Reduce Physiological Indicators of Stress with Mindfulness

Reduce Physiological Indicators of Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Learning how to accept your present-moment experience is really important for reducing stress,” – Emily Lindsay

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. One reason for these benefits is that mindfulness training improves the individual’s physical and psychological reactions to stress. Stress is an integral part of life, that is actually essential to the health of the body. In moderation, it is healthful, strengthening, and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths.

 

It is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it. Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. and this appears to be important for health. So, it is important to study the mechanisms by which mindfulness reduces stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Student Training Leads to a Reduction in Physiological Evaluated Stress.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00645/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1332835_69_Psycho_20200519_arts_A), Voss and colleagues recruited university students and randomly assigned them to receive either no-treatment or a once a week for 90 minutes, 8-week mindfulness training program based upon Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The program contained meditation, body scan, yoga, and discussion and daily 20-min home practice. They were measured before and after training with physiological indicators of autonomic nervous system activity with electrocardiogram (ECG), finger-pulse plethysmography, and respiration.

 

They found that in comparison to the baseline and the no-treatment control participants the participants who received mindfulness training had significantly lower blood pressure pulse wave variability in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressures. These results suggest that mindfulness training resulted in improved regulation of the autonomic nervous system suggesting lower physiological arousal and greater peripheral physiological relaxation. This normally suggests a dominance of the parasympathetic (relaxation) component of the system as opposed to the sympathetic (arousal) component. The study suggests that the mindfulness training produced lower levels of physiological indicators of stress.

 

Prior research has established the mindfulness training produces lower psychological responses to stress. It has also shown that mindfulness training produces higher levels of heart rate variability, another measure of parasympathetic predominance and improved autonomic regulation. So, the present study, using different physiological measures, also showed that mindfulness training improves autonomic regulation suggestive of greater ability to respond to stress with lower physiological reactivity.

 

The importance of the observed improvements in autonomic regulation should not be underestimated. The greater ability to respond adaptively to stress is thought to underlie many of the improvements in mental and physical health produced by mindfulness training. In other words, the physiological indicators of reduced stress responsivity observed here, are indicators of the improvements in the individual’s ability to withstand stress and thereby maintain their health and well-being

 

So, reduce physiological indicators of stress with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness can lead to less intense stress responses. This has many health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure and strengthening your immune system.” – Healthy Aging

 

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

 

Voss A, Bogdanski M, Langohr B, Albrecht R and Sandbothe M (2020) Mindfulness-Based Student Training Leads to a Reduction in Physiological Evaluated Stress. Front. Psychol. 11:645. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00645

 

Background and Objective: In today’s fast-paced modern lifestyle, chronic stress has become a serious issue with potential consequences for our physical and mental health. The concept of mindfulness and its derived Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is considered to be an effective stress management technique for patients as well as for healthy persons. The effects of MBSR interventions on their participants have been subject of previous research, especially with regard to psychological or social science approaches using self-reports and questionnaires. In contrast, medical investigations in this field have been less frequent and often somehow limited, for example, addressing only absolute (discrete) mean values for heart rate or blood pressure.

Methods: In this study, we have evaluated a Mindfulness Based Student Training program (MBST) by applying methods of biosignal analysis to examine its impact on the training participants’ autonomic regulation. This intervention program included classical MBSR elements but was adapted to suit the normal daily needs of university students. We obtained the electrocardiogram, finger-pulse plethysmography, and respiration activity from students participating in either the intervention group (IGR, 38 subjects) or a passive control group (CON, 35 subjects) prior to and after 8 weeks of MBST intervention.

Results: When comparing various indices from heart rate variability, pulse wave variability, and respiration in linear and nonlinear domains, significant changes in the autonomic regulation were observed for the IGR group after 8 weeks of MBST.

Conclusion: The results indicate a reduced stress level exclusively for the intervention participants, and therefore, we assume a health benefit from the MBST program.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00645/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1332835_69_Psycho_20200519_arts_A

 

Andreas.Voss@eah-jena.de

 

Improve Self-Compassion with Psychophysiological Flexibility and Mindfulness

Improve Self-Compassion with Psychophysiological Flexibility and Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional wellbeing, coping with life challenges, lower levels of anxiety and depression, healthy habits such as diet and exercise, and more satisfying personal relationships. It is an inner strength that enables us to be more fully human—to acknowledge our shortcomings, learn from them, and make necessary changes with an attitude of kindness and self-respect.” – Greater Good Science Center

 

One of the more remarkable aspects of Western culture is that in general people do not like themselves. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and since there can only one best, virtually everyone falls short. So, we constantly criticize ourselves for not being the smartest, the swiftest, the strongest, the most liked, the most handsome or beautiful. If there wasn’t something wrong with us, then we would be the best. As a result, we become focused and obsessed with our flaws. This can lead to anxiety and worry.

