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 Empathy with Mindfulness

Improve Empathy with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“As we practice mindfulness we learn to be with our own emotions and difficulties, which makes us become more able to deal with others.  We can better empathize, but through the cultivation of kindness and compassion we are able to take care of ourselves and continue to help others.” – Gail Davies

 

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. Empathy and compassion are essential for appropriate social engagement and cooperation. In order for these abilities to emerge and strengthen, individuals must be able to see that other people are very much like themselves.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy. It is not known how mindfulness practice might do this. Mindfulness is actually a complex concept. There are thought to be five distinct facets of mindfulness; describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judgement, and non-reactivity. It is not known which of these facets of mindfulness are important for the development of empathy.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mediating effect of mindfulness cognition on the development of empathy in a university context.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472790/), De la Fuente-Anuncibay and colleagues recruited undergraduate students and separated them into students who had and had not previously practiced mindfulness. They were asked to complete measures of empathy and the five facets of mindfulness; describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judgement, and non-reactivity.

 

They found that the students who practiced mindfulness were higher in their levels of empathy. They further found that mindfulness practice was related to higher levels of empathy directly and also indirectly, such that mindfulness practice was related to the five facets of mindfulness which were in turn related to higher levels of empathy. Further tests of structural models revealed that the mindfulness facets that were mediating the relationship of mindfulness practice with empathy were, observing, describing, and non-reactivity to inner experience.

 

These findings are correlational and so causation cannot be directly determined. But prior research has established that mindfulness practice is a causal factor in improving empathy. So, it is likely that the current results were due to causal connections. This suggests that mindfulness practice increases the individual’s ability to observe and describe present moment experience but not react to it and this improves empathy.

 

Empathy involves the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The results then suggest that being aware of what is transpiring in the moment but observing it dispassionately may be a key to empathy; seeing others plight without reacting overly emotionally may underlie the development of true empathy. By not reacting and being overwhelmed by one’s own emotions the individual may be better able to share the feelings of the other.

 

So, improve empathy with mindfulness.

 

“Learning to communicate with empathy can go a long way toward building more positivity in your relationships and reducing your stress. If we all focused more on listening and understanding each other, the world would be a lot less stressful—and a lot happier—place to live.” – Arthur P. Ciaramicoli 

 

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

 

De la Fuente-Anuncibay, R., González-Barbadillo, Á., González-Bernal, J., Cubo, E., & PizarroRuiz, J. P. (2019). Mediating effect of mindfulness cognition on the development of empathy in a university context. PloS one, 14(4), e0215569. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215569

 

Abstract

Numerous interventions propose mindfulness training as a means of improving empathy. Our aim is to analyse the relationship between mindfulness practice and empathy through the mediating process of trait mindfulness. This sample comprised 264 undergraduate students (x¯=24,13years, SD = 11,39). The instruments used were Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and Toronto Empathy Questionnaire. The indirect effect was calculated using 10.000 bootstrap samples for the bootstrap confidence intervals corrected for bias. Empathy improvement is mediated by changes in the cognitions derived from mindfulness (B = .346, p<.01). The direct effect of mindfulness practice on empathy disappears in presence of this mediator (B = .133, p>.05). Mindfulness interventions that aim to improve empathy should focus on three of its components; observing, describing and nonreactivity to inner experience. Given the significance of the results, the research must be extended to larger samples.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472790/

 

Become More Sensitive to Others with Meditation

Become More Sensitive to Others with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“as we pay attention to our breath, our body, our lives, in this simple and gentle way, a natural consequence is the opening of the heart.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

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. This deep need for positive social interactions heightens the pain of social rejection.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. In today’s Research News article “Exploring the Role of Meditation and Dispositional Mindfulness on Social Cognition Domains: A Controlled Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00809/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_963174_69_Psycho_20190416_arts_A), Campos and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness to social cognition, “the mental operations that underlie social interactions, including perceiving, interpreting, and generating responses to the intentions, dispositions, and behaviors of others”.

 

They recruited a group of healthy adult meditation practitioners and a group of non-meditators and had them complete measures of mindfulness, empathy, emotion recognition, theory of mind, attribution style, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Comparing the two groups they found that the meditators had significantly higher levels of mindfulness, interpersonal reactivity (empathy), emotion recognition, and theory of mind and significantly lower levels of cognitive impairment and lower levels of attribution style, including hostility bias intentionality bias, blame, anger bias, and aggressivity bias. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, particularly the non-reactivity facet of mindfulness, the higher the levels of empathy.

