Improve Sleep and Relieve Fatigue in Cancer Survivors with Yoga

Improve Sleep and Relieve Fatigue in Cancer Survivors with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

We recommend that doctors prescribe this low-risk, low-cost treatment to all cancer patients with cancer-related fatigue. We would like them to prescribe gentle hatha yoga but they need to refer to appropriate yoga instructors who have experience of working with cancer patients.” – Po-Ju Lin

 

Because of great advances in treatment, many patients today are surviving cancer. But cancer survivors frequently suffer from anxiety, depression, mood disturbance, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disturbance, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, loss of personal control, impaired quality of life, and psychiatric symptoms which have been found to persist even ten years after remission. Also, cancer survivors can have to deal with a heightened fear of reoccurrence. This is particularly true with metastatic cancer. So, safe and effective treatments for the symptoms in cancer and the physical and psychological effects of the treatments are needed.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with general cancer recovery . Yoga is both an exercise and a mindfulness practice that has also been shown to be helpful with the residual symptoms in cancer survivors, the psychological and physical ability to deal with cancer treatment and improves sleep. So, it’s reasonable to further explore the potential benefits of yoga practice to improve sleep and relieve fatigue in patients who have survived cancer.

 

In today’s Research News article “Influence of Yoga on Cancer-Related Fatigue and on Mediational Relationships Between Changes in Sleep and Cancer-Related Fatigue: A Nationwide, Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of Yoga in Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6552348/), Lin and colleagues recruited patients who had survived a variety of different cancers, and who had completed primary care and who had sleep disturbance, from centers all over the U.S. They were randomly assigned them to receive standard care plus yoga training or standard care alone. Yoga training occurred for 75 minutes, twice a week, for 4 weeks and consisted of breathing exercises, physical alignment postures, and mindfulness exercises. They were measured before and after treatment for cancer related fatigue, including general, physical, emotional, mental, and vigor domains, and sleep, including subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, habitual sleep efficiency, sleep disturbance, sleep medication use, and daytime dysfunction.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the treatment-as-usual group, the participants who received yoga training had significant improvements in all domains of fatigue with moderate effect sizes. The yoga group also had significant improvements in sleep, including increases in overall sleep quality and subjective sleep quality and decreases in daytime dysfunction. Finally, they found, employing path analysis, that yoga training improved fatigue directly and indirectly by improving sleep that in turn improved sleep.

 

These are potentially important findings. Fatigue and sleep disturbance are difficult residual problems. There is a need to have long-term follow-up of these patients to determine whether yoga practice produces sustained relief of sleep disturbance and fatigue. Nevertheless, the findings show that at least on the short-term, yoga practice can address these symptoms and as a result improve the well-being and quality of life of cancer survivors. In addition, practicing yoga has been shown to produce widespread benefits for the physical and psychological health of practitioners. So, yoga practice would seem to be an excellent additional treatment for patients who have survived cancer.

 

So, improve sleep and relieve fatigue in cancer survivors with yoga.

 

“Two randomized controlled trials in breast cancer patients (one in patients undergoing radiation and one in breast cancer survivors) showed yoga practice significantly improved fatigue.” – Carrie Newsom

 

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

 

Lin, P. J., Kleckner, I. R., Loh, K. P., Inglis, J. E., Peppone, L. J., Janelsins, M. C., … Mustian, K. M. (2019). Influence of Yoga on Cancer-Related Fatigue and on Mediational Relationships Between Changes in Sleep and Cancer-Related Fatigue: A Nationwide, Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of Yoga in Cancer Survivors. Integrative cancer therapies, 18, 1534735419855134. doi:10.1177/1534735419855134

 

Abstract

Background: Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) often co-occurs with sleep disturbance and is one of the most pervasive toxicities resulting from cancer and its treatment. We and other investigators have previously reported that yoga therapy can improve sleep quality in cancer patients and survivors. No nationwide multicenter phase III randomized controlled trial (RCT) has investigated whether yoga therapy improves CRF or whether improvements in sleep mediate the effect of yoga on CRF. We examined the effect of a standardized, 4-week, yoga therapy program (Yoga for Cancer Survivors [YOCAS]) on CRF and whether YOCAS-induced changes in sleep mediated changes in CRF among survivors. Study Design and Methods: Four hundred ten cancer survivors were recruited to a nationwide multicenter phase III RCT comparing the effect of YOCAS to standard survivorship care on CRF and examining the mediating effects of changes in sleep, stemming from yoga, on changes in CRF. CRF was assessed by the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory. Sleep was assessed via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Between- and within-group intervention effects on CRF were assessed by analysis of covariance and 2-tailed t test, respectively. Path analysis was used to evaluate mediation. Results: YOCAS participants demonstrated significantly greater improvements in CRF compared with participants in standard survivorship care at post-intervention (P < .01). Improvements in overall sleep quality and reductions in daytime dysfunction (eg, excessive napping) resulting from yoga significantly mediated the effect of yoga on CRF (22% and 37%, respectively, both P < .01). Conclusions: YOCAS is effective for treating CRF among cancer survivors; 22% to 37% of the improvements in CRF from yoga therapy result from improvements in sleep quality and daytime dysfunction. Oncologists should consider prescribing yoga to cancer survivors for treating CRF and sleep disturbance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6552348/

 

 

Improve Workplace Wellness with Mindful Meditation

Improve Workplace Wellness with Mindful Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

If your workforce deals with stress, emotional health issues, or low morale, you’ll likely benefit from implementing a meditation program. Meditation programs have a lot of amazing health and wellness benefits that will have a positive impact on your employees.” – Robyn Whalen

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the people we work with. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. These programs attempt to increase the employees’ mindfulness at work and thereby reduce stress and burnout. The research has been accumulating. So, it is important to step back and summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation for workplace wellness: An evidence map.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6598008/), Hilton and colleagues reviewed and summarized published systematic reviews of the research on mindfulness training in the workplace and its effects on employee health and well-being. They identified 175 reviews that focused on health care workers, caregivers, educators, and general workplace workers.

