Decrease Sadness with Mindfulness

Decrease Sadness with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation can be helpful. . . We are like a plant in winter: cold, dark, dormant. If we can accept this feeling as a natural part of having a human heart—that it breaks sometimes—we can give it the attention and love it needs. It may be painful, but being with the sadness without trying to do much with it is the best way to let the winter pass of its own accord.” – Mindful

 

Sadness is labelled as a negative emotion. It is, however, a natural and normal reaction to loss, or lack, or loneliness. But, if sadness if overly intense or prolonged, it can turn into an intense misery, e.g. grief. Sadness is sometimes confused with depression. But they are quite different states. Sadness occurs normally in response to a situation, while depression occurs without an external referent. The mindfulness approach to emotion is to simply observe it, not deny or suppress it, but let it arise and then watch it dissipate. How the individual reacts to n emotion can results in an amplification of the magnitude of the emotion. Acceptance of the emotion then can eliminate the magnification of the emotion. This mindfulness approach has been shown to improve the ability to regulate most emotions. So, it would seem reasonable to hypothesize that mindfulness training would be able to reduce sadness.

 

There are other strategies to control emotions including suppression and reappraisal. Suppression is an active attempt to inhibit both the physical and psychological aspects of an emotion. On the other hand, reappraisal is an active process of reinterpreting the cause of the emotion and thereby reduce its impact. It is not known which of these three strategies would be most effective in dealing with sadness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of mindfulness, reappraisal, and suppression on sad mood and cognitive resources.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509409/, Keng and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to receive instructions for dealing with emotions with mindfulness, suppression, or reappraisal. They listened to a pre-recorded (10 minute) audio instruction. The instructions for the mindfulness condition, emphasized registering thoughts and emotions as they are without judging them. Instructions for the reappraisal condition were to reframe the meaning of an emotional event to reduce its emotional impact. Instructions for the suppression condition emphasized suppressing both the experience and expression of emotions.

 

A sad mood was induced by asking the participants to recall and spend 10 minutes writing about sad events in their lives while listening to sad music. The participants were then asked to use their assigned strategy, mindfulness, suppression, or reappraisal to deal with the sad emotion. They rated their sadness every minute during the application of the strategy. Before and after inducing the sad mood, the participants were measured for sadness, and attentional ability (Stroop task). Only participants who had a significant increase in sadness resulting from the induction were included in the final sample.

 

They found that over time sadness declined, but it declined faster with the mindfulness strategy than with either the suppression or reappraisal strategies. In addition, mindfulness resulted in better attention performance. So, although this was a somewhat artificial laboratory experiment, the results suggested that mindfulness was a superior strategy for dealing with sadness and maintaining attentional ability than either suppression or reappraisal.  So, experiencing emotions as they are without judgement appears to be better at reducing the strength of the emotion than trying to eliminate or reinterpret it.

 

So, decrease sadness with mindfulness.

 

“Despair is what happens when you fight sadness. Compassion is what happens when you don’t.” – Susan Piver

 

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

 

Keng, S.-L., Tan, E. L. Y., Eisenlohr-Moul, T. A., & Smoski, M. J. (2017). Effects of mindfulness, reappraisal, and suppression on sad mood and cognitive resources. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 91, 33–42. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.01.006

 

Abstract

The present study investigated the relative effects of mindfulness, reappraisal and suppression in reducing sadness, and the extent to which implementation of these strategies affects cognitive resources in a laboratory context. A total of 171 Singaporean undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to receive brief training in mindfulness, reappraisal, or suppression prior to undergoing a sad mood induction. Individual adherence to Asian cultural values was assessed as a potential moderator of strategy effectiveness. Participants rated their mood and completed a Color-Word Stroop task before and after mood regulation instructions. Analyses using multi-level modelling showed that the suppression condition caused less robust declines in sadness over time compared to mindfulness. There was also a nonsignificant trend in which mindfulness was associated with greater sadness recovery compared to reappraisal. Suppression resulted in lower average sadness compared to mindfulness among those high on Asian cultural values, but not those low on Asian cultural values. Both mindfulness and reappraisal buffered against increases in Stroop interference from pre-to post-regulation compared to suppression. The findings highlight the advantage of mindfulness as a strategy effective not only in the regulation of sad mood, but also in the preservation of cognitive resources in the context of mood regulation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509409/