 

This study is cross-sectional and has to be interpreted with caution. The results, however suggest that meditators have higher levels of social cognition. That is, that meditators are much more sensitive to others. This, in turn, improves their ability to understand and interact with others. They also suggest that meditators have a better ability to be non-reactive to what is transpiring in the present moment. This would make them better at responding empathetically to others. Hence, the study suggests that meditation practice may improve the individual’s sensitivity to others.

 

So, become more sensitive to others with meditation.

 

“Learning to communicate with empathy can go a long way toward building more positivity in your relationships and reducing your stress. If we all focused more on listening and understanding each other, the world would be a lot less stressful—and a lot happier—place to live.” – Arthur Ciamamicoli

 

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

 

Campos D, Modrego-Alarcón M, López-del-Hoyo Y, González-Panzano M, Van Gordon W, Shonin E, Navarro-Gil M and García-Campayo J (2019) Exploring the Role of Meditation and Dispositional Mindfulness on Social Cognition Domains: A Controlled Study. Front. Psychol. 10:809. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00809

 

Research suggests that mindfulness can induce changes in the social domain, such as enhancing emotional connection to others, prosocial behavior, and empathy. However, despite growing interest in mindfulness in social psychology, very little is known about the effects of mindfulness on social cognition. Consequently, the aim of this study was to explore the relationship between mindfulness and social cognition by comparing meditators with non-meditators on several social cognition measures. A total of 60 participants (meditators, n = 30; non-meditators, n = 30) were matched on sex, age, and ethnic group, and then asked to complete the following assessment measures: Mindful Awareness Attention Scale (MAAS), Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire Short Form (FFMQ-SF), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), Revised Eyes Test, Hinting Task, Ambiguous Intentions and Hostility Questionnaire (AIHQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and Screening for Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatry (SCIP). The results showed that meditators reported higher empathy (except for the personal distress subscale), higher emotional recognition, higher theory of mind (ToM), and lower hostile attributional style/bias. The findings also demonstrated that dispositional mindfulness (both total score assessed with MAAS and mindfulness facets using the FFMQ) was associated with social cognition, although it was not equally correlated with all social cognition outcomes, and correlation patterns differ when analyses were conducted separately for meditators and non-meditators. In addition, results showed potential predictors for each social cognition variable, highlighting non-reactivity to inner experience as a key component of mindfulness in order to explain social cognition performance. In summary, the findings indicated that the meditator sample performed better on certain qualities (i.e., empathy, emotional recognition, ToM, hostile attributional style/bias) in comparison to non-meditators and, furthermore, support the notion that mindfulness is related to social cognition, which may have implications for the design of mindfulness-based approaches for use in clinical and non-clinical settings.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00809/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_963174_69_Psycho_20190416_arts_A

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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. 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.

 

Adolescence should be 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, emotional, 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. Making these profound changes successfully requires a good deal or flexibility, adapting and changing with the physical, psychological, and social changes of adolescence and particularly to regulating the extreme fluctuations of emotions occurring during this time.

 

Hence, developing mindfulness and emotional regulation is important especially during adolescence. In today’s Research News article “Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness: Relation and Enhancement in the Classroom With Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_830687_69_Psycho_20181120_arts_A ), Rodríguez-Ledo and colleagues examine the relationship between emotional intelligence and mindfulness in adolescent school students, aged 11 to 14 years. They were randomly assigned to receive either 9 months of once a week for 55 minutes mindfulness, attention, and emotional intelligence training or no training. The students were measured before and after training for emotional intelligence, emotional development, socialization, empathy, and mindfulness. The mindfulness measure included scales of kinesthetic, internal, and external mindfulness. Kinesthetic mindfulness was paying attention to movements, internal mindfulness was paying attention to mental and emotional states, while external mindfulness was paying attention to stimuli outside of the individual.

 

Examining the pretest measures they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of emotional development, emotional intelligence, empathy, and self-control in social situations. The relationships with emotional development and emotional intelligence were especially strong for kinesthetic and internal mindfulness suggesting that the ability to attend to internal states is particularly important for understand and regulating their own emotions. The relationships with empathy was especially strong for external and internal mindfulness suggesting that the ability to attend to the environment and the internal state are particularly important for understanding others emotions. Finally, they found that the mindfulness training significantly increased kinesthetic and internal mindfulness.

 

These results are interesting and suggests that mindfulness training is effective in making school children more sensitive to their internal states and not to the external environment. Attention to these internal states appears to be related to emotional intelligence. So, adolescents can be trained in mindfulness of their internal milieu and this is related to their emotional intelligence. This makes sense as emotions are changes in internal states and the first step in regulating them is to become aware of them.

