-judging and positive emotions which improve emotional health.

 

The beauty of self-compassion is that instead of replacing negative feelings with positive ones, new positive emotions are generated by embracing the negative ones. The positive emotions of care and connectedness are felt alongside our painful feelings. When we have compassion for ourselves, sunshine and shadow are experienced simultaneously.” – Kristin Neff

 

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

 

Medvedev, O. N., Cervin, M., Barcaccia, B., Siegert, R. J., Roemer, A., & Krägeloh, C. U. (2020). Network Analysis of Mindfulness Facets, Affect, Compassion, and Distress. Mindfulness, 1–12. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01555-8

 

Abstract

Objectives

Mindfulness, positive affect, and compassion may protect against psychological distress but there is lack of understanding about the ways in which these factors are linked to mental health. Network analysis is a statistical method used to investigate complex associations among constructs in a single network and is particularly suitable for this purpose. The aim of this study was to explore how mindfulness facets, affect, and compassion were linked to psychological distress using network analysis.

Methods

The sample (n = 400) included equal numbers from general and student populations who completed measures of five mindfulness facets, compassion, positive and negative affect, depression, anxiety, and stress. Network analysis was used to explore the direct associations between these variables.

Results

Compassion was directly related to positive affect, which in turn was strongly and inversely related to depression and positively related to the observing and describing facets of mindfulness. The non-judgment facet of mindfulness was strongly and inversely related to negative affect, anxiety, and depression, while non-reactivity and acting with awareness were inversely associated with stress and anxiety, respectively. Strong associations were found between all distress variables.

Conclusions

The present network analysis highlights the strong link between compassion and positive affect and suggests that observing and describing the world through the lens of compassion may enhance resilience to depression. Taking a non-judging and non-reacting stance toward internal experience while acting with awareness may protect against psychological distress. Applicability of these findings can be examined in experimental studies aiming to prevent distress and enhance psychological well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7689647/

 

Mindfulness is Related to Improved Psychological Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Mindfulness is Related to Improved Psychological Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“During the current pandemic, there is so much uncertainty concerning the future, and many threats to our security (physical, social, emotional, and financial). It is totally natural and normal to feel anxious, fearful, and frustrated. . . Mindfulness can help us acknowledge this situation, without allowing us to be carried away with strong emotions; it can, in turn, help bring ourselves back to a centered calm. Only then can we see more clearly what it is we have control over and what it is that we do not.” – Michigan Medicine

 

Modern living is stressful under the best of conditions. But with the Covid-19 pandemic the levels of stress have been markedly increased. These conditions markedly increase anxiety. This is true for everyone but especially for healthcare workers and people caring for patients with COVID-19 and for people with pre-existing conditions that makes them particularly vulnerable. But it is also true for healthy individuals who worry about infection for themselves or loved ones.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also produced considerable economic stress, with loss of employment and steady income. For the poor this extends to high levels of food insecurity. This not only produces anxiety about the present but also for the future. It is important for people to engage in practices that can help them control their responses to the stress and their levels of anxiety. Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress, reduce anxiety levels, and improve mood. But there is a need to investigate the relationships of mindfulness to psychological health in relation to knowledge concerning Covid-19.

 

In today’s Research News article “Knowledge of COVID-19 and Its Influence on Mindfulness, Cognitive Emotion Regulation and Psychological Flexibility in the Indian Community.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.589365/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1490157_69_Psycho_20201124_arts_A ) Dubey and colleagues recruited adults in India during the Covid-19 lockdown. They were measured online for their knowledge and awareness of Covid-19, depression, anxiety, perceived stress, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and acceptance of private experiences or experiential avoidance.

 

They found that the greater the amount of knowledge of Covid-19 the lower the levels of perceived stress, anxiety, catastrophizing, and depression and the higher the levels of mindfulness and psychological flexibility. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the higher the levels of knowledge of Covid-19 and psychological flexibility and the lower the levels of perceived stress, anxiety, catastrophizing, and depression.

 

These findings are correlational and thus caution must be exercised in concluding causation. But in previous research it has been shown that mindfulness produces better emotion regulation by increasing psychological flexibility and by lowering the levels of psychological distress by lowering the levels of perceived stress, anxiety, catastrophizing, and depression. So, the relationships seen here are likely caused by mindfulness.

 

It is interesting that knowledge and awareness of Covid-19 appears to be crucial in dealing with its psychological impact on the individual. Higher levels of knowledge appear to mitigate the negative emotional effects of the pandemic, perhaps by improving the ability to be cognitively flexible in coping with it. When it comes to the pandemic ignorance is not bliss, rather it evokes grater psychological distress.