 

Mindfulness promotes experiencing and accepting ourselves as we are, which is a direct antidote to seeing ourselves in comparison to others and as we wish to be. In other words, mindfulness promotes self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being warm and understanding about ourselves rather than self-criticism. If we have that attitude, we will like ourselves more and suffer less. So, it is important to study the mindfulness and self-compassion and their relationships with the ability to regulate emotional arousal.

 

In today’s Research News article “Is Dispositional Self-Compassion Associated With Psychophysiological Flexibility Beyond Mindfulness? An Exploratory Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00614/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1302118_69_Psycho_20200416_arts_A), Svendsen and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete scales measuring self-compassion, mindfulness, anxiety, and rumination. They also had their cardiac function measured at rest with an electrocardiogram (ECG). This was used to calculate the vagally mediated heart rate variability as a measure of psychophysiological flexibility. It measures the interplay between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, with higher heart rate variability signaling parasympathetic predominance, usually indicating relaxation.

 

Employing regression analysis, they found that the higher the levels of self-compassion the higher the levels of mindfulness and psychophysiological flexibility. They also found that both higher levels of mindfulness and also self-compassion the lower the levels of anxiety and rumination (worry). So, mindfulness is related to self-compassion and lower anxiety and rumination and self-compassion is related to mindfulness and psychophysiological flexibility and lower anxiety and rumination.

 

The findings are correlative and as such causation cannot be determined. But they show that mindfulness is significantly related to self-compassion and both are related to better mental health. In prior manipulative studies, it has been demonstrated that mindfulness causes increased self-compassion and decreased anxiety and rumination. So, the present results likely reflect causal connections.

 

The results also demonstrated that self-compassion has the strongest relationship with psychophysiological flexibility suggesting that self-compassion is related to the ability to regulate emotional arousal. It is this ability that may underlie the lower levels of anxiety and rumination found with high levels of self-compassion. Hence, mindfulness and self-compassion are important components of the mental health of young adults.

 

So, improve self-compassion with psychophysiological flexibility and mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others and for oneself, and that such attitudes are good for you. To me, that affirms that when we practice mindfulness, we are simultaneously strengthening our skills of compassion.” – Shauna Shapiro

 

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

 

Svendsen JL, Schanche E, Osnes B, Vøllestad J, Visted E, Dundas I, Nordby H, Binder P-E and Sørensen L (2020) Is Dispositional Self-Compassion Associated With Psychophysiological Flexibility Beyond Mindfulness? An Exploratory Pilot Study. Front. Psychol. 11:614. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00614

 

Abstract

Background: Dispositional mindfulness and self-compassion are shown to associate with less self-reported emotional distress. However, previous studies have indicated that dispositional self-compassion may be an even more important buffer against such distress than dispositional mindfulness. To our knowledge, no study has yet disentangled the relationship between dispositional self-compassion and mindfulness and level of psychophysiological flexibility as measured with vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV). The aim was thus to provide a first exploratory effort to expand previous research relying on self-report measures by including a psychophysiological measure indicative of emotional stress reactivity.

Methods: Fifty-three university students filled out the “Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire” (FFMQ) and the “Self-Compassion Scale” (SCS), and their heart rate was measured during a 5 min resting electrocardiogram. Linear hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the common and unique variance explained by the total scores of the FFMQ and the SCS on level of resting vmHRV.

Results: Higher SCS total scores associated significantly with higher levels of vmHRV also when controlling for the FFMQ total scores. The SCS uniquely explained 7% of the vmHRV. The FFMQ total scores did not associate with level of vmHRV.

Conclusion: These results offer preliminary support that dispositional self-compassion associates with better psychophysiological regulation of emotional arousal above and beyond mindfulness

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00614/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1302118_69_Psycho_20200416_arts_A

 

Improve the Aging Brain and Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

Improve the Aging Brain and Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

On average, the brains of long-term meditators were 7.5 years younger at age 50 than the brains of non-meditators, and an additional 1 month and 22 days younger for every year after 50.”Grace Bullock

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our cognitive (mental) abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Physical Exercise and Mindfulness Practice in an Aging Population.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1293822_69_Psycho_20200407_arts_A), Tang and colleagues recruited healthy older participants who practiced for an hour a day 6 – 7 days a week for 12 years either physical exercise, aerobic walking, or integrated mind-body training, including body relaxation, mental imagery and mindfulness training. The participants underwent brain imaging with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They had their heart rate, respiration. and skin conductance recorded during a fitness exercise session. Salivary Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), an index of mucosal immunity and Cortisol levels, an index of stress, were measured at rest, during stress, and during training. They also completed scales measuring general health and quality of life.

