Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Training in Nature

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Training in Nature

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Outdoor meditation is an excellent way to improve mental health, reduce anxiety and lessen stress. The use of nature and outdoor space in meditation has been proven to yield major health benefits. Beyond just the physical impacts of lower blood pressure and other cardiovascular benefits—like what comes along with most exercise—meditation can leave you with an enhanced sense of energy and a better mood.” – EHE Health

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve mood. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if mindfulness training occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly improve the effectiveness of mindfulness practice. Pictures in the media of meditation almost always show a practitioner meditating in a beautiful natural setting. But there is little systematic research regarding the effects of mindfulness training in nature. It’s possible that the combination might magnify the individual benefits of each.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Restoration Skills Training (ReST) in a Natural Setting Compared to Conventional Mindfulness Training: Psychological Functioning After a Five-Week Course.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7438830/) Lymeus and colleagues recruited college students with self-perceived stress and  little or no meditation experience. They were randomly assigned to receive either Conventional Mindfulness Training or Restoration Skills Training in weekly 90-minute classes over 5 weeks with daily homework assignments. A no-treatment control group was separately recruited.

 

Both trainings were modelled after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program with open monitoring and body scan meditation practices. The Conventional Mindfulness Training was conducted inside in a plain room while the Restoration Skills Training was conducted in a botanical garden both outside and inside in a greenhouse. It also emphasized “exploration of experiences emanating from sensory connection with stimuli in the environment.” The students were measured before and after training for mindfulness, cognitive function, and perceived stress.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control group both the Conventional Mindfulness Training and Restoration Skills Training groups had significant increases in mindfulness and cognitive functions and decreases in perceived stress with medium to large effect sizes. There were no significant differences between the 2 mindfulness training programs.

 

The present study replicates the findings that have been repeatedly demonstrated in previous research that mindfulness training increases cognitive function and decreases perceived stress. A strength of the present study was that mindfulness training in nature was compared to comparable classical mindfulness training. This allows for a direct assessment of the benefits of training in nature. Although mindfulness training in nature was found to be greatly psychologically beneficial it was not found to be superior to training inside in a plain room.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training in nature is a viable and effective practice for the improvement of the well-being of college students. But there was no evidence that the benefits of being in nature supplemented the impact of mindfulness training. It should be noted that there may have been a ceiling effect present where both mindfulness training produced such strong benefits that there was no further room for practicing in nature to further increase the effects.

 

So, improve psychological health with mindfulness training in nature.

 

“you don’t have to choose between meditation and taking advantage of nature. Meditating outdoors is a great way to invigorate your practice and keep it going strong.” – Mindworks

 

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

Freddie Lymeus, Marie Ahrling, Josef Apelman, Cecilia de Mander Florin, Cecilia Nilsson, Janina Vincenti, Agnes Zetterberg, Per Lindberg, Terry Hartig. Mindfulness-Based Restoration Skills Training (ReST) in a Natural Setting Compared to Conventional Mindfulness Training: Psychological Functioning After a Five-Week Course. Front Psychol. 2020; 11: 1560. Published online 2020 Aug 12. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01560

 

Abstract

Restoration skills training (ReST) is a mindfulness-based course that draws on restorative nature experience to facilitate the meditation practice and teach widely applicable adaptation skills. Previous studies comparing ReST to conventional mindfulness training (CMT) showed that ReST has important advantages: it supports beginning meditators in connecting with restorative environmental qualities and in meditating with less effort; it restores their attention regulation capabilities; and it helps them complete the course and establish a regular meditation habit. However, mindfulness theory indicates that effortful training may be necessary to achieve generalized improvements in psychological functioning. Therefore, this study tests whether the less effortful and more acceptable ReST approach is attended by any meaningful disadvantage compared to CMT in terms of its effects on central aspects psychological functioning. We analyze data from four rounds of development of the ReST course, in each of which we compared it to a parallel and formally matched CMT course. Randomly assigned participants (total course starters = 152) provided ratings of dispositional mindfulness, cognitive functioning, and chronic stress before and after the 5-week ReST and CMT courses. Round 4 also included a separately recruited passive control condition. ReST and CMT were attended by similar average improvements in the three outcomes, although the effects on chronic stress were inconsistent. Moderate to large improvements in the three outcomes could also be affirmed in contrasts with the passive controls. Using a reliable change index, we saw that over one third of the ReST and CMT participants enjoyed reliably improved psychological functioning. The risk of experiencing deteriorated functioning was no greater with either ReST or CMT than for passive control group participants. None of the contrasts exceeded our stringent criterion for inferiority of ReST compared with CMT. We conclude that ReST is a promising alternative for otherwise healthy people with stress or concentration problems who would be less likely to complete more effortful CMT. By adapting the meditation practices to draw on restorative setting characteristics, ReST can mitigate the demands otherwise incurred in early stages of mindfulness training without compromising the acquisition of widely applicable mindfulness skills.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7438830/

 

Improve Cognitive Flexibility with Mindful Non-Reactivity

Improve Cognitive Flexibility with Mindful Non-Reactivity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness meditation practice and self-reported mindfulness were correlated directly with cognitive flexibility and attentional functioning.” – Daphne Davis

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Mindfulness also decreases the individual’s tendency to use tried and true solutions to problems and thereby improves cognitive flexibility. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.