 

The Covid-19 lockdown was obviously a time of great fear and anxiety, not only for the individual’s physical health but also for their economic stability. Being able to deal with the negative emotions produced is essential not only for the individual’ mental health but also for evoking constructive and adaptive responses. Mindfulness and knowledge of the pandemic appear to be important for doing just that.

 

So, mindfulness is related to improved psychological health during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

 

These are trying times, but incorporating mindful practices into your daily routine can help calm anxiety and build healthy coping skills.” – Rae Jacobson

 

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

 

Dubey N, Podder P and Pandey D (2020) Knowledge of COVID-19 and Its Influence on Mindfulness, Cognitive Emotion Regulation and Psychological Flexibility in the Indian Community. Front. Psychol. 11:589365. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.589365

 

ABSTRACT

The current global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has brought about an immense effect on the mental health of the general public. Considering the escalation in number of cases, mankind is facing a myriad of psychological problems, ranging from those related to taking precautions and maintaining safety to the ones caused by separation and bereavement. The current study aims to explore whether there is a significant difference between individuals with excellent, good, fair and vague knowledge of COVID-19 with respect to depression, anxiety, stress, level of mindfulness, specific cognitive emotion regulation strategies and psychological flexibility; to find out whether there is any significant relationship among these variables; and to determine whether knowledge of COVID-19, level of mindfulness, specific cognitive emotion regulation strategies and psychological flexibility are significant predictors of depression, anxiety and stress in the sample of the current study. The sample consisted of 402 individuals selected from the community following the research criteria. Data was collected using digital consent form, information schedule and questionnaires, from 3rd May to 13th May, 2020. The questionnaires consisted of a semi-structured interview schedule to assess knowledge of COVID-19, Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale – 21, Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire-Short Form, Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire-Short version and Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II. The data was statistically analyzed using analysis of variance test, correlational analysis and linear regression. The findings show that significant differences were present among individuals having varying degrees of knowledge of COVID-19 with respect to anxiety, level of mindfulness and psychological flexibility. Significant relationships were found to be present among the variables of the present study, having differing trends brought forward by the COVID-19 crisis. Certain socio-demographic characteristics and study variables were found to significantly predict the existing levels of depression, anxiety and stress in the current sample. The study suggests the necessity to formulate and implement appropriate mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions to address the mental health concerns arising as a result of the pandemic.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.589365/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1490157_69_Psycho_20201124_arts_A

 

Reduce Stress and Improve Mood in Healthcare Workers with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress and Improve Mood in Healthcare Workers with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness training among healthcare providers is advocated for the improvement of quality of care as well as a means to mitigate work-related stress and burnout. . . Given the potential for mindfulness to promote health and enrich the practice of medicine, its increased utilization among patients, physicians, and the population at large is encouraged.” – Matias P. Raski

 

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

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of a Brief Mindfulness-Based Program on Stress in Health Care Professionals at a US Biomedical Research Hospital: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7448827/ ) Ameli and colleagues recruited healthy adult health care professionals and randomly assigned them to a life as usual, no treatment, condition or to receive a brief course in mindfulness during work hours. The Mindfulness-Based Self-Care program met once a week for 1.5 hours for 5 weeks. The program provided training and discussion of mindful breathing, body scan, mindful walking, mindful movements, mindful eating, and loving-kindness meditation. In addition, participants practiced daily at home. They were measured before and after training and 8 weeks later for perceived stress, anxiety, burnout, positive and negative emotions, mindfulness, and mindful self-care.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the life as usual control group at the end of training the mindfulness group had significantly lower levels of perceived stress and anxiety and significantly higher levels of mindfulness, positive emotions, and mindful self-care. At the 8-week follow-up, the mindfulness groups had maintained their significant improvements in perceived stress, anxiety and mindfulness, but not positive emotions, and mindful self-care.

 

The study did not have an active control condition. So, the results must be interpreted with caution. But they are very similar to the results of a large number of prior studies that mindfulness training reduces perceived stress and anxiety, and increases positive emotions. The fading of the benefits in positive emotions and mindful self-care over the 8-week follow-up period suggests that periodic refresher mindfulness training may be needed to maintain benefits.

 

The present study demonstrated that these benefits can be achieved with a brief mindfulness training conducted in the workplace of health care professionals. Since, stress, time constraints, and burnout are commonplace in this group, being able to conveniently deliver effective mindfulness training briefly at work maximizes the utility of mindfulness training for healthcare professionals and increases the likelihood that they will participate and complete training.