 

They found that the mindfulness group had significantly higher resting heart rate and respiration, high frequency heart rate variability, quality of life, and sIgA levels and significantly lower cortisol levels and skin conductance than the exercise group. In addition, they found that the mindfulness group compared to the exercise group had significantly larger brain striatum including the caudate and putamen and significantly greater functional connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the striatum and also the insula.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that long-term mindfulness practice results in differences in the psychological, physical, and neural states compared to physical exercise. Psychological well-being improvement in the mindfulness group was suggested by the greater reported quality of life. Physiological improvements in the mindfulness group were suggested by greater relaxation as indexed by greater autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic activity and measured by heart rate variability and skin conductance and lower stress hormone, cortisol, levels. The greater volume of the striatum and greater connectivity with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex also suggest greater physiological relaxation. The mindfulness group also showed greater immune system function as indexed by sIgA levels. On the other hand, the aerobic walking group demonstrated greater physical fitness as indexed by lower resting heart rate and respiration.

 

In sum, these findings suggest the long-term aerobic walking exercise is good for the physical fitness of older adults. But long-term mindfulness training is better for their overall psychological and physical well-being. These results correspond with other prior findings that shorter-term mindfulness practice results in greater autonomic relaxation, quality of life, and neuroplastic changes in brain systems and that this training reduces the physiological and psychological deterioration occurring with aging.

 

So, improve the aging brain and well-being with mindfulness training.

 

“Mind and body practices, in particular, including relaxation techniques and meditative exercise forms such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are being used by older Americans, both for fitness and relaxation, and because of perceived health benefits.” –  National Center for Complementayy and Integrative Health

 

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

 

Tang Y-Y, Fan Y, Lu Q, Tan L-H, Tang R, Kaplan RM, Pinho MC, Thomas BP, Chen K, Friston KJ and Reiman EM (2020) Long-Term Physical Exercise and Mindfulness Practice in an Aging Population. Front. Psychol. 11:358. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358

 

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that physical exercise and mindfulness meditation can both lead to improvement in physical and mental health. However, it is unclear whether these two forms of training share the same underlying mechanisms. We compared two groups of older adults with 10 years of mindfulness meditation (integrative body-mind training, IBMT) or physical exercise (PE) experience to demonstrate their effects on brain, physiology and behavior. Healthy older adults were randomly selected from a large community health project and the groups were compared on measures of quality of life, autonomic activity (heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductance response, respiratory amplitude/rate), immune function (secretory Immunoglobulin A, sIgA), stress hormone (cortisol) and brain imaging (resting state functional connectivity, structural differences). In comparison with PE, we found significantly higher ratings for the IBMT group on dimensions of life quality. Parasympathetic activity indexed by skin conductance response and high-frequency heart rate variability also showed more favorable outcomes in the IBMT group. However, the PE group showed lower basal heart rate and greater chest respiratory amplitude. Basal sIgA level was significantly higher and cortisol concentration was lower in the IBMT group. Lastly, the IBMT group had stronger brain connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the striatum at resting state, as well as greater volume of gray matter in the striatum. Our results indicate that mindfulness meditation and physical exercise function in part by different mechanisms, with PE increasing physical fitness and IBMT inducing plasticity in the central nervous systems. These findings suggest combining physical and mental training may achieve better health and quality of life results for an aging population.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1293822_69_Psycho_20200407_arts_A

 

Lower Opioid Cravings are Associated with Lower Depression, Higher Self-Regulation, and Higher Mindfulness

Lower Opioid Cravings are Associated with Lower Depression, Higher Self-Regulation, and Higher Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness-based interventions could help people dependent on opioids increase their self-awareness and self-control over cravings and be less reactive to emotional and physical pain.” – Science Daily

 

Substance abuse and addiction is a terrible problem, especially opioid pain relievers. Opioid addiction has become epidemic and is rapidly increasing affecting more than 2 million Americans and an estimated 15 million people worldwide. In the U.S more than 20,000 deaths yearly were attributed to an overdose of prescription opioids, and another 13,000 deaths from heroin overdose. These statistics, although startling are only the tip of the iceberg. Drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. It can render the individual ineffective at work, it tears apart families, it makes the individual dangerous both driving and not.

 

An effective treatment for addiction has been elusive. Most programs and therapies to treat addictions have poor success rates. Recent research is indicating that mindfulness has been found to be effective in treating addictions. One way that mindfulness may produce these benefits is by reducing cravings for opioids. It may also do so by affecting the ability of the addict to regulate their emotions. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve emotional regulation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Autonomic and affective mediators of the relationship between mindfulness and opioid craving among chronic pain patients. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6355352/), Baker and Garland recruited non-cancer chronic pain patients who were taking opioid analgesics and had them complete self-report measures of mindfulness, opioid craving, and depression. They also measured their heart rates with an electrocardiogram (ECG) while looking at either neutral pictures or “opioid-related image (e.g., pills, pill bottles).” These data were analyzed to determine heart rate variability as a measure of the activity of the peripheral autonomic nervous system.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of heart rate variability while looking at opioid-related pictures. And the lower the levels of depression and opioid cravings. Also, the higher the levels of depression, the higher the levels of opioid cravings. Employing a multivariate path analysis, they found that mindfulness was not associated with lower opioid cravings directly, but indirectly via mindfulness’ associations with heart rate variability and depression. That is, they found that mindfulness was associated with higher heart rate variability which was in turn associated with lower opioid cravings and also with lower depression which was in turn associated with lower opioid cravings.

 

Heart rate variability is thought to measure the nervous systems adjustments to the physiology involved in regulating its physical responses to stimuli. In other words, it’s a measure of self-regulation. The present results suggest that mindfulness is associated with greater self-regulation and this is associated with lower cravings for opioids. The results also suggest that depression is associated with higher cravings for opioids and that mindfulness interrupts this by being associated with lower depression.

 

These results are correlative and as such causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, prior research has demonstrated causal links between mindfulness and lower cravings and depression. So, the present results likely result from causal connections. The findings also suggest the mechanism whereby mindfulness may lower cravings by contributing to the ability to regulate physical responses to opioid-related stimuli and by reducing depression. These results provide more support for the use of mindfulness training as a treatment for addictions.

 

So, lower opioid cravings are associated with lower depression, higher self-regulation, and higher mindfulness.

 

people suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain may have fewer cravings and less pain when adding mindfulness to the traditional methadone treatment.” – Grace Bullock

 

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

 

Baker, A. K., & Garland, E. L. (2019). Autonomic and affective mediators of the relationship between mindfulness and opioid craving among chronic pain patients. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 27(1), 55–63. https://doi.org/10.1037/pha0000225

 

Abstract

Prescription opioid misuse among chronic pain patients is associated with self-regulatory deficits, affective distress and opioid cue reactivity. Dispositional mindfulness has been associated with enhanced self-regulation, lower distress, and adaptive autonomic responses following drug cue exposure. We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness might serve as a protective factor among opioid-treated chronic pain patients. We examined heart rate variability (HRV) during exposure to opioid cues and depressed mood as mediators of the association between dispositional mindfulness and opioid craving. Data were obtained from a sample of chronic pain patients (N=115) receiving long-term opioid pharmacotherapy. Participants self-reported opioid craving and depression, and HRV was measured during an opioid-cue dot probe task. Dispositional mindfulness was significantly positively correlated with HRV, and HRV was significantly inversely associated with opioid craving. Dispositional mindfulness was significantly negatively correlated with depression, and depression was significantly positively correlated with opioid craving. Path analysis revealed significant indirect effects of dispositional mindfulness on craving through both HRV and depression. Dispositional mindfulness may buffer against opioid craving among chronic pain patients prescribed opioids; this buffering effect may be a function of improved autonomic and affective responses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6355352/

 

Improve Autonomic Nervous System Function with Yogic Breathing

Improve Autonomic Nervous System Function with Yogic Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The Bhramari pranayama breathing practice . . . .. is beneficial and instantly calming down the mind. It is one of the best breathing exercises to free the mind of distress, anxiety, or frustration and get rid of anger to a great level.” – Alpesh Jain

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise and also in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety. But we rarely notice it during everyday ongoing life. Yet, its characteristics are associated with our state of well-being. Slow deep breathing is characteristic of a healthy relaxed state. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects. Bhramari pranayama (Bee breathing) is a yogic breathing practice that adopts simple regulation of voluntary breathing involving an exhalation that simulates the typical humming sound of a bee.

 

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. It is not known whether training in Bhramari pranayama can be beneficial for adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of yoga breathing practice on heart rate variability in healthy adolescents: a randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6997567/), Kuppusamy and colleagues recruited healthy adolescents, 13-18 years of age, and randomly assigned them to either Bhramari pranayama (Bee breathing) or no treatment. Yogic breathing was practiced in the morning for 30 minutes, 5 days per week for 6 months. The participants electrocardiogram (ECG) was measured at rest before and after training.

 

With the ECG they found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control participants, the adolescents who practiced yogic breathing had significantly lower heart rates and significantly higher time and frequency domains of heart rate variability. Increased heart rate variability indicates greater activity of the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system that is active during relaxation. Hence, the findings suggest that practicing yogic breathing improves autonomic function.

