Monitoring and Acceptance of the Present Moment Underlies Mindfulness’ Improving of Positive Emotions

Monitoring and Acceptance of the Present Moment Underlies Mindfulness’ Improving of Positive Emotions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“developing an orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences is a central mechanism of mindfulness interventions for boosting positive emotions in daily life.” – Emily Lindsay

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

The mechanisms by which mindfulness produces improved positive emotions have not been widely explored. In today’s Research News article “How mindfulness training promotes positive emotions: Dismantling acceptance skills training in two randomized controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296247/), Lindsay and colleagues performed 2 studies to examine the relative effectiveness of the acceptance of and monitoring the present moment components of mindfulness training for improving positive emotions.

 

In study 1 they recruited adult participants who were smartphone owners and who measured high in perceived stress and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control condition or to receive an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program consisting of meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion, and meeting once weekly for 2 hours for 8 weeks, including daily home practice. In one condition the MBSR program contained the normal instructions to monitor the present moment and to accept what is transpiring in the present moment without judgement (Monitor & Accept). In another condition the MBSR program contained a modified instruction that deleted all reference to acceptance an non-judging (Monitoring Only). Before and after training the participants completed measures of positive and negative emotions. In addition, the participants completed a measure of positive and negative emotions 5 times daily on their smartphones.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control group, both groups who received the MBSR training had progressive significant increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions over the course of training. But the Monitor & Accept group had significantly greater increases in positive emotions especially happiness and significantly greater decreases in negative emotions especially hostility than the Monitor Only group.

 

In study 2 to prevent discussions of acceptance during group discussions there were no group meetings or discussions. Rather all mindfulness training was delivered over smartphones with daily 20-minute guided practice followed by 10 minutes of home practice for 14 days. The stressed participants were randomly assigned to a Monitor & Accept, Monitor Only, or Coping Control conditions. The Coping condition consisted of instructions on coping and reappraising emotions.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the Coping control group, both groups who received the mindfulness training had progressive significant increases in positive emotions and the Monitor & Accept group had significantly greater increases in positive emotions than the Monitor Only group. All 3 groups had significant decreases in negative emotions without significant differences between groups.

 

These results increase our understanding of the effectiveness of different components of mindfulness training in altering emotions. In particular, they indicate that both the monitoring and acceptance of present moment experience are important for increasing positive emotions in practitioners and that they act additively. The addition of acceptance of present moment experience to monitoring produces greater increases in positive emotions. The findings also suggest that MBSR training produces greater reductions in negative emotions than smartphone-based mindfulness training.

 

Emotions are very important and dictate our overall happiness and well-being. In fact, they are essential to mental health. Mindfulness training by improving emotions produces greater happiness, well-being, and mental health. The present studies suggest that both monitoring and acceptance of present moment experience are important for the improvement of emotions and should be emphasized in mindfulness trainings.

 

So, monitoring and acceptance of the present moment underlies mindfulness’ improving of positive emotions.

 

“In mindfulness practice, feelings are not good or bad; they just are what they are – emotions that might be comfortable or uncomfortable, easy or difficult.” – Living Well

 

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

 

Lindsay, E. K., Chin, B., Greco, C. M., Young, S., Brown, K. W., Wright, A., … Creswell, J. D. (2018). How mindfulness training promotes positive emotions: Dismantling acceptance skills training in two randomized controlled trials. Journal of personality and social psychology, 115(6), 944–973. doi:10.1037/pspa0000134

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation interventions – which train skills in monitoring present-moment experiences with a lens of acceptance – have shown promise for increasing positive emotions. Using a theory-based approach, we hypothesized that learning acceptance skills in mindfulness interventions helps people notice more positive experiences in daily life, and tested whether removing acceptance training from mindfulness interventions would eliminate intervention-related boosts in positive affect. In two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of stressed community adults, mindfulness skills were dismantled into two structurally equivalent interventions: (1) training in both monitoring and acceptance (Monitor+Accept) and (2) training in monitoring only (Monitor Only) without acceptance training. Study 1 tested 8-week group-based Monitor+Accept and Monitor Only interventions compared to a no treatment control group. Study 2 tested 2-week smartphone-based Monitor+Accept and Monitor Only interventions compared to an active control training. In both studies, end-of-day and momentary positive affect and negative affect were measured in daily life for three days pre- and post-intervention using ambulatory assessments. As predicted, across two RCTs, Monitor+Accept training increased positive affect compared to both Monitor Only and control groups. In Study 1, this effect was observed in end-of-day positive affect. In Study 2, this effect was found in both end-of-day and momentary positive affect outcomes. In contrast, all active interventions in Studies 1 and 2 decreased negative affect. These studies provide the first experimental evidence that developing an orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences is a central mechanism of mindfulness interventions for boosting positive emotions in daily life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296247/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Taking a few minutes to meditate every day with the goal of becoming more mindful, or focused on and accepting of the present, is a great way to relieve stress. But it’s even more powerful than you think. Mindfulness meditation helps ease mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.” – Amy Marturana Winderl

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

There is a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditationyogamindful movementscontemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. In addition, there are many sub-forms of each; e.g. meditation can be practiced in focused, open monitoring, or compassion techniques. The relative effectiveness of these techniques in promoting psychological adjustment and mental health needs to be further explored.

