Improve Physiological Adaptation to High Altitude with Yoga and Meditation

Improve Physiological Adaptation to High Altitude with Yoga and Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Pranayama techniques allow for maximizing your lung capacity, which becomes critical at high altitudes.” – D.. M. Kumar

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise, in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety, and at high altitude. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects. High altitude taxes the physiology and particularly the respiratory system. Since yoga practice can improve respiratory function, it would be expected that yoga practice would improve the physiological adaptations needed to function at high altitude.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of mindfulness meditation protocol in subjects with various psychometric characteristics at high altitude.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218243/) Bhanushali and colleagues recruited adults with no prior Kriya Yoga experience and provided them with an intensive 4-day 15 hours per day practice of Kriya Yoga at high altitude (11,500 ft.). The practice consisted of a combination of meditation and yoga. They were measured before and after training for body size, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, cholesterol, triglycerides, psychometric constitution (prakriti), attention, memory, verbal fluency, executive functioning, and information processing speed, anxiety, mental well-being, and happiness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline, after the Kriya Yoga practice there were significant increases in oxygen saturation, blood glucose, mental well-being and happiness and significant decreases in anxiety, blood triglycerides and very low-density lipoprotein. Hence, after training there were improvements in physical and psychological well-being.

 

These results must be interpreted cautiously as there wasn’t a control comparison condition. So, the results could be due to acclimatization over the 4 days at high altitude and not to the Kriya Yoga practice. Also, without a control condition, participant expectancy effects (placebo), experimenter bias, attentional effects etc. may be responsible for the results. In addition, there was no comparison to other exercises. So, the effects may be due to exercise and not specifically to Kriya Yoga.

 

Taking this into consideration, the results demonstrate that intensive yoga practice can be conducted at high altitude and shows potential for improving physical and psychological acclimatization to high altitude.

 

So, improve physiological adaptation to high altitude with yoga and meditation.

 

BREATHE — the universal mantra of yoga. This can be a bit harder than normal at thousands feet above sea level. There’s 20 percent less oxygen (or more!) in the air at these elevations. You may experience headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and sleep disturbance (and sleep is oh-so-important). If you’re feeling like you’re suffering from a bad hangover or the flu, chances are your body is struggling to adapt to the change in altitude.”.- Vicki Kahn

 

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

 

Bhanushali, D., Tyagi, R., Limaye Rishi Nityapragya, N., & Anand, A. (2020). Effect of mindfulness meditation protocol in subjects with various psychometric characteristics at high altitude. Brain and behavior, 10(5), e01604. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1604

 

Abstract

Introduction

Incidence of high altitude‐related sickness is increasing due to more number of people visiting the areas of high altitude which may result in life‐threatening conditions including acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), and High‐altitude pulmonary hypertension (HAPH). We hypothesized that an advanced yoga regimen may be beneficial in dealing with the physiology of acclimatization.

Methods

Anthropometric, Biochemical, and Psychological assessments were carried out in 48 participants before and after the advance meditation program (AMP) in the experimental group. Individuals with an age range of 20–65 years with no comorbidities were included in the study. Participants were exposed to AMP for 4 days. All assessments were carried out at the baseline and after the course. Prakriti was constituted for all participants using a standard questionnaire. The study was carried out after obtaining the written informed consent as per the guidelines outlined by the Institute Ethics Committee.

Results

Po2 and glucose levels were found significantly reduced along with changes in the Happiness index, anxiety, and mental well‐being. However, participants with lowered Po2, after 4 days of mindfulness intervention, showed a positive outcome measured by the established scales of anxiety, happiness, and information processing. Psychometric or Prakriti wise analysis revealed that subject with “Pitta” constitution exposed to high altitude and advance meditation showed changes in more parameters than “Vatta” or “Kapha” Constitution.

Conclusions

Advance meditation in the high altitude zone confers biochemical and neuro‐cognitive benefits. Molecular studies may require to understand the role of hypoxic condition in improving the disease state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218243/

 

Improve a Biological Marker of Aging, Telomeres, with Meditation

Improve a Biological Marker of Aging, Telomeres, with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While we might expect our bodies and brains to follow a shared trajectory of development and degeneration over time, by actively practicing strategies such as meditation, we might actually preserve and protect our physical body and brain structure to extend our golden years and shine even more brightly in old age.” – Sonima Wellness

 

One of the most exciting findings in molecular biology in recent years was the discovery of the telomere. This is a component of the DNA molecule that is attached to the ends of the strands. Recent genetic research has suggested that the telomere and its regulation is the biological mechanism that produces aging. As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis, this is what produces aging. As we get older the new cells produced are more and more likely to be defective. The shortening of the telomere occurs each time the cell is replaced. So, slowly as we age it gets shorter and shorter.