 

So, reduce stress and improve mood in healthcare workers with mindfulness.

 

“Levels of stress and burnout in the healthcare profession have been exacerbated in recent decades . . . mindfulness training. . . can have significant positive impacts on participants’ job satisfaction, their relationships with patients, co-workers and administration, and their focus and creativity at work.” – Jason Green

 

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

 

Ameli, R., Sinaii, N., West, C. P., Luna, M. J., Panahi, S., Zoosman, M., Rusch, H. L., & Berger, A. (2020). Effect of a Brief Mindfulness-Based Program on Stress in Health Care Professionals at a US Biomedical Research Hospital: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA network open, 3(8), e2013424. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.13424

 

Key Points

Question

Is a brief mindfulness-based program effective and feasible in reducing stress among health care professionals during work hours?

Findings

In this randomized clinical trial including 78 participants randomized to a 5-session (7.5-hour total) mindfulness program or a life-as-usual control, participants in the mindfulness program reported reduced stress and anxiety compared with life-as-usual controls at the end of the intervention.

Meaning

This randomized clinical trial found that this brief mindfulness intervention was an effective way of reducing stress in a health care setting.

Question

Is a brief mindfulness-based program effective and feasible in reducing stress among health care professionals during work hours?

Findings

In this randomized clinical trial including 78 participants randomized to a 5-session (7.5-hour total) mindfulness program or a life-as-usual control, participants in the mindfulness program reported reduced stress and anxiety compared with life-as-usual controls at the end of the intervention.

Meaning

This randomized clinical trial found that this brief mindfulness intervention was an effective way of reducing stress in a health care setting.

Abstract

Importance

Stress among health care professionals is well documented. The use of mindfulness-based interventions to reduce stress has shown promising results; however, the time commitment of typical programs can be a barrier to successful implementation in health care settings.

Objective

To determine the efficacy and feasibility of a brief mindfulness-based program to reduce stress during work hours among health care professionals.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This intent-to-treat randomized clinical trial was conducted among full-time health care professionals at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, between September 2017 and May 2018. Participants were randomized to receive mindfulness-based self-care (MBSC) training or life-as-usual control. Data were analyzed from June 2018 to January 2020.

Interventions

The MBSC intervention included 5 weekly, 1.5-hour in-class mindfulness practice sessions.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Stress level was the primary outcome, assessed with the Perceived Stress Scale 10-Item version. Secondary outcomes included anxiety, burnout, positive and negative affect, mindfulness (trait and state), and self-care. Assessments were taken at baseline and at the end of the intervention (week 5) in the intervention and control groups, and at follow-up (week 13) in the intervention group to test for a maintenance effect. A postprogram evaluation was also obtained.

Results

Of 82 randomized participants, 78 who completed the study at week 5 were included in the modified intent-to-treat analysis (median [interquartile range] age, 32 [23-48] years; 65 [83%] women), including 43 participants in the MBSC group and 35 participants in the control group. At the end of the intervention, compared with the control group, the MBSC group had reduced levels of stress (mean [SD] score, 17.29 [5.84] vs 18.54 [6.30]; P = .02) and anxiety (mean [SD] score, 2.58 [1.52] vs 4.23 [1.73]; P < .001), and improved positive affect (mean [SD] score, 35.69 [7.12] vs 31.42 [7.27]; P < .001), state mindfulness (mean [SD] score, 3.74 [1.18] vs 2.78 [1.16]; P < .001), and mindful self-care (mean [SD] score, 7.29 [2.44] vs 5.54 [2.77]; P < .001). Burnout, negative affect, and trait mindfulness levels did not differ between groups. Changes within the MBSC group through follow-up included sustained reductions in stress (change, –6.14; 95% CI, –7.84 to –4.44; P < .001), anxiety (change, –1.46; 95% CI, –1.97 to –0.94; P < .001), trait mindfulness (change, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.36 to 0.90; P < .001), and state mindfulness (change, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.39 to 2.39; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance

This randomized clinical trial found that this brief mindfulness-based intervention was an effective and feasible means to reduce stress in health care professionals. Larger studies are needed to assess the effects on clinical care and patient outcomes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7448827/Importance

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers

Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness—the ability to stay focused on one’s present experience with nonjudgmental awareness—can help us to promote the calm, relaxed, but enlivened classroom environment that children need to learn. Mindfulness can also help us to be more effective at reducing conflict and developing more positive ways of relating in the classroom, which can help us feel more job satisfaction.” – Patricia Jennings

 

Stress is epidemic in the workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This often produces burnout; fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and professional inefficacy. In a school setting, this burnout and exhaustion not only affects teachers and administrators personally, but also the students and schools, as it produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion.