 

In today’s Research News article “Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6445895/), Montero-Marin and colleagues recruited both male and female adults (aged 18-74 years) online and had them complete measures of religious beliefs, amounts of meditation and prayer practice, happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and emotional overproduction.

 

They found that the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of focused meditation and the longer the sessions the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions and the lower the levels of depression, negative emotions and emotional overproduction. Similarly, the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of open monitoring meditation the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions and the lower the levels of depression, negative emotions and emotional overproduction. Finally, the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of compassion meditation the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions. Age was not a significant factor. There were no similar relationships with the amounts of prayer or religious beliefs.

 

The findings are correlational and as such no conclusions regarding causation can be reached. But the findings suggest that meditation practice is associated with the practitioners’ psychological well-being. It is interesting that religious beliefs were not associated with well-being and that there were no significant relationships found between prayer practice and measures of well-being. Prior research suggests that spirituality rather then religiosity is associated with positive well-being. The present study, however, did not include measures of spirituality. It would be expected that the degree to which religious beliefs and prayer were spiritual practices rather than religious recitals would be important in determining the relationships of beliefs and practice with well-being.

 

Although there are different patterns of significant relationships between the different meditation techniques and measures of well-being, there were no direct statistical comparisons conducted. So, no conclusions can be reached regarding the differential effectiveness of the different meditation techniques. In general, it would appear that meditation practice, including focused, open monitoring, and compassion types is related to greater well-being regardless of age, gender, or health status.

 

So, improve psychological well-being with meditation.

 

 

While I could point to lots of research outlining the impressive benefits of meditation, I think it always works best if people do the experiment for themselves. Spend just a little time practising every day and see what a difference it makes in your life.” – Black Dog Institute

 

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

 

Montero-Marin, J., Perez-Yus, M. C., Cebolla, A., Soler, J., Demarzo, M., & Garcia-Campayo, J. (2019). Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 630. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630

 

Abstract

There has been increased interest in the relationships between religiosity, meditation practice and well-being, but there is lack of understanding as to how specific religious components and distinct meditation practices could influence different positive and negative psychological adjustment outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the explanatory power of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), and compassion meditation (CM) on psychological adjustment, taking into consideration a number of practice-related variables such as session length, frequency of practice and lifetime practice. Psychological adjustment was assessed by means of happiness, positive affect, depression, negative affect, and emotional overproduction. A cross-sectional design was used, with a final sample comprising 210 Spanish participants who completed an online assessment protocol. Hierarchical regressions were performed, including age, sex and psychotropic medication use in the first step as possible confounders, with the addition of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, FA, OM, and CM in the second step. FA session length was related to all psychological adjustment outcomes: happiness (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.25, p = 0.001), positive affect (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.18, p = 0.014), depression (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.004; β = -0.27, p < 0.001), negative affect (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = -0.27, p < 0.001) and emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.013; β = -0.23, p = 0.001). CM session length was related to positive affect (β = 0.18, p = 0.011). CM practice frequency was associated with happiness (ΔR2 = 0.06, p = 0.038; β = 0.16, p = 0.041). Lifetime practice of FA was related to happiness (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = 0.21, p = 0.030) and OM to emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.037; β = -0.19, p = 0.047). Religious beliefs and prayer seemed to be less relevant than meditation practices such as FA, OM, and CM in explaining psychological adjustment. The distinct meditation practices might be differentially related to distinct psychological adjustment outcomes through different practice-related variables. However, research into other forms of institutional religiosity integrating social aspects of religion is required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6445895/

 

Improve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Seated Yoga

Improve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Seated Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The benefits of yoga, in general, include loosening up muscles, joints, and connective tissues, and improving strength and balance. But is it right for ME/CFS, with post-exertional malaise plus other problematic symptoms such as dizziness and muscle pain? We don’t have a lot of research on yoga for ME/CFS, but what we do have suggests that it just might be.” – Adrienne Dellwo

 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) occurs in about 0.2% of the population. It produces a profound, prolonged, and debilitating tiredness. When severe, it can produce a chronic and extreme tiredness, so severe that sufferers can become bed-bound or need to use a wheel-chair. It produces muscle pain, brain fog and dizziness, poor memory, disturbed sleep and trouble with digestion. Unfortunately, there are no known cures for CFS. The usual treatments for fatigue are targeted at symptom relief and include exercise and drugs. As an alternative to these traditional treatments, mindfulness training has been shown to reduce fatigue. The mindfulness practice of Yoga also includes exercise and it has been shown to be an effective treatment for the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). But the mechanism is not known of how yoga may be affecting the symptoms of CFS.

 

In today’s Research News article “The longitudinal effects of seated isometric yoga on blood biomarkers, autonomic functions, and psychological parameters of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836361/), Oka and colleagues recruited adults with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and randomly assigned them to receive either 20 minute, twice a week, for 2 months seated yoga practice with daily home practice or to no further treatment. Both groups continued to receive pharmacotherapy. They were measured before and after treatment for fatigue, anxiety, depression, and alexithymia. In addition, blood was drawn and assayed for DHEA-S, PRL, and TNF-α. Heart rate variability was also measured with and electrocardiogram (EKG).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, the seated yoga group had a large and significant decrease in fatigue and depression. Further they found that the greater the decrease in fatigue for the seated yoga group, the greater the decrease in TNF-α, in the high frequency component of heartrate variability, and in alexithymia.