 

They report that the reviews demonstrated that mindfulness-based interventions were effective in treating chronic conditions producing relief of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Mindfulness was found to produce small decreases in chronic pain but significant improvements in pain-related quality of life. Mindfulness training was found to reduce substance abuse and help prevent relapse, reduce negative emotions, anxiety, depression, somatization, irritable bowel syndrome, and stress effects. Mindfulness training also was effective in cancer care, including reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and improving sleep and quality of life. for support of caregivers.

 

These findings are remarkable. The wide range of positive benefits on physical and mental health are breathtaking. To this authors knowledge there is no other treatment that has such broad application and effectiveness. This suggests that workplace mindfulness training is safe and highly effective and should be implemented throughout the workplace.

 

So, improve workplace wellness with mindful meditation.

 

The ancient art of meditation has many benefits, especially in the workplace. Studies have shown that meditation practiced in the workplace has a direct impact on increased productivity, creativity, focus, and the overall happiness of employees.” – The Lotus

 

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

 

Hilton, L. G., Marshall, N. J., Motala, A., Taylor, S. L., Miake-Lye, I. M., Baxi, S., … Hempel, S. (2019). Mindfulness meditation for workplace wellness: An evidence map. Work (Reading, Mass.), 63(2), 205–218. doi:10.3233/WOR-192922

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Mindfulness interventions aim to foster greater attention and awareness of present moment experiences. Uptake of mindfulness programs in the workplace has grown as organizations look to support employee health, wellbeing, and performance.

OBJECTIVE:

In support of evidence-based decision making in workplace contexts, we created an evidence map summarizing physical and mental health, cognitive, affective, and interpersonal outcomes from systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of mindfulness interventions.

METHODS:

We searched nine electronic databases to July 2017, dually-screened all reviews, and consulted topic experts to identify systematic reviews on mindfulness interventions. The distribution of evidence is presented as an evidence map in a bubble plot.

RESULTS:

In total, 175 systematic reviews met inclusion criteria. Reviews included a variety of mindfulness-based interventions. The largest review included 109 randomized controlled trials. The majority of these addressed general health, psychological conditions, chronic illness, pain, and substance use. Twenty-six systematic reviews assessed studies conducted in workplace settings and with healthcare professionals, educators, and caregivers. The evidence map shows the prevalence of research by the primary area of focus. An outline of promising applications of mindfulness interventions is included.

CONCLUSIONS:

The evidence map provides an overview of existing mindfulness research. It shows the body of available evidence to inform policy and organizational decision-making supporting employee wellbeing in work contexts.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6598008/

 

Improve the Symptoms of HIV Infection in Children with Yoga

Improve the Symptoms of HIV Infection in Children with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It’s about going deep under the waves—the hurricane that’s HIV—and finding a stillness. As debilitating and emotional as HIV is, yoga helps me transcend it so that I can rediscover myself. Then I remember I am not HIV; I am not the face of AIDS. I am me.” – River Huston

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. These include a significant number of children and adolescents. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20-year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Hence, living with HIV is a long-term reality for a very large group of people. People living with HIV infection experience a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms which decrease their perceived quality of life. The symptoms include chronic pain, muscle aches, anxiety, depression, weakness, fear/worries, difficulty with concentration, concerns regarding the need to interact with a complex healthcare system, stigma, and the challenge to come to terms with a new identity as someone living with HIV.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve psychological well-being, lower depression and strengthen the immune system of patients with HIV infection. Yoga practice has also been found to be effective in treating HIV. Most studies, however, focus on adult patients with HIV. There are, however, a large number of children and adolescents who are infected with HIV. Hence it makes sense to examine the ability of yoga training to treat HIV infection in children and adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yoga on Immune Parameters, Cognitive Functions, and Quality of Life among HIV-Positive Children/Adolescents: A Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521755/), Chandra and colleagues recruited children and adolescents (aged 8 to 18 years) who had HIV infection from a HIV/AIDS rehabilitation center. Treatment as usual was continued while they were provided with daily 1-hour yoga practice sessions for 6 months. They were measured before and after training for immune system function, health-related quality of life, fatigue-related quality of life, depression, and cognitive function.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline, yoga practice produced a significant decrease in in HIV viral load and a significant increase in plasma CD4 counts. There was also a significant increase in health-related quality of life, including the health and general activities, feelings, getting along with others, and about school subscales, and fatigue-related quality of life, including general fatigue (b) sleep fatigue, and (c) cognitive fatigue. After yoga practice the children and adolescents had significant improvements in cognitive function and increases in depression.