 

Hence, there is a need to identify methods of reducing stress and improving teachers’ psychological health. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to be helpful in reducing the psychological and physiological responses to stress and for treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments. But the effects of mindfulness on kindergarten teachers has not been explored.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers: The Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7664406/ ) Cheng and colleagues recruited kindergarten teachers in China and had them complete measures of mindfulness in teaching, emotional intelligence, perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. These data were then subjected to regression and mediation analyses.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness in the teachers the higher the levels of emotional intelligence including self-emotional appraisal, others-emotional appraisal, use of emotion, and regulation of emotion. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and perceived stress. In addition, the higher the levels of emotional intelligence, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and perceived stress.

 

They performed a mediation analysis on the data and found that the association of mindfulness with psychological distress was both direct and indirect via emotional intelligence. That is mindfulness was not only associated directly with lower levels of psychological distress but also indirectly by being associated with higher levels of emotional intelligence which, in turn, was associated with lower levels of psychological distress. Further mediation analyses revealed that regulation of emotion was the aspect of emotional intelligence that was responsible for the mediation.

 

It should be kept in mind that these results are correlational and causation cannot be definitively concluded. But, it has been established in previous research the mindfulness training produces increased emotional intelligence and decreased levels of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and perceived stress. So, the present results likely represent causal effects. Hence, it appears that mindfulness in teaching improves the psychological and emotional well-being of kindergartner teachers. This should not only make the teachers more effective in the classroom but also reduce the likelihood of teacher burnout.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with reduced psychological distress in kindergarten teachers.

 

Practicing mindfulness in your own life can organically lead to integrating it into your classes in a variety of ways, whether by inviting students to take two feet one breath or by beginning class with a moment of mindful breathing.” – Alison Cohen

 

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

 

Cheng, X., Ma, Y., Li, J., Cai, Y., Li, L., & Zhang, J. (2020). Mindfulness and Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers: The Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(21), 8212. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218212

 

Abstract

Kindergarten teachers are often exposed to great stress. Considering that, mindfulness has been demonstrated to act as a critical role in the psychological well-being of kindergarten teachers. The present study assessed mindfulness in teaching (MT), psychological distress and emotional intelligence (EI) among 511 kindergarten teachers in mainland China and investigated the mediating role of EI to explore the association mechanism between kindergarten teachers’ MT and psychological distress. The major results suggested that kindergarten teachers’ MT was negatively related to their psychological distress (depression, anxiety, and stress). Results of path analyses indicated that the total score of EI and dimension of regulation of emotion (ROE) could serve as significant mediators. The findings suggest that mindfulness might be beneficial to relieve kindergarten teachers’ psychological distress through the mediating role of EI.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7664406/

 

Improve Perinatal Mental Health with Prenatal Mindfulness Training

Improve Perinatal Mental Health with Prenatal Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

In addition to support, therapy, and medication, the ideal treatment plan for perinatal depression and anxiety often includes mindfulness techniques.” – Edith Gettes

 

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

 

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

 

The birth of a child is most often a joyous occasion. But often the joy turns to misery. Immediately after birth it is common for the mother to experience mood swings including what has been termed “baby blues,” a sadness that may last for as much as a couple of weeks. But some women experience a more intense and long-lasting negative mood called postpartum depression. This occurs usually 4-6 weeks after birth in about 15% of births; about 600,000 women in the U.S. every year. For 50% of the women the depression lasts for about a year while about 30% are still depressed 3 years later. It is not known if the effectiveness of mindfulness training during the perinatal period carries over to the postpartum period. So, it would make sense to study the effectiveness of mindfulness training administered during the perinatal period on postpartum mental health issues.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of prenatal mindfulness-based childbirth education on child-bearers’ trajectories of distress: a randomized control trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559171/ ) Sbrilli  and colleagues recruited pregnant women in their 3rd trimester with their first child and randomly assigned them to either no treatment other than the standard childbirth education program or to receive and additional intensive 2.5 day program of mindfulness training termed “Mind in Labor (MIL).” The training integrates mindfulness “strategies for coping with pain and fear with formal mindfulness meditation for a total of 18 h of mindfulness training.” The participants were measured before and after training, 6 weeks after giving birth, and 1 to 2 years later for depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and mindfulness.