 

These results suggest that seated yoga is effective in reducing fatigue and depression in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The correlation analysis suggests that the reduction in fatigue is associated with decreases in inflammation (TNF-α) and an increase in the ability to sense emotions (decreased alexithymia). The correlations do not indicate causation. So, it is not clear if the changes in fatigue produced the reductions in inflammation and alexithymia, or the reverse, or a third factor is responsible. But it is clear that seated yoga practice improves fatigue and depression in patients with CFS.

 

This is important as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is relatively common and debilitating and pharmacological treatments are most often ineffective. The fact that yoga practice can improve the symptoms of CFS is encouraging. In addition, the fact that the yoga practice was performed in a seated position makes it better suited to patients with fatigue who lack the energy for more intense yoga practice. The results of this small pilot study further provide justification for performing a large randomized controlled trial. Seated yoga practice may be able to at least in part reduce the physical and psychological problems produced by CFS.

 

So, improve chronic fatigue syndrome with seated yoga.

 

“isometric yoga together with conventional therapy was more effective in relieving fatigue than was conventional therapy alone in patients with CFS who did not respond adequately to conventional therapy.” – Takakazu Oka

 

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

 

Oka, T., Tanahashi, T., Lkhagvasuren, B., & Yamada, Y. (2019). The longitudinal effects of seated isometric yoga on blood biomarkers, autonomic functions, and psychological parameters of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study. BioPsychoSocial medicine, 13, 28. doi:10.1186/s13030-019-0168-x

 

Abstract

Background

In a previous randomized controlled trial, we found that practicing seated isometric yoga regularly for 2 months improved the fatigue of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who are resistant to conventional therapy. The aim of this pilot study was to investigate the possible mechanisms behind this finding by comparing blood biomarkers, autonomic nervous function, and psychological indices before versus after an intervention period of seated isometric yoga practice.

Methods

Fifteen patients with CFS who did not show satisfactory improvements after at least 6 months of conventional therapy practiced seated isometric yoga (biweekly 20-min sessions with a yoga instructor and daily practice at home) for 2 months. The longitudinal effects of seated isometric yoga on fatigue, blood biomarkers, autonomic function, and psychological state were investigated by comparing the following parameters before and after the intervention period: Fatigue severity was assessed by the Chalder fatigue scale (FS) score. Levels of the blood biomarkers cortisol, DHEA-S, TNF-α, IL-6, prolactin, carnitine, TGF-β1, BDNF, MHPG, HVA, and α-MSH were measured. The autonomic nervous functions assessed were heart rate (HR) and HR variability. Psychological indices included the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).

Results

Practicing seated isometric yoga for 2 months resulted in significant reductions in the Chalder FS (P = 0.002) and HADS-depression (P = 0.02) scores. No significant changes were observed in any other parameter evaluated. The change in Chalder FS score was not correlated with the change in HADS-depression score. However, this change was positively correlated with changes in the serum TNF-α levels (P = 0.048), the high frequency component of HR variability (P = 0.042), and TAS-20 scores (P = 0.001).

Conclusions

Regular practice of seated isometric yoga for 2 months reduced the fatigue and depressive symptom scores of patients with CFS without affecting any other parameters we investigated. This study failed to identify the markers responsible for the longitudinal fatigue-relieving effect of seated isometric yoga. However, considering that the reduced fatigue was associated with decreased serum TNF-α level and TAS-20 scores, fatigue improvement might be related to reduced inflammation and improved alexithymia in these patients.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836361/

 

Reduce the Brain’s Emotional Reactivity with Meditation Practice

Reduce the Brain’s Emotional Reactivity with Meditation Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Of all the reasons people have for trying meditation, being less emotionally reactive is usually pretty high up.” – Alice G. Walton

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of short- and long-term mindfulness meditation training on amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6671286/), Kral and colleagues recruited health adults who were meditation naïve or who were long term meditators having meditated daily for at least 3 years. They viewed pictures that were produced either positive or negative emotions while having their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI). They also rated the pictures emotional content. The meditation naïve participants were randomly assigned to receive either a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or health education program. The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants were also encouraged to perform daily practice at home. After the 8-week training period the participants also had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing the positive, neutral, and negative emotional pictures.

 

They found that the long-term meditators rated more pictures as neutral. This suggests that these meditators have reduced emotional responses to emotion evoking stimuli.  In addition, they had lower activations of the Amygdala on the right side in response to emotionally positive pictures than to neutral pictures. Following MBSR training the meditation naïve participants also had lower activations of the Amygdala on the right side in response to emotionally positive pictures and they also had greater functional connectivity between the Amygdala and the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex.

 

These results suggest that both long-term meditation practice and short-term training impacts the brain in such a way as to reduce the activation of a brain structure (right Amygdala) that is thought to underlie emotional reactivity in response to stimuli. It is interesting to note that the changes were detected on the right side of the brain only as the right side is thought to be the side of the brain that underlies emotion while the left side is thought to underlie more analytical and rational processes.