 

Mindfulness, however, is complex and includes facets such as observing, describing, non-reacting, non-judging, and acting with awareness. It is not known which of these facets or which combinations of facets are responsible for the beneficial effects of mindfulness including improved cognitive flexibility. Hence there is a need to investigate the facets of mindfulness and their relationship to the psychological flexibility of the participants.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Mediating Role of Non-reactivity to Mindfulness Training and Cognitive Flexibility: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01053/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1365539_69_Psycho_20200630_arts_A), Zou and colleagues recruited online moderately stressed adults who did not have a mindfulness practice. They were matched and randomly assigned to a wait-list control condition or to receive a once a week for 2.5 hours for 8 weeks Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. MBSR includes meditation, body scan, yoga practices, and discussion along with 45-minute daily home guided meditation practice. They were measured, before, twice during, and after training for mindfulness, including observing, describing, non-reacting, non-judging, and acting with awareness facets, cognitive flexibility, and perceived stress.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the group that received the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program had significant increases in cognitive flexibility. A mediation analysis revealed that MBSR training solely indirectly by increasing the non-reactivity facet of mindfulness which in turn increased cognitive flexibility. Surprisingly, although perceived stress decreased over the 8-week period, there was no significant difference between groups.

 

Cognitive flexibility is ‘the ability to flexibly and adaptively respond to the environments, as opposed to the rigid or automatic thinking style, triggered by prior experience”.  Non-reactivity involves allowing experiences to come and go without reacting in an effort to change them. By not reacting in an autonomic way, it opens up the ability to react flexibly and adaptively to the situation. This ability makes the individual better able to address events in their life and thereby improve their well- being.

 

So, improve cognitive flexibility with mindful non-reactivity.

 

“mindfulness involves cultivation of a “beginner’s mind”, and demonstrate that mindfulness practice reduces cognitive rigidity via the tendency to overlook simple novel solutions to a situation due to rigid and repetitive thought patterns formed through experience.” – Jonathan Greenberg

 

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 Y, Li P, Hofmann SG and Liu X (2020) The Mediating Role of Non-reactivity to Mindfulness Training and Cognitive Flexibility: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front. Psychol. 11:1053. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01053

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to have a beneficial effect on cognitive flexibility. However, little is known about the mediators that produce this effect. Cross-sectional studies show that there might be a link between Non-judgment, Non-reactivity and cognitive flexibility. Longitudinal studies examining whether Non-judgment or Non-reactivity mediate the effectiveness of mindfulness training on improving cognitive flexibility are lacking. The present study aims to test the effect of mindfulness training on increasing cognitive flexibility and to test whether this effect is mediated by Non-judgment or Non-reactivity. We conducted a single-blind randomized controlled trial in 54 nonclinical high-stress participants between October 2018 and January 2019. Participants were randomly assigned to a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group or a waitlist control group. The experimenters were blind to the group assignment of participants. The MBSR group received 8-weekly sessions (2.5-h per week) and a one-day retreat (6-h), and was required to accomplish a 45-min daily formal practice during the intervention. The waitlist control group did not receive any intervention during the waiting period and received a 2-day (6-h per day) mindfulness training after the post-intervention. The primary outcome was self-report cognitive flexibility and perceived stress administered before and after MBSR. The secondary outcome was self-report mindfulness skills (including Non-reactivity and Non-judgment) measured at pre-treatment, Week 3, Week 6, and post-intervention. For cognitive flexibility, mixed-model repeated-measure ANOVA results showed that there were significant main effects of Time, Group and a significant interaction of Time by Group. Follow-up ANOVA indicated that the MBSR group was associated with greater improvements in cognitive flexibility than the waitlist. Path analysis results showed that the effect of the treatment on cognitive flexibility at post-treatment was fully mediated by Non-reactivity at Week 6. The mediation effects of Non-reactivity at Week 3, and Non-judgment at Week 3 and Week 6 were not significant. Our findings support the efficacy of MBSR on improving cognitive flexibility. Non-reactivity is an important element of the effectiveness of MBSR training on cognitive flexibility.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01053/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1365539_69_Psycho_20200630_arts_A

 

Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

tai chi appears to improve executive function—the ability to multitask, manage time, and make decisions—in people without any cognitive decline. In those with mild cognitive impairment, tai chi slowed the progression to dementia more than other types of exercise and improved their cognitive function in a comparable fashion to other types of exercise or cognitive training.” – Harvard Health

 

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. The research findings have been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effectiveness of Tai Chi for reducing cognitive decline during aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi is Effective in Delaying Cognitive Decline in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Evidence from a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7132349/), Yang and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effects of Tai Chi practice on mental decline in the elderly. They identified 11 published research studies with a total of 1061 participants over the age of 60 with mild cognitive impairment.