 

They found that at baseline the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, and perceived stress. Importantly, they found that while the treatment as usual group had increasing depression over the period from before birth till 12 months after birth, the groups that received the mindfulness training had significantly decreasing depression over the same period. They further found that these effects were greater in women who were either high in anxiety or low in mindfulness at baseline.

 

These are encouraging results that need to be investigated in a larger trial. But they demonstrate that mindfulness training during the 3rd trimester can reduce depression not only during the pregnancy but also for at least a year following the birth of the child. This period and especially the postpartum period are very often periods of increased psychological distress, especially depression. Mindfulness training appears to be an antidote, relieving the distress and allowing for the joy of a new child to be fully experienced.

 

So, improve perinatal mental health with prenatal mindfulness training.

 

A growing body of research suggests that mindfulness-based therapy can benefit perinatal women. . . MBT appears to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.” – Rinette Badker

 

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

 

Sbrilli, M. D., Duncan, L. G., & Laurent, H. K. (2020). Effects of prenatal mindfulness-based childbirth education on child-bearers’ trajectories of distress: a randomized control trial. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 20, 623. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-020-03318-8

 

Abstract

Background

The perinatal period is a time of immense change, which can be a period of stress and vulnerability for mental health difficulties. Mindfulness-based interventions have shown promise for reducing distress, but further research is needed to identify long-term effects and moderators of mindfulness training in the perinatal period.

Methods

The current study used data from a pilot randomized control trial (RCT) comparing a condensed mindfulness-based childbirth preparation program—the Mind in Labor (MIL)—to treatment as usual (TAU) to examine whether prenatal mindfulness training results in lower distress across the perinatal period, and whether the degree of benefit depends on child-bearers’ initial levels of risk (i.e., depression and anxiety symptoms) and protective (i.e., mindfulness) characteristics. Child-bearers (N = 30) in their third trimester were randomized to MIL or TAU and completed assessments of distress—perceived stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms—at pre-intervention, post-intervention, six-weeks post-birth, and one-year postpartum.

Results

Multilevel modeling of distress trajectories revealed greater decreases from pre-intervention to 12-months postpartum for those in MIL compared to TAU, especially among child-bearers who were higher in anxiety and/or lower in dispositional mindfulness at baseline.

Conclusions

The current study offers preliminary evidence for durable perinatal mental health benefits following a brief mindfulness-based program and suggests further investigation of these effects in larger samples is warranted.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559171/

 

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health in Spite of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health in Spite of the Covid-19 Pandemic

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Practicing mindfulness is an easy, free and natural way to boost your anxiety coping skills. Not only that, but it also helps our ability to manage emotions, and with some aspects of our physical health. If the coronavirus lockdowns has left you with some extra time, make this crisis into an opportunity for you to start (or strengthen) a healthy habit – mindfulness practice.” – Paul Green

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. 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. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the mental and physical health of the population. It has created intense stress both for frontline workers but also for people simply isolating at home. Mindfulness is known to decrease the psychological and physical responses to stress. So, mindfulness training may be helpful in coping with the mental and physical challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In today’s Research News article “Positive Impact of Mindfulness Meditation on Mental Health of Female Teachers during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Italy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559290/ ) Matiz and colleagues recruited female school teachers in Italy and provided them with a mindfulness training program that was scheduled for 8 weekly 2-hour meetings with 30 minutes of daily home practice. But, the lockdown in Italy from Covid-19 occurred a few weeks into the program. So, the last few weeks of mindfulness training was provided online. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, empathy, personality, interoceptive awareness, psychological well-being, anxiety, depression, teacher burnout, and evaluation of the mindfulness training course. They separated the teachers into high and low resilience groups based upon their personality resilience score.

 

They found that from baseline to follow-up both groups increased in mindfulness and the personality factors of cooperativeness and self-transcendence, but the high resilience group had significantly greater increases. Both groups increased in psychological well-being but the low resilience group had a significantly greater increase in the positive relations with others subscale. Both groups decreased in anxiety and depression but the low resilience group had significantly greater decreases. Both groups had significant improvements in empathy, interoceptive awareness, and teacher burnout.