Improve Emotion Regulation, and in Turn, Anxiety, and Depression with Mindfulness

Improve Emotion Regulation, and in Turn, Anxiety, and Depression with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“With mindfulness meditation training or practice (even a little practice has been shown to make a difference), we become more able to allow disturbing emotions and thoughts to pass through awareness. We develop the ability to NOT act or react to every emotion or thought we have.” – Timothy Psychyl

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to produce improved 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 emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But, when they get extreme they can produce misery and even mental illness. 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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Emotion Regulation Mediates the Associations of Mindfulness on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in the General Population.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605587/, Freudenthaler and colleagues examine whether mindfulness practice improves mental health by improving emotion regulation. They recruited a large sample of relatively normal adults from the German population and measured them for mindfulness, emotion regulation, and psychological symptoms, particularly anxiety and depression.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, and difficulties with emotion regulation and the greater the difficulties with emotion regulation the higher the levels of anxiety and depression. So, mindfulness was associated with better mental health and emotion regulation while difficulties in regulating emotions was associated with poorer mental health.

 

They also conducted a mediation analysis to determine whether the association of mindfulness with anxiety and depression was mediated by emotion regulation. They found that mindfulness was primarily associated with mental health by being associated with reduced difficulties with emotion regulation. But, there were still small but significant direct effects of mindfulness on reducing anxiety and depression. So, it appears that mindfulness is associated with reduced anxiety and depression primarily by improving emotion regulation. The small remaining direct effect of mindfulness suggests that other intermediaries may also be present.

 

These results are a strong confirmation that mindfulness markedly improves the individual’s ability to experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. This allows them to feel anxiety and depression but cope with it effectively. Anxiety and Depression are self-reinforcing. That is, the presence of anxiety tends to produce greater anxiety and the same is true for depression. So, by being able to respond adaptively to the feelings of anxiety and depression, the individual prevents the escalation of the emotions. Hence, mindfulness reduces anxiety and depression.

 

It should be kept in mind that the participants were normally functioning individuals and not people with serious mental health problems. It remains to be seen if these relationships will still be present in clinical populations. Regardless, the ability of mindfulness to improve the mental health of normal individuals is important for allowing the individual to thrive and be happy in their lives. This suggests that promoting mindfulness will have positive mental health benefits for entire populations of humans.

 

So, improve emotion regulation, and in turn, anxiety, and depression with mindfulness.

 

“Individuals who are naturally mindful can effectively regulate their emotions even without meditation, but for those who are not naturally mindful, simply forcing oneself to be mindful “in the moment” is not enough — it is necessary to engage in mindfulness meditation in order to effectively regulate your emotions.” – Crystal Goh

 

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

 

Freudenthaler, L., Turba, J. D., & Tran, U. S. (2017). Emotion Regulation Mediates the Associations of Mindfulness on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in the General Population. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1339–1344. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0709-y

 

Abstract

In the last decade, clinical research on mindfulness and its positive effects on depression and anxiety have gained increased interest. Emotion regulation mediates the effects of mindfulness on mental health in clinical samples and among meditators. The present study examined whether these associations also generalize to the general population. Multi-group structural equation models tested with a sample of 853 adults whether difficulties in emotion regulation mediated the associations between overall mindfulness in addition to the Observe facet with symptoms of depression and anxiety and whether associations were similar among men and women. Emotion regulation partially mediated the associations of overall mindfulness with symptoms of depression and anxiety; associations with Observe were fully mediated. The magnitude of associations was similar among men and women. Mindfulness exerts positive effects on mental health among the general population mostly via improving emotion regulation. The training of mindfulness and emotion regulation may thus benefit mental health not only in clinical populations but also in the general population. Venues for further research are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605587/

