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/

 

Improve Adolescent Emotion Regulation and Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Adolescent Emotion Regulation and Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

But a growing body of evidence suggests that mindfulness practice could be beneficial to teens, helping them cultivate empathy, as well as skills for concentration and impulse control. In short, mindfulness can help adolescents navigate the challenges of adolescence.” – Sarah Rudell Beach

 

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

 

Mindfulness training in adults has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and perceived stress levels and improve emotional regulation. In addition, in adolescents it has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health. There is a need to explore the relationship between these effects of mindfulness training in adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Adolescents’ Mindfulness and Psychological Distress: The Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567674/), Ma and Fang recruited middle school students between the ages of 12-18 years and had them complete scales measuring mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, difficulties with emotion regulation, and emotion regulation.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and difficulties with emotion regulation, including all subscales; “lack of emotional clarity (Clarity), difficulty in engaging in goal-directed behavior under negative emotions (Goals), loss of control under negative emotions (Impulse), limited strategies for emotion regulation (Strategies), and non-acceptance of emotional responses (Non-acceptance).” Using a mediation model, they found that high levels of mindfulness were related to lower levels of anxiety, depression, and perceived stress directly and indirectly as a results of mindfulness’ negative relationship with difficulties with emotion regulation. In other words, mindfulness was directly related to lower levels of psychological distress and also indirectly by its relationship with lower levels of difficulties with emotion regulation which were in turn related to less psychological distress.

 

The study is correlational and as such causation cannot be concluded. But prior research has demonstrated that mindfulness causes reductions in anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and difficulties with emotional regulation. Hence, it would be reasonable to conclude that the present findings were also due to the effects of mindfulness on psychological health.

 

Adolescence is a time of strong emotions that the adolescents have not yet learned how to effectively regulate. This makes this period of life very difficult with high levels of emotional distress. The finding though indicate that mindfulness may be a way to mitigate the emotional upheavals of adolescence of improve the psychological health of the teens by improving their ability to deal with their emotions.

 

So, improve adolescent emotion regulation and mental health with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness teaches teenagers to recognize the downward spiral of thoughts before it gets out of hand, perhaps learning to label it as simply “worrying.” They can acknowledge the anxiety without getting caught up in it, without it leading to the rumination that ultimately ruins their mood.” – Sarah Rudell Beach

 

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

 

Ma, Y., & Fang, S. (2019). Adolescents’ Mindfulness and Psychological Distress: The Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1358. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01358

 

Abstract

Mindfulness has been widely linked with psychological well-being in general population. There are emerging studies supporting the relationship between adolescents’ mindfulness and their mental health. However, the mechanisms through which mindfulness may influence adolescents’ psychological distress have only recently been explored, and more related research is still needed. This study investigated the relationship between adolescents’ dispositional mindfulness and psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The mediating variables were also explored in perspective of two common emotion regulation theories, which were measured through Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ). DERS has been used as a comprehensive assessment of emotion regulation difficulties. ERQ is also widely accepted to measure the emotion regulation process including dimensions of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Measures assessing mindfulness, emotion regulation, and psychological distress were administered to 1067 adolescents in mainland China. The results confirmed that adolescents’ dispositional mindfulness was negatively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. DERS, especially the sub-dimensions of Acceptance and Strategies, significantly mediated the relationship between mindfulness and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Whereas, ERQ including subscales of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression exerted limited mediating effect. These findings provided insights for the potential underlying mechanism between adolescents’ mindfulness and psychological distress, demonstrating that DERS might be more pervasive than ERQ. Further research was suggested to explore other mediating variables underlying mindfulness and psychological distress among adolescents and develop mindfulness-based programs to improve adolescents’ mindfulness and emotion regulation ability.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567674/

 

Increase Positive Emotions and Decrease Emotional Disturbance in Adolescents with Meditation

Increase Positive Emotions and Decrease Emotional Disturbance in Adolescents with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Adolescence is a time of change and growth. It is the period of life reserved for rebellion and self-discovery, but as the demands in life increase for teens, this time is often fraught with confusion, anxiety or depression. For many teens these challenges lead to disconnection and isolation.” – Making Friends with Yourself

 

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

 

Mindfulness training has been shown in adolescents to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health. Since adolescent girls are more likely to have emotional issues than boys, it would seem reasonable to hypothesize that mindfulness would have greater psychological benefits for adolescent girls than for boys.

 

In today’s Research News article “Gender differences in response to a school-based mindfulness training intervention for early adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174072/), Kang and colleagues recruited male and female 6th grade students and randomly assigned them to receive a school-based, 6-week program, 4-5 times per week for, on average, 5 minutes per day of either guided meditations or brief lessons on African history. Before and after training the students were measured for global emotional disturbance, positive emotions, mindfulness, and self-compassion.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the active controls, the adolescents who meditated had significantly higher positive emotions and significantly lower global emotional disturbance. For males there were significant increases in positive emotions for both groups while for females there were significant increases in positive emotions only for the meditation group. A similar trend was present for global emotional disturbance. In addition, they found that for females the higher the levels of self-compassion the higher the levels of positive emotions and the lower the levels of global emotional disturbance. This was not true for males.

 

The results appear to show that meditation training is particularly effective in improving emotions in female but not male adolescents. But the difference was not in the meditation condition but rather in the control condition. Whereas the female controls did not show any improvement in emotions while the meditation group improved. For the males, both groups improved. So, both males and female adolescents had improved emotions following 6-weeks of meditation practice. Adolescents is a turbulent time with strong emotions. The present results suggest that providing meditation training in school may be helpful in controlling and leveling these emotions.

 

So, increase positive emotions and decrease emotional disturbance in adolescents with meditation.

 

“Adolescence is a developmental moment of peak stress, and a teen’s heightened self-consciousness (“Do I look weird? Did I just sound stupid in class?”) cranks up the volume of the inner critic. Self-compassion encourages mindfulness, or noticing your feelings without judgment; self-kindness, or talking to yourself in a soothing way; and common humanity, or thinking about how others might be suffering similarly.” – Rachel Simmons

 

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

 

Kang, Y., Rahrig, H., Eichel, K., Niles, H. F., Rocha, T., Lepp, N. E., … Britton, W. B. (2018). Gender differences in response to a school-based mindfulness training intervention for early adolescents. Journal of school psychology, 68, 163–176. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2018.03.004

 

Abstract

Mindfulness training has been used to improve emotional wellbeing in early adolescents. However, little is known about treatment outcome moderators, or individual differences that may differentially impact responses to treatment. The current study focused on gender as a potential moderator for affective outcomes in response to school-based mindfulness training. Sixth grade students (N = 100) were randomly assigned to either the six weeks of mindfulness meditation or the active control group as part of a history class curriculum. Participants in the mindfulness meditation group completed short mindfulness meditation sessions four to five times per week, in addition to didactic instruction (Asian history). The control group received matched experiential activity in addition to didactic instruction (African history) from the same teacher with no meditation component. Self-reported measures of emotional wellbeing/affect, mindfulness, and self-compassion were obtained at pre and post intervention. Meditators reported greater improvement in emotional wellbeing compared to those in the control group. Importantly, gender differences were detected, such that female meditators reported greater increases in positive affect compared to females in the control group, whereas male meditators and control males displayed equivalent gains. Uniquely among females but not males, increases in self-reported self-compassion were associated with improvements in affect. These findings support the efficacy of school-based mindfulness interventions, and interventions tailored to accommodate distinct developmental needs of female and male adolescents.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174072/

 

Reduce Stress and Improve Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress and Improve Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“By recognizing and identifying emotions as they arise, you are able to see how your thoughts can spiral you into agitated emotional states. . . Being mindful of your emotions will help you accept them and also stay in control of them. It’s from that place you will be able to refocus, rebalance, and recalibrate.” – Tris Thorpe

 

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.

 

Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. It is not known if stress reduction my be part of the mechanism by which mindfulness improves the control of emotions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Perceived stress mediates the relationship between mindfulness and negative affect variability: A randomized controlled trial among middle-aged to older adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534144/), Colgan and colleagues recruited mildly stressed older adults aged 50 – 85 years and randomly assigned them to either receive a 6-week mindfulness meditation program or to a wait-list control condition. Meditation training occurred one-on-one for 1.5 hours weekly for 6 weeks and involved home practice. The participants were measured before and after training for perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, variability of negative emotions, and expectancies about the effects of meditation.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the meditation group had significant decreases in perceived stress and negative emotion variability. In addition, the greater the change in perceived stress the greater the change in negative emotion variability. A mediation analysis revealed that meditation practice was reduced negative emotion variability directly and indirectly by reducing perceived stress which, in turn, reduced negative emotion variability.

 

It should be pointed out that there wasn’t an active control condition which opens up the possibility that placebo (subject expectancy) effects could be responsible for the results. But, the participants reported expectancies regarding the effects of meditation that were no different than the expectancies of control participants. This suggests that placebo effects were not responsible for the results.

 

Negative emotion variability can be viewed as an indicator of emotion regulation. If indeed an individual has better ability to deal with emotions then it would be expected that emotions would not build upon themselves and thereby be less variable. So, the present results are in line with previous research that meditation practice improves emotion regulation. They also suggest that it does so, in part, by its ability to reduce perceived stress.

 

So, reduce stress and improve emotion regulation with mindfulness.

 

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. It’s a paradox that we all must understand: It is by turning towards negative emotions that we find relief from them – not by turning away.” – Melli O’Brien

 

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

 

Colgan, D. D., Klee, D., Memmott, T., Proulx, J., & Oken, B. (2019). Perceived stress mediates the relationship between mindfulness and negative affect variability: A randomized controlled trial among middle-aged to older adults. Stress and health : journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 35(1), 89–97. doi:10.1002/smi.2845

 

Abstract

Despite the interest in mindfulness over the past 20 years, studies have only recently begun to examine mindfulness in older adults. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate pretreatment to post-treatment change in negative affect variability (NAV) following a mindfulness training among 134 mildly stressed, middle-aged to older adults. The secondary aim was to assess if the effects of mindfulness training on NAV would be partially explained by pretreatment to post-treatment reductions in perceived stress, a trend that would be congruent with several stress models. In this randomized control trial, participants were assigned to either a 6-week mindfulness meditation training programme or to a wait list control. Ecological momentary assessment, a data capturing technique that queries about present moment experiences in real time, captured NAV. Mixed-model ANOVAs and a path analysis were conducted. Participants in the mindfulness meditation training significantly reduced NAV when compared with wait list control participants. Further, there was a significant indirect group effect on reductions in NAV through change in perceived stress. Few studies have tested mechanisms of action, which connect changes that occur during mindfulness training with psychological outcomes in older adults. Understanding the mechanisms by which mindfulness enhances well-being may optimize interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534144/

 

Improve the Mental Health on Intensive Care Nurses with Mindfulness

Improve the Mental Health on Intensive Care Nurses with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Nurses are particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout, with little time in their schedule to commit to self-care or intensive stress reduction programs” . . . on-the-job mindfulness-based intervention is viable for this nursing population. In addition to reductions in stress and burnout, participants also reported improved job satisfaction and self-compassion.” Mindful USC

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. This is particularly acute in intensive care. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Hence, burnout contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to reduce burnout in medical professionals in high stress areas.

 

In today’s Research News article “Moderating Effect of Mindfulness on the Relationships Between Perceived Stress and Mental Health Outcomes Among Chinese Intensive Care Nurses.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6482227/), Lu and colleagues recruited intensive care nurses and had them complete measures of burnout, mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and subjective well-being. The measure of subjective well-being is a composite that includes a high level of satisfaction with life, more positive emotions, and fewer negative emotions.

 

They found that the higher the nurses’ levels of mindfulness the better the nurses’ mental health including lower levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, negative emotions and burnout and higher levels of subjective well-being, life satisfaction and positive emotions. They also found that the greater the levels of perceived stress the worse the nurses’ mental health including greater levels of burnout, negative emotions, anxiety, and depression, and lower levels of mindfulness, satisfaction with life, positive emotions, and life satisfaction. In addition, they found that mindfulness moderated the negative effects of perceived stress such that when mindfulness was high, perceived stress had a smaller relationship with emotional exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and negative affect and a larger relationship with positive affect.

 

In interpreting these results, it needs to be recognized that the study was correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But previous research has already established that mindfulness produces reductions in burnout, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions and produces increases in life satisfaction, positive emotions, and subjective well-being. So, it is reasonable to conclude that the present findings were due to the causal effects of mindfulness. But the present findings add to this knowledge by showing that mindfulness not only directly improves the psychological state of the nurses but also acts to reduce the negative impact of stress.

 

These effects of mindfulness are important as burnout in high stress occupations like nursing is all too common. The results suggest that mindfulness training should be routinely administered to intensive care nurses to improve their well-being and mental health and reduce the likelihood that they will experience burnout.

 

So, improve the mental health on intensive care nurses with mindfulness.

 

Learning mindfulness also helped the ICU personnel to “become aware of what their individual stress response is” and to “practice flexibility in cultivating alternative ways” of dealing with chronic stress.” – Marianna Klatt

 

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

 

Lu, F., Xu, Y., Yu, Y., Peng, L., Wu, T., Wang, T., … Li, M. (2019). Moderating Effect of Mindfulness on the Relationships Between Perceived Stress and Mental Health Outcomes Among Chinese Intensive Care Nurses. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 260. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00260

 

Abstract

This study aimed to explore the potential moderating effect of mindfulness and its facets on the relationships among perceived stress and mental health outcomes (burnout, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being) among Chinese intensive care nurses. A total of 500 Chinese intensive care nurses completed self-report measures of mindfulness, burnout syndromes, perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being. Correlation and hierarchical multiple regressions were applied for data analysis. Mindfulness moderated the effects of perceived stress on emotional exhaustion (the core component of burnout syndrome), depression, anxiety, positive affect, and negative affect but not on the other two dimensions of burnout and life satisfaction. Further analyses indicated that the ability to act with awareness was particularly crucial in improving the effects of perceived stress on depression. These results further broaden our understanding of the relationships between perceived stress and burnout, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being by demonstrating that mindfulness may serve as a protective factor that alleviates or eliminates the negative effects of perceived stress on depression, anxiety, burnout syndrome, and subjective well-being and may instigate further research into targeted mindfulness interventions for Chinese intensive care nurses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6482227/