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/

 

Improve Psychological Functioning with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Functioning with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

” the positive potential benefits of mindfulness practice are more attentional control, more effective emotional regulation, enhanced social relationships, reduced risk for physical ailments, enhanced immune system functioning, and better sleep quality.” – Jason Linder

 

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.

 

The clustering of these benefits may supply a clue as to how mindfulness training is working to improve mental health. This can be investigated by looking at the interrelationships between the effects of mindfulness training. In today’s Research News article “Does mindfulness change the mind? A novel psychonectome perspective based on Network Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6638953/), Roca and colleagues apply network analysis to investigate the interrelationships between a large number of effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training.

 

They recruited healthy adult participants in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The MBSR program consisted of 32 hours of training separated into 8 weekly group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The patients were also encouraged to perform daily practice. They were measured before and after MBSR training for meditation experience, and psychological and physical health problems, and 5 categories of mindfulness effects; 1) Mindfulness, including five facets, decentering, non-attachment, and bodily awareness, 2) Compassion, including compassion towards oneself and others and empathy, 3) Psychological well-being, including satisfaction with life, optimism, and overall well-being, 4) Psychological distress, including anxiety, stress, and depression, and 5) Emotional and cognitive control, including emotional regulation, rumination, thought suppression and attentional control.

 

They found that after MBSR training there were significant improvements in effectively all of the five categories. This is not new as much research has demonstrated that mindfulness training produces improvements in mindfulness, compassion, psychological well-being, psychological distress, and emotional and cognitive control.

 

These data were then subjected to network analysis. Prior to MBSR training the network analysis revealed clustering in three paths “mindfulness and self-compassion; clinical symptoms and rumination; and most of FFMQ mindfulness components with attentional control measure.” After MBSR training, however, there was a network reorganization such that the three paths disappeared and were replaced by two paths, psychopathological and adaptive.

 

Centrality measures in the network analysis indicated that both prior to and after MBSR training the most central, fundamental, and interrelated components were all facets of mindfulness and all well-being measures. In addition, Community Analysis revealed that mindfulness, compassion, and emotional regulation were the most highly associated components.

 

The results are complex but suggest that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training reorganizes the associations of psychological variables, simplifying them into two categories representing distress and adaptation. The training may help the individual see the interrelationships of the problems they have and the solutions employed. The results further suggest, not surprisingly, that mindfulness, compassion, and emotion regulation are central to the benefits of mindfulness training. Many other benefits flow from these.

 

So, improve psychological functioning with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction . . . Participants experienced significant decreases in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.” – Carolyn McManus

 

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

 

Roca, P., Diez, G. G., Castellanos, N., & Vazquez, C. (2019). Does mindfulness change the mind? A novel psychonectome perspective based on Network Analysis. PloS one, 14(7), e0219793. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219793

 

Abstract

If the brain is a complex network of functionally specialized areas, it might be expected that mental representations could also behave in a similar way. We propose the concept of ‘psychonectome’ to formalize the idea of psychological constructs forming a dynamic network of mutually dependent elements. As a proof-of-concept of the psychonectome, networks analysis (NA) was used to explore structural changes in the network of constructs resulting from a psychological intervention. NA was applied to explore the effects of an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in healthy participants (N = 182). Psychological functioning was measured by questionnaires assessing five key domains related to MBSR: mindfulness, compassion, psychological well-being, psychological distress and emotional-cognitive control. A total of 25 variables, covering the five constructs, were considered as nodes in the NA. Participants significantly improved in most of the psychological questionnaires. More interesting from a network perspective, there were also significant changes in the topological relationships among the elements. Expected influence and strength centrality indexes revealed that mindfulness and well-being measures were the most central nodes in the networks. The nodes with highest topological change after the MBSR were attentional control, compassion measures, depression and thought suppression. Also, cognitive appraisal, an adaptive emotion regulation strategy, was associated to rumination before the MBSR program but became related to mindfulness and well-being measures after the program. Community analysis revealed a strong topological association between mindfulness, compassion, and emotional regulation, which supports the key role of compassion in mindfulness training. These results highlight the importance of exploring psychological changes from a network perspective and support the conceptual advantage of considering the interconnectedness of psychological constructs in terms of a ‘psychonectome’ as it may reveal ways of functioning that cannot be analyzed through conventional analytic methods.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6638953/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Enhanced Well-Being

Spirituality is Associated with Enhanced Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

despite differences in specific rituals and beliefs among the world’s major religions, that being spiritual tended to improve someone’s health, regardless of his or her actual religion.” – Christopher Bergland

 

Religion and spirituality have been promulgated as solutions to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. What evidence is there that these claims are in fact true? The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of religiosity and spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Role of Spirituality and Religiosity in Subjective Well-Being of Individuals With Different Religious Status.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630357/), Villani and colleagues recruited adults online and had them complete an online questionnaire. They were measured for life satisfaction, positive and negative emotions, spirituality, including purpose, innerness, interconnection, and transcendence, and religiosity, including commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment. Path analysis was used to investigate the interrelationships of these variables.