 

Fortunately, there is a mechanism to protect the telomere. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. It also promotes cell survival and enhances stress-resistance.  Research suggests that processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process by protecting the telomere.  One activity that seems to increase telomerase activity and protect telomere length is mindfulness practice. Hence, engaging in mindfulness practices may protect the telomere and thereby slow the aging process.

 

In today’s Research News article “Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7067861/), and Mendioroz colleagues recruited long-term meditators (greater than 10 years of experience) and non-meditators matched for gender, ethnic group, and age. They were measured for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, resilience, happiness, self-compassion, experiential avoidance, and quality of life. They also provided blood samples that were assayed for telomere length and DNA methylation.

 

They found that the long-term meditators were significantly higher in for mindfulness, resilience, happiness, self-compassion, and quality of life and significantly lower in for anxiety, depression, and experiential avoidance.

 

They also found that the meditators had significantly longer telomeres than the matched controls. Interestingly, while in the controls the greater the age of the participant the shorter the telomeres, in the long-term meditators, telomere length was the same regardless of age. In addition, they found that in the long-term meditators, telomere length was significantly associated with DNA methylation at specific regions but not for the matched controls.

 

This study found, as have others, that long-term meditation practice is associated with longer telomeres. The fact, that the telomere length was not associated with age in the meditators suggests that meditation practice may protect the individual from age-related erosion of telomeres. The results further suggest that meditation may do so through specific methylation of DNA. Stress has been shown to results in shortening the telomeres. Hence, a potential mechanism whereby meditation may protect telomeres may be by reducing the physiological and psychological responses to stress.

 

It is suspected, but not proven, that telomere length is related to health and well-being. The findings that the long-term meditators had significantly better mental health tends to support this notion. There is evidence that meditation practice increases longevity. It can be speculated that meditation practice may do so by affecting molecular genetic mechanisms that prevent the degradation of the telomeres with age.

 

So, improve a biological marker of aging, telomeres, with meditation.

 

Meditation also helps to protect our telomeres, the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. Telomeres are longest when we’re young and naturally shorten as we age. Shorter telomeres are associated with stress and higher risk for many diseases including cancer, and depend on the telomerase enzyme to enable them to rebuild and repair.”- Paula Watkins

 

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

 

Mendioroz, M., Puebla-Guedea, M., Montero-Marín, J., Urdánoz-Casado, A., Blanco-Luquin, I., Roldán, M., Labarga, A., & García-Campayo, J. (2020). Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners. Scientific reports, 10(1), 4564. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61241-6

 

Abstract

Mindfulness and meditation techniques have proven successful for the reduction of stress and improvement in general health. In addition, meditation is linked to longevity and longer telomere length, a proposed biomarker of human aging. Interestingly, DNA methylation changes have been described at specific subtelomeric regions in long-term meditators compared to controls. However, the molecular basis underlying these beneficial effects of meditation on human health still remains unclear. Here we show that DNA methylation levels, measured by the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip (Illumina) array, at specific subtelomeric regions containing GPR31 and SERPINB9 genes were associated with telomere length in long-term meditators with a strong statistical trend when correcting for multiple testing. Notably, age showed no association with telomere length in the group of long-term meditators. These results may suggest that long-term meditation could be related to epigenetic mechanisms, in particular gene-specific DNA methylation changes at distinct subtelomeric regions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7067861/

 

Being Mindfully Non-Judgmental is Associated with Greater Happiness

Being Mindfully Non-Judgmental is Associated with Greater Happiness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Start taking notice of these everyday moments, and bask in their glow for a beat or two. The more easily you can identify even the simplest of joys in life, the more of them you’ll discover, everywhere.” – Kelle Walsh

 

Meditation leads to concentration, concentration leads to understanding, and understanding leads to happiness” – This wonderful quote from the modern day sage Thich Nhat Hahn is a beautiful pithy description of the benefits of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness allows us to view our experience and not judge it, not put labels on it, not make assumptions about it, not relate it to past experiences, and not project it into the future. Rather mindfulness lets us experience everything around and within us exactly as it is arising and falling away from moment to moment.

 

A variety of forms of mindfulness training have been shown to increase psychological well-being and happiness. So, it would be expected that yoga practice would similarly increase these positive states. It is not known, however, if the relationship of mindfulness with happiness moderated by the personality of the individual.