 

The observed effectiveness of yoga practice for the treatment of HIV infected children and adolescents, parallels that observed in prior studies with adults. These include reducing the presence of the virus in the blood, improvement of immune system function, quality of life, and mental abilities. This was a pilot study and did not have a control condition, so conclusions need to be tempered. The results, though are encouraging and should motivate conducting a large randomized controlled trial. Regardless, the results are very encouraging and suggest that yoga practice is beneficial for the health and well-being of youths infected with HIV.

 

So, improve the symptoms of HIV infection in children with yoga.

 

“Yoga is an ideal exercise for people with HIV. It not only helps build muscle and energy, but also reduces stress. . .  stress greatly increases the risk that HIV will progress to AIDS.” – Matt McMillen

 

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

 

Hari Chandra, B. P., Ramesh, M. N., & Nagendra, H. R. (2019). Effect of Yoga on Immune Parameters, Cognitive Functions, and Quality of Life among HIV-Positive Children/Adolescents: A Pilot Study. International journal of yoga, 12(2), 132–138. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_51_18

 

Abstract

Context:

HIV/AIDS individuals have problems relating to immune system, quality of life (QOL), and cognitive functions (CFs). Yoga is found to be useful in similar conditions. Hardly, any work is reported on yoga for HIV-positive adults/adolescents. Hence, this study is important.

Aim:

The aim of the study is to determine the effect of yoga on immune parameters, CFs, and QOL of HIV-positive children/adolescents.

Settings and Design:

Single-group, pre–post study with 4-month yoga intervention.

Methods:

The study had 18 children from an HIV/AIDS rehabilitation center for children/adolescents. CD4, CD8, CD4/CD8 ratio, and viral loads were studied. CF tests included six letter cancellation test, symbol digit modalities test, digit-span forward backward test, and Stroop tests. QOL was assessed using PedsQL-QOL and fatigue questionnaire. Depression was assessed using CDI2-SR.

Statistical Analysis Used:

t-test and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, as applicable.

Results:

The study included 18 children/adolescents. There was improvement in general health of the participants. There was statistically significant increase in CD4 cells counts (p = 0.039) and significant decrease in viral load (p = 0.041). CD4/CD8 ratio moved to normal range. QOL significantly improved. CFs had mixed results with improved psychomotor performance (PP) and reduced executive functions.

Conclusions:

There was improvement in general health and immune parameters. While depression increased, QOL improved. CFs showed mixed results with improved PP and reduced executive functions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521755/

 

Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Older Patients with Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes with Meditation

Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Older Patients with Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Though diabetes is a heterogenous disorder, with multiple clinical manifestations, its chronic complications occur due to vascular (endothelial) dysfunction. Mindfulness Meditation helps by improving the autonomic and endocrine regulation of vascular tone, thus leading to better cardiovascular health.” – Sanjay Kalra

 

Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States and nearly 600 million people worldwide have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Type II Diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, hypertension, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes.

 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. It is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths per year have high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.

 

Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are common and increasingly prevalent illnesses, especially in older individual. But they are treatable with medications and largely preventable with lifestyle changes. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to be helpful in managing diabetes and also in reducing hypertension. This suggests that there is a need for further research on the effects of meditation training for the treatment of hypertension and Type II diabetes.

 

In today’s Research News article “Brain education-based meditation for patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes: A pilot randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6531095/), Lee and colleagues recruited older participants (57-87 years of age) with hypertension and/or Type 2 diabetes and were under medication. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either health education or meditation training twice a week for 8 weeks. Before and after training blood was drawn for biochemical, RNA, and c-DNA analysis and completed questionnaires on their mental and physical health.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and health education control group, after meditation training there were significant reductions in blood low-density lipoprotein (LDL), inflammatory gene expression, and levels of fatigue, and significant increases in mental health, including significant increases in relaxation, focus, happiness, and confidence, and significant decreases in anger and loneliness. These results suggest that meditation training is effective in treating older patients with hypertension and/or Type 2 diabetes who are already being treated with medication. Hence meditation practice supplements the benefits of medications.

 

The reductions in LDL cholesterol have been previously reported with mindfulness training and are very important as LDL cholesterol is a significant marker for cardiovascular disease. The reduction in inflammatory gene expression has also been previously reported and is very important as inflammation is a marker for a variety of disease conditions. In addition, the improvements in mental health have been previously reported and are significant as the elderly have higher levels of mental health difficulties than younger people.

 

It appears from these results that meditation training as a supplement to medication can be very beneficial for the mental and physical health of older patients suffering from hypertension and/or Type 2 diabetes. It would appear reasonable to recommend meditation training for these patients in addition to their medications.

 

So, improve the physical and mental health of older patients with hypertension and type 2 diabetes with meditation.

 

“Recent research showed meditation can also help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.” – Roberta Kleinman

 

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

 

Lee, S. H., Hwang, S. M., Kang, D. H., & Yang, H. J. (). Brain education-based meditation for patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Medicine, 98(19), e15574. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000015574

 

Abstract

Background:

Hypertension and type 2 diabetes are chronic diseases, which generally require lifetime care. Meditation and yoga can be complementary to pharmacological therapies according to the scientific evidences so far. Brain education-based meditation (BEM) is a technique, which has been known to change brain structure, psychology, and physiology of healthy adult participants. This randomized, nonblinded pilot trial aimed to examine whether BEM affects the conditions of patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes compared with health education classes.