 

They found that the spirituality dimension of purpose was positively associated with life satisfaction and positive emotions while the dimension if innerness was negatively associated with negative emotions. This was found to be true regardless of the participants religiosity. They found that the religiosity dimension of commitment was also positively associated with and positive emotions regardless of the participants religiosity but with life satisfaction for only individuals who considered themselves religious and not individuals who were religiously uncertain. Further they found that the religiosity dimension of commitment was positively associated with and negative emotions for individuals who were religiously uncertain and negatively associated for individuals who considered themselves religious.

 

This study was correlational, so caution must be exercised in inferring causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that being spiritual is associated with high levels of psychological well-being regardless of whether the individual is religious or uncertain. On the other hand, the results suggest that religiosity is associated with high levels of psychological well-being only for individuals who are religious, while for uncertain individuals, religious commitment actually is associated with poorer well-being.

 

Thus, spirituality is associated with enhanced well-being.

 

“Spirituality/Religion and its role in promoting physical and behavioral health has been embraced in many public health settings as an important tool to promote wellness.” – SAMHSA

 

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

 

Villani, D., Sorgente, A., Iannello, P., & Antonietti, A. (2019). The Role of Spirituality and Religiosity in Subjective Well-Being of Individuals With Different Religious Status. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1525. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01525

 

Abstract

Spirituality and religiosity have been found to be positive predictors of subjective well-being, even if results are not altogether consistent across studies. This mixed evidence is probably due to the inadequate operationalization of the constructs as well as the neglect of the moderation effect that the individuals’ religious status can have on the relation between spirituality/religiosity and subjective well-being. The current study aimed to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity with subjective well-being (operationalized as both life satisfaction and balance between positive and negative affect) and to test whether differences exist according to individuals’ religious status (religious, non-religious, and uncertain). Data were collected from 267 Italian adults aged 18–77 (M = 36.68; SD = 15.13), mainly women (59.9%). In order to test the role of spirituality (operationalized as Purpose, Innerness, Interconnection, and Transcendence) and religiosity (operationalized as three dimensions of the religious identity: Commitment, In-depth Exploration, and Reconsideration of Commitment) in subjective well-being, two path analysis models were run, one for each predictor. To test the invariance of the two models across the individuals’ religious status, two multi-group models were run. The models concerning spirituality were tested on the entire sample, finding that spirituality had a positive impact on subjective well-being (except for the dimension of Interconnection) and that this relation is unaffected by the individual’s religious status. The models concerning religiosity were instead tested only on religious and uncertain, finding that the relationship between religiosity and subjective well-being changes across religious status. In particular, the main difference we found was that religious identity commitment positively predicted satisfaction with life among religious, but not among uncertain individuals. An interpretation of the results and their implications are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630357/

 

Improve Well-Being, Attention, and Emotions with Meditation

Improve Well-Being, Attention, and Emotions with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

How are you feeling? Meditation gives us a chance to entertain that question at a deeper level. It can give us the room to fully experience an emotion for what it is.” – Mindful

 

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.

 

There are, however, a number of different meditation techniques. Two common forms are focused and open monitoring meditation practices. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

What forms of meditation work best to improve emotions and over what period of time is necessary for practice to produce benefits have not been well studied. In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Different Stages of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Emotion Regulation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6610260/), Zhang and colleagues recruited young adults (aged 19-32) who had not engaged in meditation practice previously and randomly assigned them to either a wait list control condition or an 8-week mindfulness training program. The mindfulness training consisted of 4 weeks of focused meditation followed by 4 weeks of open monitoring meditation. They met for 2 hours once a week and were requested to practice at home daily for 20-30 minutes. They were measured before training, at the 4-week point of training and after training for mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, anxiety, depression, rumination, and a cognitive attention task (Stroop task).

 

They found that the meditation group significantly increased in mindfulness from baseline to the 4-week point with further increases observed at 8 weeks, while the control group did not increase. For the meditation group positive emotions were significant higher at both 4 and 8 weeks while rumination, negative emotions, anxiety, and depression were significant lower. The meditation group also had significantly improved ability to attend to stimuli amid interference at 4- and 8-weeks post-training while the control group did not.