 

This is an interesting natural experiment with the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown intervening in the middle of an otherwise simple study of mindfulness training effects on school teachers’ mental health. Obviously, there is no control condition. So, the before and after training results are confounded by the lockdown. As a result, no clear conclusions can be reached. But, the Covid-19 lockdown had to have been very upsetting to the teachers. So, a decrease in their mental well-being would be expected. In prior studies it has been well established that mindfulness training lowers anxiety depression, and burnout and increases well-being, interoceptive awareness and empathy. Indeed, in the present study after the mindfulness course the teachers’ mental well-being was improved. So, mindfulness training appears to improve the mental health of the teachers in spite of the inferred negative effect of the pandemic lockdown. In addition, these effects appear to be modulated by the teachers’ levels of resilience.

 

So, mindfulness improves mental health in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Fear leaves people feeling helpless and exhausted, seeing that “we’re in it together” helps ease the emotional burden we feel and encourages more agency—the sense that we can do something constructive to fight the pandemic.” – Jill Suttie

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Matiz, A., Fabbro, F., Paschetto, A., Cantone, D., Paolone, A. R., & Crescentini, C. (2020). Positive Impact of Mindfulness Meditation on Mental Health of Female Teachers during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Italy. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(18), 6450. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186450

 

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent public health measures were shown to impact negatively on people’s mental health. In particular, women were reported to be at higher risk than men of developing symptoms of stress/anxiety/depression, and resilience was considered a key factor for positive mental health outcomes. In the present study, a sample of Italian female teachers (n = 66, age: 51.5 ± 7.9 years) was assessed with self-report instruments one month before and one month after the start of the Covid-19 lockdown: mindfulness skills, empathy, personality profiles, interoceptive awareness, psychological well-being, emotional distress and burnout levels were measured. Meanwhile, they received an 8-week Mindfulness-Oriented Meditation (MOM) course, through two group meetings and six individual video-lessons. Based on baseline personality profiles, analyses of variance were performed in a low-resilience (LR, n = 32) and a high-resilience (HR, n = 26) group. The LR and HR groups differed at baseline in most of the self-report measures. Pre–post MOM significant improvements were found in both groups in anxiety, depression, affective empathy, emotional exhaustion, psychological well-being, interoceptive awareness, character traits and mindfulness levels. Improvements in depression and psychological well-being were higher in the LR vs. HR group. We conclude that mindfulness-based training can effectively mitigate the psychological negative consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak, helping in particular to restore well-being in the most vulnerable individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559290/

 

Reduce Anxiety in Women Undergoing Fertility Treatment with Yoga

Reduce Anxiety in Women Undergoing Fertility Treatment with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“yoga is a relaxing activity. And there are some researched benefits regarding yoga, infertility, and the exercise’s ability to help couples release mental stress and physical tension.” – Ashley Marcin

 

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

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yoga on Psychological Distress among Women Receiving Treatment for Infertility.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336944/ ) Dumbala and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effectiveness of yoga practice for the relief of the psychological symptoms produced by infertility.

 

They identified 3 published research studies all of which found that yoga practice reduced anxiety levels in women being treated for infertility. They also report that the research found that yoga improved the quality of life and reduced depression levels in these women. It has previously been shown that yoga practice reduces anxiety and depression and improves quality of life in a wide variety of healthy and ill individuals. The present review demonstrates that these benefits also extend to women being treated for infertility. The review and the included studies did not study whether yoga increased the likelihood of conception. But improving the psychological state of these women could only be helpful.

 

So, reduce anxiety in women undergoing fertility treatment with yoga.

 

Yoga also offers a safe space for us to work through challenge and build resilience. It allows us to sit with discomfort by challenging us to hold a pose longer than we’d like, knowing it’s temporary. This is a valuable skill, not only for the fertility process, but it also helps prepare us for birth and parenthood (which combine discomfort, joy, and everything in between!)” – Kate Potvin

 

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

 

Dumbala, S., Bhargav, H., Satyanarayana, V., Arasappa, R., Varambally, S., Desai, G., & Bangalore, G. N. (2020). Effect of Yoga on Psychological Distress among Women Receiving Treatment for Infertility. International journal of yoga, 13(2), 115–119. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_34_19

 

Abstract

Background:

Infertility among women has been associated with significant psychological distress, anxiety, and depression. yoga therapy has been found to be useful in the management of anxiety, depression and psychological distress.

Aim:

To review studies on the effectiveness of yoga in reducing psychological distress and improving clinical outcomes among women receiving treatment for infertility.