Increase Spirituality and Positive Emotions in Meditation with Oxytocin

Increase Spirituality and Positive Emotions in Meditation with Oxytocin

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A meditation practice gives you the benefit of turning inward to your spirituality for answers, instead of looking to others. Meditation can drastically improve the loneliness, or longing you have in your life. Reach a state of interconnectedness with others and with your higher self, improve the joy you feel daily and become a compassionate person, free of fear and anxiety.” – EOC Institute

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred.” Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. 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 spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Oxytocin is a hormone and a neuromodulator that affects both the peripheral physiology and the brain. High levels of Oxytocin have been associated with high levels of social bonding and spirituality. But, the fact that the Oxytocin and spirituality are related does not demonstrate that there’s a causal connection. To determine if Oxytocin actually produces increased spirituality there is a need to manipulate its levels and observe its effects on spirituality. In today’s Research News article “Effects of oxytocin administration on spirituality and emotional responses to meditation.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040919/, Van Cappellen and colleagues examine the relationship of Oxytocin with spirituality by actively manipulating its levels and observing its effects on spirituality and well-being.

 

Van Cappellen and colleagues recruited meditation naïve males between the ages of 35 and 65 years and randomly assigned them to either receive Oxytocin or a placebo administered via a nasal spray in a double-blind fashion. Before administration the participants were genotyped for the oxytocin receptor gene. After administration the participants were administered a 20-minute guided meditation and measured for emotions afterward. Both before and after administration and 1 week later the participants completed two measures of spirituality, a measure of positive and negative emotions, and involvement in religious organizations.

 

They found that after oxytocin administration in comparison to placebo there was a significant, 33%, increase in spirituality, including interconnectedness and meaning and purpose, that were maintained one week later. They also had significantly greater positive emotions during and after meditation that were significantly mediated by the increases in spirituality. That is, oxytocin increased spirituality that, in turn, increased positive emotions associated with meditation. Finally, they found that these effects were modulated by variants of oxytocin receptor genes.

 

This was an interesting, tightly controlled study that demonstrated that elevated levels of oxytocin cause a lasting increase in spirituality and positive emotions during and after meditation. The fact that these effects are modulated by different variant of receptor genes suggests that different individuals are biologically predisposed to spirituality. So, spirituality is at least in part influenced by the biology and has the effect of improving the individuals’ mood.

 

So, increase spirituality and positive emotions in meditation with oxytocin.

 

“Awe involves that assimilation — giving up your cognitive structures in order to accommodate [the object of awe]. And mindfulness is a little bit about that too, because you’re paying attention and exercising non-conceptual awareness, so you should be more open to the immensity that’s there. You step out of the small frame that you have and this small idea of what the world is… You’re not stuck in your own story.” – Brian Ostafin

 

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

 

Van Cappellen, P., Way, B. M., Isgett, S. F., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Effects of oxytocin administration on spirituality and emotional responses to meditation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(10), 1579–1587. http://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsw078

 

Abstract

The oxytocin (OT) system, critically involved in social bonding, may also impinge on spirituality, which is the belief in a meaningful life imbued with a sense of connection to a Higher Power and/or the world. Midlife male participants (N = 83) were randomly assigned to receive intranasal OT or placebo. In exploratory analyses, participants were also genotyped for polymorphisms in two genes critical for OT signaling, the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR rs53576) and CD38 (rs6449182 and rs3796863). Results showed that intranasal OT increased self-reported spirituality on two separate measures and this effect remained significant a week later. It also boosted participants’ experience of specific positive emotions during meditation, at both explicit and implicit levels. Furthermore, the effect of OT on spirituality was moderated by OT-related genotypes. These results provide the first experimental evidence that spirituality, endorsed by millions worldwide, appears to be supported by OT.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040919/

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” B. Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age.

 

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 area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/, Kurth and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the neuroprotective effects of meditation in the elderly. They discuss the ideas that the aging based deterioration of the brain is due to a number of processes, including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity and that meditation appears to effect all of these processes.

 

There has accumulated evidence that meditation protects against age related decline at the molecular genetic level. As we age the length of a DNA structures called the telomeres progressively shorten. It is thought that the shorter the telomeres get the more difficult it becomes for cells to replicate properly and thus leads to decline. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically, has been shown to reduce the shortening of the telomeres with aging. Kurth and colleagues speculate that this is one mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from age related decline.