 

Short-term training appears to impact the ability of the Amygdala to affect the portion of the nervous system that is thought to underlie higher mental processes (Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex). That this increase in functional connectivity was not observed in long-term meditators suggests that over time the reduced activation of the Amygdala produced by meditation practice becomes sufficient by itself to reduce emotional reactivity.

 

It has long been established that mindfulness practices improve emotions and their regulation. The present study reveals underlying neuroplastic changes in the brain that are responsible for these changes in emotional reactivity. They further show that these changes are present after short-term meditation practice and in long-term meditation practitioners. Thus, the research is beginning to reveal not only the effects of meditation practice but also the changes in the brain that underlie these effects.

 

So, reduce the brain’s emotional reactivity with meditation practice.

 

meditation improves emotional health. . . people can acquire these benefits regardless of their ‘natural’ ability to be mindful. It just takes some practice.” – Yanli Lin

 

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

 

Kral, T., Schuyler, B. S., Mumford, J. A., Rosenkranz, M. A., Lutz, A., & Davidson, R. J. (2018). Impact of short- and long-term mindfulness meditation training on amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli. NeuroImage, 181, 301–313. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.07.013

 

Abstract

Meditation training can improve mood and emotion regulation, yet the neural mechanisms of these affective changes have yet to be fully elucidated. We evaluated the impact of long- and short-term mindfulness meditation training on the amygdala response to emotional pictures in a healthy, non-clinical population of adults using blood-oxygen level dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging. Long-term meditators (N=30, 16 female) had 9,081 hours of lifetime practice on average, primarily in mindfulness meditation. Short-term training consisted of an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (N=32, 22 female), which was compared to an active control condition (N=35, 19 female) in a randomized controlled trial. Meditation training was associated with less amygdala reactivity to positive pictures relative to controls, but there were no group differences in response to negative pictures. Reductions in reactivity to negative stimuli may require more practice experience or concentrated practice, as hours of retreat practice in long-term meditators was associated with lower amygdala reactivity to negative pictures – yet we did not see this relationship for practice time with MBSR. Short-term training, compared to the control intervention, also led to increased functional connectivity between the amygdala and a region implicated in emotion regulation – ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) – during affective pictures. Thus, meditation training may improve affective responding through reduced amygdala reactivity, and heightened amygdala–VMPFC connectivity during affective stimuli may reflect a potential mechanism by which MBSR exerts salutary effects on emotion regulation ability.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6671286/

 

Reduce Suicide Risk in Young Adults with Mindfulness

Reduce Suicide Risk in Young Adults with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The pain of depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”– William Styron

 

After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause. Around 43,000 people take their own lives each year in the US. Someone dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. Worldwide over 800,000 people die by suicide every year. (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). It is much more prevalent with males who account for 79% of suicides. The problem is far worse than these statistics suggest as it has been estimated that for every completed suicide there were 12 unsuccessful attempts. In other words, about a half a million people in the U.S. attempt suicide each year.

 

Yet compared with other life-threatening conditions there has been scant research on how to identify potential suicide attempters, intervene, and reduce suicidality. A risk factor for suicide has been found to be an inability to describe and identify emotions, alexithymia. On the other hand, mindfulness training has been shown to reduce suicidality.  Hence, there is a need to further study the relationship of alexithymia and mindfulness in affecting the risk of suicide.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Suicide Risk in Undergraduates: Exploring the Mediating Effect of Alexithymia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6753216/), Fang and colleagues recruited undergraduate students and measured them for mindfulness, suicide risk, difficulty in identifying feelings, difficulty in describing feelings and alexithymia. They then performed regression and mediation analysis of the data.

 

They found, pretty much as expected, that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of suicide risk, difficulty in identifying feelings, difficulty in describing feelings and alexithymia, while the higher the levels of alexithymia the higher the levels of suicide risk, difficulty in identifying feelings, difficulty in describing feelings. In addition, they found that the negative relationship between mindfulness was in part direct but also strongly mediated by alexithymia, such that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of alexithymia which, in turn, was associated with lower suicide risk. The mindfulness – suicide risk relationship also was mediated by the alexithymia components of difficulty in identifying feelings and difficulty in describing feelings.

 

It should be noted that the present study was correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. Hopefully future research with investigate the effects of mindfulness training on suicide risk and alexithymia. Nevertheless, the present study verified that being high in mindfulness is associated with being low in the risk of committing suicide. It also verified the that being high in alexithymia is a risk factor for suicide. The new finding here is that mindfulness is associated with reduced suicide risk, in large part, by its association with lower levels of alexithymia.

 

Ignoring the problems with determining causation it can be speculated that mindfulness makes an individual more sensitive to their internal state and emotions. This is the opposite to the lower sensitivity with alexithymia. This greater sensitivity to the individual’s emotional state produced by mindfulness reduces the likelihood that negative emotions can lead to suicide. Hence, mindfulness may be a protective factor for suicide.

 

So, reduce suicide risk in young adults with mindfulness.