Methods:

We randomly allocated 48 patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes to BEM (n = 24) or health education (n = 24) classes in the Ulsan Junggu Public Health Center in Korea, where the classes were run during the same period and explored the impact of 8-week practice on the serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase, gamma glutamyl transpeptidase, creatinine, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Total RNA was extracted to examine inflammatory gene expressions from the whole blood using PAXgene blood RNA System. In addition, self-reports on mental/physical health were evaluated. The Student’s t test, chi-squared test, and analysis of covariance were used for statistical analysis.

Results:

The number of people who participated until the completion of the study was 14 in the control and 21 in the BEM group. After 8 weeks, LDL cholesterol level was significantly decreased in the BEM group after the intervention (13.82 mg/dL reduction, P < .05), while it was not significantly altered in the control group. The expression of inflammatory genes was significantly reduced after 8 weeks of the BEM training (0.3-, 0.5-, and 0.2-fold change for NFKB2, RELA, and IL1B, respectively, all P < .05). In the item analysis of mental/physical health self-reports, a significant improvement was confirmed as follows: increases in focus, confidence, relaxation, and happiness; decreases in fatigue, anger, and loneliness (all P < .05). There were no important adverse events or side-effects by BEM intervention.

Conclusion:

Compared to health education, BEM helps lower LDL cholesterol level and the inflammatory gene expression in the patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes. Moreover, BEM induces positive effects on the self-reported mental/physical states, warranting further study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6531095/

 

 

Improve Cancer-Related Symptoms in Cancer Survivors with Tai Chi

Improve Cancer-Related Symptoms in Cancer Survivors with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

In terms of the evidence that’s out there and the scientific literature, practices such as tai chi have been found to help improve patients’ quality of life. There are some studies showing that these types of mind-body practices can also have an impact on physiological functioning, improving aspects of immune function and decreasing stress hormones.” – Lorenzo Cohen

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that 15 million adults and children with a history of cancer are alive in the United States today. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. “Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions.” National Cancer Survivors Day.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. Tai Chi or Qigong practice has been shown to improve quality of life, reduce fatigue, and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. They are very gentle and safe practices. The research is accumulating. So, it makes sense to take a step back and summarize what has been found in regard to Tai Chi practice for the treatment of cancer survivors.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi and Qigong for cancer-related symptoms and quality of life: 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/PMC5958892/), Wayne and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice in relieving cancer-related symptoms in cancer survivors. They identified 22 published research studies that included a total of 1571 cancer survivors. 15 of the studies were randomized controlled trials investigating survivors of a variety of cancers including breast, prostate lymphoma, lung, and multiple cancers.

 

They report that in general the research studies demonstrated a significant reduction in fatigue, sleep difficulty, depression , and quality of life resulting from Tai Chi practice. No significant improvements in pain were observed. No adverse events were reported. Hence, the research suggests that Tai Chi practice is a safe and effective treatment for cancer-related symptoms in cancer survivors. Tai Chi practice appears to benefit the mental and physical health of the survivors.

 

The results of the published research strongly suggests that Tai Chi  practice should be routinely prescribed for survivors of cancer. Tai Chi is a gentle and safe mindfulness practice. It is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an excellent gentle practice to improve the well-being of cancer survivors.

 

So, improve cancer-related symptoms in cancer survivors with Tai Chi.

 

“Tai chi does not treat the cancer itself. Research suggests that tai chi can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, ease pain and stiffness and improve sleep. Small studies have shown that regular tai chi may help with depression and improve self-esteem. These studies have also suggested that regular practice of tai chi can improve quality of life.” – Canadian Cancer Society

 

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

 

Wayne, P. M., Lee, M. S., Novakowski, J., Osypiuk, K., Ligibel, J., Carlson, L. E., & Song, R. (2017). Tai Chi and Qigong for cancer-related symptoms and quality of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of cancer survivorship : research and practice, 12(2), 256–267. doi:10.1007/s11764-017-0665-5

 

Abstract

Purpose

Summarize and critically evaluate the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong (TCQ) mind-body exercises on symptoms and quality of life (QOL) in cancer survivors.

Methods

A systematic search in 4 electronic databases targeted randomized and non-randomized clinical studies evaluating TCQ for fatigue, sleep difficulty, depression, pain, and quality of life (QOL) in cancer patients, published through August 2016. Meta-analysis was used to estimate effect sizes (ES, Hedges’ g) and publication bias for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Methodological bias in RCTs was assessed.

Results

Our search identified 22 studies, including 15 RCTs that evaluated 1283 participants in total, 75% women. RCTs evaluated breast (n=7), prostate (n=2), lymphoma (n=1), lung (n=1), or combined (n=4) cancers. RCT comparison groups included active intervention (n=7), usual care (n=5), or both (n=3). Duration of TCQ training ranged from 3 to 12 weeks. Methodological bias was low in 12 studies and high in 3 studies. TCQ was associated with significant improvement in fatigue [ES=−0.53, p<.001], sleep difficulty [ES=−0.49, p=.018], depression [ES=−0.27, p=.001], and overall QOL [ES=0.33, p=.004]; a statistically non-significant trend was observed for pain [ES=−0.38, p=.136]. Random effects models were used for meta-analysis based on Q-test and I-squared criteria. Funnel plots suggest some degree of publication bias. Findings in non-randomized studies largely paralleled meta-analysis results.