 

As we age the natural inflammatory response that normally occurs to protect against infection begins to increase in general and lose its specificity to fighting particular diseases, pathogens, and injuries. It becomes more widespread damaging normal tissues. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses. It seems reasonable that this is another mechanism by which meditation protects the body from age related decline.

 

Stress is present throughout life. But if it is too intense or prolonged the biological responses to stress begin to damage the body. These stress induced changes are similar to age related deterioration. Stress effects may accumulate over time. Hence, the older we get the greater the total stress induced damage. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. This is hypothesized to be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from deterioration with aging.

 

Neuroplasticity is a change in the size and connectivity of brain structures as they are exercised over a prolonged period of time. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain, increasing the size and connectivity of brain structures. This process would tend to counteract brain degeneration with aging and may be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain during aging.

 

Hence there has accumulated evidence that meditation reduces the deterioration of the brain with aging. It appears to do so by altering a number of different mechanisms including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity. This protection of the brain may be responsible to the ability of meditation to reduce the decline in mental abilities that occur with aging. This would tend to make aging a more benign process.

 

So, protect the aging brain with meditation.

 

We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.” – Florian Kurth

 

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

 

Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 860. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00860

 

Abstract

Over the last decade, an increasing number of studies has reported a positive impact of meditation on cerebral aging. However, the underlying mechanisms for these seemingly brain-protecting effects are not well-understood. This may be due to the fact, at least partly, that systematic empirical meditation research has emerged only recently as a field of scientific scrutiny. Thus, on the one hand, critical questions remain largely unanswered; and on the other hand, outcomes of existing research require better integration to build a more comprehensive and holistic picture. In this article, we first review theories and mechanisms pertaining to normal (brain) aging, specifically focusing on telomeres, inflammation, stress regulation, and macroscopic brain anatomy. Then, we summarize existing research integrating the developing evidence suggesting that meditation exerts positive effects on (brain) aging, while carefully discussing possible mechanisms through which these effects may be mediated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/

8-Week Mindfulness Training Produces Greater Benefits than a 4-Week Training

8-Week Mindfulness Training Produces Greater Benefits than a 4-Week Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“adaptations of MBSR that include less class time than the traditional format may be worthwhile for populations for whom reduction of psychological distress is an important goal and for whom a lesser time commitment may be an important determinant of their ability or willingness to participate” – James Carmody

 

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 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. With impacts so great it is important to know how to optimize the development of mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness is defined as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (John Kabat-Zinn). This is the goal of mindfulness training. There are, however, a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditationyogamindful movementscontemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. Some are recommended to be practiced for years while others are employed for only a few weeks. Regardless of the technique, they all appear to develop and increase mindfulness. It is unclear exactly how much training is essential to producing maximum benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Efficacy of 8- and 4-Session Mindfulness-Based Interventions in a Non-clinical Population: A Controlled Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01343/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_368025_69_Psycho_20170822_arts_A, Demarzo and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control condition or to receive either a 4-week or 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs that met once a week for 2 hours. MBSR consists of body scan, meditation, and mindful movement practice. Participants were also request to practice at home each day. Participants were measured before and after training and 6 months later for mindfulness, self-compassion, anxiety, depression, positive and negative emotions, and resilience.

 

They found that both the 4-week and 8-week mindfulness training groups in comparison to the control condition had, after training and at the 6-month follow-up, significantly improved mindfulness overall and in the mindfulness facets of describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting, and in positive and negative emotions. On the other hand, only the 8-week mindfulness training produced a significant increase in self-compassion and decreases in anxiety and depression.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown in prior studies to improve mindfulness, emotions, anxiety, depression, self-compassion, and resilience. So, the benefits found in this study are not surprising. But the results on the amount of practice are interesting and suggest that considerable benefits accrue to participants in a short, 4-week, mindfulness training but for the full benefits an 8-week program is needed. Hence, unless an abbreviated program is needed for pragmatic reasons, training should be conducted for the full 8-week training period.

 

“people who have been mindfulness meditators for several decades have structural features in their brains that are proportional to their number of hours of practice.” – Daniel Segal

 

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

 

Demarzo M, Montero-Marin J, Puebla-Guedea M, Navarro-Gil M, Herrera-Mercadal P, Moreno-González S, Calvo-Carrión S, Bafaluy-Franch L and Garcia-Campayo J (2017) Efficacy of 8- and 4-Session Mindfulness-Based Interventions in a Non-clinical Population: A Controlled Study. Front. Psychol. 8:1343. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01343

 

Background: Many attempts have been made to abbreviate mindfulness programmes in order to make them more accessible for general and clinical populations while maintaining their therapeutic components and efficacy. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) programme and a 4-week abbreviated version for the improvement of well-being in a non-clinical population.

Method: A quasi-experimental, controlled, pilot study was conducted with pre-post and 6-month follow-up measurements and three study conditions (8- and 4-session MBI programmes and a matched no-treatment control group, with a sample of 48, 46, and 47 participants in each condition, respectively). Undergraduate students were recruited, and mindfulness, positive and negative affect, self-compassion, resilience, anxiety, and depression were assessed. Mixed-effects multi-level analyses for repeated measures were performed.

Results: The intervention groups showed significant improvements compared to controls in mindfulness and positive affect at the 2- and 6-month follow-ups, with no differences between 8- vs. 4-session programmes. The only difference between the abbreviated MBI vs. the standard MBI was found in self-kindness at 6 months, favoring the standard MBI. There were marginal differences in anxiety between the controls vs. the abbreviated MBI, but there were differences between the controls vs. the standard MBI at 2- and 6-months, with higher levels in the controls. There were no differences in depression between the controls vs. the abbreviated MBI, but differences were found between the controls vs. the standard MBI at 2- and 6-months, favoring the standard MBI. There were no differences with regard to negative affect and resilience.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study to directly investigate the efficacy of a standard 8-week MBI and a 4-week abbreviated protocol in the same population. Based on our findings, both programmes performed better than controls, with similar effect size (ES). The efficacy of abbreviated mindfulness programmes may be similar to that of a standard MBI programme, making them potentially more accessible for a larger number of populations. Nevertheless, further studies with more powerful designs to compare the non-inferiority of the abbreviated protocol and addressing clinical populations are warranted.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01343/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_368025_69_Psycho_20170822_arts_A

Change the Brain with Mindfulness

Change the Brain with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The picture we have is that mindfulness practice increases one’s ability to recruit higher order, pre-frontal cortex regions in order to down-regulate lower-order brain activity. In other words, our more primal responses to stress seem to be superseded by more thoughtful ones.” – Tom Ireland

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Its positive effects are so widespread that it is difficult to find any other treatment of any kind with such broad beneficial effects on everything from mood and happiness to severe mental and physical illnesses. This raises the question of how meditation could do this. One possibility is that mindfulness practice results in beneficial changes in the nervous system.

 

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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The results of the research concerning the changes in the brain that occur with mindfulness practice have not presented a consistent picture. One issue may be the way that mindfulness is measured. This issue was explored in today’s Research News article “A distinction between two instruments measuring dispositional mindfulness and the correlations between those measurements and the neuroanatomical structure.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524689/, Zhuang and colleagues compared Magnetic Resonance Images (MRIs), depression, and emotion regulation, between college students who had been measured for mindfulness with Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) to those measured with the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ).

 

They found that higher MAAS scores and FFMQ Describing, Acting with Awareness, and Non-judging scores the lower levels of depression. In addition, higher FFMQ Describing scores were significantly associated with higher emotion regulation. In regard to the brain scans they found that the higher the MAAS score the greater the size of the Precuneus area of the cortex. Mediation analysis demonstrated that the higher the volume of the precuneus cortical region the higher the MAAS score which in turn was associated with lower depression. So, mindfulness as measured by the MAAS was associated greater volume of the precuneus and was responsible for the relationship of the Precuneus volume with depression.