Methodology:

PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Google Scholar databases were searched for studies using the following inclusion criteria: studies published in English, those published between 2000 and 2018, published in peer-reviewed journals, and those with Yoga as an intervention. Review articles, studies without any yoga interventions for infertility, and male infertility were excluded. The keywords included for the literature search were: Yoga, Mindfulness, Relaxation technique, Stress, Distress, Anxiety, Infertility, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

Results:

Three studies satisfied the selection criteria. Two studies involved Hatha yoga intervention and one study used structured yoga program. The variables assessed in these studies were: (1) anxiety, (2) depression, (3) emotional distress, and (4) fertility-related quality of life. All the studies reported an improvement in the anxiety scores after yoga intervention.

Conclusion:

Yoga therapy may be potentially useful in improving anxiety scores among women suffering from infertility. More studies are needed in this area to establish role of yoga as an adjuvant during the treatment of infertility.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336944/

 

Improve Mindfulness’ Benefits for Cancer Survivors with Smart-Messaging

Improve Mindfulness’ Benefits for Cancer Survivors with Smart-Messaging

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Cancer is a traumatic event that changes a person’s life. Utilizing mindfulness tools can provide peace and hope. Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis can assist with long term effects of happiness and positivity.” – Erin Murphy-Wilczek

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer. These symptoms markedly reduce the quality of life of the patients.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depressionMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) consists of mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). During therapy the patient is trained to investigate and alter aberrant thought patterns underlying their reactions to cancer. MBCT has been found to help relieve the symptoms of cancer survivors. It makes sense to explore ways to improve the effectiveness of MBCT for cancer patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Using smart-messaging to enhance mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for cancer patients: A mixed methods proof of concept evaluation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7004102/ ) Wells and colleagues evaluated whether providing text message reminders could enhance the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the relief of anxiety and depression in cancer patients. They recruited adult cancer patients with mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression and provided them with 8 weekly sessions of MBCT along with 40 minutes daily home practice. The patients could refuse messaging or opt to receive text messages 3 times per week reminding them of their home practice and could request up to 9 more messages per week. They were measured before and after each session and 1 month after the completion of the training for depression, anxiety, and general mental health.

 

They found that 87% of the patients receiving smart messaging completed the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program while only 38% of the non-messaging patients completed the MBCT program. Both groups had significant reductions in anxiety and depression that were maintained 1 month after treatment. But the smart messaging group had significantly greater reductions in depression.

 

This is a proof of concept study which demonstrated that smart messaging could be effectively used in conjunction with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The results, though, need to be interpreted with great caution. The patients decided whether to receive the messages or not and very different patients might have opted in compared those that refused the messaging. These differences in the groups could account for the observed differences in participation and depression. But this study establishes that this smart messaging method is feasible with cancer patients with suggestions of improved impact of the therapy. A randomized controlled trial is now needed.

 

So, improve mindfulness’ benefits for cancer survivors with smart-messaging.

 

It turns out that some of the most difficult elements of the cancer experience are very well-suited to a mindfulness practice.” – Linda Carlson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Wells, C., Malins, S., Clarke, S., Skorodzien, I., Biswas, S., Sweeney, T., Moghaddam, N., & Levene, J. (2020). Using smart-messaging to enhance mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for cancer patients: A mixed methods proof of concept evaluation. Psycho-oncology, 29(1), 212–219. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.5256

 

Abstract

Objective

Depression and anxiety lead to reduced treatment adherence, poorer quality of life, and increased care costs amongst cancer patients. Mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an effective treatment, but dropout reduces potential benefits. Smart‐message reminders can prevent dropout and improve effectiveness. However, smart‐messaging is untested for MBCT in cancer. This study evaluates smart‐messaging to reduce dropout and improve effectiveness in MBCT for cancer patients with depression or anxiety.

Methods

Fifty‐one cancer patients attending MBCT in a psycho‐oncology service were offered a smart‐messaging intervention, which reminded them of prescribed between‐session activities. Thirty patients accepted smart‐messaging and 21 did not. Assessments of depression and anxiety were taken at baseline, session‐by‐session, and one‐month follow‐up. Logistic regression and multilevel modelling compared the groups on treatment completion and clinical effectiveness. Fifteen post‐treatment patient interviews explored smart‐messaging use.

Results

The odds of programme completion were eight times greater for patients using smart‐messaging compared with non‐users, controlling for age, gender, baseline depression, and baseline anxiety (OR = 7.79, 95% CI 1.75 to 34.58, p = .007). Smart‐messaging users also reported greater improvement in depression over the programme (B = ‐2.33, SEB = .78, p = .004) when controlling for baseline severity, change over time, age, and number of sessions attended. There was no difference between groups in anxiety improvement (B = ‐1.46, SEB = .86, p = .097). In interviews, smart‐messaging was described as a motivating reminder and source of personal connection.