 

Mindful curiosity treats suicidal thoughts for what they are: a symptom, not a truth. They are a symptom that something in you needs healing. . . Mindfulness enables you to recognize just how transitory thoughts are. They come and they go, like clouds before the sun.” – Stacey Freedenthal

 

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

 

Fang, Y., Zeng, B., Chen, P., Mai, Y., Teng, S., Zhang, M., … Zhao, J. (2019). Mindfulness and Suicide Risk in Undergraduates: Exploring the Mediating Effect of Alexithymia. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2106. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02106

 

Abstract

The present study was designed to examine the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and suicide risk in undergraduates, and it further explored the potential mediating role of alexithymia in this relationship. A total of 2,633 undergraduates completed the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire – Revised (SBQ-R), and the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20). The results indicate that mindfulness and suicide risk were negatively correlated, and alexithymia partially mediated the relationship between mindfulness and suicide risk only in the female undergraduates. Moreover, only the difficulty in identifying feelings (DIF) factor of alexithymia mediated the relationship between mindfulness and suicide risk in the female undergraduates. These findings contribute to the potential mechanism that explains the relationship between mindfulness and suicide risk. Furthermore, it is possible to implement mindfulness in the suicide intervention of alexithymic individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6753216/

Improve Brain Processing of Awareness and Emotions with Mindfulness

Improve Brain Processing of Awareness and Emotions with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Evidence suggests that particular areas of the brain may either shrink or grow in response to regular mindfulness practice.” – Meera Joshi

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that meditation practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.

 

Neuroscience has established that contemplative practices produce neuroplastic changes in widespread areas of the nervous system. In other words, mindfulness practices appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. One mindfulness therapeutic technique, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), has been commonly applied to the treatment of multiple physical and psychological conditions. The MBSR practice consists of discussion, meditation, yoga, and body scan practices. It is important to understand what are the exact changes in the brain that are produced by the MBSR training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Alterations of Regional Homogeneity and Functional Connectivity Following Short-Term Mindfulness Meditation in Healthy Volunteers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6813410/), Xiao and colleagues recruited meditation naive healthy adults who were participating in an MBSR training and a matched group of no-treatment control participants. The MBSR program met for 2 hours once a week for 8 weeks along with daily home practice. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness and positive and negative emotions. In addition, the participants’ brains were scanned with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment controls, the participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training had significant increases in mindfulness and significant decreases in negative emotions. They also found that following MBSR training there were significant increases in the synchronization of activities in the parietal lobe and significant decreases in the synchronization of activities in the posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, and cuneus, and increased functional connectivity in the superior parietal lobule and postcentral gyrus and the median cingulate cortex, insula and precentral gyrus.

 

The findings that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training increases mindfulness and decreases negative emotions and affects brain structures and connectivity are well established by other studies. The parietal lobe is known to be involved in attentional and executive control brain networks. So, the findings that its’ activities synchronizations were increased by MBSR training are also not surprising, suggesting that the training improves attention. Likewise, and the posterior cingulate cortex is associated with what’s called the default mode network which is associated with mind wandering and discursive and internalized thinking. So, the findings that its’ activity synchronizations were decreased by MBSR training are also not surprising, suggesting that the training reduces mind wandering.

 

In addition, the findings that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training increases functional connectivity of the median cingulate cortex and insula would be expected as these structures are involved in interoceptive awareness, suggesting that MBSR training heightens the awareness of the practitioner’s internal state. Finally, the findings that MBSR training increases functional connectivity of the precentral and postcentral gyrus would be expected as these structures are involved in coordination of tactile and motor information, suggesting that MBSR training heightens the bodily awareness, another component of mindfulness.

 

The findings, then, of the present study are compatible with prior findings of the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training on the practitioners’ psychological states and the brain systems underlying these states. This helps to present a clearer picture of the impact of mindfulness training on the individuals psychological processes and their underlying neural substrates. MBSR training is a combination of meditation, yoga, body scan, and experience sharing. It remains for future research to delineate which components or combinations of components may or may not be responsible for each of these effects.

 

So, improve brain processing of awareness and emotions with mindfulness.

 

“The impact that mindfulness exerts on our brain is borne from routine: a slow, steady, and consistent reckoning of our realities, and the ability to take a step back, become more aware, more accepting, less judgmental, and less reactive. . . mindfulness over time can make the brain, and thus, us, more efficient regulators, with a penchant for pausing to respond to our worlds instead of mindlessly reacting.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Xiao, Q., Zhao, X., Bi, G., Wu, L., Zhang, H., Liu, R., … Chen, Z. (2019). Alterations of Regional Homogeneity and Functional Connectivity Following Short-Term Mindfulness Meditation in Healthy Volunteers. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 376. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00376

 

Abstract

Mindfulness is described as the non-judgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment. The sustained practice of mindfulness may also have beneficial effects on an individual’s well-being. For instance, mindfulness meditation is an effective approach for improving emotion regulation. Specifically, the early stage of mindfulness meditation training enhances emotional monitoring systems related to attention regulation and executive function. Reduced activity in the default mode network (DMN) would probably be observed corresponding to the attenuated mind wandering. In the present study, we hypothesized that alterations in functional activity in the frontal-parietal cortex and DMN may be induced by short-term mindfulness meditation. In this study, before and after 8 weeks of weekly Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training, healthy participants were evaluated using a mindfulness questionnaire and an affect schedule, as well as via resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Sixteen right-handed non-meditators were enrolled. Another 16 demographically matched healthy adults without any meditation experience were recruited as controls. Pre- and post-MBSR assessments were compared. Increased regional homogeneity in the right superior parietal lobule and left postcentral gyrus (PoCG), as well as altered functional connectivity in PoCG-related networks, were observed post-MBSR. The mindfulness questionnaire scores also improved and negative affect was significantly decreased after MBSR. Together with reduced involvement of the posterior brain, our results suggest a tendency toward stronger involvement of the parietal cortex in mindfulness beginners. This study provides novel evidence regarding the optimization of emotional processing with short-term mindfulness meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6813410/