 

In today’s Research News article “Personality and nonjudging make you happier: Contribution of the Five-Factor Model, mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to subjective well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6999907/), Ortet and colleagues recruited two samples, college students and healthy adults from the community. A subsample of the community participants received a once a week for 6-weeks, 2-hour, training in mindfulness and metacognition including knowing how to differentiate between the story attached to experience and the actual present moment one. The participants completed the Subjective Happiness Questionnaire, the Big Five Personality inventory measuring five broad domains of personality: emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and the five facets of mindfulness including observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, particularly the nonjudging facet, the higher the levels of subjective well-being, and all of the 5 of the personality traits of extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability. They found that the personality factors that were most strongly associated with subjective well-being were emotional stability and extraversion. When personality factors were taken into account only the mindfulness facet of nonjudging was still positively associated with happiness.

 

These results are correlational and as such must be interpreted with caution. The fact that the individuals’ personality characteristic accounted for most of the mindfulness – happiness relationship underscores problems with causation. The third factor of personality was primarily responsible for the mindfulness – happiness relationship. But previous studies have demonstrated with manipulative studies that mindfulness causes an increase in happiness. So, the results of the present study likely result from a causal connection between the mindfulness facet of nonjudging and happiness.

 

The findings suggest that there are three factors that are particularly important for happiness. Being outgoing is associated with happiness indicating the importance of being engaged socially in being happy. Being emotionally stable is also associated with happiness indicating the importance of having consistent patterns of behavior for being happy. Finally, not judging inner experience but rather simply accepting it as it is, is associated with happiness. This suggests that stopping looking at inner experience as good or bad, deserved or undeserved, or painful or not is important for individual happiness. Allowing inner experience to simply occur with acceptance helps to promote happiness.

 

So, being mindfully non-judgmental is associated with greater happiness.

 

we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment, and we’re least happy when the mind is wandering.” – Melli Obrien

 

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

 

Ortet, G., Pinazo, D., Walker, D., Gallego, S., Mezquita, L., & Ibáñez, M. I. (2020). Personality and nonjudging make you happier: Contribution of the Five-Factor Model, mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to subjective well-being. PloS one, 15(2), e0228655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228655

 

Abstract

Mindful individuals are able to acknowledge mind wandering and live in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. Previous studies have found that both mind wandering and mindfulness are associated with subjective well-being. However, the main predictor of happiness is personality; more specifically, happier people are emotionally stable and extraverted. The present study aimed to explore the contribution of the five factors of personality, dispositional mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to happiness. A sample of 372 university students was assessed with the NEO-Five Factor Inventory, and another sample of 217 community adults answered the Big Five Personality Trait Short Questionnaire. Both samples, 589 participants in all, completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Subjective Happiness Scale. Furthermore, 55 participants from the general population sample took a 6-week training course in meditation and developing mindfulness. The regression analyses showed that emotional stability and extraversion traits were the strongest predictors of subjective well-being. Nonetheless, the nonjudging facet, which is nonevaluative/acceptance awareness of thoughts and feelings, still remained a significant predictor of happiness when personality was accounted for. Finally, mindfulness training did not increase subjective well-being. Being nonjudgmental of one’s inner thoughts, feelings and sensations contributes to happiness even when personality is taken into account. Accordingly, it seems reasonable that mindfulness training that intends to improve subjective well-being should focus on noticing thoughts without judging them.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6999907/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Taking a few minutes to meditate every day with the goal of becoming more mindful, or focused on and accepting of the present, is a great way to relieve stress. But it’s even more powerful than you think. Mindfulness meditation helps ease mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.” – Amy Marturana Winderl

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

There is a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditationyogamindful movementscontemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. In addition, there are many sub-forms of each; e.g. meditation can be practiced in focused, open monitoring, or compassion techniques. The relative effectiveness of these techniques in promoting psychological adjustment and mental health needs to be further explored.

 

In today’s Research News article “Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6445895/), Montero-Marin and colleagues recruited both male and female adults (aged 18-74 years) online and had them complete measures of religious beliefs, amounts of meditation and prayer practice, happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and emotional overproduction.

 

They found that the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of focused meditation and the longer the sessions the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions and the lower the levels of depression, negative emotions and emotional overproduction. Similarly, the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of open monitoring meditation the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions and the lower the levels of depression, negative emotions and emotional overproduction. Finally, the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of compassion meditation the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions. Age was not a significant factor. There were no similar relationships with the amounts of prayer or religious beliefs.

 

The findings are correlational and as such no conclusions regarding causation can be reached. But the findings suggest that meditation practice is associated with the practitioners’ psychological well-being. It is interesting that religious beliefs were not associated with well-being and that there were no significant relationships found between prayer practice and measures of well-being. Prior research suggests that spirituality rather then religiosity is associated with positive well-being. The present study, however, did not include measures of spirituality. It would be expected that the degree to which religious beliefs and prayer were spiritual practices rather than religious recitals would be important in determining the relationships of beliefs and practice with well-being.