Conclusions

Larger and methodologically sound trials with longer follow-up periods and appropriate comparison groups are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn, and cancer- and symptom-specific recommendations can be made.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958892/

 

Improve Breast Cancer Symptoms with Mindfulness

Improve Breast Cancer Symptoms with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Results show promise for mindfulness-based interventions to treat common psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression in cancer survivors and to improve overall quality of life.” — Linda E. Carlson

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatiguestress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. One particularly effective mindfulness training program is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The patients are also encouraged to perform daily practice for 15-45 minutes. The research has been accumulating. It is thus important to take a step back and summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on breast cancer symptoms: 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/PMC6282865/ ), Castanhel and Liberali review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies on the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training for the symptoms of breast cancer patients. They identified 7 published research studies that included a total of 532 women.

 

They report that the literature finds that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training produces a decrease in fatigue in the breast cancer patients. This is significant as fatigue affects all facet of the patient’s life. Additionally, there is no drug treatments which successfully treat fatigue in these patients. This makes MBSR treatment particularly valuable to be included along with the usual treatments.

 

Mindfulness practices, in general have been shown to be effective in relieving fatigue. One of the components of MBSR treatment, yoga practice, has been previously been shown to also relieve fatigue in breast cancer patients. It is possible that this is the critical component of MBSR practice. But it will require further research to determine exactly which components or combinations of components are essential for the relief of fatigue.

 

So, improve breast cancer symptoms with mindfulness.

 

“some of the most difficult elements of the cancer experience are very well-suited to a mindfulness practice. When a person gets diagnosed, there’s fear and uncertainty about the future. There’s the loss of routine and predictability. There’s the physical aspect, the treatment or surgery, pain, insomnia, which almost everybody gets, and the post-treatment fatigue.” — Linda E. Carlson

 

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

 

Castanhel, F. D., & Liberali, R. (2018). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on breast cancer symptoms: systematic review and meta-analysis. Einstein (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 16(4), eRW4383. doi:10.31744/einstein_journal/2018RW4383

 

ABSTRACT

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction practices increase the capacity for concentration and attention, and these practices are particularly effective for people with breast cancer. To analyze the effects of the application of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on breast cancer symptoms. Systematic review and meta-analysis were carried out. To find suitable studies, the PubMed/ MEDLINE database was searched using the keywords “breast cancer” and “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”. Studies included were published between 2013 and 2017, written in English and showed methodological quality through the PEDro scale (score greater than 3). They also presented empirical evidence, had an experimental study design (randomized or non-randomized), and had full text available. For the meta-analysis, we used a random-effects model, with standardized mean differences and 95% confidence intervals. Seven studies were included, one non-randomized and containing only an intervention group of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and six randomized including samples of two or three groups. The non-randomized study showed 6 points on the PEDro scale, the randomized studies of two groups 6 to 7 points and studies with three groups showed 7 points. In the meta-analysis of the two randomized studies, the results, although not significant, revealed a moderate effect for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the outcome of fatigue, with a mean difference of −0.42 (95%CI −0.92- −0.07; p=0.09). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction seems to be a promising alternative for treatment of this disease’s symptoms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6282865/

 

Relieve Burnout in Practicing Psychologists with Mindful Self-Compassion Training

Relieve Burnout in Practicing Psychologists with Mindful Self-Compassion Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness interventions in the workplace target workplace functioning: reducing stress and improving decision-making, productivity, resilience, interpersonal communication, organizational relationships, perspective-taking, and self-care,”– M. Janssen

 

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. Mindfulness is also known to improve self-compassion, understanding one’s own suffering. It is possible that this may be a key to understanding mindfulness’ effects on burnout.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindful Self-Compassion Training Reduces Stress and Burnout Symptoms Among Practicing Psychologists: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Brief Web-Based Intervention.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02340/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_847629_69_Psycho_20181211_arts_A ), Eriksson and colleagues recruited practicing psychologists and randomly assigned them a wait list control condition or to receive mindful self-compassion training online for 6 weeks of 15 minute per day for 6 days per week. The program consisted of mindfulness exercises and compassion-focused exercises with 6 components, “(1) Kind attention, (2) Kind awareness, (3) Loving kindness with oneself and others, (4) Self-compassion—part 1, (5) Self-compassion—part 2, (6) Compassion with others and Quiet Practice.” The participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness, self-compassion, perceived stress, and burnout.

 

They found that compared to baseline and the wait-list control group, the group receiving mindful self-compassion training had significantly higher mindfulness and self-compassion and significantly lower self-coldness, perceived stress and burnout symptoms including fatigue, weariness, tension, and listlessness. They also found that the greater the change in self-compassion the greater the reduction in perceived stress and burnout. This suggests that improvements in self-compassion are an important consequence of mindfulness training in reducing burnout.

 

The fact that the program was delivered online and only involved 15 minutes per day is important for the engagement of busy professionals. This resulted in about 4 out of 5 psychologists successfully completing the program. Importantly, the observed sizes of the effects of the training were comparable to those seen in studies employing face-to-face training. Hence, offering the program online appeared to have the major advantages of convenience and wide availability without reducing effectiveness.