Conclusions

Smart‐messaging may be an easily integrated telehealth intervention to improve MBCT for cancer patients.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7004102/

 

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness can enhance our ability to remember this new, less-fearful reaction, and break the anxiety habit.” It’s a tool that interrupts those old, fear-inducing memories, and creates new, less threatening associations in the mind.” – Nate Klemp

 

Meditation 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. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology.  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, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “). Hippocampal circuits underlie improvements in self-reported anxiety following mindfulness training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507558/ ) Sevinc and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to receive weekly 2-hour sessions of either stress management education or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) along with 40-minutes of daily home practice. The stress management education consisted of discussion of sources of stress and light exercise. MBSR consisted of discussion, meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, mindfulness, and anxiety.

 

All participants underwent classical fear conditioning with 2 different light colors presented just prior to an irritating shock to the finger and a third color light not followed by shock. The conditioning was then extinguished for one light color but not the other by repeated presentations of the light without shock. After training the participants underwent brain scanning focused on the subfields of the hippocampus with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The size of the hippocampal subfields was measured along with the connectivity between the hippocampus and other brain areas while the participants were shown the different colored lights used in the fear conditioning.

 

They found that after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) there was an increase in the volume of the hippocampal subfield of the subiculum. They also found a decrease in the connectivity of the hippocampus with the occipital cortex during presentation of the extinguished fear conditioning lights. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in volume of the subiculum, the greater the decrease in anxiety levels after MBSR.

 

The subiculum has been implicated in memory consolidation and retrieval. So, the increased volume detected after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) suggests that MBSR improves the memory process. Indeed, mindfulness training has previously been shown to improve memory processes.  The decrease in hippocampal connectivity during extinction recall after MBSR training suggests that the individual may be better able to ignore previously associated fear stimuli. This could well underlie a reduction in anxiety by not responding to fear stimuli that are no longer associated with frightening circumstances. This may be a mechanism that, at least in part, underlies the ability of mindfulness training to improve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless, the results suggest that mindfulness training alters the brain in such a way to reduce anxiety.

 

So, change the brain to reduce anxiety with mindfulness.

 

“In mindfulness practice . . . you have an opportunity—the mental time and space, if you will—to see more elements of the story, a richer picture. “You may see more clearly as you anticipate a difficult encounter what the underlying emotion is that’s triggered and how it’s showing up in your body.” – Barry Boyce

 

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

 

Sevinc, G., Greenberg, J., Hölzel, B. K., Gard, T., Calahan, T., Brunsch, V., Hashmi, J. A., Vangel, M., Orr, S. P., Milad, M. R., & Lazar, S. W. (2020). Hippocampal circuits underlie improvements in self-reported anxiety following mindfulness training. Brain and behavior, 10(9), e01766. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1766

 

Abstract

Introduction

Mindfulness meditation has successfully been applied to cultivate skills in self‐regulation of emotion, as it employs the unbiased present moment awareness of experience. This heightened attention to and awareness of sensory experience has been postulated to create an optimal therapeutic exposure condition and thereby improve extinction learning. We recently demonstrated increased connectivity in hippocampal circuits during the contextual retrieval of extinction memory following mindfulness training.

Methods

Here, we examine the role of structural changes in hippocampal subfields following mindfulness training in a randomized controlled longitudinal study using a two‐day fear‐conditioning and extinction protocol.

Results

We demonstrate an association between mindfulness training‐related increases in subiculum and decreased hippocampal connectivity to lateral occipital regions during contextual retrieval of extinguished fear. Further, we demonstrate an association between decreased connectivity and decreases in self‐reported anxiety following mindfulness training.

Conclusions

The results highlight the role of the subiculum in gating interactions with contextual stimuli during memory retrieval and, also, the mechanisms through which mindfulness training may foster resilience.

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation has successfully been applied to cultivate skills in self‐regulation of emotion, as it employs the unbiased present moment awareness of experience. This heightened attention to and awareness of sensory experience has been postulated to create an optimal therapeutic exposure condition and thereby improve extinction learning. Here, we examine the role of structural changes in hippocampal subfields and further demonstrate an association between mindfulness training‐related increases in subiculum and decreased hippocampal connectivity to lateral occipital regions during contextual retrieval of extinguished fear. Further, we demonstrate an association between decreased connectivity and decreases in self‐reported anxiety following mindfulness training. These results highlight the role of the subiculum in gating interactions with contextual stimuli during memory retrieval and, also, the mechanisms through which mindfulness training fosters resilience.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507558/