 

Although there are different patterns of significant relationships between the different meditation techniques and measures of well-being, there were no direct statistical comparisons conducted. So, no conclusions can be reached regarding the differential effectiveness of the different meditation techniques. In general, it would appear that meditation practice, including focused, open monitoring, and compassion types is related to greater well-being regardless of age, gender, or health status.

 

So, improve psychological well-being with meditation.

 

 

While I could point to lots of research outlining the impressive benefits of meditation, I think it always works best if people do the experiment for themselves. Spend just a little time practising every day and see what a difference it makes in your life.” – Black Dog Institute

 

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

 

Montero-Marin, J., Perez-Yus, M. C., Cebolla, A., Soler, J., Demarzo, M., & Garcia-Campayo, J. (2019). Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 630. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630

 

Abstract

There has been increased interest in the relationships between religiosity, meditation practice and well-being, but there is lack of understanding as to how specific religious components and distinct meditation practices could influence different positive and negative psychological adjustment outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the explanatory power of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), and compassion meditation (CM) on psychological adjustment, taking into consideration a number of practice-related variables such as session length, frequency of practice and lifetime practice. Psychological adjustment was assessed by means of happiness, positive affect, depression, negative affect, and emotional overproduction. A cross-sectional design was used, with a final sample comprising 210 Spanish participants who completed an online assessment protocol. Hierarchical regressions were performed, including age, sex and psychotropic medication use in the first step as possible confounders, with the addition of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, FA, OM, and CM in the second step. FA session length was related to all psychological adjustment outcomes: happiness (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.25, p = 0.001), positive affect (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.18, p = 0.014), depression (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.004; β = -0.27, p < 0.001), negative affect (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = -0.27, p < 0.001) and emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.013; β = -0.23, p = 0.001). CM session length was related to positive affect (β = 0.18, p = 0.011). CM practice frequency was associated with happiness (ΔR2 = 0.06, p = 0.038; β = 0.16, p = 0.041). Lifetime practice of FA was related to happiness (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = 0.21, p = 0.030) and OM to emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.037; β = -0.19, p = 0.047). Religious beliefs and prayer seemed to be less relevant than meditation practices such as FA, OM, and CM in explaining psychological adjustment. The distinct meditation practices might be differentially related to distinct psychological adjustment outcomes through different practice-related variables. However, research into other forms of institutional religiosity integrating social aspects of religion is required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6445895/

 

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Nunchi

 

I read a wonderful article in the New York Times by Euny Hong entitled “The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/opinion/sunday/nunchi.html). It emphasizes the impact of the Korean word “nunchi” on their world view and their way of life. “Nunchi” is literally translated as “eye measure.” It suggests that every situation should be seen as a whole and the individual’s actions should be appropriate for the entire human context.

 

The fact is that most human behavior is affected mainly by a few aspects of the situation that the individual deems particularly salient and important. These might be people who are particularly important, or special friends or family, or enemies. Although this to some extent makes sense, it results in relegating everything and everyone else to the background. The totality of the situation is lost.

 

To students of mindfulness, it should be apparent that “nunchi” is the same as present moment awareness. It is being totally conscious of what is going on in the immediate environment. It is also non-judgmental, perceiving everything just as it is. But it is more in that the interrelationships of all things, what the Buddha called “interdependent co-arising” has to be seen, “eye measured.” It involves seeing the total picture as a gestalt, with not only the immediate components but also how they all interrelate.

 

There’s a Korean saying that “half of social life is nunchi.” This implies that seeing the entire social context in total in the present moment is extremely important to successfully navigating the social situation. When apprising a room full of people, the practice of “nunchi” would dictate taking in the whole scene and feeling the mood of the entire room, be it celebratory, somber, gleeful, sad, angry, etc.. Each individual in the room is then seen within the context. If there’s an angry sense to the room, the behavior of each person is seen against that backdrop. If one individual is neutral, they will actually be viewed as positive, as neutral is in the positive direction from angry. This better allows the individual to react and interact with the person with greater understanding and a more accurate interpretation of the behavior, which, in turn, allows for more calibrated and effective responses. Others tend to like better and interact more with people who practice “nunchi.”

 

In the process of “eye measuring” there is little opportunity for talking. So, “nunchi” usually involves more listening and less talking. It’s been said that we learn nothing new when we’re speaking. So, by practicing “nunchi” and listening more we have the opportunity to learn and be better positioned for future interactions. People respond very positively when they feel that they are being heard. Listening is a rare yet extremely valuable skill that is promoted by the practice of “nunchi.”