 

Since adolescence is a time of emotional upheaval, these skills may be particularly important for the navigation of this difficult time of development. It remains for future research to determine if mindfulness training of adolescents can have long lasting effects on their ability to regulate their emotions and successfully transition to adulthood.

 

“The appearance of things change according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” – Kahlil Gibran

 

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

 

Rodríguez-Ledo C, Orejudo S, Cardoso MJ, Balaguer Á and Zarza-Alzugaray J (2018) Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness: Relation and Enhancement in the Classroom With Adolescents. Front. Psychol. 9:2162. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162

 

Emotional intelligence (EI) and mindfulness are two constructs that have been separately studied, and the relation between them still remains unclear. Research in this area has not attempted to go further into how enhancing EI and mindfulness together can achieve better improvements in this ability to attend mindfully. To bridge this knowledge gap, our research goal was to study the relationship between EI and the mindfulness competence in our study sample and to assess the impact of implementing EI and a mindfulness competence developmental program (SEA) about participants’ mindfulness competence. The sample consisted of 156 students aged 11–14 years old from a Spanish public high school. One hundred and eight participants were randomly assigned to the experimental condition, and the remaining 48 were to the control condition. The instruments used to evaluate EI were the CDE-SEC, EQi-Youth Version and the General Empathy Scale. Mindfulness on the School Scope Scale was used to assess mindfulness competences. Social adaptation was evaluated by using the social abilities and adjustment questionnaire BAS3. All the instruments where answered by the participants and have been adapted to a sample of youths with such age specifications. The results showed that EI and mindfulness were related to many of the variables measured by the instruments. Showing a good mindfulness competence was particularly related to having a good general level of the EI trait, and to many of the assessed social and emotional variables. The data indicated a significant relation between the mindfulness competence and having better general empathy skills or being better socially adjusted to the school context. The data also indicated a significant effect on participants’ interior and kinesthetic mindfulness competence after implementing the SEA Program. These findings corroborate the relationship between EI and mindfulness, and the possibility of enhancing mindfulness by applying a direct intervention program in the classroom.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_830687_69_Psycho_20181120_arts_A

 

Can Prosocial Behavior be Improved with Mindfulness

Can Prosocial Behavior be Improved with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation made people feel moderately more compassionate or empathic, compared to if they had done no other new emotionally-engaging activity. But further analysis revealed that it played no significant role in reducing aggression or prejudice or improving how socially-connected someone was.” – James Anderson

 

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. Empathy and compassion are essential for appropriate social engagement and cooperation. In order for these abilities to emerge and strengthen, individuals must be able to see that other people are very much like themselves.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. In today’s Research News article “The limited prosocial effects of meditation: 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/PMC5799363/ ), Kreplin and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on the effectiveness of meditation practice for the promotion of prosocial behaviors. They reviewed randomized controlled trials that examined meditation or mindfulness effects on “empathy, relationship, connectedness, compassion, love, interpersonal, anger, social, altruism, outgroup, thankfulness, forgiveness, prosocial.”

 

They found 16 published randomized controlled trials. The meta-analysis indicated that there were overall small but significant effects of meditation or mindfulness training on prosocial behavior, especially compassion and empathy. There were no significant effects on aggression or prejudice. These results suggest that meditation or mindfulness training has small but positive effects on prosocial but not antisocial behaviors.

 

Limiting the interpretation of the findings, they found that the effects on compassion were only present when the trainer for meditation or mindfulness was a listed author on the study. This raises the possibility that experimenter bias may have had a major influence such that the beliefs of the researcher that the training would be effective influenced the participants behaviors. In addition, they found that the effects on compassion were only present when the control, comparison, condition was passive, such as a wait-list or no-treatment control, with no significant effects when an active, alternative treatment, control condition was included. This raises the possibility that participant expectancies may have had major influences such that the beliefs of the participants that the training would be effective influenced the participants behaviors. Hence, the small positive results on prosocial behaviors may have been due to weaknesses in the research designs of the studies rather than to the effects of meditation and mindfulness training.

 

These results are important in that they point to issues with the research design that may have been responsible for significant effects. This calls into question the actual effectiveness of meditation and mindfulness training on prosocial behavior. Obviously, more tightly controlled research is necessary to determine if meditation and mindfulness training can be used to improve positive social behaviors.