 

These results suggest that mindful self-compassion training delivered online is effective in reducing the symptoms of burnout in practicing psychologists. This should not only relieve the suffering of the psychologists but also make them more effective in relieving the suffering of their clients.

 

So, relieve burnout in practicing psychologists with mindful self-compassion training.

 

Self-compassion enhances our careers by increasing our motivation,16 encouraging us to take risks without fear of failure, to persist despite obstacles; it fosters personal growth, and even reduces medical errors.” – Laurie Keefer

 

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

 

Eriksson T, Germundsjö L, Åström E and Rönnlund M (2018) Mindful Self-Compassion Training Reduces Stress and Burnout Symptoms Among Practicing Psychologists: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Brief Web-Based Intervention. Front. Psychol. 9:2340. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02340

 

Objective: The aims of this study were (a) to examine the effects of a 6 weeks web-based mindful self-compassion program on stress and burnout symptoms in a group of practicing psychologists, and (b) to examine relationships between changes in self-compassion and self-coldness and changes in stress and burnout symptoms.

Method: In a randomized controlled trial, 101 practicing psychologists were assigned to a training group (n = 51) or a wait-list control group (n = 49). The training encompassed 15 min exercises per day, 6 days a week, for 6 weeks. The participants completed the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and the Shirom Melamed Burnout Questionnaire (SMBQ) pre and post intervention.

Results: Eighty-one participants (n = 40 in the training group, n = 41 in the control group) took part in the pre and post intervention assessments. Selective gains for the intervention group were observed for SCS total scores (d = 0.86; d = 0.94 for the SCS), FFMQ scores (d = 0.60), while levels of self-coldness was reduced (d = 0.73). Critically, levels of perceived stress (d = 0.59) and burnout symptoms (d = 0.44 for SMBQ total) were additionally lowered post intervention. Finally, the results confirmed the hypothesis that the measures of distress would be more strongly related to self-coldness than self-compassion, a pattern seen in cross-sectional analyses and, for burnout, also in the longitudinal analyses.

Conclusions: This training program appeared effective to increase self-compassion/reduce self-coldness, and to alleviate stress and symptoms of burnout and provide support of the distinction between self-compassion and self-coldness. Additional studies, preferably three-armed RCTs with long-term follow-up, are warranted to further evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02340/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_847629_69_Psycho_20181211_arts_A

 

Improve Tolerance of Distress and Psychological State with Mindfulness

Improve Tolerance of Distress and Psychological State with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Distress Tolerance skills are used to help us cope and survive during a crisis, and helps us tolerate short term or long term pain (physical or emotional). Tolerating distress includes a mindfulness of breath and mindful awareness of situations and ourselves.” – DBT Self Help

 

Psychological distress is related to an increase in physiological stress responses. That is, when the individual is anxious, ruminating, or having negative emotions, the physiology including the hormonal system reacts. The increased activity can be measured in heightened stress hormones in the blood and increased heart rate, blood pressure etc. These physiological stress responses on the short-term are adaptive and help to fight off infection, toxins, injury, etc. Unfortunately, psychological distress is often persistent and chronic and resulting in chronic stress which in turn can produce disease.

 

Many of the symptoms of psychological distress have been shown to be related to a lack of mindfulness. Anxiety is often rooted in a persistent dread of future negative events while rumination is rooted in the past, with persistent replaying of negative past events. Since mindfulness is firmly rooted in the present it is antagonistic toward anything rooted in the past or future. Hence, high levels of mindfulness cannot coexist with anxiety and rumination. In addition, high mindfulness has been shown to be related to high levels of emotion regulation and positive emotions. So, mindfulness would appear to be an antidote to psychological distress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Dimensions of distress tolerance and the moderating effects on mindfulness-based stress reduction.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6130202/ ), Gawrysiak and colleagues recruited participants in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The program was specifically developed to improve coping with stress and consisted of weekly 2.5-hour group training sessions with home practice and included meditation, body scan, yoga practices, and discussion. They were measured before and after training for distress tolerance, perceived stress, and positive and negative emotions.

 

They found that following the MBSR program the participants demonstrated significant increases in distress tolerance and vigor and decreases in perceived stress, anger, confusion, depression, fatigue, and tension. In addition, they found that participants who were low in distress tolerance had the greatest decreases in perceived stress after the program while those high in distress tolerance had the least change.

 

Hence, they found that the MBSR program improved the psychological state in the participants. This is in line with previous research that demonstrated that mindfulness training improves psychological and physiological responses to stress and improves emotions. What this study contributes is the understanding that MBSR  improves that participants  ability to cope with psychological distress. Importantly, they also found that the participants who benefited the most were the ones who had the least ability to cope with distress to begin with. This suggests that one of the reasons that MBSR training is beneficial is that it improves the individuals ability to deal effectively with tough emotions and situations which, in turn, improves the individuals ability to deal effectively with stress. This, then, improves their emotional state.

 

So, improve tolerance of distress and psychological state with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” — 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

 

Gawrysiak, M. J., Leong, S. H., Grassetti, S. N., Wai, M., Shorey, R. C., & Baime, M. J. (2016). Dimensions of distress tolerance and the moderating effects on mindfulness-based stress reduction. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 29(5), 552–560. http://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2015.1085513

 

Abstract

Background and Objectives:

This study examined the relationship between distress tolerance and psychosocial changes among individuals participating in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The objective of the analysis was to discern whether individuals with lower distress tolerance measured before MBSR showed larger reductions in perceived stress following MBSR.

Design and Methods:

Data were collected from a sample of convenience (n = 372) using a quasi-experimental design. Participants completed self-report measures immediately prior to course enrollment and following course completion.

Results:

Perceived stress, distress tolerance, and mood states showed favorable changes from pre- to post-MBSR in the current study. Baseline distress tolerance significantly moderated reductions on perceived stress, supporting the primary hypothesis that individuals with lower baseline distress tolerance evidenced a greater decline in perceived stress following MBSR. For a one-unit increase on the self-reported baseline Distress Tolerance Scale, reported perceived stress scores decreased by 2.5 units (p < .0001).

Conclusions:

The finding that individuals with lower baseline distress tolerance evidenced a greater decline in perceived stress may offer hints about who is most likely to benefit from MBSR and other mindfulness-based treatments. Identifying moderators of treatment outcomes may yield important benefits in matching individuals to treatments that are most likely to work for them.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6130202/

Relieve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Yoga

Relieve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Severe fatigue is a significant problem for many cancer survivors.  A meta-analysis of yoga studies of cancer survivors found yoga programs produced large reductions in distress, anxiety, and depression; moderate reductions in fatigue; moderate increases in quality of life, emotional function and social functioning; and a small increase in functional well-being.” – Cort Johnson

 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) occurs in about 0.2% of the population. It produces a profound, prolonged, and debilitating tiredness. When severe, it can produce a chronic and extreme tiredness, so severe that sufferers can become bed-bound or need to use a wheel-chair. It produces muscle pain, brain fog and dizziness, poor memory, disturbed sleep and trouble with digestion. But, deep fatigue can also be produced by a myriad of conditions including diseases and their treatment, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Fatigue is also associated with aging. Fatigue is widespread. Some form of chronic fatigue has been reported by about 10% of the population.

 

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for CFS. The usual treatments for fatigue are targeted at symptom relief and include exercise and drugs. As an alternative to these traditional treatments, mindfulness training has been shown to reduce fatigue. The mindfulness practice of Yoga also includes exercise and it has been shown to be an effective treatment for the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). But, the mechanism is not known of how yoga may be affecting the symptoms of CFS.

 

In today’s Research News article “Changes in fatigue, autonomic functions, and blood biomarkers due to sitting isometric yoga in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891891/ ), Oka and colleagues recruited patients suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) who had not responded in six months to traditional treatments and who completed 8-weeks, of twice a week for 20 minutes seated yoga practice. To examine the immediate, acute effects of the yoga practice, the final 20-minute session was preceded and followed by measures of fatigue, vigor, mood, heart rate, and respiration. In addition, a medical exam and a blood draw was included. The blood was assayed for cortisol, prolactin, 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), homovanillic acid (HVA), Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), DHEA-s, TGF-β1, IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-α, and IFN-γ.

 

They found, as expected that the 20-minute yoga practice resulted in significantly decreased fatigue and increased vigor. This was accompanied by a decrease in heart rate and an increase in the high frequency components of the electrocardiogram. In the blood, there were significant increases following yoga in DHEA-s and decreases in cortisol and TNF-α. To determine which factors were associated with fatigue and vigor, they performed a correlational analysis. They found that the larger the changes in TGF- β1 and BDNF the greater the reduction in fatigue. Also, the greater the increase in homovanillic acid (HVA) the greater the increase in vigor.

 

The pattern of results suggests that, on a short-term basis, yoga practice tends to reduce stress, as indicated by heart rate changes and DHEA-s and cortisol levels and reduce inflammatory responses, as indicated by changes in TNF-α and TGF- β1. This suggests that yoga may improve the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) by decreasing stress and inflammation. This is an interesting conclusion that may help lead to more effective treatments to end the suffering of CFS patients.

 

So, relieve chronic fatigue syndrome with yoga.

 

“CFS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be debilitating. It causes all kinds of non-specific symptoms including weakness, impaired memory, and fatigue for no reason, loss of concentration, varied muscle pains, headaches, sore throat, insomnia and apathy. . .  Yoga addressed the root of the problem, because instead of exhausting the body further, as traditional exercise might, it re-stores energy in the body for use in healing itself. Yoga does this primarily through pranayama (breathing exercise), relaxation, meditation and in this case, gentle, restorative asana.” – YogiDiva

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Oka, T., Tanahashi, T., Sudo, N., Lkhagvasuren, B., & Yamada, Y. (2018). Changes in fatigue, autonomic functions, and blood biomarkers due to sitting isometric yoga in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Biopsychosocial Medicine, 12, 3. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13030-018-0123-2

 

Abstract

Background

In a previous randomized controlled trial, we found that sitting isometric yoga improves fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who are resistant to conventional therapy. The aim of this study was to investigate possible mechanisms behind this finding, focusing on the short-term fatigue-relieving effect, by comparing autonomic nervous function and blood biomarkers before and after a session of isometric yoga.

Methods

Fifteen patients with CFS who remained symptomatic despite at least 6 months of conventional therapy practiced sitting isometric yoga (biweekly 20 min practice with a yoga instructor and daily home practice) for eight weeks. Acute effects of sitting isometric yoga on fatigue, autonomic function, and blood biomarkers were investigated after the final session with an instructor. The effect of a single session of sitting isometric yoga on fatigue was assessed by the Profile of Mood Status (POMS) questionnaire immediately before and after the session. Autonomic nervous function (heart rate (HR) variability) and blood biomarkers (cortisol, DHEA-S, TNF-α, IL-6, IFN-γ, IFN-α, prolactin, carnitine, TGF-β1, BDNF, MHPG, and HVA) were compared before and after the session.

Results

Sitting isometric yoga significantly reduced the POMS fatigue score (p < 0.01) and increased the vigor score (p < 0.01). It also reduced HR (p < 0.05) and increased the high frequency power (p < 0.05) of HR variability. Sitting isometric yoga increased serum levels of DHEA-S (p < 0.05), reduced levels of cortisol (p < 0.05) and TNF-α (p < 0.05), and had a tendency to reduce serum levels of prolactin (p < 0.1). Decreases in fatigue scores correlated with changes in plasma levels of TGF-β1 and BDNF. In contrast, increased vigor positively correlated with HVA.

Conclusions

A single session of sitting isometric yoga reduced fatigue and increased vigor in patients with CFS. Yoga also increased vagal nerve function and changed blood biomarkers in a pattern that suggested anti-stress and anti-inflammatory effects. These changes appear to be related to the short-term fatigue-relieving effect of sitting isometric yoga in patients with CFS. Furthermore, dopaminergic nervous system activation might account for sitting isometric yoga-induced increases in energy in this patient population.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891891/

 

Improve Student Mental Health with a Mindfulness App

Improve Student Mental Health with a Mindfulness App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Students who had been practising mindfulness had distress scores lower than their baseline levels even during exam time, which suggests that mindfulness helps build resilience against stress.” – Julieta Galante

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in college academic performance.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many students and counseling centers can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, Smartphone Apps have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But, the question arises as to the effectiveness of these Apps.

 

In today’s Research News article “Evaluation of an mHealth App (DeStressify) on University Students’ Mental Health: Pilot Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801522/ ), Lee and Jung recruited university students and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list condition or to work with a mindfulness app (DeStressify) for a month, 5 days per week for 3 to 20 minutes per day. They were measured before and after the training period for perceived stress, anxiety, depression, sleep quality, health-related quality of life, work productivity, and app use.

 

They found that after mindfulness app training the students reported significant reductions in perceived stress, fatigue, and anxiety and significant increases in general health-related quality of life, energy, and productivity. A lack in the study was that mindfulness was not measured. So, it cannot be concluded that improvements in mindfulness produced by the App was responsible for the benefits. Nevertheless, these are interesting and potentially important results. They suggest that the use of a mindfulness app by university students can provide improvements in physical and mental health and productivity. This can be important for the students’ success in school by making them more energetic and healthy and with less emotional disruption.

 

This is particularly important as the app does not require expensive staff time. It can be used at the busy students’ convenience in both location and time. And it is very easy and inexpensive to use and can be distributed widely. Given the mindfulness app can also improve the students’ well-being, it would seem ideal for use by college students.

 

So, improve student mental health with a mindfulness App.

 

“If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” – Elizabeth Hoge

 

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

 

Lee, R. A., & Jung, M. E. (2018). Evaluation of an mHealth App (DeStressify) on University Students’ Mental Health: Pilot Trial. JMIR Mental Health, 5(1), e2. http://doi.org/10.2196/mental.8324

 

Abstract

Background

One in five Canadians experience mental health issues with those in the age range of 15 to 24 years being most at risk of a mood disorder. University students have shown significantly higher rates of mental health problems than the general public. Current university support services are limited by factors such as available staff and finances, and social stigma has frequently been identified as an additional barrier that prevents students from accessing these resources. Mobile health (mHealth) apps are one form of alternative health support that is discrete and accessible to students, and although they are recognized as a promising alternative, there is limited research demonstrating their efficacy.

Objective

The aim of this study was to evaluate a mindfulness-based app’s (“DeStressify”) efficacy on stress, anxiety, depressive symptomology, sleep behavior, work or class absenteeism, work or school productivity, and quality of life (QoL) among university students.

Methods

Full-time undergraduate students at a Canadian university with smartphones and Internet access were recruited through in-class announcements and on-campus posters. Participants randomized into an experimental condition were given and instructed to use the DeStressify app 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Control condition participants were wait-listed. All participants completed pre- and postintervention Web-based surveys to self-assess stress, anxiety, depressive symptomatology, sleep quality, and health-related QoL.

Results

A total of 206 responses were collected at baseline, with 163 participants completing the study (86 control, 77 experimental). Using DeStressify was shown to reduce trait anxiety (P=.01) and improve general health (P=.001), energy (P=.01), and emotional well-being (P=.01) in university students, and more participants in the experimental condition believed their productivity improved between baseline and postintervention measurements than the number of participants expected to believe so randomly by chance (P=.01). The app did not significantly improve stress, state anxiety, physical and social functioning, and role limitations because of physical or emotional health problems or pain (P>.05).

Conclusions

Mindfulness-based apps may provide an effective alternative support for university students’ mental health. Universities and other institutions may benefit from promoting the use of DeStressify or other mindfulness-based mHealth apps among students who are interested in methods of anxiety management or mindfulness-based self-driven health support. Future steps include examining DeStressify and similar mHealth apps over a longer period and in university staff and faculty.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801522/