 

The results are interesting and suggest that 4 weeks of focused meditation practice improves the psychological well-being of young adults while an additional 4 weeks of open monitoring meditation practice either maintains or further increases the benefits. These results replicate many previous findings that mindfulness training significantly improves mindfulness, attention, and emotions, and significantly reduces rumination, anxiety, and depression. This strongly supports providing meditation training for young adults to improve their psychological health and well-being.

 

So, improve well-being, attention, and emotions with meditation.

 

“in order to successfully navigate life, you need to be able to both name the emotion you’re experiencing and describe the feelings that make up your experience. This is where meditation can help, by teaching us to observe, identify, and respond instead of just react.” – Richard Miller

 

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, Q., Wang, Z., Wang, X., Liu, L., Zhang, J., & Zhou, R. (2019). The Effects of Different Stages of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Emotion Regulation. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 208. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00208

 

Abstract

This study examined mood enhancement effects from 4-week focusing attention (FA) meditation and 4-week open monitoring (OM) meditation in an 8-week mindfulness training program designed for ordinary individuals. Forty participants were randomly assigned to a training group or a control group. All participants were asked to perform cognitive tasks and subjective scale tests at three time points (pre-, mid-, and post-tests). Compared with the participants in the control group, the participants in the meditation training group showed significantly decreased anxiety, depression, and rumination scores; significantly increased mindfulness scores; and significantly reduced reaction times (RTs) in the incongruent condition for the Stroop task. The present study demonstrated that 8-week mindfulness meditation training could effectively enhance the level of mindfulness and improve emotional states. Moreover, FA meditation could partially improve individual levels of mindfulness and effectively improve mood, while OM meditation could further improve individual levels of mindfulness and maintain a positive mood.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6610260/

 

Reduce Negative Emotions with Brief Mindfulness Training

Reduce Negative Emotions with Brief Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation is very helpful when it comes to engaging with negative emotions. These emotions are a natural part of our human experience: Waves of sadness, pain, jealousy, and anger are there to remind us that we are alive, and that we still have unresolved questions to address. At that point, meditation becomes a valuable tool to engage with these emotions.” – Itai Ivtzan

 

Emotions are important to our well-being. They provide the spice of life, the joy, the love, the happiness. But they can be negative and troubling producing anger, sadness, hurt and fear. They can also be harmful such as the consequences of out of control anger or suicidal depression. We need emotions, but we must find ways to keep them under control. Emotion regulation is the term used to describe the ability to control emotions. It is not eliminating or suppressing them. Far from it, emotion regulation allows for the emotion to be fully felt and experienced. But it maintains the intensity of the emotion at a manageable level and also produces the ability to respond to the emotion appropriately and constructively. Clearly, emotion regulation is a key to a happier life.

 

Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve emption regulation and reduce negative emotions. There has accumulated considerable research evidence on this. So, it is reasonable to pause and summarize what has been found. In today’s Research News article “Brief mindfulness training for negative affectivity: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6441958/), Schumer and colleagues review, summarize, and performed a meta-analysis of the published research studies investigating the effectiveness of brief mindfulness training (2 weeks or less) for the reduction of negative emotions. These emotions included anger, anxiety, depression, distress, irritability, sadness, shame, stress. They identified 63 published randomized controlled trials.

 

They found that brief mindfulness training with meditation naïve participants produced a significant decrease in negative emotions. The effect was larger for community samples compared to student samples. This makes sense as students are frequently required to participate due to college curriculum requirements, making them far less motivated. They also found that mindfulness trainings containing multiple mindfulness exercises produced better results than focused meditation or body scan alone. Training a variety of mindfulness exercises may make it more likely that the most effective technique for the individual participant is included.

 

There is considerable research that mindfulness training reduces negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, distress, irritability, sadness, shame, and stress. The importance of this meta-analysis is that it demonstrated that even when mindfulness training is brief it still produces a reduction in negative emotions. There are numerous situations in the busy modern environment, such as in high stress jobs, where time is limited and only brief trainings are practicable. Demonstrating that even these brief trainings can be beneficial suggests that squeezing in mindfulness training when the situation allows is still helpful to the psychological health of the practitioner. The findings also suggest that the mindfulness training itself should be heterogenous, containing multiple mindfulness exercises to be maximally effective.

 

So, reduce negative emotions with brief mindfulness training.