 

“Nunchi” allows for better identification of what can be controlled and what can’t. Seeing things and people as they are and as a whole should make it clear what kinds of impacts our behavior can have and what are the likely consequences of those behaviors. In other words, being completely in the present moment strengthens the ability to intervene for the good.

 

The Korean’s clearly understand the importance of present moment awareness and by making it an important word in the language, “nunchi”, make it front and center in their minds. They have long recognized it importance for effective interactions. The mindfulness revolution in the western world is simply helping us catch up.

 

So, practice “nunchi”, being mindful and aware, and be happier.

 

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

 

Improve Psychological Adjustment with Meditation

Improve Psychological Adjustment with Meditation

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Fine-tuning which type of mindfulness or meditation someone uses as a prescriptive to treat a specific need will most likely be the next big advance in the public health revolution of mindfulness and meditation.” – Christopher Bergland

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise and fall away without paying them any further attention. Loving Kindness Meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment. They are also similar to many religious and spiritual practices. There are large differences between these practices that are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. But what those differences are is not known. In today’s Research News article “Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_951898_69_Psycho_20190404_arts_A), Montero-Marin and colleagues explore the different effects of these practices on the psychological well-being of practitioners.

 

They recruited adult participants online and had them complete measures of happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and negative psychological adjustment. They were also asked to indicate the amount of prayer, and the types and amounts of meditation practices engaged in, including open monitoring, focused, and compassion meditation types.

 

They found that positive psychological states were associated with the amount of the various meditation practices and not particularly with religiosity or prayer. They found that the amount of focused meditation practice was significantly related to all measures of psychological adjustment, including happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and negative psychological adjustment. On the other hand, open monitoring practice was significantly associated with self-regulation of negative emotions and compassion meditation was significantly related to positive emotions and happiness.

 

These are interesting results that are cross-sectional and correlative. So, care must be taken in concluding causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that meditation practice has positive benefits for the psychological state of the practitioner that are superior to religious practices. It appears that focused meditation practice has the greatest benefits while compassion meditation may help increase happiness and open monitoring meditation may help with dealing with negative emotions. Previous research has indicated some additional benefits of religiosity, prayer, and focused, open monitoring, and compassion meditation techniques. It remains for future research to better clarify the advantages and disadvantages of each of these meditation types.

 

So, improve psychological adjustment with meditation.

 

”For someone who meditates, the practice offers a chance to improve physical wellbeing, as well as emotional health. However, there is no “right way” to meditate, meaning people can explore the different types until they find one that works for them.” – Zawn Villines

 

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

 

Montero-Marin J, Perez-Yus MC, Cebolla A, Soler J, Demarzo M and Garcia-Campayo J (2019) Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment. Front. Psychol. 10:630. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630

 

There has been increased interest in the relationships between religiosity, meditation practice and well-being, but there is lack of understanding as to how specific religious components and distinct meditation practices could influence different positive and negative psychological adjustment outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the explanatory power of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), and compassion meditation (CM) on psychological adjustment, taking into consideration a number of practice-related variables such as session length, frequency of practice and lifetime practice. Psychological adjustment was assessed by means of happiness, positive affect, depression, negative affect, and emotional overproduction. A cross-sectional design was used, with a final sample comprising 210 Spanish participants who completed an online assessment protocol. Hierarchical regressions were performed, including age, sex and psychotropic medication use in the first step as possible confounders, with the addition of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, FA, OM, and CM in the second step. FA session length was related to all psychological adjustment outcomes: happiness (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.25, p = 0.001), positive affect (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.18, p = 0.014), depression (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.004; β = -0.27, p < 0.001), negative affect (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = -0.27, p < 0.001) and emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.013; β = -0.23, p = 0.001). CM session length was related to positive affect (β = 0.18, p = 0.011). CM practice frequency was associated with happiness (ΔR2 = 0.06, p = 0.038; β = 0.16, p = 0.041). Lifetime practice of FA was related to happiness (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = 0.21, p = 0.030) and OM to emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.037; β = -0.19, p = 0.047). Religious beliefs and prayer seemed to be less relevant than meditation practices such as FA, OM, and CM in explaining psychological adjustment. The distinct meditation practices might be differentially related to distinct psychological adjustment outcomes through different practice-related variables. However, research into other forms of institutional religiosity integrating social aspects of religion is required.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_951898_69_Psycho_20190404_arts_A

 

Improve the Happiness of Healthcare Workers with Mindfulness

Improve the Happiness of Healthcare Workers with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Thanks to the rapidly growing science of mindfulness, we are now understanding the seamless interconnectedness of brain, mind, body, experience, and well-being — to say nothing of the contributions to health and well-being that stem from social interconnectedness and environmental/planetary concerns.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

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. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to improve the self-compassion and happiness of healthcare workers and thereby reduce burnout.