 

They report that the published research found that Tai Chi practice produced a significant increase in global cognitive function including improved memory, learning ability, mental speed, attention, ideas, abstraction, creativity, mental flexibility, and visuospatial perception. In general, the effect sizes were modest, but they tended to signal a reversal of the decline. Hence, Tai Chi practice appears to improve the mental capabilities of the elderly with mild cognitive impairment. The studies included in the analysis did not have a comparison of Tai Chi practice to another form of exercise. So, it is possible that the benefits were produced, not by Tai Chi per se but by moderate exercise.

 

Tai Chi is an ancient mindfulness practice that involves slow prescribed movements. It is gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, are inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. This suggests that Tai Chi practice should be recommended for inclusion in the lifestyle of aging individuals.

 

So, improve cognitive function in the elderly with Tai Chi.

 

Tai Chi has consistent, small effects on improving cognitive performance in both healthy older adults and older adults with some cognitive impairment.” – P. M. Wayne

 

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

 

Yang, J., Zhang, L., Tang, Q., Wang, F., Li, Y., Peng, H., & Wang, S. (2020). Tai Chi is Effective in Delaying Cognitive Decline in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Evidence from a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 3620534. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/3620534

 

Abstract

To determine whether Tai Chi (TC) is effective in slowing cognitive decline in older populations with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), we performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on Tai Chi and MCI. We searched eight electronic databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Wanfang, Web of Science, MEDLINE, CNKI, EBSCO, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) for appropriate RCTs published up to August 2019. For those studies included, the data were extracted, methodological quality was evaluated, and then meta-analysis was performed using Review Manager software (version 5.3). A total of 11 of the studies were available for systematic review, which together included 1061 participants, met the inclusion criteria, and ten of these were included in the meta-analysis. For most RCTs, the methodological quality was moderate. The meta-analysis revealed that Tai Chi could significantly improve global cognitive function; memory and learning; mental speed and attention; ideas, abstraction, figural creations, and mental flexibility; and visuospatial perception. The present review adds to the evidence showing that Tai Chi is potentially beneficial in improving cognitive functions among elderly people with MCI. However, strictly designed and well-reported RCTs are required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7132349/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Decision Making and Well-Being at End of Life

Spirituality is Associated with Better Decision Making and Well-Being at End of Life

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality is an important component of quality of life and may be a key factor in how people cope with illness, experience healing, and achieve a sense of coherence.” – Christina Puchalski

 

Death in inevitable, but that does not mean that it has to be difficult. Suzuki Roshi at the end of his life was in excruciating pain from cancer yet he told everyone around him “Don’t worry, It’s just Buddha suffering”. He passed with a smile on his face. Augustus Montague Toplady, the preacher author of the hymn “Rock of Ages” dying from tuberculosis said “Oh, what delights! Who can fathom the joy of the third heaven? The sky is clear, there is no cloud; come Lord Jesus, come quickly!” These stories exemplify how spirituality can influence the quality of life at the end of life.

 

Spirituality becomes much more important to people when they’re approaching the end of life. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. But, spiritual concerns, such as feelings of being abandoned by god or needing forgiveness for actions in their lives might lead to anxiety and worry rather than comfort and can exacerbate the psychological burdens at the end of life. Hence, there is a need to study the relationship of spirituality to a palliative care patient’s well-being at the approach of the end of life.

 

In today’s Research News article “The influence of spirituality on decision-making in palliative care outpatients: a cross-sectional study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7035674/), Rego and colleagues recruited adult outpatients from cancer palliative care institutes who had terminal illnesses. They were asked to complete measures of decision conflict and health related quality of life including spiritual well-being and undergo a semi-structured interviews addressing “spirituality, the importance of spirituality during illness, spiritual care, the influence of illness in the sense/meaning of life and the ability to make decisions related to health.”

 

They found that patients who indicated that spirituality was important in dealing with their illness and had a sense of meaning in their lives reported significantly higher levels of spiritual well-being, quality of life, and significantly lower levels of decisional conflict. In addition, they found that higher levels of spiritual wellbeing were associated with higher levels of physical, emotional and functional wellbeing, meaning/peace and faith, and quality of life. Also, spiritual well-being was significantly associated with lower levels of uncertainty and decisional conflict and higher levels of being informed and supported, and satisfaction with decisions. Finally, the patients indicated that spiritual care was important but there was little provided.

 

It should be noted that this study was correlative and as such conclusions about causation cannot be definitively made. But the results suggest that there are clear relationships between spirituality and the ability to cope with end of life issues. Spirituality was related to many components of well-being, suggesting that while approaching end of life having deeper sense of meaning is important in dealing with mortality. In addition, spirituality appears to be associated with better capacity to make decisions, suggesting that it aids in having a clear mind in dealing with the issues associated with the remainder of their lives.

 

It is interesting that as important spirituality appears to be for dealing with the end of life the patients reported that there was very little spiritual care available. This suggests that palliative care should include greater spiritual care. The results suggest that if there was greater spiritual care it would help ease the burden of being terminally ill and improve the quality of their remaining life.

 

Hence, spirituality is associated with better decision making and well-being at end of life.