 

Increased heart rate variability is associated with lower stress and greater health and longevity and psychological well-being. Hence, increased heart rate variability in the adolescents who practiced Bhramari pranayama (Bee breathing) is an indicator of improved autonomic function that underlies greater health and well-being. This suggests that practicing yogic breathing would improve the youth’s ability to develop healthily during the turbulent times of the teen years.

 

So, improve autonomic nervous system function with yogic breathing.

 

The noise of bhramari’s buzzing can drown out the endless mental tape loops that can fuel emotional suffering, making it a useful starting point for those whose minds are too “busy” to meditate.” – Timothy McCall

 

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

 

Kuppusamy, M., Kamaldeen, D., Pitani, R., Amaldas, J., Ramasamy, P., Shanmugam, P., & Vijayakumar, V. (2020). Effects of yoga breathing practice on heart rate variability in healthy adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. Integrative medicine research, 9(1), 28–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2020.01.006

 

Abstract

Background

This study was conducted among healthy adolescents to assess the effects of a yoga breathing practice (Bhramari pranayama, Bhr.P) towards cardiac autonomic function using heart rate variability (HRV) parameters.

Methods

Of the 730 eligible subjects screened, 520 healthy adolescents who met the inclusion and exclusion criteria were randomly assigned to either yoga breathing group (n = 260) or control group (n = 260). The yoga breathing group practiced Bhr.P. five days a week for a duration of six months while the control group continued with their daily routine without any intervention. Outcome measures were time and frequency domain of HRV in both groups which were assessed before and after the intervention using Lead II ECG. Linear models were used in the analysis of short term HRV.

Results

After 6 months of yoga breathing, the time domain parameters of short term HRV showed significant (P < 0.05) improvement towards the parasympathetic domain. Frequency domain parameters also showed the same direction of changes. In contrast, control group subjects showed a trend towards a sympathetic domain.

Conclusion

The present study showed a positive shift in cardiac autonomic modulation towards parasympathetic predominance after 6 months of yoga breathing practice among apparently healthy adolescents.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6997567/

 

Improve Depression by Modulating the Autonomic Nervous System in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Depression by Modulating the Autonomic Nervous System in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi appears to relieve symptoms of depression in older people.” – Tara Parker-Pope

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability, and in emotion regulation. Depression is very common in the elderly. The elderly cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions producing increased loneliness, worry and anxiety.

 

There is some hope for age related decline, however, as there is evidence that it can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of decline. For example, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging and with improving depression. There is, however, been very little research on the mechanisms by which Tai Chi practice improves depression in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Tai Chi on Heart Rate Variability in Older Chinese Individuals with Depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313592/), Liu and colleagues recruited elderly (aged 60 and older) who were not taking antidepressant medications or drinking alcohol, but who scored as having mild depression on an elderly depression scale. They were randomly assigned to either receive Tai Chi training for 60 minutes, 3 times per week for 24 weeks, or to a no-treatment control condition. The elderly were measured before and after treatment for depression, and heart rate variability, a measure of autonomic nervous system activity.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group the Tai Chi participants had significantly decreased levels of depression and significant decreases in low frequency heart rate variability and significant increases in high frequency heart rate variability. The higher the levels of high frequency heart rate variability the lower the levels of depression and the lower the levels of low frequency heart rate variability the lower the levels of depression.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that Tai Chi training reduces depression in the elderly. The results further suggest that Tai Chi training may do so by creating balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. High frequency heart rate variability is suggestive of parasympathetic (relaxation) activity and this was increased by Tai Chi training while low frequency heart rate variability is suggestive of sympathetic (activation) activity and this was decreased by Tai Chi training. Hence, the results suggest that Tai Chi training may lead to less activation and greater relaxation and this may counter depression.

 

So, improve depression by modulating the autonomic nervous system in the elderly with Tai Chi

 

 “Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases.” – Healthline

 

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

 

Liu, J., Xie, H., Liu, M., Wang, Z., Zou, L., Yeung, A. S., … Yang, Q. (2018). The Effects of Tai Chi on Heart Rate Variability in Older Chinese Individuals with Depression. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(12), 2771. doi:10.3390/ijerph15122771

 

Abstract

Background Very little research has been done to simultaneously investigate the effects of Tai Chi (TC) on depression and heart rate variability (HRV). This study, therefore, attempted to explore the effects of TC on depression and on HRV parameters. Methods Sixty older individuals with depression score of 10 or above (the Geriatric Depression Scale, GDS) were randomly assigned into two groups: TC (n = 30) and control group (n = 30). Participants in the experimental group participated in a 24-week TC training program (three 60-min sessions per week), whereas individuals in the control group maintained their unaltered lifestyle. Depression and HRV were measured using the GDS and digital electrocardiogram at baseline and after the 24-week intervention. Results The TC had produced significant positive chances in depression and some HRV parameters (mean heart rate, RMSSD, HF, LFnorm, and HFnorm) (p < 0.05), whereas these positive results were not observed in the control group. Conclusions The results of this study indicated that TC may alleviate depression of the elderly through modulating autonomous nervous system or HRV parameters. This study adds to a growing body of research showing that TC may be effective in treating depression of the elderly. Tai Chi as a mild to moderate mind-body exercise is suitable for older individuals who suffer from depression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313592/