 

Mindfulness and Sense of Control are Independently Associated with Emotions

Mindfulness and Sense of Control are Independently Associated with Emotions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the truth is that meditation does not eradicate mental and emotional turmoil. Rather, it cultivates the space and gentleness that allow us intimacy with our experiences so that we can relate quite differently to our cascade of emotions and thoughts. That different relationship is where freedom lies.” – Sharon Salzburg

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

This may indicate that mindfulness training improves the sense of control over our inner life.

In today’s Research News article “The Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness, Sense of Control, and Affect in a National Sample of Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093486/), Imel and colleagues examine the relationship of sense of control with mindfulness’ ability to improve emotions. They recruited a large sample of adults (from 28 to 84 years of age) and had them complete measures of mindfulness, sense of control, positive and negative emotions, religiousness and spirituality, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion.

 

Employing a moderation analysis, they demonstrated that the sense of control was strongly positively associated with positive emotions and negatively associated with negative emotions. In addition, mindfulness was also associated with positive and negative emotions. But mindfulness was not associated with sense of control. These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness did not affect emotions by altering the individuals’ sense that they were in control of themselves. Rather, it would appear that mindfulness and sense of control are independently associated with emotions.

 

Thus, mindfulness and sense of control are independently associated with emotions.

 

“The key to overcoming these difficult emotions is mindfulness! Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm down and soothe yourself. In this state, you have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than react.” – Toni Parker

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Imel, J. L., & Dautovich, N. D. (2018). The Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness, Sense of Control, and Affect in a National Sample of Adults. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 73(6), 996–1005. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbw092

 

Abstract

Objectives

The present study examined factors associated with better affective experiences across the life span, extending existing research to older adults. Specifically, we investigated dispositional mindfulness and sense of control as predictors of affect and sense of control as a potential mediator of the mindfulness—affect associations.

Method

We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness mediated by sense of control would predict affective outcomes. An archival analysis of a sample of 4,962 adults, aged 28 to 84 years, was conducted using the Midlife in the U.S. national survey (MIDUS-II). Exploratory analyses were conducted with age as a moderator in all associations.

Results

Greater dispositional mindfulness predicted more positive and negative affect irrespective of age. Dispositional mindfulness did not predict sense of control. Greater sense of control predicted more positive and less negative affect, and these associations were significantly moderated by age. Sense of control did not mediate the dispositional mindfulness—affect associations.

Discussion

The present study extends existing research on the dispositional mindfulness—positive affect association to older ages. The sense of control and positive and negative affect associations are enhanced and buffered, respectively, at older ages, indicating that the association between control and affect differs by age.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093486/

 

Improve Emotion Regulation in Teacher Trainees with Mindfulness

Improve Emotion Regulation in Teacher Trainees with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful emotion regulation represents the capacity to remain mindfully aware at all times, irrespective of the apparent valence or magnitude of any emotion that is experienced. It does not entail suppression of the emotional experience, nor any specific attempts to reappraise or alter it in any way. Instead, MM involves a systematic retraining of awareness and nonreactivity, leading to defusion from whatever is experienced, and allowing the individual to more consciously choose those thoughts, emotions and sensations they will identify with, rather than habitually reacting to them.” – Richard Chambers

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

Teachers experience burnout at high rates. Roughly a half a million teachers out of a workforce of three million, leave the profession each year and the rate is almost double in poor schools compared to affluent schools. Indeed, nearly half of new teachers leave in their first five years. Burnout frequently results from emotional exhaustion. Hence, methods of improving teacher emotion regulation need to be studied. Intervening during teacher training may be a useful strategy as improving emotion regulation very early before the teaching career begins may prepare the teachers to better deal with the difficulties of their profession.

 

In today’s Research News article “Improving emotion regulation and mood in teacher trainees: Effectiveness of two mindfulness trainings.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6749600/), Wimmer and colleagues recruited college students who intended to become school teachers and assigned them to one of four conditions, mindfulness training with yoga, mindfulness training without yoga, awareness training, or no-treatment. The mindfulness training was based upon Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The modified MBSR program consisted of 7 weekly 1.5-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The teachers are also encouraged to perform 20 minutes of daily practice. Awareness training occurred on a similar schedule and emphasized reflections on consciousness and awareness. They were measured before and after training for emotion regulation, response style, and positive and negative emotions.

 

They found that in comparison to the no-treatment control and baseline both mindfulness groups had significant increases in reappraisal and decreases in symptom‐focused rumination, distraction, and depressive mood. These effects of mindfulness training were found to be, in part, mediated by the distraction strategy of emotion regulation. There were no significant differences in the effects of mindfulness training with and without yoga on emotion regulation or mood.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training regardless of whether yoga is included is effective in increasing emotion regulation in college students aspiring to become teachers. It is interesting that distraction was to some extent a mediator of the effects of mindfulness training. This strategy involves dealing with strong emotions by shifting attention to more pleasant aspects of the situation. Mindfulness training, by improving attentional control, may facilitate the ability to shift attention to other distracting areas.

 

It is not known whether these effects of mindfulness training are lasting and may influence the students’ abilities to deal with the stresses of teaching in the future. It would be hoped that mindfulness training may help to prepare prospective teachers to effectively work with the emotions that arise from their profession. This would then improve their resistance to professional burnout. It remains for future research to investigate the longevity of the emotion regulation improvements.

 

So, improve emotion regulation in teacher trainees with mindfulness.

 

our emotions don’t have to take over your life or interfere with your important relationships when you learn how to understand, manage, and respond to your emotions more effectively. Become mindful of your own personal tendencies and emotional triggers. Notice what situations tend to prompt emotional responses in you. When you increase self-knowledge in this way, you are better prepared to competently and confidently employ emotion regulation coping skills no matter what the situation.” – Laura Chang

 

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

 

Wimmer, L., von Stockhausen, L., & Bellingrath, S. (2019). Improving emotion regulation and mood in teacher trainees: Effectiveness of two mindfulness trainings. Brain and behavior, 9(9), e01390. doi:10.1002/brb3.1390

 

Abstract

Background/Objective

The present research investigated potential effects of mindfulness training on emotion regulation and mood of future schoolteachers in a nonrandomized pre–post design, and whether these are influenced by the yoga component of mindfulness‐based stress reduction (MBSR) and/or by homework practice.

Method

N = 169 university students received either mindfulness training (experimental groups), awareness activities (active control group), or no training (passive control group), in the context of university seminars. Allocation to groups was bound by the seminar chosen by participants, and in that sense was self‐selected. Mindfulness was trained in two adapted MBSR courses, one of which including yoga, and the other excluding yoga.

Results

Specific benefits of both mindfulness training groups were observed for emotion regulation in terms of an increase in cognitive reappraisal and a reduction in symptom‐focused rumination as well as depressive mood. No benefits of mindfulness training were observed for reductions in expressive suppression, self‐focused rumination, anxious, and negative mood or an increase in distraction and positive mood respectively. Mindfulness training with and without yoga was mostly equally effective. Outcomes were largely not moderated by practice quantity or quality, but reductions in depressive mood were mediated by gains in reappraisal and distraction.

Conclusions

Mindfulness training can be implemented in the context of university seminars to foster advantageous emotion regulation strategies and lower depressive mood in future schoolteachers. Discontinuing yoga within mindfulness interventions does not seem to reduce training benefits.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6749600/

 

Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness

Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

When we engage in mindful practices, we can bring greater awareness, clarity, and equanimity to our day to day experiences. This leads to greater balance and less of the intense swings in mood that can throw us off kilter for days at a time.” – Sean Fargo

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders. Aerobic exercise can also improve emotions and their regulation. So, it makes sense to study the relationship between exercise and mindfulness in effecting emotion regulation.

 

In today’s Research News article “How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718717/), Zhang and colleagues recruited healthy female postgraduate students who did not have meditation experience and who did not engage in exercise. They were randomly assigned to a wait-list control condition or to engage in exercise 3 times per week over 8 weeks. The exercise alternated between jogging for 40 minutes and yoga practice for 60 minutes. The yoga practice consisted of postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. They were measured before and after the intervention for emotion regulation, negative emotions, aerobic fitness, and mindfulness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the aerobic exercise and yoga group had significant increases in emotion regulation, aerobic fitness, and mindfulness and decreases in negative emotions. They also found that increases in aerobic fitness were associated with increases in emotion regulation. But this association was only significant with participants who had high or moderate increases in their levels of mindfulness. At low levels of improvements in mindfulness there was no significant relationship between aerobic fitness and emotion regulation.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that aerobic exercise and yoga improves the individual’s ability to regulate their emotions. But mindfulness is required for aerobic exercise to be effective. The increases in mindfulness would be expected as the exercise intervention contained yoga and meditation components. Aerobic exercise is known to improve mood. It is new to show that it also improves emotion regulation. Perhaps that’s the reason for the improvements in mood. But in order for the emotion regulation to be improved by exercise, it must be accompanied by improvements in mindfulness. This suggests that the ability to pay attention in the present moment nonjudgmentally to one’s emotions is required for the exercise to affect the ability to regulate the emotions. Here mindfulness plays a permissive role allowing the exercise to have its effect on the participants ability to regulate their emotions.

 

So, Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness.

 

By acting mindfully, people are not only aware of their own feelings but become able to distance from it, avoiding feeling overpowered and acting out.” – Joan Swart

 

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

 

Zhang, Y., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1888. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888

 

Abstract

Purpose: The primary aim of the present study is to examine the effect of 8-week mind-body exercise intervention combining aerobic jogging and mindfulness-based yoga on implicit emotion regulation ability. The secondary aim is to explore the specific potential pathways by which the mind-body exercise intervention fosters implicit emotion regulation. This may help us to understand how the key components of exercise intervention contribute to emotional benefits.

Methods: Sixty participants were randomly allocated to one of two parallel groups: (1) the intervention group (n = 29) and (2) the waitlist control group (n = 31). Participants were asked to fill out scales measuring mindfulness and instructed to complete an emotion regulation task to assess implicit emotion regulation ability as well as the PWC 170 Test to evaluate aerobic fitness before and after the intervention.

Results: The results of the two-way repeated ANOVA revealed that 8 weeks of intervention improved implicit emotion regulation, mindfulness, and aerobic fitness levels. Path analysis showed that only improved aerobic fitness mediated the intervention effect on implicit emotion regulation ability, controlling for change in negative affect. Notably, the relationship between the effects on implicit emotion regulation ability and aerobic fitness was moderated by improved mindfulness.

Conclusion: Eight weeks of mind-body exercise intervention improves implicit emotion regulation ability. The aerobic fitness may be an essential pathway which mediates the efficacy on implicit emotion regulation ability. Furthermore, different components, such as aerobic fitness and mindfulness, may interactively contribute to such emotional benefits.

Keywords: mind-body exercise, aerobic jogging, mindfulness-based yoga, implicit emotion regulation ability, aerobic fitness, mindfulness, potential pathway

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718717/

 

Improve Emotions and Thinking with Mindfulness

Improve Emotions and Thinking with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Through mindfulness you can learn to turn your negative emotions into your greatest teachers and sources of strength. . . Instead of ‘turning away’ from pain in avoidance we can learn to gently ‘turn towards’ what we’re experiencing. We can bring a caring open attention towards the wounded parts of ourselves and make wise choices about how to respond to ourselves and to life.” – Melli O’Brien

 

Mindfulness is the ability to focus on what is transpiring in the present moment. It involves a greater emphasis on attention to the immediate stimulus environment. Mindful people generally have better attentional abilities and have fewer intrusive thoughts and less mind wandering. As a result, mindfulness has been shown to be associated with improved cognition (thinking). In addition, mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions.

 

Most of the research studying the effects of mindfulness on emotions and thinking have been conducted with western participants. It is important to assess the generalizability of these findings to eastern populations. In today’s Research News article “Can Mindfulness-Based Training Improve Positive Emotion and Cognitive Ability in Chinese Non-clinical Population? A Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619344/), Zhu and colleagues recruited healthy Chinese college students who never participated in mindfulness practices. They were randomly assigned to receive either a 12 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training or no treatment. The MBSR program met for 2.5 hours once a week along with 30-45 minutes of daily home practice and consisted of discussion, meditation, yoga, and body scan practices. They were measured before, during, and after training for mindfulness, emotions, attention with a Continuous Performance Task, and executive function with a Stroop task.

 

They found that in comparison to the no-treatment control group, after training the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group had significantly higher mindfulness and positive emotions. They had faster responses on the Continuous Performance Task, suggesting better sustained attention.  They further found that the greater the increase in mindfulness, the greater the increases in positive emotions and sustained attention, suggesting that the training effected mindfulness which, in turn, affected emotions and attention.

 

It has been well established that mindfulness trainings, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) are effective in improving emotions, attention, and mindfulness in western participants. The present study demonstrates that similar effects occur in eastern participants. This expands the generalizability of the findings, suggesting that MBSR training is effective regardless of race and culture.

 

So, improve emotions and thinking with mindfulness.

 

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

 

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

 

Zhu, T., Xue, J., Montuclard, A., Jiang, Y., Weng, W., & Chen, S. (2019). Can Mindfulness-Based Training Improve Positive Emotion and Cognitive Ability in Chinese Non-clinical Population? A Pilot Study. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1549. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01549

 

Abstract

Objective

Based on eastern philosophy, mindfulness is becoming popular for human being’s mental health and well-being in western countries. In this study, we proposed to explore the effectiveness and potential pathway of mindfulness-based training (MBT) on Chinese Non-clinical higher education students’ cognition and emotion.

Methods

A paired control design was used. 48 higher education students (24 in MBT group, 24 in control group) were recruited in the study. The MBT group engaged in a 12-week MBT. A package of measurements, including sustained attention tasks (The Continuous Performance Test, CPT), executive function task (Stroop) for cognitive functions, the self-reported mindfulness levels (The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, MAAS) and emotion (The Profile of Mood States, POMS), were apply for all participants at baseline and every 4 weeks during next 12 weeks.

Results

There were no differences in baseline demographic variables between two groups. Over the 12-week training, participants assigned to MBT group had a significantly greater reduction in CPT reaction time (Cohen’s d 0.72), significantly greater improvement in positive emotion (Vigor-Activity, VA) (Cohen’s d 1.08) and in MAAS (Cohen’s d 0.49) than those assigned to control group. And, MAAS at 4th week could significantly predict the CPT RT and VA at 8th week in the MBT group. VA at 4th week could significantly predict the CPT RT at 8th week (B = 4.88, t = 2.21, p = 0.034, R2= 0.35).

Conclusion

This study shows the efficiency of 12-week MBT on Chinese Non-clinical students’ cognition and emotion. Mindfulness training may impact cognition and emotion through the improvement in mindfulness level, and may impact cognition through the improvement in positive emotion.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619344/