 

In regard to mindfulness measured with the FFMQ and the brain scans they found that the larger the size of the Superior Prefrontal Cortex, the higher the Describing and Non-judging facets and the lower the Non-reacting facet. In addition, the larger the size of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the inferior parietal cortex the higher the Describing FFMQ facet. Mediation analysis demonstrated that the higher the volume of the Superior Prefrontal Cortex the higher the Describing FFMQ facet which in turn predicted higher emotion regulation. So, mindfulness as measured with the Describing FFMQ facet was associated greater size of the Superior Prefrontal Cortex and was responsible for the relationship of the Superior Prefrontal Cortex size with emotion regulation.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that the kind of relationship observed between changes in the brain and mindfulness is affected by the way mindfulness is measured. This could account for some of the conflicting findings in the published research. Also, since the Precuneus is associated with awareness of self, the results suggest that mindfulness as measured by the MAAS mainly measures self-awareness while since the inferior parietal cortex is also associated with awareness of self, the results suggest that mindfulness as measured by the Describing FFMQ facet also measures self-awareness. But the FFMQ mindfulness measure goes further and also documents other abilities. Since, the Prefrontal cortex is associated with attention control and emotion regulation, the results suggest that mindfulness as measured by the Describing and Non-reacting FFMQ facets also measure attention control and emotion regulation.

 

Clearly, mindfulness is associated with different sizes of areas in the brain’s cortical regions. But, even though the brain is different with mindfulness, the types of differences observed depends upon how mindfulness is measured. The Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) measure appears to be superior to the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) as it breaks mindfulness down into component parts providing greater refinement in observed brain changes. These results will be helpful in future research unravelling the relationship of mindfulness to the characteristics of the nervous system.

 

The practice of mindfulness can train our brains to have a new default. Instead of automatically falling into the stream of past or future rumination that ignites the depression loop, mindfulness draws our attention to the present moment. As we practice mindfulness, we actually start wiring neurons that balance the brain in a way that is naturally an antidepressant. “ – Debbie Hampton

 

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

 

Zhuang, K., Bi, M., Li, Y., Xia, Y., Guo, X., Chen, Q., … Qiu, J. (2017). A distinction between two instruments measuring dispositional mindfulness and the correlations between those measurements and the neuroanatomical structure. Scientific Reports, 7, 6252. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-06599-w

 

Abstract

The most widely used measurements of mindfulness are the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). However, controversies exist regarding the application of these scales. Additionally, the neural mechanisms of dispositional mindfulness have become a topic of interest. In the current study, we used surface-based methodology to identify the brain regions underlying individual differences in dispositional mindfulness in a large non-clinical sample and compared the two instruments for measuring the dispositional mindfulness. The results indicated that the MAAS scores were significantly associated with increased grey matter volumes in the right precuneus and the significant association between the precuneus and depression symptomatology was mediated by MAAS scores. Regarding the FFMQ, the Describing, Nonjudging, and Nonreactivity facets were selectively associated with the cortical volume, thickness and surface area of multiple prefrontal regions as well as the inferior parietal lobule. Importantly, Describing mediated the association between the dorsolateral PFC volume and the cognitive reappraisal strategies of emotion regulation. These results suggested that the MAAS were mainly associated with self-awareness, while the FFMQ facets were selectively involved in emotion regulation, attention control and self-awareness. Therefore, this study characterized the differences in inter-individual variability between the two typical measurements of dispositional mindfulness and the correlations between those measurements and imaging analyses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524689/

Ease Medical Student Stress with Mindfulness

Ease Medical Student Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I realized that the majority of my stress was self-generated. I put an inordinate amount of pressure on myself to succeed and get work done. Luckily, through mindfulness techniques, I gained some serious insight as to what makes me tick. I paid attention to my inner self and tried to implement changes in my life that could alleviate stress. To my surprise, I would perform far better in school because of these changes.” – Daniel Olson

 

Medical School is challenging both intellectually and psychologically. Stress levels are high and burnout is common. It’s been estimated that 63% of medical students experience negative consequences from stress while symptoms of severe stress were present in 25% of students. The prevalence of stress is higher among females than among males. High stress levels lead to lower performance in medical school and higher levels of physical and mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression. Indeed 50% of medical students report burnout and 11% have considered suicide in the last year.