 

“The first step in dealing with feelings is to recognize each feeling as it arises. The agent that does this is mindfulness. In the case of fear, for example, you bring out your mindfulness, look at your fear, and recognize it as fear. You know that fear springs from yourself and that mindfulness also springs from yourself. They are both in you, not fighting, but one taking care of the other.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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

 

Schumer, M. C., Lindsay, E. K., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Brief mindfulness training for negative affectivity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 86(7), 569–583. doi:10.1037/ccp0000324

 

Abstract

Objective:

Over the last ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of brief mindfulness training (from single-session inductions to multi-session interventions lasting up to two weeks), with some preliminary indications that these training programs may improve mental health outcomes, such as negative affectivity. This meta-analysis aimed to evaluate whether brief mindfulness training reliably reduces negative affectivity.

Method:

PubMed, PsycINFO, and the Mindfulness Research Monthly Newsletter were systematically searched for brief mindfulness intervention RCTs assessing negative affectivity outcomes (e.g., depression, rumination, anxiety, stress). 65 RCTs, including 5,489 participants predominantly without experience in meditation (64.64% female, mean age = 24.62), qualified for the meta-analytic review.

Results:

The meta-analysis revealed a small but significant effect of brief mindfulness training on reducing negative affectivity compared to control programs (g=.21, p<.001). The overall effect size was significantly moderated by participant characteristics: community samples (g=.41, p<.001) produced larger training effects compared to student samples (g=.14, p=.001) (Qbetween p=.03). No significant effect size differences were found between clinical and non-clinical samples. However, when accounting for publication bias, the overall effect size of brief mindfulness training programs on negative affectivity was significantly reduced (g=.04).

Conclusions:

Brief mindfulness training programs are increasingly popular approaches for reducing negative affectivity. This meta-analysis indicates that brief mindfulness training modestly reduces negative affectivity. Quantitative analyses indicated the presence of publication bias (i.e., unpublished null effect studies), highlighting the need to continue rigorous evaluation of brief mindfulness interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6441958/

 

Improve Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors with Meditation

Improve Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“From the philosophical and religious traditions from which mindfulness comes, it’s been long understood that practicing meditation, and cultivating mindfulness, in particular, can conduce to virtuous action.” – Daniel Berry

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism. These changes in turn reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. The research findings on the effectiveness of meditation practice in developing prosocial attitudes and behaviors is accumulating. So, it makes sense to take a step back and summarize what’s been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081743/), Luberto and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the effects of meditation practice on procociality; “empathy, compassion, sympathy, love, altruism, and kindness.” They discovered 26 studies, 22 examined adults while 4 examined children.

 

They report that the published studies found that meditation practices produced significant increases in empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors. Mediation analyses suggest that meditation practice improves social-emotional functioning that in turn improves prosocial behaviors. It also suggests that this is in part due to meditation practice producing a physical and psychological relaxation response that counters stress effects. Regardless the published research literature makes it clear that meditation practice improves social emotions and behaviors. This may lead to a smoother and more effectively functioning society and to greater social cohesion and happiness.

 

So, improve empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors with meditation.

 

“the research shows that mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others and for oneself, and that such attitudes are good for you.” – Shauna Shapiro

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Luberto, C. M., Shinday, N., Song, R., Philpotts, L. L., Park, E. R., Fricchione, G. L., & Yeh, G. Y. (2018). A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors. Mindfulness, 9(3), 708–724. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0841-8

 

Abstract

Increased attention has focused on methods to increase empathy, compassion, and pro-social behavior. Meditation practices have traditionally been used to cultivate pro-social outcomes, and recently investigations have sought to evaluate their efficacy for these outcomes. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of meditation for pro-social emotions and behavior. A literature search was conducted in PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase, and Cochrane databases (inception-April 2016) using the search terms: mindfulness, meditation, mind-body therapies, tai chi, yoga, MBSR, MBCT, empathy, compassion, love, altruism, sympathy, or kindness. Randomized controlled trials in any population were included (26 studies with 1,714 subjects). Most were conducted among healthy adults (n=11) using compassion or loving kindness meditation (n=18) over 8–12weeks (n=12) in a group format (n=17). Most control groups were wait-list or no-treatment (n=15). Outcome measures included self-reported emotions (e.g., composite scores, validated measures) and observed behavioral outcomes (e.g., helping behavior in real-world and simulated settings). Many studies showed a low risk of bias. Results demonstrated small to medium effects of meditation on self-reported (SMD = .40, p < .001) and observable outcomes (SMD = .45, p < .001) and suggest psychosocial and neurophysiological mechanisms of action. Subgroup analyses also supported small to medium effects of meditation even when compared to active control groups. Clinicians and meditation teachers should be aware that meditation can improve positive pro-social emotions and behaviors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081743/

 

Improve Attentional Monitoring of Others Emotions with Mindfulness

Improve Attentional Monitoring of Others Emotions with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“experience with mindfulness meditation is associated with distinct reactions to emotional provocations in attention and social decision-making tasks, and have implications for understanding the relationship between mindfulness meditation and emotion regulation.” – Deidre Reis

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more 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.

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves emotion regulation by altering the brain. A common method to study the activity of the nervous system is to measure the electrical signal at the scalp above brain regions. Changes in this activity are measurable with mindfulness training. One method to observe emotional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to specific emotional stimuli. These are called event-related potentials or ERPs. The signal following a stimulus changes over time.

 

The fluctuations of the signal after specific periods of time are thought to measure different aspects of the nervous system’s processing of the stimulus. The N200 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a negative going electrical response occurring between a 2.0 to 3.5 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The N200 component is thought to reflect attentional monitoring of conflict. The P300 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a positive going electrical response occurring between a 3.5 to 6.0 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The P300 component is thought to reflect inhibitory processes.

 

In today’s Research News article “Brief mindfulness training enhances cognitive control in socioemotional contexts: Behavioral and neural evidence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6641506/), Quaglia and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to receive 4 20-minute sessions of either mindfulness training or book listening. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness and were tested with an emotional go no-go task in which they were asked to press a button when a picture of a face was presented that expressed a particular emotion and not respond to faces with other emotions. The pictures were of faces expression either anger, happiness, or neutral emotions. During the task the brain electrical activity was recorded with an electroencephalograph (EEG).

 

They found, as expected, that the group receiving mindfulness training, in comparison to the book listening group, had significantly higher mindfulness following training. They found that the mindfulness group, after training had significantly better scores, including both speed and accuracy, for facial emotion discrimination than the control group. With the evoked potentials, they found that on no-go trials, trials where the target facial emotion was not present. The mindfulness trained participants had significantly larger N200 amplitudes than the controls.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training makes the individual more sensitive to emotional expressions by others. The evoked potentials in the EEGs suggest that mindfulness training did this by enhancing the brain’s ability to pay attention and monitor conflict allowing the individual to better withhold responses when appropriate. This could, in part, explain the improvement of emotion regulation with mindfulness training and may be the basis for the prior findings that mindfulness training improves responding in social contexts.

 

So, improve attentional monitoring of others emotions with mindfulness.

 

“our cognitive structures, as a developmental system, have the capacity to advance to a higher (more accurate) level of understanding about social and psychological reality, as the result of learning from the interacting experiences.” – Key Sun

 

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

 

Quaglia, J. T., Zeidan, F., Grossenbacher, P. G., Freeman, S. P., Braun, S. E., Martelli, A., … Brown, K. W. (2019). Brief mindfulness training enhances cognitive control in socioemotional contexts: Behavioral and neural evidence. PloS one, 14(7), e0219862. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219862

 

Abstract

In social contexts, the dynamic nature of others’ emotions places unique demands on attention and emotion regulation. Mindfulness, characterized by heightened and receptive moment-to-moment attending, may be well-suited to meet these demands. In particular, mindfulness may support more effective cognitive control in social situations via efficient deployment of top-down attention. To test this, a randomized controlled study examined effects of mindfulness training (MT) on behavioral and neural (event-related potentials [ERPs]) responses during an emotional go/no-go task that tested cognitive control in the context of emotional facial expressions that tend to elicit approach or avoidance behavior. Participants (N = 66) were randomly assigned to four brief (20 min) MT sessions or to structurally equivalent book learning control sessions. Relative to the control group, MT led to improved discrimination of facial expressions, as indexed by d-prime, as well as more efficient cognitive control, as indexed by response time and accuracy, and particularly for those evidencing poorer discrimination and cognitive control at baseline. MT also produced better conflict monitoring of behavioral goal-prepotent response tendencies, as indexed by larger No-Go N200 ERP amplitudes, and particularly so for those with smaller No-Go amplitude at baseline. Overall, findings are consistent with MT’s potential to enhance deployment of early top-down attention to better meet the unique cognitive and emotional demands of socioemotional contexts, particularly for those with greater opportunity for change. Findings also suggest that early top-down attention deployment could be a cognitive mechanism correspondent to the present-oriented attention commonly used to explain regulatory benefits of mindfulness more broadly.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6641506/