 

Spirituality is too important and too impactful to ignore. We must work together as palliative care advocates to ensure that patients get comprehensive, person-centered care that addresses all aspects of their quality of life.” – Coalition for Compassionate Care

 

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

 

Rego, F., Gonçalves, F., Moutinho, S., Castro, L., & Nunes, R. (2020). The influence of spirituality on decision-making in palliative care outpatients: a cross-sectional study. BMC palliative care, 19(1), 22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-020-0525-3

 

Abstract

Background

Decision-making in palliative care can be complex due to the uncertain prognosis and general fear surrounding decisions. Decision-making in palliative care may be influenced by spiritual and cultural beliefs or values. Determinants of the decision-making process are not completely understood, and spirituality is essential for coping with illness. Thus, this study aims to explore the influence of spirituality on the perception of healthcare decision-making in palliative care outpatients.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was developed. A battery of tests was administered to 95 palliative outpatients, namely: sociodemographic questionnaire (SQ), Decisional Conflict Scale (DCS), Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being scale (FACIT-Sp), and a semi-structured interview (SSI) to study one’s perception of spirituality and autonomy in decision-making. Statistical analyses involved descriptive statistics for SQ and SSI. The Mann-Whitney test was used to compare scale scores between groups and correlations were used for all scales and subscales. The analysis of patients’ definitions of spirituality was based on the interpretative phenomenological process.

Results

Spiritual wellbeing significantly correlated with greater levels of physical, emotional and functional wellbeing and a better quality of life. Greater spiritual wellbeing was associated with less decisional conflict, decreased uncertainty, a feeling of being more informed and supported and greater satisfaction with one’s decision. Most patients successfully implemented their decision and identified themselves as capable of early decision-making. Patients who were able to implement their decision presented lower decisional conflict and higher levels of spiritual wellbeing and quality of life. Within the 16 themes identified, spirituality was mostly described through family. Patients who had received spiritual care displayed better scores of spiritual wellbeing, quality of life and exhibited less decisional conflict. Patients considered spirituality during illness important and believed that the need to receive spiritual support and specialised care could enable decision-making when taking into consideration ones’ values and beliefs.

Conclusion

The impact of spiritual wellbeing on decision-making is evident. Spirituality is a key component of overall wellbeing and it assumes multidimensional and unique functions. Individualised care that promotes engagement in decision-making and considers patients’ spiritual needs is essential for promoting patient empowerment, autonomy and dignity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7035674/

 

Cope Better with Cognitive Dissonance with Mindfulness

Cope Better with Cognitive Dissonance with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

‘Flexing your ability to think about your thinking and practicing brief bouts of daily meditation is good for your health and has an endless list of psychological and physical benefits for your well-being.” – Christopher Bergland

 

When there is a mismatch between what you say you want and what you do, it is a formula for unhappiness. In psychology it is called cognitive dissonance and it produces an uncomfortable state with a diffuse anxiety. It is psychological conflict resulting from incongruous or conflicting beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. Cognitive dissonance may increase physiological activation, sympathetic nervous system activity which produces a measurable level of discomfort. To resolve this dissonance and reduce aversive activation, people in a dissonant state change their attitudes.

 

Mindfulness is known to improve cognition and reduce aversive feelings. It allows the individual to view their thoughts and feelings dispassionately. So, mindfulness may be helpful in resolving cognitive dissonance. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness is not associated with dissonant attitudes but enhances the ability to cope with them.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146909/),Muschalik  and colleagues explore the ability of mindfulness to help resolve cognitive dissonance.

 

They recruited healthy adults online who ate red meat. They were measured at baseline and one and 3 months later for their attitudes regarding red meat, implicit attitudes (positive or negative) toward red meat, intention to eat less red meat, red meat consumption, and mindfulness. Cognitive dissonance was measured as the difference between the explicit and implicit attitudes toward red meat; the difference between what the participants overtly said and what they covertly felt.

 

They found that neither mindfulness nor any of its subscales were associated with cognitive dissonance. But the higher the levels of cognitive dissonance the lower the levels of red meat consumption. So, having dissonance produced actions. Mindfulness was not found to moderate this relationship. They found, though that the higher the levels of cognitive dissonance the higher the levels of intention to reduce red meat consumption and this relationship was significantly lower when the participant was high in mindful acceptance without judgment.

 

These results are interesting but are correlative, so no conclusions about causation can be made. But the results suggest that mindfulness is not related to cognitive dissonance. One can be highly mindful yet maintain different explicit and implicit attitudes. But mindfully accepting things as they are without judgment appear to reduce the relationship between dissonance and intention to act. In other words, mindful acceptance appears to assist in coping with cognitive dissonance, being able to accept the dissonance without judging it interrupts the intention to act on it.

 

So, cope better with cognitive dissonance with mindfulness.

 

Mindful awareness, as we will see, actually involves more than just simply being aware: It involves being aware of aspects of the mind itself.  Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible.” – Daniel Siegel

 

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

 

Muschalik, C., Crutzen, R., Elfeddali, I., & de Vries, H. (2020). Mindfulness is not associated with dissonant attitudes but enhances the ability to cope with them. BMC psychology, 8(1), 32. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-0377-x

 

Abstract

Background

Explicit and implicit attitudes have been studied extensively, but there is less attention to reducing dissonance between them. This is relevant because this dissonance (IED) results in distress and has inconsistent effects on behavior, e.g. less physical activity but more smoking. Mindfulness decreases dissonance between self-related explicit and implicit constructs. This study investigates if, and which, specific mindfulness subskills are associated with decreased dissonance between explicit and implicit attitudes, and whether mindfulness subskills moderate the relationship between IED and intention/behavior.