 

In today’s Research News article “Compassion, Mindfulness, and the Happiness of Healthcare Workers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5598781/ ), Benzo and colleagues recruited adult healthcare workers and had them complete measures of mindfulness, self-compassion, happiness, relationship status, exercise, perceived stress, and spiritual practice. The data underwent a regression analysis to determine the relationship between the measures.

 

They found that the higher the levels of exercise and self-compassion, the greater the levels of happiness and the lower the levels of perceived stress. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of coping with isolation and mindfulness the higher the levels of happiness. The association of mindfulness with happiness occurred for the mindfulness component of self-compassion and both the non-judgmental awareness and non-reactivity to emotions.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness and self-compassion are very important for the happiness of healthcare workers. The most important components of self-compassion appear to be mindfulness and the ability to cope with isolation that is a frequent occurrence with healthcare workers. Being mindfully aware of themselves, non-judgmentally appears to be crucial for happiness of workers this high stress occupation.

 

Although these results are correlational and causation cannot be determined, prior research has demonstrated that mindfulness training works to improve well-being and reduce burnout, reduce perceived stress, and also increases self-compassion. So, the present results likely reflect an underlying causal connection between mindfulness and the happiness of healthcare workers. This further suggests that mindfulness and self-compassion training should be included in the initial training or continuing education of healthcare workers.

 

So, improve the happiness of healthcare workers with mindfulness.

 

“There is increasing evidence that learning to practice mindfulness can result in decreased burnout and improved well-being. Mindfulness is a useful way of cultivating self-kindness and compassion, including by bringing increased awareness to and acceptance of those things that are beyond our control.” – Kate Fitzpatrick

 

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

 

Benzo, R. P., Kirsch, J. L., & Nelson, C. (2017). Compassion, Mindfulness, and the Happiness of Healthcare Workers. Explore (New York, N.Y.), 13(3), 201-206.

 

Abstract

Context

Decreased well-being of health care workers expressed as stress and decreased job satisfaction influences patient safety and satisfaction and cost containment. Self-compassion has garnered recent attention due to its positive association with wellbeing and happiness. Discovering novel pathways to increase the well-being of health care workers is essential.

Objective

This study sought to explore the influence of self-compassion on employee happiness in health care professionals.

Design, Setting & Participants

400 participants (mean age 45 ± 14, 65% female) health care workers at a large teaching hospital were randomly asked to complete questionnaires assessing their levels of happiness and self-compassion, life conditions and habits.

Measures

Participants completed the Happiness Scale and Self-Compassion Scales, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire as well as variables associated with wellbeing: relationship status, the number of hours spent exercising a week, attendance at a wellness facility and engagement in a regular spiritual practice.

Results

Self-compassion was significantly and independently associated with perceived happiness explaining 39% of its variance after adjusting for age, marital status, gender, time spent exercising and attendance to an exercise facility. Two specific subdomains of self-compassion from the instrument used, coping with isolation and mindfulness, accounted for 95% of the self-compassion effect on happiness.

Conclusion

Self-compassion is meaningfully and independently associated with happiness and well-being in health care professionals. Our results may have practical implications by providing specific self-compassion components to be targeted in future programs aimed at enhancing wellbeing in health care professionals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5598781/

 

Improve Happiness and Meditative Experiences with Yoga

Improve Happiness and Meditative Experiences with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” – Walt Whitman

 

“Meditation leads to concentration, concentration leads to understanding, and understanding leads to happiness” – This wonderful quote from the modern day sage Thich Nhat Hahn is a beautiful pithy description of the benefits of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness allows us to view our experience and not put labels on it, not make assumptions about it, not relate it to past experiences, and not project it into the future. Rather mindfulness lets us experience everything around and within us exactly as it is arising and falling away from moment to moment.

 

A variety of forms of mindfulness training have been shown to increase psychological well-being and happiness. So, it would be expected that yoga practice would similarly increase these positive states. It is not known, however, if yoga training can produce a cross-training effects, improving the effectiveness of other mindfulness practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Maharishi Yoga Asanas on Mood States, Happiness, and Experiences during Meditation. International Journal of Yoga.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769201/ ), Gobec and colleagues recruited college students who practiced Transcendental Meditation. They were provided a 2-week course in yoga that met for 2 hours on 8 days over 2 weeks and included instruction in theory and practice of postures. The participants were measured before and after the training for mood states and resilience. They found that after training there was a significant decrease in total disturbance of their mood states.