 

Mindfulness is more than just moment-to-moment awareness. It is a kind, curious awareness that helps us relate to ourselves and others with compassion.”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

 

Kreplin, U., Farias, M., & Brazil, I. A. (2018). The limited prosocial effects of meditation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 8, 2403. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-20299-z

 

Abstract

Many individuals believe that meditation has the capacity to not only alleviate mental-illness but to improve prosociality. This article systematically reviewed and meta-analysed the effects of meditation interventions on prosociality in randomized controlled trials of healthy adults. Five types of social behaviours were identified: compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice. Although we found a moderate increase in prosociality following meditation, further analysis indicated that this effect was qualified by two factors: type of prosociality and methodological quality. Meditation interventions had an effect on compassion and empathy, but not on aggression, connectedness or prejudice. We further found that compassion levels only increased under two conditions: when the teacher in the meditation intervention was a co-author in the published study; and when the study employed a passive (waiting list) control group but not an active one. Contrary to popular beliefs that meditation will lead to prosocial changes, the results of this meta-analysis showed that the effects of meditation on prosociality were qualified by the type of prosociality and methodological quality of the study. We conclude by highlighting a number of biases and theoretical problems that need addressing to improve quality of research in this area.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5799363/

 

Improve Mental Health in Medical Residents with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health in Medical Residents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“increasing physician resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” from experiences such as burnout, has been shown to have a significant positive impact on patient care and physician wellbeing. . . benefits include improved quality of care, reduced errors and minimized attrition . . . mindfulness-influenced wellness programs for residents can improve self-compassion, empathy, burnout and stress reactions. Mindfulness meditation introduces a way of cultivating awareness of one’s relationship with the present moment. With practice, it may lead to healthier ways of working with stressful life experiences, including those inherent to residency training.” – Vincent Minichiello

 

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. 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. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. 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 as it 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. It would be best to provide techniques to combat burnout early in a medical career. Medical residency is an extremely stressful period and many express burnout symptoms. This would seem to be an ideal time to intervene.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Residents: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5880763/ ), Verweij and colleagues examined the ability of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to treat the symptoms of burnout in medical residents. They recruited medical residents and randomly assigned them to either receive an 8-week, once a week, 2,5 hour session of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or be assigned to a wait-list control condition. MBSR consists of a combination of meditation, yoga, and body scan practice in combination with discussion and home practice. The residents were measured before the program and 3 weeks later for emotional exhaustion, worry, home-work interference, mindfulness, self-compassion, positive mental health, physician empathy, and medical errors.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and to the wait-list control condition, the residents who received MBSR training had significantly higher mindfulness, self-compassion, personal accomplishment, and perspective taking empathy, and significantly lower worry. These outcomes were all of moderate effect sizes. There were no significant effects on the primary measure of burnout, emotional exhaustion. But, the residents who had the highest levels of emotional exhaustion did show a significant improvements in emotional exhaustion after treatment.

 

These results suggest that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) maybe an effective treatment to improve the mental health of medical residents and perhaps reduce the tendency toward burnout. It should be noted, however, that medical residents are very restricted for time and MBSR training requires a considerable investment of time both in the training sessions and in home practice, making participation difficult. Future research should include an active control condition such as aerobic exercise to help control for potential sources of confounding and bias.

 

So, improve mental health in medical residents with mindfulness.

 

“I experienced burnout as a resident, and meditation was a key aspect to my recovery. My mother advised me to meditate, and afterwards, I felt like my brain had been rebooted.” – Louise Wen

 

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

 

Verweij, H., van Ravesteijn, H., van Hooff, M. L. M., Lagro-Janssen, A. L. M., & Speckens, A. E. M. (2018). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Residents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33(4), 429–436. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-017-4249-x

 

Abstract

Background

Burnout is highly prevalent in residents. No randomized controlled trials have been conducted measuring the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on burnout in residents.

Objective

To determine the effectiveness of MBSR in reducing burnout in residents.

Design

A randomized controlled trial comparing MBSR with a waitlist control group.

Participants

Residents from all medical, surgical and primary care disciplines were eligible to participate. Participants were self-referred.

Intervention

The MBSR consisted of eight weekly 2.5-h sessions and one 6-h silent day.

Main Measures

The primary outcome was the emotional exhaustion subscale of the Dutch version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory–Human Service Survey. Secondary outcomes included the depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment subscales of burnout, worry, work–home interference, mindfulness skills, self-compassion, positive mental health, empathy and medical errors. Assessment took place at baseline and post-intervention approximately 3 months later.