Method

At baseline and one and three months thereafter, participants’ (N = 1476) explicit attitudes, implicit attitudes, red meat consumption (RMC), intention to reduce RMC as well as levels of trait mindfulness were assessed.

Results

Mindfulness subskills were not associated with decreased IED. IED was associated with lower RMC and a higher intention to reduce RMC. The mindfulness subskill acceptance buffered the effect of IED on intention, seemingly offering a skill to deal with dissonant attitudes, which was unidentified until now.

Conclusion

The mindfulness subskill accepting without judgment functions as a way to deal with dissonance. Future research should use this novel finding and investigate whether mindfulness can be used as a buffer in contexts where dissonance results in maladaptive behaviors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146909/

 

Improve Cognition and Balance in Older Adults with Tai Chi

Improve Cognition and Balance in Older Adults with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai chi combines the physical components needed to stay upright—leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes—all of which tend to decline with age. . . “It’s like practicing tightrope walking on the ground. You’re practicing your balance and you’re teaching your body to be more sensitive and have greater strength.” – Stanwood Chang

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of falls in older adults.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Indeed, Tai Chi training has been shown to reduce cognitive decline and to reduce the frequency of falls in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Correlation Between Cognition and Balance Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults Observed Through a Tai Chi Intervention Program.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00668/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1302118_69_Psycho_20200416_arts_A), Xiao and colleagues recruited middle age and older health adults (average age of 59 years). They received Tai Chi training for 1 hour, 3 days per week, for 12 weeks. They were measured before and after training for global cognitive function, static and dynamic balance, body size, lower limb strength, and aerobic endurance.

 

They found in comparison to baseline after Tai Chi training there were significant increases in global cognitive function, and static and dynamic balance. Also, they found that before training the higher the levels of both dynamic and static balance the higher the levels of cognitive function. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in both static and dynamic balance after Tai Chi training, the greater the increase in cognitive function. These improvements were found to be related to increases in lower limb strength.

 

These results are interesting as both balance and cognition decline with age. Tai Chi training has been shown in prior research to reduce the decline in both with aging. To my knowledge this is the first time that these improvements appear to be linked where improvements in balance co-occur with improvements in balance. These results suggest that Tai Chi training in older adults may delay cognitive decline and also delay decline in balance. This may tend to reduce the likelihood of falls and precipitous loss of cognitive ability.

 

These findings support the use of Tai Chito improve balance and cognition in older adults. Some advantages of Tai Chi include the facts that it is not strenuous, involves 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. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This makes Tai Chi practice an excellent means to improve balance and reduce falls and delay cognitive decline in older individuals.

 

So, improve cognition and balance in older adults with Tai Chi.

 

When you’re practicing the movements, you’re shifting your weight from one foot to the other to maintain balance. By doing (tai chi), you become more aware of the position of your body in space — which is something we become less aware of as we age.” – Michael Irwin

 

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

 

Xiao T, Yang L, Smith L, Loprinzi PD, Veronese N, Yao J, Zhang Z and Yu JJ (2020) Correlation Between Cognition and Balance Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults Observed Through a Tai Chi Intervention Program. Front. Psychol. 11:668. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00668

 

Abstract

Background: Age-associated decline in cognition and balance may cause severe ability loss for daily living activities among middle-aged and older adults. The relationship between cognition and balance in this aging population remains to be explored.

Objective: The present study Is exploratory in nature and aimed to examine the relationship between balance (both static and dynamic components) and global cognitive function among middle-aged and older adults through Tai Chi (TC) practice as a research avenue.

Methods: A short-term (12 weeks) intervention of TC was conducted among middle-aged and older adults in the community setting. Global cognitive function (using the Chinese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment score (MoCA) and balance (i.e., one leg standing test score; Timed Up and Go Test score, TUGT) of all participants were assessed before and after the intervention. Age, body mass index (BMI), sex, and physical fitness variables (Chair Stand Test, CST; the 6-Meter Walk Test, 6MWT) were also collected as confounding factors.

Results: Significant moderator effects of baseline CST on the association between the dichotomized baseline MoCA score and the baseline left leg balance score (p = 0.0247), the baseline right leg balance score (p = 0.0140) and the baseline TUGT score (p = 0.0346) were found. Change score of left score balance (p = 0.0192) and change score of TUGT (p = 0.0162) were found to be significantly associated with change score of cognitive function.

Conclusion: Cognitive function and balance are interrelated in middle-aged and older adults. The association between global cognitive function and balance Is moderated by strength of lower limbs. The change scores of cognitive function and balance introduced by TC training were found to be positively correlated. Future research Is warranted to further confirm the cause-effect relationship of cognitive function and balance and its influencing factors among middle-aged and older adults utilizing intervention studies with larger sample sizes.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00668/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1302118_69_Psycho_20200416_arts_A

 

Improve Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Improve Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy gaining popularity in the treatment of anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is also used to treat other conditions including depression, eating disorders, chronic pain, and substance use disorders.” – Deborah Glasofer

 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18% of the population. A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is that the suffer overly identifies with and personalizes their thoughts. The sufferer has recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders.

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “A Multiple-Baseline Evaluation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Focused on Repetitive Negative Thinking for Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082425/), Ruiz and colleagues recruited 6 adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and also depression. They received a 3 session Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) protocol of 90, 60, and 60 minutes focused on repetitive negative thinking implemented at different times on a multiple baseline. They were measured weekly over the internet for emotional symptoms (a combination of anxiety, depression and perceived stress), worry, experiential avoidance, cognitive fusion, perseverative thinking, and valuing.

 

They found that all participants demonstrated no significant changes during the 5 or more weeks of the baseline period in emotional symptoms or worry. But once Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) was provided all participants immediately demonstrated a precipitous decline in emotional symptoms, worry, experiential avoidance, cognitive fusion, and perseverative thinking that was maintained for 3 months. Effect sizes were very large and 5 of the 6 participants had clinically significant changes in emotional symptoms and worry.

 

It is well established that mindfulness training reduces anxiety, depression, perceived, stress, and worry. Nevertheless, the results of the present study are striking. Administration of a brief Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)  focused on repetitive negative thinking produced dramatic clinically significant improvements in the core symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression. The fact that this was accomplished in 3-sessions is important as it reduces the investment of therapists in treatment, reducing costs and improving the numbers of people being able to be treated. These findings suggest that this brief form of mindfulness-based therapy be implemented for anxiety and deprressive disorders.

 

So, improve Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

 

ACT helps you take action on your values, instead of letting your anxiety dictate your decisions and your days.” –  Margarita Tartakovsky

 

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

 

Ruiz, F. J., Luciano, C., Flórez, C. L., Suárez-Falcón, J. C., & Cardona-Betancourt, V. (2020). A Multiple-Baseline Evaluation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Focused on Repetitive Negative Thinking for Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 356. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00356

 

Abstract

Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is a core feature of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression. Recently, some studies have shown promising results with brief protocols of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) focused on RNT in the treatment of emotional disorders in adults. The current study analyzes the effect of an individual, 3-session, RNT-focused ACT protocol in the treatment of severe and comorbid GAD and depression. Six adults meeting criteria for both disorders and showing severe symptoms of at least one of them participated in the study. A delayed multiple-baseline design was implemented. All participants completed a 5-week baseline without showing improvement trends in emotional symptoms (Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale – 21; DASS-21) and pathological worry (Penn State Worry Questionnaire; PSWQ). The ACT protocol was then implemented, and a 3-month follow-up was conducted. Five of the six participants showed clinically significant changes in the DASS-21 and the PSWQ. The standardized mean difference effect sizes for single-case experimental design were very large for emotional symptoms (d = 3.34), pathological worry (d = 4.52), experiential avoidance (d = 3.46), cognitive fusion (d = 3.90), repetitive thinking (d = 4.52), and valued living (d = 0.92 and d = 1.98). No adverse events were observed. Brief, RNT-focused ACT protocols for treating comorbid GAD and depression deserve further empirical tests.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082425/

 

Relieve Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

Relieve Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

a way to reduce the symptoms of anxiety is to be fully, mindfully, anxious. As anxiety reveals itself to be a misperception, symptoms will dissipate.” – George Hofmann

 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18% of the population. A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is that the suffer overly identifies with and personalizes their thoughts. The sufferer has recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments.

 

Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders. One way that this training might affect anxiety disorders is by reducing negative interpretation bias. This involves a tendency to interpret relatively ambiguous situations as threatening. Indeed, such bias is characteristic of patients with anxiety disorders.

 

In today’s Research News article “Investigating the Role of Interpretation Bias in Mindfulness-Based Treatment of Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00082/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A), Hoge and colleagues recruited adult patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and provided them with an 8-week program in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The program involves weekly 2-hour sessions consisting of meditation, body scan, yoga, and discussion with daily home practice. The patients were measured before and after training for mindfulness, anxiety, and interpretation bias.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline, after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training there were significant increases in mindfulness and significant decreases in anxiety and interpretation bias. They then performed mediation analysis and found that the higher the levels of mindfulness after training the lower the levels of anxiety but negative interpretation bias did not significantly mediate the association. They also found that the greater the change in mindfulness from baseline, the greater the change in anxiety. But the change in negative interpretation bias did not significantly mediate the association.

 

These findings corroborate previous findings that mindfulness training produces decreases in anxiety. But, contrary to the experimental hypothesis, there was no evidence that mindfulness’ effectiveness for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) results from a change in negative interpretation bias. This is contrary to previous findings that interpretation bias mediates the effects of mindfulness on anxiety. The current study used patients with GAD while prior research used healthy undergraduate students. This suggests that interpretation bias may mediate the effect of mindfulness on normal, typical, levels of anxiety but not pathological levels.