 

In a second experiment the yoga training occurred for 4 weeks and a matched group of control participants was included. The participants were measured before and after the training for mood states and meditative experiences including: hindrances, relaxation, personal self, transpersonal qualities, and transpersonal self. They found that in comparison to the control participants after yoga training there were significant increases in happiness and meditative experiences, including personal self, transpersonal qualities, and transpersonal self.

 

The results suggest that yoga practice improves mood particularly increasing happiness as has been found to be true for contemplative practices in general. In addition, the results suggest that yoga practice alters the experiences that occur during meditation, including increased ability to transcend experiences of body and mind during meditation. This should greatly enhance the depth and effectiveness of the meditation. This is a completely new finding that yoga practice can enhance the individual’s experience during a separate mindfulness practice, meditation. This “cross-training” effect may greatly increase the effects of yoga practice on the psychological and spiritual health of the individual.

 

So, improve happiness and meditative experiences with yoga.

 

According to yoga philosophy, santosha, which means contentment, is a form of self-discipline. In other words, happiness is a skill and practice. Happier people do not have easier lives, with less hard work, grief, divorce, or financial strain than the rest of us. They’re simply more grateful for what they have and choose to be conscious of their contentment more often.” – Rebecca Pacheco

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Gobec, S., & Travis, F. (2018). Effects of Maharishi Yoga Asanas on Mood States, Happiness, and Experiences during Meditation. International Journal of Yoga, 11(1), 66–71. http://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_66_16

 

Abstract

Context/Background:

Many studies showed positive effects of Yoga Asanas. There is no study on Maharishi Yoga Asanas yet. This research replicated and expanded observed improvements on the profile of mood states (POMS) as a result of 2-week Maharishi Yoga Asanas course. Thirteen college students taking part in a 4-week course on Maharishi Yoga Asanas were matched with 13 students taking other courses at the university.

Aims and Objective:

The main objective of the study was to assess the effects of Maharishi Yoga Asanas on mood states, degree of happiness, and experiences in Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice.

Methods:

All students were given two psychological tests and additional question before and after their 4-https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769201/happiness.

Results:

Repeated measure MANOVA showed the 4-week Maharishi Yoga Asanas course resulted in significant increase in happiness during the day and significant improvements in (1) sense of personal self, (2) transpersonal qualities, and (3) transpersonal self during their TM practice.

Conclusion:

This research shows that Maharishi Yoga Asanas affect more than body and mind. Rather they influence much deeper levels of one’s subjectivity including one’s transpersonal self.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769201/

Improve Psychological Well-Being Regardless of Income with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Well-Being Regardless of Income with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Contrary to what most of us believe, once we have enough to meet our basic needs, a higher income may not significantly increase our wellbeing and may even have a negative effect in some cases!” – University of Minnesotta

 

Income is only weakly related to happiness, satisfaction with life, and psychological well-being. Indeed, studies of happiness have shown that people with very low incomes are generally unhappy. Surprising, those who are quite rich tend to be generally unhappy. It’s the people in the middle, with sufficient, but not excessive income, who are generally the happiest. A surprising fact in this regard is that people who have won large amounts of money in the lottery afterward are much less happy than before.

 

In the U.S. as individual incomes rose over decades the percent of people considering themselves very happy fell and depression rose. Indeed, higher incomes are associated with higher levels of stress, increased likelihood of divorce, and less enjoyment of small activities. It is possible that a higher income may mean more work, less leisure time, and fewer strong social connections. In other words, the benefits of having more money might be offset by the sacrifices people are making in other aspects of wellbeing.

 

Mindfulness has been found to be associated with happiness and well-being. It is possible that mindfulness may affect the relationship between income and happiness, satisfaction with life, and psychological well-being. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness as a Moderator in the Relation Between Income and Psychological Well-Being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6099076/ ), Sugiura and colleagues recruited adult participants (aged 20 to 59 years) on-line and measured their income levels, mindfulness, satisfaction with life, and psychological well-being, including subscales for self-acceptance, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life, and autonomy.

 

They found, similar to previous research, that income had a significant but very small positive relationship with satisfaction with life and psychological well-being. Interestingly, income was also significantly positively related to the mindfulness facet of non-reacting and negatively with the observing facet. They found further that the association of income with psychological well-being with life was moderated by the non-judging and describing facets of mindfulness such that when these facets were high psychological well-being was high irrespective of income but when they were low income had a strong positive association with psychological well-being.

 

These results are correlational so caution must be exercised in reaching conclusions. But, the results are interesting and suggest that the amount of money that the individual makes only effects their psychological state when mindfulness is low. When mindfulness is high, psychological well-being is high no matter their financial state. Hence, maintaining high levels of mindfulness may be a key to happiness and well-being

 

So, improve psychological well-being regardless of income with Mindfulness.