 

Have Consistent Physiological Responses to Differing Circumstances with Mindfulness

Have Consistent Physiological Responses to Differing Circumstances with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Heart rate variability differs from basic heart rate tracking that measures beats per minute in that it actually measures the time variance between heartbeats. With this heart rate variability, you can actually get a good picture of the resilience of the heart organ, which is a good predictor of both well-being and longevity.” – Kyle Pearce

 

In our lives we are confronted with a variety of situations and environments. In order to successfully navigate these differing situations, we must be able to adapt and self-regulate. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is designed to adapt physiologically to the varying demands on us. It is composed of 2 divisions; the sympathetic division underlies activation, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, while the parasympathetic division underlies relaxation, including decreases in heart rate and blood pressure. A measure of the balance between these systems is provided by the variability of the heart rate.

 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the change in the time intervals between consecutive heart beats. Higher levels of HRV are indicative of flexibility in the Autonomic Nervous System and are associated with adaptability to varying environments. Mindfulness has been associated with a psychological flexibility and a greater ability to adapt appropriately to differing situations. It makes sense then to investigate the relationship of mindfulness to and Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

 

In today’s Research News article “Trait Mindfulness Is Associated With the Self-Similarity of Heart Rate Variability.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00314/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A ), Sun and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete a measures of mindfulness. The students were also measured for heart rate variability (HRV) under 4 3-minute conditions, “a calming phase, a mental arithmetic task, a recovery phase, and mindfulness practice.”

 

They found that the participants level of mindfulness was not significantly associated with any direct measures of heart rate variability. Rather, mindfulness was associated with the consistency of heart rate variability between the response on different tasks. Hence, students high in mindfulness tended to have heart rate variability responses in the different phases that were very similar. In other words, heart rate variability during calming, mental arithmetic, and mindfulness practice were very consistent.

 

These results are correlational and as such conclusions about causation cannot be reached. But it can be speculated that mindfulness keeps the responses of the autonomic nervous system consistent making it easier to cope with varying circumstances. This level consistent responding may promote health and well-being. This suggests that greater focus on what is happening in the moment (mindfulness) may promote the ability to regulate one’s physiological responses and thereby to adapt to differing circumstances.

 

So, have consistent physiological responses to differing circumstances with mindfulness.

 

“Meditation is one technique that may help improve Heart Rate Variability (HRV) in both the short term and long-term. The end goal is not just to increase HRV, but it is to help the body better recover from stress related damages.” – Sam Sly

 

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

 

Sun S, Hu C, Pan J, Liu C and Huang M (2019) Trait Mindfulness Is Associated With the Self-Similarity of Heart Rate Variability. Front. Psychol. 10:314. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00314

 

Previous studies have linked trait mindfulness with better self-regulation and adaptation. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a good physiological indicator of the capacity for self-regulation and adaptation. The present study explored the relationship between trait mindfulness and HRV from the viewpoint of crosstalking between different HRV parameter pairs, which would reflect the dynamic interactions between each pair of HRV parameters in different processes. We measured the trait mindfulness of seventy-four undergraduate students and recorded nine HRV parameters during the following four consecutive experimental phases: (1) calming phase, (2) mental arithmetic task phase, (3) recovery phase, and (4) mindfulness practice phase. The relationship between trait mindfulness and HRV was explored at the following three levels: (1) the absolute level, i.e., HRV parameters in four different states, (2) the difference-change level, i.e., differences in HRV parameters between different states, and (3) the crosstalking level, i.e., self-similarity of crosstalking HRV parameter pairs. The results supported the following hypothesis: trait mindfulness, as measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), was significantly and positively correlated with the self-similarity of crosstalking HRV parameter pairs but was not significantly correlated with the HRV parameters at the difference-change and absolute levels. These findings indicate that as trait mindfulness increases, the ability to maintain ANS function homeostasis improves.

HIGHLIGHTS

– Trait mindfulness is associated with better self-regulation and adaptation.

– Heart rate variability (HRV) is a good physiological indicator of the capacity for self-regulation and adaptation.