 

Other research has suggested that changes in emotion regulation, rumination and worry, or  self-compassion might partially mediate  the effects of mindfulness training on anxiety. The present results, taken together with prior findings suggests that mindfulness induced reductions in negative interpretation bias may help to lower anxiety levels when the levels are relatively low but not when the levels are extreme as in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). At extreme levels it is known that anxiety begets anxiety. That is, that the high levels of anxiety tend to produce more anxiety. It may be this amplifying effect is not addressed by changes in interpretation bias while the initial levels are.

 

So, relieve generalized anxiety disorder with mindfulness.

 

Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

 

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

 

Hoge EA, Reese HE, Oliva IA, Gabriel CD, Guidos BM, Bui E, Simon NM and Dutton MA (2020) Investigating the Role of Interpretation Bias in Mindfulness-Based Treatment of Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Front. Psychol. 11:82. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00082

 

Although mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have garnered empirical support for a wide range of psychological conditions, the psychological processes that mediate the relationship between MBIs and subsequent symptomatic improvement are less well-understood. In the present study we sought to examine, for the first time, the relationship between mindfulness, negative interpretation bias as measured by the homophone task, and anxiety among adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Forty-two individuals with GAD completed measures of mindfulness, interpretation bias, and anxiety before and after treatment with Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Contrary to prior research, we did not find evidence of an indirect relationship between baseline levels of mindfulness and anxiety via negative interpretation bias. MBSR did result in significant reductions in negative interpretation bias from baseline to post-treatment; however, we did not find evidence of an indirect relationship between changes in mindfulness and changes in anxiety via changes in interpretation bias. Taken together, these results provide minimal support for the hypothesized relationship between mindfulness, negative interpretation bias, and anxiety among adults with GAD. Limitations and specific suggestions for further inquiry are discussed.

Highlights

– We examined the role of interpretation bias in the mindfulness-based treatment of adults with GAD.

– Participants experienced significant reductions in mindfulness, negative interpretation bias, and anxiety.

– We did not find evidence for an indirect relationship between mindfulness and anxiety via interpretation bias.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00082/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A

 

Less Negative Emotions Occur in Mindful Children and Adolescents

Less Negative Emotions Occur in Mindful Children and Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

We ultimately want to give children (and teens, and adults!) the ability to notice however they feel in the moment, and the tools to manage and respond appropriately to their inner and outer experience.” – Oren Jay Sofer

 

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

 

Mindfulness training in adults has been shown to reduce anxietydepression, and perceived stress levels and improve emotional regulation. In addition, in adolescents it has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health. On the other hand, getting lost in thought (mind wandering) has been shown to be associated with negative emotions. Hence, there is a need to explore the relationship between mindfulness, getting lost in thought, and emotions in children and adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Cognitive Fusion Mediates the Relationship between Dispositional Mindfulness and Negative Affects: A Study in a Sample of Spanish Children and Adolescent School Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6926870/), García-Gómez and colleagues recruited children and adolescents between the ages of 8 to 16 years. They were measured for cognitive fusion, experiential avoidance, mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, and anxiety.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of cognitive fusion, experiential avoidance, negative emotions, and anxiety. A mediation analysis revealed that mindfulness had both direct and indirect associations such that mindfulness was negatively associated directly with both negative emotions and anxiety and also indirectly by way of its negative association with cognitive fusion which was in turn negatively associated with negative emotions and anxiety. Higher levels of mindfulness were associated with lower levels of cognitive fusion which, in turn, were associated with lower levels of negative emotions and anxiety.

 

These results are correlational and thus causation cannot be determined. Also, this study employed only children and adolescents, So, it is not established if similar findings would occur in adults. But there are a large number of studies that demonstrate a causal effect of mindfulness on negative emotions and anxiety with adults. Indeed, in the present study, age did not moderate the results. Hence the present results probably are due to the effects of mindfulness on cognitive fusion and on these negative emotions and occur regardless of age.

 

“Cognitive fusion is a process by which the individual becomes entangled with memories, thoughts, judgments, and evaluations and adjust behavior to the internal experiences.” Hence cognitive fusion is the antithesis of mindfulness. One cannot be mindful and at the same time be lost in thoughts. This suggests that being lost in thought (cognitive fusion) tends to produce negative emotions, while being mindful tends to reduce these negative emotions. This suggests that mindfulness by focusing the individual on the present moment improves the individual’s emotional state and also tends to prevent getting lost in thought which also improves the individual’s emotional state.

 

So, reduce getting lost in thought and negative emotions with mindfulness.

 

When I look at childhood anxiety I see an enormous problem and a precursor to other problems in adolescents and adults,” – Randye Semple

 

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

 

García-Gómez, M., Guerra, J., López-Ramos, V. M., & Mestre, J. M. (2019). Cognitive Fusion Mediates the Relationship between Dispositional Mindfulness and Negative Affects: A Study in a Sample of Spanish Children and Adolescent School Students. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(23), 4687. doi:10.3390/ijerph16234687

 

Abstract

Nowadays, mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) have experienced a remarkable development of studies among childhood and adolescent interventions. For this reason, dispositional mindfulness (DM) measures for children and adolescents have been developed to determine the effectiveness of MBI at this age stage. However, little is known about how key elements of DM (for example, cognitive de/fusion or experiential avoidance that both confirm psychological inflexibility) are involved in the mechanisms of the children and adolescents’ mental health outcomes. This research examined the mediating effect of cognitive fusion between DM and anxiety and other negative emotional states in a sample of 318 Spanish primary-school students (aged between 8 and 16 years, M = 11.24, SD = 2.19, 50.8% males). Participants completed the AFQ-Y (Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for youth), which is a measure of psychological inflexibility that encompasses cognitive defusion and experiential avoidance; CAMM (DM for children and adolescents), PANAS-N (positive and negative affect measure for children, Spanish version of PANASC), and STAIC (an anxiety measure for children). The study accomplished ethical standards. As MBI relevant literature has suggested, cognitive defusion was a significant mediator between DM and symptoms of both negative emotions and anxiety in children and adolescents. However, experiential avoidance did not show any significant mediating relationship. Probably, an improvement of the assessment of experiential avoidance is needed. MBI programs for children and adolescents may include more activities for reducing effects of the cognitive defusion on their emotional distress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6926870/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Mental and Physical Health and Cognitive Ability in African Americans

Spirituality is Associated with Better Mental and Physical Health and Cognitive Ability in African Americans

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

all black religious expression has most of the following attributes: It is animistic, or spirit-filled; anthropocentric, or human-centered; dynamic; expressionistic; shamanistic (believing in communicating with spirits); and thaumaturgic (belief in miracle working).” – Diana Hayes

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Depression is linked with increase inflammatory responses. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response.  In addition, spirituality has been shown to be associated with reduced depression. African Americans have significantly greater incidences of disease. So, it is reasonable to investigate the relationships of spirituality, depression, inflammation and health in African Americans.

 

In today’s Research News article “Influence of Spirituality on Depression-Induced Inflammation and Executive Functioning in a Community Sample of African Americans.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478044/), Herren and colleagues recruited healthy adult African Americans and measured them for depression, daily spiritual experiences, cognitive ability, and response inhibition. Blood was drawn and measured for inflammatory cytokines; IL-1a, TNF-a and IL-6.

 

They found that the higher the levels of depression the lower the levels of cognitive ability (executive function). This relationship was in part mediated by the levels of the inflammatory cytokine, IL-6, such that depression was associated with higher levels of IL-6 which in turn were associated with lower cognitive ability. Interestingly, they also found that the higher the frequency of daily spiritual experiences the lower the levels of depression and the higher the levels of cognitive ability and response inhibition. In addition, spirituality moderated the relationships of IL-6 with cognitive ability, such that the greater the frequency of spiritual experiences the smaller the negative relationship of IL-6 with cognitive ability.

 

These findings are interesting but they are correlational and causation cannot be determined. But they suggest that spirituality is associated with better physical and psychological health in African Americans. It is associated with lower depression levels and better cognitive performance. Additionally, it was associated with a lessened negative relationship between the inflammatory response and cognitive ability.

 

African Americans are generally more religious and spiritual than other groups. The present findings may help to explain why. Their spirituality is associated with better mental and physical health and cognitive ability. It remains for future research to determine if these relationships are causal and spirituality produces these benefits. It also remains to be seen if these relationships are present in other ethnic and racial groups.

 

Spirituality is associated with better mental and physical health and cognitive ability in African Americans.

 

Changing our thoughts, feelings and behaviour to positivity, optimism, hope, acceptance and love boosts immunity at the physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual levels.” – Sunnyside

 

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

 

Herren, O. M., Burris, S. E., Levy, S. A., Kirk, K., Banks, K. S., Jones, V. L., … Campbell, A. L. (2019). Influence of Spirituality on Depression-Induced Inflammation and Executive Functioning in a Community Sample of African Americans. Ethnicity & disease, 29(2), 267–276. doi:10.18865/ed.29.2.267

 

Abstract

African Americans (AAs) are disproportionately affected by cerebrovascular pathology and more likely to suffer from premature cognitive decline. Depression is a risk factor for poorer cognitive functioning, and research is needed to identify factors that serve to mitigate its negative effects. Studies have demonstrated positive influences of spirituality within the AA community. Determining whether spirituality attenuates the effects of depressive symptoms on cognitive functioning and the pathophysiological mechanisms that explain these relationships in AAs is paramount. This study examines the influence of daily spiritual experiences on the relationship between depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning, and how inflammatory markers may partially explain these associations. A sample of 212 (mean age= 45.6) participants completed the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), Trail Making Test A and B (TMT) and Stroop Color and Word Test (Stroop). Blood samples were collected to measure inflammatory mediators (IL-6, IL-1a, TNF-a). Linear regression analyses were used to evaluate associations. Higher BDI-II scores were associated with poorer psychomotor speed and visual scanning, measured by TMT A (B=1.49, P=.01). IL-6 explained a significant amount of variance in this relationship (B=.24, CI 95% [.00, .64]). IL-6 also significantly mediated the relationship between depressive symptoms and psychomotor speed and mental flexibility, measured by TMT B performance (B=.03, CI 95% [.003, .095]). Frequent spiritual experiences among AAs may ameliorate the negative influence of depressive symptoms on cognitive functioning.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478044/