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

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

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the mental and physical health of the population. It has created intense stress both for frontline workers but also for people simply isolating at home. Mindfulness is known to decrease the psychological and physical responses to stress. So, mindfulness training may be helpful in coping with the mental and physical challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

 

Post-Traumatic Growth and Religiosity Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Post-Traumatic Growth and Religiosity Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our stress lowers when we give our days ahead to a spiritual presence that will be with us ― one that never leaves. Leaning into one’s faith allows room for building a stronger sense of peace . . . and discover a spiritual awakening and divine love that will overpower any real or imagined quarantine we will experience.” – Shar Burgess

 

Modern living is stressful under the best of conditions. But with the COVID-19 pandemic the levels of stress have been markedly increased. These conditions markedly increase anxiety. This is true for everyone but especially for people with pre-existing conditions that makes them particularly vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has also produced considerable economic stress, with loss of employment and steady income. For the poor this extends to high levels of food insecurity. This not only produces anxiety about the present but also for the future. It is important for people to engage in practices that can help them control their responses to the stress and their levels of anxiety. Spirituality, a sense of inner peace and harmony, and religiosity are known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity with the ability to cope with COVID-19.

 

In today’s Research News article “Finding Meaning in Hell. The Role of Meaning, Religiosity and Spirituality in Posttraumatic Growth During the Coronavirus Crisis in Spain.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1481182_69_Psycho_20201112_arts_A ) Prieto-Ursúa and colleagues recruited adults in Madrid, Spain during the Coronavirus pandemic and had them complete a questionnaire online that measured spirituality, religiosity, purpose in life; including general meaning, and establishment of specific goals, post-traumatic growth; including personal, interpersonal, social, and socio-political growth, and experiences with COVID-19.

 

They found that women had greater post-traumatic growth than men. People who knew someone affected by COVID-19 had significantly higher post-traumatic growth of all forms and religiosity and those who had experienced COVID-19 had even greater growth and religiosity. They also found that general meaning in life was associated with greater post-traumatic growth while having specific goals was not. In addition, they found that religiosity was associated with overall growth while spirituality was associated with personal growth once meaning was controlled for.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that these findings are correlational making conclusions regarding causation problematic. It’s also the case that there is no comparison condition. Of course, having a control group without COVID-19 would be practically impossible. This.is a natural experiment, taking advantage of a current very unusual event. We can learn from it but must be careful not to form strong conclusions.

 

Speculatively, these results suggest that trauma is associated with higher levels of growth especially in women. Trauma appears to increase religiosity and religiosity appear to promote growth. It is possible that religion provides a refuge to help with coping with the trauma, Spirituality, on the other hand, appears to be associated with greater meaning in life and this in turn is associated with greater personal growth.

 

The findings suggest that trauma can promote personal, interpersonal, social, and socio-political growth. They also show that having meaning in life is important for that growth. In the face of a pandemic, rather than withdrawing, people strengthen. This attests to the resilience of the human spirit.

 

So, post-traumatic growth and religiosity increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“Sometimes when we experience grief, we feel shocked, anxious, fearful, sad, powerless, angry, or helpless. What we need to remember is that all these feelings and many others are normal. Being able to acknowledge where we are emotionally and spiritually can be empowering.” – Together

 

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

 

Prieto-Ursúa M and Jódar R (2020) Finding Meaning in Hell. The Role of Meaning, Religiosity and Spirituality in Posttraumatic Growth During the Coronavirus Crisis in Spain. Front. Psychol. 11:567836. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836

 

ABSTRACT

Coronavirus has blighted our world, hitting some countries harder than others. Morbidity and mortality rates make Madrid one of the worst affected places so far in the wake of the coronavirus. The aim of this study was to analyze the presence of post-traumatic growth during the coronavirus crisis and to understand the contribution of meaning, religiosity, and spirituality to such growth; 1,492 people completed the questionnaire; N = 1,091 residents in Madrid were selected for the study. We assessed the personal experience of COVID-19, the Spirituality, Religiosity, Meaning trough Purpose in Life-10 test, and Posttraumatic Growth (Community Post-Traumatic Growth Scale). Results showed significant differences for all measures of growth, with higher values in women. Sex and direct impact of COVID-19 accounted for 4.4% of the variance of growth. The different dimensions of meaning contribute differently to growth. Only religiosity was associated with total growth when meaning was included in the model. This same pattern of results is obtained in models predicting interpersonal and social growth. However, in predicting personal growth, it is spirituality that predicts this type of growth once meaning has been previously controlled for, while religiosity fails to reach a statistically significant level. Our results reflect the interest in maintaining the distinction between spirituality and religiosity, their different roles in traumatic growth and the different dimensions on which each has an effect. Finally, it confirms the importance of meaning in post-traumatic growth, especially the dimension of life goals and purposes.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1481182_69_Psycho_20201112_arts_A

 

Distress Is Lower during a COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown in Mindful People

Distress Is Lower during a COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown in Mindful People

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness, Age and Gender as Protective Factors Against Psychological Distress During COVID-19 Pandemic.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01900/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1437459_69_Psycho_20200922_arts_A ) Conversano and colleagues solicited adult participants online during a government ordered lockdown and had them complete measures of COVID-19 experiences, mindfulness, psychological distress, and mental illness symptoms.

 

They found strong negative relationships between mindfulness and psychological distress. They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of psychological distress including somatic symptoms, symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, internalizing symptoms, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobia, paranoia, psychoticism, and sleep disturbance. They also found weak relationships with age and gender such that younger and female participants tended to have higher psychological distress.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that these results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. Mindfulness may produce reduced distress or conversely distress may produce reduced mindfulness or some third factor may produce both. Nevertheless, the results show that during a pandemic lockdown that the people who have high levels of mindfulness also have low levels of psychological distress.

 

So, distress is lower during a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in mindful people.

 

In many ways, COVID-19 has shown us just how connected and how much the same we really are. All of us—and some of us more than others—are vulnerable to getting sick and none of us wants to become ill. Viewed through the lens of interconnectedness, practicing mindfulness as the coronavirus spreads is not only a way to care for ourselves but a way to care for everyone around us.” – Kelly Baron

 

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

 

Conversano C, Di Giuseppe M, Miccoli M, Ciacchini R, Gemignani A and Orrù G (2020) Mindfulness, Age and Gender as Protective Factors Against Psychological Distress During COVID-19 Pandemic. Front. Psychol. 11:1900. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01900

 

Objective: Mindfulness disposition is associated with various psychological factors and prevents emotional distress in chronic diseases. In the present study, we analyzed the key role of mindfulness dispositions in protecting the individual against psychological distress consequent to COVID-19 social distancing and quarantining.

Methods: An online survey was launched on March 13, 2020, with 6,412 responses by April 6, 2020. Socio-demographic information, exposure to the pandemic, and quarantining were assessed together with psychological distress and mindfulness disposition. Multivariate linear regression analysis was performed to study the influence of predictive factors on psychological distress and quality of life in Italian responders during the early days of lockdown. Pearson correlations were calculated to study the relationship between mindfulness and psychiatric symptoms.

Results: Multivariate linear regression run on socio-demographics, COVID-19-related variables, and mindfulness disposition as moderators of overall psychological distress showed that mindfulness was the best predictor of psychological distress (β = −0.504; p < 0.0001). High negative correlations were found between mindfulness disposition and the overall Global Severity Index (r = −0.637; p < 0.0001), while moderate to high associations were found between mindfulness and all SCL-90 sub-scales.

Discussion: Findings showed that high dispositional mindfulness enhances well-being and helps in dealing with stressful situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Mindfulness-based mental training could represent an effective intervention to stem post-traumatic psychopathological beginnings and prevent the onset of chronic mental disorders.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01900/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1437459_69_Psycho_20200922_arts_A

 

Improve Psychological Health in the COVID-19 pandemic with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Health in the COVID-19 pandemic with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Amid ever-changing information around the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety. . . Another way to cope with anxiety is to practice mindfulness.” – Cynthia Weiss

 

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

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287297/), Behan discusses the uses of mindfulness practices for helping individuals cope with the stress and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It is asserted that the pandemic produces psychological issues for individuals and also for those tasked with caring for them and that these issues can be ameliorated with mindfulness practice.

 

For the individual mindfulness practice can be helpful in coping with the anxiety about infection or the future, depression, loneliness, and reduction in quality of life resulting from isolation, physical and psychological manifestations of stress produced by financial and employment concerns or family or relationship difficulties, the strong emotions and general distress produced, the frustration resulting from feelings of helplessness, and the worry and rumination about the present situation and the future or the health of loved ones. Mindfulness practice can even strengthen the immune system to better fight off the infection.

 

For first responders and healthcare workers the pandemic produces a number of difficult issues that may be helped by mindfulness practice. Being mindful or engaging in mindfulness practices can be helpful in coping with the physical and psychological manifestations of stress produced by long hours of working with very sick people with a highly infectious disease, the depression resulting from separation from family and loved ones, the post-traumatic stress disorder that can be produced by repeated exposure to suffering and death, and burnout that can result from the overwhelming quantity and seriousness of the symptoms. In addition mindfulness can help build empathy, compassion, patience, and flexibility that are so important for the treatment of the patients, resilience to withstand the stresses, and the ability to effectively cope with the strong emotions produced.

 

Mindfulness practices have a wide variety of benefits that can be very helpful to the individual and those charged with caring for them in coping with the varied effects of the pandemic. So, improve psychological health in the COVID-19 pandemic by being mindful and engaging in mindfulness practices.

 

There is so much uncertainty about what is to come, and we have less opportunity for social support than in other crises.  Some are already ill, others know someone who is, and many are caring for those who have COVID-19.  In these circumstances, it can be easy to feel frightened and overwhelmed.  Having a regular mindfulness practice can be helpful.” – John Schorling

 

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

 

Behan C. (2020). The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19. Irish journal of psychological medicine, 1–3. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2020.38

 

Abstract

Meditation and mindfulness are practices that can support healthcare professionals, patients, carers and the general public during times of crisis such as the current global pandemic caused by COVID-19. While there are many forms of meditation and mindfulness, of particular interest to healthcare professionals are those with an evidence base such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Systematic reviews of such practices have shown improvements in measures of anxiety, depression and pain scores. Structural and functional brain changes have been demonstrated in the brains of people with a long-term traditional meditation practice, and in people who have completed a MBSR programme. Mindfulness and meditation practices translate well to different populations across the lifespan and range of ability. Introducing a mindfulness and meditation practice during this pandemic has the potential to complement treatment and is a low-cost beneficial method of providing support with anxiety for all.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287297/