– Trait mindfulness is significantly correlated with self-similarity of crosstalking HRV parameter pairs but not with the HRV parameters at the difference-change or absolute levels.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00314/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A

 

Reduce Stress and Improve Autonomic Nervous System Function with Tai Chi or Yoga

Reduce Stress and Improve Autonomic Nervous System Function with Tai Chi or Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The rate of individuals suffering from autonomic nervous system dysfunctions is fast on the rise, due to our high stress and stimulative 21st-century lifestyles. However unknown to many practitioners, there are several natural therapies which are proven to help support the balance of the autonomic nervous system such as meditation and often have fewer side-effects and are better tolerated than many pharmaceutical medications.” –  NaturalHealthBlogger

 

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 yoga, tai chi, and qigong, among many others. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed. Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements.  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.

 

One way that these Mind-body practices may have their beneficial effects is by providing balance in the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic division underlies activation while the parasympathetic division underlies relaxation. When these divisions are out of balance the individual may be overly stressed or overly sedentary. Appropriate balance is important for health and well-being. A measure of balance is provided by the variability of the heart rate. Moderated heart rate variability reflects balance in the autonomic nervous system.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mind⁻Body Exercises (Tai Chi/Yoga) on Heart Rate Variability Parameters and Perceived Stress: A Systematic Review with 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/PMC6262541/ ), Zou and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of tai chi and yoga on a measure of autonomic balance; heart rate variability. They discovered 17 research publications reporting on research studies of fair to high quality.

 

They report that after both tai chi or yoga practice there are large significant reductions in perceived stress levels. Also, after practice there were small, albeit significant reductions in the normalized low-frequency component of heart rate variation and the ratio of low frequency to high frequency variations and significant increases in the normalized high-frequency component. These components are thought to be indicative of sympathetic and vagal modulation, sympathetic modulation, and sympathetic activity. These effects on heart rate variation components suggest that after tai chi and yoga practice there is better balance in the autonomic nervous system. Additionally, the published studies indicate that while both tai chi and yoga practice decrease stress and improve autonomic balance, that a minimum of 90 minutes per week of yoga practice produces better results.

 

These results are interesting and important. They suggest that tai chi and especially yoga practice promote health and well-being and may do so by reducing perceived levels of stress and balancing the autonomic nervous system. Yoga practice is generally a more intense exercise and it is likely that this greater intensity of exercise is responsible for yoga’s superiority. But Tai Chi is gentle, safe, and easily practiced conveniently without a professional teacher. Hence, it may be better adapted to integration into the daily lifestyle of the individual.

 

So, reduce stress and improve autonomic nervous system function with tai chi or yoga.

 

Practicing yoga is an excellent way to stimulate and bring circuitry to the important parasympathetic nervous system. The gentle movements and slow rhythmic breathing slow the heart and blood pressure. Yoga redirects blood flow to the reproductive and digestive organs. Regular yoga practice results in a sustained state of strength and health, as well as mind and body balance. Tai Chi is widely used for its variety of health benefits and its adaptability to any age or level of fitness. It is an effective technique that enhances your body’s ability to use the mind to get in touch with the body through the nervous system. The results of continued practice include increased awareness, strengthened nerves, and better coordination, to name a few.” – Aleksandra Eifler

 

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

 

Zou, L., Sasaki, J. E., Wei, G. X., Huang, T., Yeung, A. S., Neto, O. B., Chen, K. W., … Hui, S. S. (2018). Effects of Mind⁻Body Exercises (Tai Chi/Yoga) on Heart Rate Variability Parameters and Perceived Stress: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of clinical medicine, 7(11), 404. doi:10.3390/jcm7110404

 

Abstract

Background: Heart rate variability (HRV) as an accurate, noninvasive measure of the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS) can reflect mental health (e.g., stress, depression, or anxiety). Tai Chi and Yoga (Tai Chi/Yoga), as the most widely practiced mind–body exercises, have shown positive outcomes of mental health. To date, no systematic review regarding the long-lasting effects of Tai Chi/Yoga on HRV parameters and perceived stress has been conducted. Objective: To critically evaluate the existing literature on this topic. Methods: Five electronic databases (Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, SportDiscus and Cochrane Library) were searched from the start of the research project to July 2018. Study selection, data extraction, and study quality assessment were independently carried out by two reviewers. The potentially identified randomized controlled trials (RCT) reported the useful quantitative data that were included only for meta-analysis. Results: meta-analysis of 17 medium-to-high quality RCTs showed significantly beneficial effects on HRV parameters (normalized low-frequency, Hedge’s g = −0.39, 95% CI −0.39 to −0.56, p < 0.001, I2 = 11.62%; normalized high-frequency, Hedge’s g = 0.37, 95% CI 0.22 to −0.52, p < 0.001, I2 = 0%; low-frequency to high-frequency ratio, Hedge’s g = −0.58, 95% CI −0.81 to −0.35, p < 0.001, I2 = 53.78%) and stress level (Hedge’s g = −0.80, 95% CI −1.17 to −0.44, p < 0.001, I2 = 68.54%). Conclusions: Stress reduction may be attributed to sympathetic-vagal balance modulated by mind–body exercises. Tai Chi/Yoga could be an alternative method for stress reduction for people who live under high stress or negative emotions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6262541/

 

Improve Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness with Tai Chi

Improve Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Qigong and Tai Chi initiate the “relaxation response,” which is fostered when the mind is freed from its many distractions. This decreases the sympathetic function of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn reduces heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the blood capillaries, and optimizes the delivery of oxygen and nutrition to the tissues.”

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammationincrease the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream and improve cardiovascular function.

 

Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. So, with indications of so many benefits it makes sense to explore further the effects of Tai Chi training on physical and psychological well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/6351938/ ), Tai and colleagues recruited adults and randomly assigned them to either participate in 12 weeks, once a week for 60 minutes, of either Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise or a metabolically equivalent walking exercise. “Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is an aerobic exercise composed of movements derived not only from Tai Chi exercise but also from Eight Trigrams Palms, form and will boxing, mantis boxing, Qigong, and Yoga . . . The 60-minute exercise involves 4 exercise elements: handwork, trunk work, legwork, and whole-body work. The 3 levels of exercise intensity, light, average, and heavy, are adjusted according to the tolerance and fitness of the exerciser.” The participants were measured before and after the 12 weeks of training for body size and fatness, heart rate and blood pressure, serum glucose and cholesterol, physical fitness, bone density, and cell counts of immune regulator cells, including T cells, CD3+ cells, CD19+ B cells, CD16-CD56- cytotoxic T cells, and CD16+CD56+ NK/T cells.

 

They found that both exercises decreased the Body Mass Index (BMI) indicating decreased body fatness and also increased parasympathetic control of heart rate and blood pressure suggesting reduced activation and greater relaxation. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise, but not walking, was found to significantly improve physical fitness and reduce blood levels of glucose and cholesterol. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise was also found to improve immune system function as indicated by significantly increased T cells, CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, and CD16+CD56+NK cells and significantly decreased CD3+ cytotoxic T cells.

 

These results are impressive especially as the group sizes were relatively small, 26 and 23 participants. They suggest that Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is safe and effective in improving the physical health of participants; improving body fatness, physiological relaxation, physical fitness, and immune system function. Metabolically equivalent walking exercise also improved physical health, but not to the same extent as Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise.

 

It is well established that exercise is important for health. There’s no question there. There is, however, a question as to what exercises may be best for which group of people. Tai Chi and similar mindful movement exercises have been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle recovery after exercise, movement and flexibility, and immune and metabolic function. The present study demonstrated that a particular form of augmented Tai Chi is very effective in improving health. It would be interesting to compare the effectgiveness of various forms of mindful movement prctices.

 

So, improve autonomic function, metabolism, and physical fitness with Tai Chi.

 

“Qigong practice activate a number of the body’s self regulating systems which are responsible for the balanced function of the tissues, organs and glands. The uptake of oxygen, as well as, oxygen metabolism is tremendously enhanced by Qigong practice.” – Roger Jahnke

 

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

 

Hsu-Chih Tai, Yi-Sheng Chou, I-Shiang Tzeng, et al., “Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2018, Article ID 6351938, 7 pages, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/6351938.

 

Abstract

Objectives. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is an aerobic exercise derived mainly from Tai Chi exercise. It is also derived from the Eight Trigrams Palms, form and will boxing, mantis boxing, Qigong, and Yoga, with a total of 16 sessions in 63 minutes. In this study, we investigated its effects on autonomic modulation, metabolism, immunity, and physical function in healthy practitioners. Method. We recruited a total of 26 volunteers and 23 control participants. Heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) were recorded before and after practicing Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise and regular walking for 10 weeks, respectively. Serum glucose, cholesterol, and peripheral blood including B and T cell counts were also measured. They underwent one-minute bent-knee sit-ups, sit and reach test, and three-minute gradual step test. Results. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise enhanced parasympathetic modulation and attenuated sympathetic nerve control with increased very low frequency (VLF) and high frequency (HF) but decreased low frequency (LF) compared to the control group. Metabolic profiles including serum glucose, cholesterol, and BMI significantly improved after exercise. The exercise enhanced innate and adaptive immunity by increasing the counts of CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, and CD16+CD56+ NK cells but decreasing the CD3+ cytotoxic T cell count. All monitored parameters including physical fitness and physical strength improved after the exercise. Conclusion. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise improves autonomic modulation, body metabolism, physical fitness, and physical strength after 10 weeks of practice.

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/6351938/