 

Obviously, there is a need to either lower stress levels in medical education or find methods to assist medical students in dealing with the stress. One promising possibility is mindfulness training. It has been shown to reduce both the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It has also been shown to reduce stress in students, to help with the negative consequences of stress, and to reduce burnout in medical professionals. So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that mindfulness would be related to medical students’ ability to cope with the stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Coping, perceived stress, and job satisfaction among medical interns: The mediating effect of mindfulness.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479094/, Vinothkumar and colleagues recruited medical interns and had them complete measures of mindfulness, emotion regulation strategies, perceived stress, and job satisfaction and then conducted a regression analysis to determine the relationship between these variables.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and adaptive strategies to cope with emotions the lower the levels of perceived stress and the higher the levels of maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions the higher the levels of perceived stress. Additionally, the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of adaptive strategies and the lower the levels of maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions. In other words, mindfulness was associated with lower perceived stress and adaptive strategies and lower levels of maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions.

 

Applying a mediational analysis revealed that adaptive strategies to cope with emotions had a significant relationship to lower perceived stress levels but that relationship was due to mindfulness, such that adaptive coping was associated with higher levels of mindfulness which in turn was associated with lower perceived stress levels. Alternatively, maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions had a significant relationship to higher perceived stress levels but that relationship was due to mindfulness, such that maladaptive coping was associated with lower mindfulness which in turn was associated with higher perceived stress levels. In other words, the relationship between adaptive and maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions with the interns’ perceived levels of stress was completely due to the coping strategies relationships with mindfulness.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that how medical interns go about coping with emotions is important in regulating their responses to stress and that this is due to the fact that these coping strategies are associated with the interns’ levels of mindfulness. It has been well established that mindfulness is associated with lower perceived stress levels. The present results suggest that coping strategies affect mindfulness producing changes in stress levels. These results further suggest that instructing medical students in how to cope with emotions may be helpful in lowering stress effects and thereby improving their performance in school and in their later careers and decreasing burnout.

 

So, ease medical student stress with mindfulness.

 

“the use of mindfulness and meditation become ingrained in the fabric of medical care-and alleviate the suffering of countless practitioners and while allowing us to take better care of our patients — and ourselves.” – Jeffrey Taekman

 

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

 

Vinothkumar, M., Arathi, A., Joseph, M., Nayana, P., Jishma, E. J., & Sahana, U. (2016). Coping, perceived stress, and job satisfaction among medical interns: The mediating effect of mindfulness. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 25(2), 195–201. http://doi.org/10.4103/ipj.ipj_98_14

 

Abstract

Background:

Past research studies on the exploration of attributes to the stress of doctors/medical interns were reported more often than the types of coping strategies, healthy practices to strengthen their internal resources to deal effectively with the stressful situations.

Objectives:

The present study was conducted to find such internal resource – “mindfulness” as a mediator of coping, perceived stress, and job satisfaction among medical interns.

Methods:

A cross-sectional descriptive study comprised 120 medical interns forms from various medical colleges in Mangalore were recruited and completed the assessment on mindfulness, cognitive-emotive regulation, coping strategies, perceived stress, and job satisfaction from doctoral interns were collected.

Results:

Initial correlation analysis results indicate that adaptive coping strategies significantly associate with greater mindfulness and less perceived stress. In turn, mindfulness is negatively correlated with nonadaptive coping strategies and perceived. Job satisfaction showed no significant relationship with any of the other variables. Mediational models indicate that the relationship between adaptive coping strategies and perceived stress was significantly mediated by mindfulness. Furthermore, partial mediation between nonadaptive strategies and perceived stress through mindfulness indicates that respondents reported a high level of nonadaptive strategy experience and a lower level of mindfulness can be counterproductive as they encourage the ineffective way to deal with the stresses.

Conclusion:

The implication of the results were discussed with suggesting a possible intervention to improve the adaptive strategies and mindfulness among the medical interns.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479094/