 

“As much as income and well-being may be connected, it’s important not to give that link too much weight. How you live your live, the values you live by, the pleasures you take in the small moments of your life, your connections to the people important to you and your general outlook all have as much and likely more of an impact on your individual happiness.” – Christy Matta

 

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

 

Sugiura, Y., & Sugiura, T. (2018). Mindfulness as a Moderator in the Relation Between Income and Psychological Well-Being. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1477. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01477

 

Abstract

The relation between income and life satisfaction has been found to be weak, albeit positive (r = 0.10–0.20). This study introduced psychological well-being (PWB) as a dependent variable predicted by income in addition to life satisfaction. Furthermore, individual differences might determine the strength of this relation, that is, act as moderators. Thus, this study introduced mindfulness as one such possible moderator. Participants (N = 800, 50% women, aged 20–59 years) completed an Internet questionnaire. Of them, 734 reported income and were included in the analyses. Income had weak, yet positive, zero-order correlations with life satisfaction and PWB (r = 0.13 and 0.11). Hierarchical regression controlling for demographics indicated that the relation between income and PWB was moderated by mindfulness facets. Specifically, among those low in not judging or describing of experiences, PWB was positively related to income. On the other hand, those high in these mindfulness dimensions indicated higher PWB irrespective of income.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6099076/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being with EcoMeditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being with EcoMeditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Eco Meditation ,. . .is a powerful meditation, a synergy of multiple techniques, doing certain physiological moves to help you get into a deep delta meditative state, the same as a meditative master, and in only 90 seconds. You can do this meditation any time of the day, and cumulative benefits accrue with long-term use.” – Inspire Nation

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that meditation is not a specific practice but rather a category encompassing a wide array of practices. It is not known which work best for the health and well-being of the practitioners and for improving different conditions.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Interrelated Physiological and Psychological Effects of EcoMeditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871048/ ), Groesbeck and colleagues study the effects of a relatively new, less commonly practiced, technique called Eco-Meditation. As described by the authors, EcoMeditation “focuses on physiological cues. . . it has participants mimic the physiological state of an experienced practitioner. Participants mechanically assume breathing patterns and body postures that are characteristic of long-time meditators. EcoMeditation combines elements of 4 evidence-based techniques: the Quick Coherence Technique, Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques, mindfulness meditation, and neurofeedback.

 

In an uncontrolled pilot study, they recruited participants who were attending a weekend meditation workshop at a residential conference center where they practiced EcoMeditation. Before and after the workshop and 2 months later, the participants were measured for anxiety, depression, happiness, pain, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), resting blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, heart coherence, and Salivary immunoglobulin A and cortisol levels as physiological markers of stress.

 

They found that in comparison to the levels prior to the workshop, afterward there were significant decreases in anxiety, depression, pain, resting heart rate, salivary cortisol levels, and a significantly increase in happiness. Unfortunately, none of these effects were still present 2 months later. Hence, after participating in the workshop but not 2 months later the participants reported improved psychological well-being and less stress.

 

This is an uncontrolled pilot study and no firm conclusions can be made. Without a control group there are many sources of confounding present and many alternative explanations for the results. But, the results were interesting and provide support for a more controlled study.

 

So, improve psychological well-being with EcoMeditation.

 

“In meditation, you’re seeking a state, like peace of mind, not an outcome. The rest of your life is about doing; meditation is about being.” – Anne Siret

 

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

 

Groesbeck, G., Bach, D., Stapleton, P., Blickheuser, K., Church, D., & Sims, R. (2018). The Interrelated Physiological and Psychological Effects of EcoMeditation. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, 23, 2515690X18759626. http://doi.org/10.1177/2515690X18759626

 

Abstract

This study investigated changes in psychological and physiological markers during a weekend meditation workshop (N = 34). Psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and happiness were assessed. Physiological markers included cortisol, salivary immunoglobulin A (SigA), heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure (BP), and resting heart rate (RHR). On posttest, significant reductions were found in cortisol (−29%, P < .0001), RHR (−5%, P = .0281), and pain (−43%, P = .0022). Happiness increased significantly (+11%, P = .0159) while the increase in SigA was nonsignificant (+27%, P = .6964). Anxiety, depression, and PTSD all declined (−26%, P = .0159; −32%, P = .0197; −18%, P = .1533), though changes in PTSD did not reach statistical significance. No changes were found in BP, HRV, and heart coherence. Participants were assessed for psychological symptoms at 3-month follow-up, but the results were nonsignificant due to inadequate sample size (n = 17). EcoMeditation shows promise as a stress-reduction method.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871048/