Key Results

Of the 148 residents participating, 138 (93%) completed the post-intervention assessment. No significant difference in emotional exhaustion was found between the two groups. However, the MBSR group reported significantly greater improvements than the control group in personal accomplishment (p = 0.028, d = 0.24), worry (p = 0.036, d = 0.23), mindfulness skills (p = 0.010, d = 0.33), self-compassion (p = 0.010, d = 0.35) and perspective-taking (empathy) (p = 0.025, d = 0.33). No effects were found for the other measures. Exploratory moderation analysis showed that the intervention outcome was moderated by baseline severity of emotional exhaustion; those with greater emotional exhaustion did seem to benefit.

Conclusions

The results of our primary outcome analysis did not support the effectiveness of MBSR for reducing emotional exhaustion in residents. However, residents with high baseline levels of emotional exhaustion did appear to benefit from MBSR. Furthermore, they demonstrated modest improvements in personal accomplishment, worry, mindfulness skills, self-compassion and perspective-taking. More research is needed to confirm these results.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5880763/

 

Keep Health Care Professionals from Burning Out with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Through practicing mindfulness we become more aware of subtle changes in our mood and physical health, and can start to notice more quickly when we are struggling. Rather than waiting for a full meltdown before we take action, we can read the signals of our minds and bodies and start to take better care of ourselves.” – The Mindfulness Project

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations burnout is all too prevalent. This is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. Healthcare is a high stress occupation. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout with emergency medicine at the top of the list, over half experiencing burnout. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Nearly half plan to look for a new job over the next two years and 80% expressed interest in a new position if they came across the right opportunity.

 

Burnout is not a unitary phenomenon. In fact, there appear to be a number of subtypes of burnout. The overload subtype is characterized by the perception of jeopardizing one’s health to pursue worthwhile results, and is highly associated with exhaustion. The lack of development subtype is characterized by the perception of a lack of personal growth, together with the desire for a more rewarding occupation that better corresponds to one’s abilities. The neglect subtype is characterized by an inattentive and careless response to responsibilities, and is closely associated with inefficacy. All of these types result from an emotional exhaustion. This exhaustion not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion.

 

Regardless of the reasons for burnout or its immediate presenting consequences, it is a threat to the healthcare providers and their patients. In fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system as it contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses. Hence, preventing existing healthcare workers from burning has to be a priority. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to be helpful in treating and preventing burnout. One of the premiere techniques for developing mindfulness and dealing effectively with stress is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is a diverse mindfulness training containing practice in meditation, body scan, and yoga. As a result, there have been a number of trials investigating the application of MBSR to the treatment and prevention of health care worker burnout.

 

In today’s Research News article “Outcomes of MBSR or MBSR-based interventions in health care providers: A systematic review with a focus on empathy and emotional competencies”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1197241983633059/?type=3&theater

http://www.complementarytherapiesinmedicine.com/article/S0965-2299(15)30014-5/fulltext

Lamothe and colleagues summarize the published literature on the effectiveness of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for healthcare worker burnout. They found that the preponderance of evidence from a variety of different trials indicated that MBSR treatment is effective for burnout. In particular, the research generally reports that MBSR treatment significantly improves mindfulness, empathy, and the mental health of healthcare workers. It was found to significantly relieve burnout, and reduce anxiety, depression, and perceived stress.

 

Hence, the published literature is highly supportive of the application of MBSR for the prevention and treatment of healthcare worker burnout. It appears to not only help the worker, but the improvement in the empathy of the worker projects positive consequences for the patients. In addition, the reduction in burnout suggests that MBSR treatment may help to reduce healthcare workers leaving the field, helping to relieve the systemic lack of providers. These are remarkable and potentially very important results.

 

Mindfulness training makes the individual more aware of their own immediate physical and emotional state. Since this occurs in real time, it provides the individual the opportunity to recognize what is happening and respond to it effectively before it contributes to an overall state of burnout. Indeed, mindfulness training has been shown to significantly improve emotion regulation. This produces clear experiencing of the emotion in combination with the ability to respond to the emotion adaptively and effectively. So, the healthcare worker can recognize their state, realize its origins, not let it affect their performance, and respond to it appropriately, perhaps by the recognition that rest is needed.

 

So, keep health care professionals from burning out with mindfulness.

 

“It helps people to undo some of the sense of the time pressure and urgency that makes it so hard to feel present for your patient, and it helps your patients feel like you’re really there, really listening and that you really care. What you learn is to undo the distractedness that comes with worrying about what happens next, and the concern with what’s already over and done with. It doesn’t take more time; it takes an intention and practice to do it successfully.” –  Dr. Michael Baime

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies