Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Inflexibility and Psychopathology in Adolescents

Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Inflexibility and Psychopathology in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“As present-moment focused, mindfulness, acceptance, and defusion interventions alter the context, behavioral flexibility emerges and, with it, increased sensitivity to context, including that aspect of context we call consequences.” – Kelly Wilson

 

Adolescence should be a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. These executive functions are an important foundation for success in the complex modern world. But, adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required.

 

Making these profound changes successfully requires a good deal or flexibility, adapting and changing with the physical, psychological, and social changes of adolescence. In today’s Research News article “Inflexible Youngsters: Psychological and Psychopathological Correlates of the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for Youths in Nonclinical Dutch Adolescents.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605724/, Muris and colleagues examined the relationships between mindfulness, inflexibility and mental health in adolescents. They recruited youths aged 12 to 16 years and had them complete measures of mindfulness, psychological inflexibility, thought suppression self-compassion, self-worth, self-efficacy, somatization, psychopathological symptoms, anxiety, depression, and aggression.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of inflexibility, thought suppression, somatization, anxiety, depression, emotional problems, aggression, oppositional conduct, and the higher the levels of self-worth and self-efficacy. They also found that psychological inflexibility was inversely related to the same variables, with higher levels of inflexibility associated with higher levels of thought suppression, somatization, anxiety, depression, emotional problems, aggression, oppositional conduct, and the lower the levels of self-worth and self-efficacy. In other words, mindfulness was associated with positive mental health while inflexibility was associated with negative mental health in these youths.

 

They further investigated the effectiveness of psychological inflexibility to affect the mental health of the adolescents while holding mindfulness mathematically constant. They found that each had independent contributions to the levels of anxiety and depression, with mindfulness associated with lower values and inflexibility associated with higher values. So, mindfulness and psychological inflexibility appear to be independently associated with emotional health in adolescents.

 

It is important to keep in mind that this study was correlational and did not manipulate the levels of any variables. So, causal connections cannot be determined between the variables. The associations though suggest that both mindfulness and psychological flexibility are important contributors to the psychological development of adolescents. It will be interesting to investigate in future research whether training in mindfulness and flexibility will help to promote healthy mental health in youths.

 

“While psychological inflexibility was most strongly associated with Neuroticism , as expected, mindfulness demonstrated the strongest association with consciousness, a trait reflecting impulse control abilities and attention to detail.” – Robert Latzman

 

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

 

Muris, P., Meesters, C., Herings, A., Jansen, M., Vossen, C., & Kersten, P. (2017). Inflexible Youngsters: Psychological and Psychopathological Correlates of the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for Youths in Nonclinical Dutch Adolescents. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1381–1392. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0714-1

 

Abstract

The present study examined psychological and psychopathological correlates of psychological inflexibility as measured by the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for Youth (AFQ-Y) in two independent samples of nonclinical Dutch adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years (Ns being 184 and 157). Participants completed a survey containing the AFQ-Y and scales assessing mindfulness, thought suppression, self-compassion, self-worth, self-efficacy, and internalizing/externalizing symptoms. In both samples, the AFQ-Y was found to be a reliable measure of psychological inflexibility that correlated in a theoretically meaningful way with other psychological constructs. Most importantly, AFQ-Y scores correlated positively with internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and in most cases, these associations remained significant when controlling for other measures. These findings suggest that psychological inflexibility is an important factor in youth psychopathology that needs to be further investigated in future research.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605724/

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

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

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to produce improved emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But, when they get extreme they can produce misery and even mental illness. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

Improve Prisoner Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Prisoner Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Through meditation, prisoners come to recognize their conditioning as their own and take responsibility for it, and ultimately step outside of it so their thoughts and actions can come from a space of freedom. For some it’s like a light bulb going off, for others it takes time. But they all get it eventually. You see, most of them have been in and out of jail many times. They know through personal experience that just because the jail door opens, it doesn’t mean their life is going to change. They understand that this issue of real freedom is not about being locked up or not.” – Fleet Maull

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

About half of the prison population have diagnosed mental health problems, most of which are untreated. Hence, there is a need for therapeutic programs to treat these problems in prisoners. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Mindfulness training teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Outcomes of Psychological Therapies for Prisoners With Mental Health Problems: 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/PMC5518650/, Yoon and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness of various therapies for the treatment of mental health problems in prisoners. They included randomized controlled trials that employed a variety of different therapies, including “Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, Mindfulness-based Therapy, and other group treatments such as Music Therapy and Art Therapy,” but excluded trials which solely used drug treatments. The trials examined depressed mood, anxiety, trauma symptoms, overall psychopathology, somatization, and hostility/anger.

 

They found 37 published reports of randomized controlled trials. These trials reported positive improvements in the prisoners’ mental health with moderate effect sizes. These included improvements in depression anxiety, trauma symptoms, overall psychopathology, and hostility/anger. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-based Therapies were the most effective therapies. It did not matter if they were administered in a group or individual format. Unfortunately, the small number of studies, 6, that reported 3 and 6-month follow up data reported that the effects did not last and were no longer significant at follow-up.

 

These are important findings that clearly support the application of cognitive and mindfulness-based therapies for the treatment of prisoner mental health problems. The lack of lasting effectiveness, though, is a problem. This may suggest that the practices learned in the treatments are not continued after the formal sessions end. There is clearly a need for more study and experimentation to develop more long-lasting protocols. Regardless, mindfulness training would appear to be a potentially safe and effective treatment for the mental health problems of prisoners. It has to be kept in mind that mindfulness training not only helps the prisoners while incarcerated, it also helps after release, and this reduces recidivism. This by itself means that mindfulness treatments are not only a humane use of prison resources, but are also cost-effective.

 

So, improve prisoner mental health with mindfulness.

 

“The data demonstrate a stark change in the prisoners themselves and their interactions with others. Before the training most prisoners felt hopeless. They engaged in aggressive behaviour and exhibited a strong sense of “us” versus “them”. Following the training, prisoners reported that they could lead their lives more mindfully, had found fresh purpose and that their lives now had meaning – even for those who expected to spend the rest of their days behind bars.” – Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno

 

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

 

Yoon, I. A., Slade, K., & Fazel, S. (2017). Outcomes of Psychological Therapies for Prisoners With Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 85(8), 783–802. http://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000214

 

Abstract

Objective: Prisoners worldwide have substantial mental health needs, but the efficacy of psychological therapy in prisons is unknown. We aimed to systematically review psychological therapies with mental health outcomes in prisoners and qualitatively summarize difficulties in conducting randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Method: We systematically identified RCTs of psychological therapies with mental health outcomes in prisoners (37 studies). Effect sizes were calculated and meta-analyzed. Eligible studies were assessed for quality. Subgroup and metaregression analyses were conducted to examine sources of between-study heterogeneity. Thematic analysis reviewed difficulties in conducting prison RCTs. Results:In 37 identified studies, psychological therapies showed a medium effect size (0.50, 95% CI [0.34, 0.66]) with high levels of heterogeneity with the most evidence for CBT and mindfulness-based trials. Studies that used no treatment (0.77, 95% CI [0.50, 1.03]) or waitlist controls (0.71, 95% CI [0.43, 1.00]) had larger effect sizes than those that had treatment-as-usual or other psychological therapies as controls (0.21, 95% CI [0.01, 0.41]). Effects were not sustained on follow-up at 3 and 6 months. No differences were found between group and individual therapy, or different treatment types. The use of a fidelity measure was associated with lower effect sizes. Qualitative analysis identified difficulties with follow-up and institutional constraints on scheduling and implementation of trials. Conclusions: CBT and mindfulness-based therapies are modestly effective in prisoners for depression and anxiety outcomes. In prisons with existing psychological therapies, more evidence is required before additional therapies can be recommended.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518650/

Improve Psychology and Physiology with a Meditation and Yoga Retreat

Improve Psychology and Physiology with a Meditation and Yoga Retreat

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga is fantastic for decreasing stress levels, and research has also shown that those who practice yoga regularly have higher levels of leptin and adiponectin in their bodies. Both of these natural chemicals work to alleviate inflammation in the body.” –  Julie Montagu

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Of course, it is far better to prevent chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat it later. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if Mind-body techniques can be effective in preventing chronic inflammation also in healthy individuals. In today’s Research News article “Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483482/, Cahn and colleagues investigate the effects of a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat on the functioning of the immune and activation systems.

 

They recruited male and female experienced yoga and meditation practitioners (average of 2 hours practice per day for 4.5 years) who were participating in a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat. The retreat involved daily yoga (about 1.5 hours per day), meditation (about 2 hours), and chanting (about 1 hour) practices and a vegetarian diet. They were measured before and during the last week of the retreat for mindfulness, psychological symptoms, and absorption. They also provided a saliva sample for cortisol assay and a blood sample for markers of the inflammatory processes.

 

They found that although the participants had high psychological health before the retreat that following the retreat there were significant reductions in psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, and bodily symptoms and an increase in mindfulness. There were also significant increases in the neurotrophic factor, BDNF, pro-inflammatory factors, and cortisol levels immediately after waking up in the morning. Hence participation in the retreat produced improved psychological health, brain protection and development factor, and increased inflammatory system activity, and morning activation. The study did not have a control condition. So, the results could be due simply to the passage of time or expectancy or attentional effects. Future studies should include a control condition.

 

The improved mental health is similar to prior research findings that mindfulness practices improve anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. They are, however, a bit surprising as the participants were very psychologically healthy at the beginning of the retreat. This underscores the power of mindfulness practices in improving mental health. The increase in BDNF levels also underscores the ability of mindfulness practices to improve brain processing as BDNF is a neurotrophic factor that promotes neuroplasticity and brain health. The biological results are quite surprising. They conflict with previous research that has shown that mindfulness practices decrease inflammatory factors and cortisol levels. It is possible that because the participants were experienced practitioners that the beneficial effects of mindfulness practices were already high and further improvements would be difficult to detect. In addition, the retreat was physically demanding. As such, increased inflammation would be adaptive.

 

So, improve the physiology to control inflammation and stress with a meditation and yoga retreat.

 

“The more we learn about yoga, the more we realize the benefits aren’t all in the mind. . . Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. The poses help increase flexibility and strength, bringing relief to back pain sufferers. Now, . . . it seems that those meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation.” – Susan Brink

 

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

 

Cahn, B. R., Goodman, M. S., Peterson, C. T., Maturi, R., & Mills, P. J. (2017). Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 315. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00315

 

Abstract

Thirty-eight individuals (mean age: 34.8 years old) participating in a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat were assessed before and after the intervention for psychometric measures, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), circadian salivary cortisol levels, and pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Participation in the retreat was found to be associated with decreases in self-reported anxiety and depression as well as increases in mindfulness. As hypothesized, increases in the plasma levels of BDNF and increases in the magnitude of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) were also observed. The normalized change in BDNF levels was inversely correlated with BSI-18 anxiety scores at both the pre-retreat (r = 0.40, p < 0.05) and post-retreat (r = 0.52, p < 0.005) such that those with greater anxiety scores tended to exhibit smaller pre- to post-retreat increases in plasma BDNF levels. In line with a hypothesized decrease in inflammatory processes resulting from the yoga and meditation practices, we found that the plasma level of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-10 was increased and the pro-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-12 was reduced after the retreat. Contrary to our initial hypotheses, plasma levels of other pro-inflammatory cytokines, including Interferon Gamma (IFN-γ), Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-α), Interleukin-1β (IL-1β), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and Interleukin-8 (IL-8) were increased after the retreat. Given evidence from previous studies of the positive effects of meditative practices on mental fitness, autonomic homeostasis and inflammatory status, we hypothesize that these findings are related to the meditative practices throughout the retreat; however, some of the observed changes may also be related to other aspects of the retreat such as physical exercise-related components of the yoga practice and diet. We hypothesize that the patterns of change observed here reflect mind-body integration and well-being. The increased BDNF levels observed is a potential mediator between meditative practices and brain health, the increased CAR is likely a reflection of increased dynamic physiological arousal, and the relationship of the dual enhancement of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine changes to healthy immunologic functioning is discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483482/

Improve Mental Health in the Elderly with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health in the Elderly with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The interconnectedness of mind and body lies at the heart of mindfulness and this makes it highly relevant to older people who are more likely to experience physical health problems with associated psychological issues ­ such as reduced mobility and depression. It is thought that mindfulness can be particularly empowering to older people as it focuses on abilities rather than difficulties which may help older people to feel more engaged in decisions about their care.” – MyAgingParent.com

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decline during aging. As we age, there are systematic progressive declines in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities and results in impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Aging also results in changes in mental health. Depression is very common in the elderly. The elderly cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. All of these are legitimate sources of worry. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. But, no matter how reasonable, the increased loneliness, worry and anxiety add extra stress that can impact on the elderly’s already deteriorating physical and psychological health.

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxiety, worry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to slow physical and mental aging and improve mental health in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation in Stressed Older Adults: Improvements in Self-Rated Mental Health Not Paralleled by Improvements in Cognitive Function or Physiological Measures.” (See summary below). Oken and colleagues recruited health elderly between the ages of 50-85 (average age = 60 years) who did not evidence cognitive decline and who were at least mildly stressed. They were randomly assigned to either receive 6 weeks of mindfulness meditation practice or to a wait-list control condition. Mindfulness meditation practice included one-on-one instruction in body scan, sitting meditation, and breathing exercises. The participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, neuroticism, fatigue, quality of life, self-efficacy, sleep, executive function, memory, attention, physiological vital signs, and salivary cortisol levels.

 

They found that the mindful meditation group in comparison to the wait-list group and the baseline measures showed significant reductions in negative emotions, neuroticism, and perceived stress following training and significant increases in mindfulness, vitality, self-efficacy, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Hence, mindfulness meditation produced significant improvements in the overall mental health of the participants, but did not alter physical health or cognitive abilities.

 

These are important results that suggest that mindfulness meditation practice produces major improvements in the mental health of the elderly. The participants, however, were relatively young elderly with an average age of 60 and only one participant over 75. They were all in good health and demonstrated no cognitive issues. Hence, the failure to demonstrate any effects of mindfulness meditation on the physical health or cognitive ability of this group may have been due to the fact that they were high functioning at the beginning making it difficult to produce further improvements. Regardless, the results clearly show large and important effects of mindfulness meditation on the overall mental health of these young elderly. This suggests that mindfulness meditation should be incorporated into the lives of the elderly to improve their psychological state during their declining years.

 

So, improve mental health in the elderly with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness practice has a definite positive impact on issues such as recurrent depression, stress, anxiety, chronic physical pain and loneliness. For elderly people, loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems-such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Mindfulness meditation training can be used as a novel approach for reducing loneliness and the risk of disease. Research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults.”Bláthnait Ní Mhurchú

 

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

 

Oken, B.S., Wahbeh, H., Goodrich, E. et al. Meditation in Stressed Older Adults: Improvements in Self-Rated Mental Health Not Paralleled by Improvements in Cognitive Function or Physiological Measures. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 627. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0640-7

 

Abstract

To determine if mindfulness meditation (MM) in older adults improves cognition and, secondarily, if MM improves mental health and physiology, 134 at least mildly stressed 50–85-year olds were randomized to a 6-week MM intervention or a waitlist control. Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and 2 months later at visit 2. The primary outcome measure was an executive function/attentional measure (flanker task). Other outcome measures included additional cognitive assessments, salivary cortisol, respiratory rate, heart rate variability, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CESD), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness (NEO) personality traits, and SF-36 health-related quality of life. One hundred twenty-eight participants completed the study though visit 2 assessments. There was no significant change in the primary or other cognitive outcome measures. Even after statistical adjustment for multiple outcomes, self-rated measures related to negative affect and stress were all significantly improved in the MM intervention compared to waitlist group (PANAS-negative, CESD, PSS, and SF-36 health-related quality of life Vitality and Mental Health Component). The SF-36 Mental Health Component score improved more than the minimum clinically important difference. There were also significant changes in personality traits such as Neuroticism. Changes in positive affect were not observed. There were no group differences in salivary cortisol or heart rate variability. These moderate-sized improvements in self-rated measures were not paralleled by improvements in cognitive function or physiological measures. Potential explanations for this discrepancy in stress-related outcomes are discussed to help improve future studies.

Improve Veteran Health with In-Person and Telehealth Yoga

Improve Veteran Health with In-Person and Telehealth Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The fact that veterans are embracing yoga and realizing its benefits speaks directly to the stigmas attached to both yoga and PTSD. Veterans practicing yoga illuminate the value of the practice for any person, from any walk of life, not just “new-age hippies.” It also demonstrates that suffering trauma that affects our mental health does not break us or make us any less human.” – Dana Santas

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving the physical and psychological condition of otherwise healthy people and also treating the physical and psychological issues of people with illnesses and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be particularly effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, adopted so far, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many clients 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. As a result, there has been attempts to develop alternative distance education approaches such as on-line mindfulness training programs and videoconferencing. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs and making training schedules much more flexible. But, the question arises as to whether these programs are as effective as their traditional counterparts. Many believe that the presence of a therapist is a crucial component to the success of the programs and the lack of an active therapist physically present in on-line or videoconferencing programs may greatly reduce their effectiveness. It is not known if yoga practice can be successfully delivered through distance videoconferencing programs.

 

In today’s Research News article “Results from a clinical yoga program for veterans: yoga via telehealth provides comparable satisfaction and health improvements to in-person yoga.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381127/

Schulz-Heik and colleagues compared the effectiveness of yoga classes provided to veterans with a wide variety of physical and mental health problems. The classes were either in-person or the same class delivered via videoconferencing to a remote site. The classes were offered 13 times per week. The participants were free to attend whichever classes and how many they wanted on their own schedules. All participants who attended any classes during a two-week period were asked to complete a questionnaire on their satisfaction with the classes, global health, and 16 different health symptoms. Satisfaction with classes was demonstrated as 82% rated them excellent and 98% stated that they enjoyed the classes and 98% would recommend them to a friend.

 

They found that the veterans reported significant improvement in a wide range of physical and mental health symptoms, including overall pain, back pain, headache, upset stomach, sleep problems, energy level, irritability, concentration, anger, depression, anxiety, jumpiness, disturbing memories, and other symptoms. Importantly, the in-person and videoconferencing programs demonstrated equal improvements with no significant differences found between them.

 

These are very interesting results but must be interpreted with caution. There was no active control condition. So, the reported benefits might be due to placebo effects, experimenter bias, demand characteristics, etc. The results though are similar to those reported for yoga practice in randomized controlled trials and it is reasonable to conclude that the current yoga program produced similar benefits. Regardless, it is striking that the videoconferencing program was equally effective as the in-person program. This is important as it suggests that inexpensive mindfulness training can be offered to widespread audiences. In addition, videoconferencing training is convenient for the participants, as they do not have to go to a practitioners site on a particular schedule. This, in turn, allows for the application of yoga training for the prevention and treatment of psychological and physical disorders with busy people, low income people, and even people in remote locations, thus greatly expanding the numbers of people who can benefit.

 

“yoga is being increasingly embraced by Veterans Affairs and the military looking to move veterans off addictive painkillers and offer them alternative treatments for pain.” – Emily Wax-Thibodeaux

 

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

Schulz-Heik, R. J., Meyer, H., Mahoney, L., Stanton, M. V., Cho, R. H., Moore-Downing, D. P., … Bayley, P. J. (2017). Results from a clinical yoga program for veterans: yoga via telehealth provides comparable satisfaction and health improvements to in-person yoga. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 198. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1705-4

 

Abstract

Background

Yoga is increasingly popular, though little data regarding its implementation in healthcare settings is available. Similarly, telehealth is being utilized more frequently to increase access to healthcare; however we know of no research on the acceptability or effectiveness of yoga delivered through telehealth. Therefore, we evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and patient-reported effectiveness of a clinical yoga program at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and assessed whether these outcomes differed between those participating in-person and those participating via telehealth.

Methods

Veterans who attended a yoga class at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System were invited to complete an anonymous program evaluation survey.

Results

64 Veterans completed the survey. Participants reported high satisfaction with the classes and the instructors. More than 80% of participants who endorsed a problem with pain, energy level, depression, or anxiety reported improvement in these symptoms. Those who participated via telehealth did not differ from those who participated in-person in any measure of satisfaction, overall improvement (p = .40), or improvement in any of 16 specific health problems.

Conclusions

Delivering yoga to a wide range of patients within a healthcare setting appears to be feasible and acceptable, both when delivered in-person and via telehealth. Patients in this clinical yoga program reported high levels of satisfaction and improvement in multiple problem areas. This preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of a clinical yoga program complements prior evidence for the efficacy of yoga and supports the use of yoga in healthcare settings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381127/

Improve Mental Health with On-line Mindfulness Training

Improve Mental Health with On-line Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness meditation is known to improve symptoms of many physical and mental health conditions. However, the group settings in which mindfulness meditation typically is taught can be problematic for many participants, either because of inconvenient scheduling or because people are averse to sharing in public.” – eMindful

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving the physical and psychological condition of otherwise healthy people and also treating the physical and psychological issues of people with illnesses and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as Mindfulness Training, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many clients 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. As a result, there has been attempts to develop on-line mindfulness training programs. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs and making training schedules much more flexible. But, the question arises as to whether these programs are as effective as their traditional counterparts. Many believe that the presence of a therapist is a crucial component to the success of the programs and the lack of an active therapist in on-line programs may greatly reduce their effectiveness.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Efficacy of Internet-Based Mindfulness Training and Cognitive-Behavioral Training With Telephone Support in the Enhancement of Mental Health Among College Students and Young Working Adults: Randomized Controlled Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5382258/

Mak and colleagues recruited college students and young working adults and randomly assigned them to receive an 8-week on-line therapy program of either mindfulness training or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aimed at improving physical and psychological health. Treatments were delivered in 8, 30-45 minute, on-line modules and included home practice. To help insurance compliance, all participants were phoned weekly by a trained treatment support specialist to answer questions and encourage compliance. They completed measurements before and after training and 3 months later of mental well-being, psychological distress, satisfaction with life, energy, sleep, pain, and their expectancies regarding the treatments.

 

They found that both the on-line mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy groups showed significant improvements in mental well-being, psychological distress, satisfaction with life, energy, sleep, and pain after training that was maintained at the 3-month follow-up. Hence, they did not find a difference between the therapies with participants in both groups showing significant improvements in mental and physical health.

 

The weakness of the study is that regardless of treatment all participants improved and there was not a no-treatment control condition. So, it is impossible to determine if the results were due to the therapy or to a placebo effect, the passage of time, experimenter bias, etc. In other words, it is clear that the participants improved but it is not clear that the therapies were responsible.

 

On the other hand, the strength of the study is that it involved therapies implemented on-line. This allows for widespread, inexpensive, and convenient distribution of the treatment programs thereby opening up treatment to individuals who live in remote areas, cannot afford traditional therapist led treatment, or do not have the time to come repeatedly to a clinic during the workday. In addition, the study found benefits to the physical and mental health of otherwise healthy young adults. So, the treatment is not just for the sick, but also produces benefits for the healthy.

 

So, improve mental health with on-line mindfulness training.

 

“there is emerging evidence that online MBIs have the potential to improve mental health outcomes, most notably stress.” – M.P.J. Spijkerman

 

 

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

Winnie WS Mak, Floria HN Chio, Amy TY Chan, Wacy WS Lui, Ellery KY Wu. The Efficacy of Internet-Based Mindfulness Training and Cognitive-Behavioral Training With Telephone Support in the Enhancement of Mental Health Among College Students and Young Working Adults: Randomized Controlled Trial. J Med Internet Res. 2017 Mar; 19(3): e84. Published online 2017 Mar 22. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6737

 

Abstract

Background

College students and working adults are particularly vulnerable to stress and other mental health problems, and mental health promotion and prevention are needed to promote their mental health. In recent decades, mindfulness-based training has demonstrated to be efficacious in treating physical and psychological conditions.

Objective

The aim of our study was to examine the efficacy of an Internet-based mindfulness training program (iMIND) in comparison with the well-established Internet-based cognitive-behavioral training program (iCBT) in promoting mental health among college students and young working adults.

Methods

This study was a 2-arm, unblinded, randomized controlled trial comparing iMIND with iCBT. Participants were recruited online and offline via mass emails, advertisements in newspapers and magazines, announcement and leaflets in primary care clinics, and social networking sites. Eligible participants were randomized into either the iMIND (n=604) or the iCBT (n=651) condition. Participants received 8 Web-based sessions with information and exercises related to mindfulness or cognitive-behavioral principles. Telephone or email support was provided by trained first tier supporters who were supervised by the study’s research team. Primary outcomes included mental and physical health-related measures, which were self-assessed online at preprogram, postprogram, and 3-month follow-up.

Results

Among the 1255 study participants, 213 and 127 completed the post- and 3-month follow-up assessment, respectively. Missing data were treated using restricted maximum likelihood estimation. Both iMIND (n=604) and iCBT (n=651) were efficacious in improving mental health, psychological distress, life satisfaction, sleep disturbance, and energy level.

Conclusions

Both Internet-based mental health programs showed potential in improving the mental health from pre- to postassessment, and such improvement was sustained at the 3-month follow-up. The high attrition rate in this study suggests the need for refinement in future technology-based psychological programs. Mental health professionals need to team up with experts in information technology to increase personalization of Web-based interventions to enhance adherence.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5382258/

Improve Mental and Physical Health with Yoga

Improve Mental and Physical Health with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“As an osteopathic physician, I focus a lot of my efforts on preventive medicine and practices, and in the body’s ability to heal itself. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on similar principles.” – Natalie Nevins

 

Yoga practice has been repeated demonstrated in research studies to be beneficial for the psychological and physical health of the practitioners. But, yoga is a complex of practices including postures, movements, breathing practices and meditation. In addition, there are a wide variety of practices including Vinyoga, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram, Power, Kundalini, Sivananda, Kripalu, Anusara, and Hatha, and others. To better utilize yoga practice for particular issues, it would be useful to examine which components of yoga practice benefits which areas of mental and physical health.

 

In today’s Research News article “Cross-sectional analysis of health-related quality of life and elements of yoga practice.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282804/

Birdee and colleagues recruited a national sample of yoga practitioners and asked them to complete measures of yoga practice characteristics, including adherence, length of practice, the perceived importance, practice of breathing, movement, and meditation practice, and also health related quality of life, which included measures of global mental and global physical health. They then performed correlational analysis to investigate the relationships between the characteristics of the practice and mental and physical health.

 

They found that the greater the inclusion of meditation in the yoga practice and the more the practice was in a group, the better the mental health of the practitioners. On the other hand, the longer they were practicing, the greater the teacher training, Viniyoga style, and practicing in a yoga studio, the greater the physical health of the practitioners. These are, of course, correlational findings and thus causal connections cannot be concluded. But the relationships are interesting and suggestive that how yoga is practiced makes a difference. In addition, the results only apply to yoga practitioners and there was no comparison to non-practitioners. So, the overall benefits were not assessed only the relative benefits within practitioners only.

 

Yoga has been well established to promote physical health. The findings, though, suggest that it is personalized instruction by experienced, and certified instructors, practiced in yoga studios that produces optimum health benefits. Vinyoga is an individualized practice where the instructor develops a personalized yoga program for the student based on such factors as health, age, and physical condition, including past or current injuries or illnesses. This suggests that when it comes to physical health, one size does not fit all. Tailoring the practice to the specific needs of the student is very important. In addition, the more years spent practicing, the greater the health benefits. These results indicate that learning to do yoga properly is a key to better health. Hence, for optimum physical benefit yoga need to be individualized, professionally taught, and practiced over a long period.

 

The mental health benefits of yoga, on the other hand, are more related to the meditative and social aspects of the practice. It is not surprising that the meditative aspect of yoga was related to mental health as meditation has been demonstrated repeatedly to improve mental health. It is interesting, though, that only this aspect along with practicing socially was associated with better mental health. Perhaps, putting one in greater contact with their inner life is a key.

 

So, improve mental and physical health with yoga.

 

“Workout fads come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years. Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation.” – WebMD

 

 

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

Birdee, G. S., Ayala, S. G., & Wallston, K. A. (2017). Cross-sectional analysis of health-related quality of life and elements of yoga practice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 83. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1599-1

 

Abstract

Background

Mind-body practices such as yoga have been studied for their generally positive effects on health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The association between how a person practices yoga and the person’s HRQOL is not known.

Materials and methods

Yoga practitioners were sent invitations to participate in an online survey via email. Yoga characteristics, HRQOL, and other sociodemographics were collected. Analyses of data from 309 consenting responders evaluated associations between yoga practice characteristics (use of yoga tools, length of practice, location, method, etc.) and the 10-item PROMIS Global Health scale for both physical and mental health components.

Results

Multivariable regression models demonstrated higher mental health scores were associated with regular meditation practice, higher income, and the method of practicing in a community group class (versus one-on-one). Higher physical health scores were associated with length of lifetime practice, teacher status, Krishnamacharya yoga style, and practicing in a yoga school/studio (versus at home).

Conclusions

Meditation practice in yoga is positively associated with mental health. Length of lifetime yoga practice was significantly associated with better physical health, suggesting yoga has a potential cumulative benefit over time. Different locations and methods of practice may be associated with varying effects on health outcomes. Comparative cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on the variations in yoga practice are needed to further characterize health benefits of yoga.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282804/

 

 

Improve Mental Health in Disadvantaged Populations with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health in Disadvantaged Populations with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness training could be integrated into educational settings on a city, state, or national level, thus promoting health and mental health. Integrating mindfulness-based practices into educational settings could offer the potential to promote a more positive path for our children, something that would be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged urban youth like the kids in our studies.” –  Tamar Mendelson

 

Disadvantaged populations have a disproportionate share of mental health issues. Indeed, the lower the socioeconomic status of an individual the greater the likelihood of a mental disorder. It is estimated that major mental illnesses are almost 3 times more likely in the disadvantaged, including almost double the incidence of depression, triple the incidence of anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders. These higher incidences of mental health issues occur, in part, due to mental health problems leading to unemployment and poverty, but also to the stresses of life in poverty.

 

The disadvantaged are much more likely to be uninsured, not have mental health services available, and less likely to seek treatment. In addition, when they are treated it is almost exclusively with drugs. These often do not work, have adverse effects, or are not taken as prescribed and are thus ineffective. Most psychotherapies were developed to treat disorders in affluent populations and are not affordable or sensitive to the unique situations and education levels of the disadvantaged. So, very few disadvantaged people with mental health problems are treated with psychotherapies.

 

Hence, there is a great need for alternative treatments for the mentally ill disadvantaged. One increasingly popular alternative is mind-body practices. These include meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga, guided imagery, etc. In today’s Research News article “Mind–Body Approaches to Treating Mental Health Symptoms Among Disadvantaged Populations: A Comprehensive Review.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761814/

Burnett-Zeigler and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of mind-body practices for the treatment of mental health issues in disadvantaged populations.

 

They found that in general mind-body techniques are feasible, acceptable, and efficacious with disadvantaged populations. The published research reports than Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs produced significant improvements in disadvantaged populations in general health, social functioning, vitality, physical and emotional role functioning, stress, mindfulness, anxiety, self-compassion, life satisfaction, depression, relationships, awareness, self-acceptance, and self-empowerment, nonreactivity, improved self-care, and decreased distress. The research also reports that yoga practice results in significant improvements in distressed mood, depression, emotional well-being, body weight, depression, and disease-specific quality of life. Other mind-body techniques were also reported to have similar benefits.

 

Hence the published research studies are fairly uniform in finding that mind-body practices can be successfully implemented with disadvantaged populations and produce significant mental health benefits. Although much more research is needed, these are exciting findings. Mind-body techniques show tremendous promise for the mental health needs of the disadvantaged. They can be implemented cost-effectively and many of these practices can be employed at home on convenient schedules. Hence mind-body practices, if implemented broadly, may be major contributors to improved mental health in disadvantaged populations. This, in turn, may lead to better employment possibilities and a route out of poverty.

 

So, improve mental health in disadvantaged populations with mindfulness.

 

“Research and experience have shown that meditation-based or contemplative practices have proven to be beneficial with populations that are considered at risk, marginalized, or oppressed and with those who are incarcerated.– Sadye Logan

 

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

Burnett-Zeigler, I., Schuette, S., Victorson, D., & Wisner, K. L. (2016). Mind–Body Approaches to Treating Mental Health Symptoms Among Disadvantaged Populations: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(2), 115–124. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2015.0038

 

Abstract

Mind–body approaches are commonly used to treat a variety of chronic health conditions, including depression and anxiety. A substantial proportion of individuals with depression and anxiety disorders do not receive conventional treatment; disadvantaged individuals are especially unlikely to receive treatment. Mind–body approaches offer a potentially more accessible and acceptable alternative to conventional mental health treatment for disadvantaged individuals, who may not otherwise receive mental health treatment. This review examines evidence for the efficacy of mind–body interventions for mental health symptoms among disadvantaged populations. While rates of utilization were relatively lower for racial/ethnic minorities, evidence suggests that significant proportions of racial/ethnic minorities are using complementary health approaches as health treatments, especially prayer/healers and natural or herbal remedies. This review of studies on the efficacy of mind–body interventions among disadvantaged populations found evidence for the efficacy of mind–body approaches for several mental and physical health symptoms, functioning, self-care, and overall quality of life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761814/

 

Improve Attitudes and Mental Health at Work with Mindfulness

Improve Attitudes and Mental Health at Work with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is, above all, about being aware and awake rather than operating unconsciously. When you’re consciously present at work, you’re aware of two aspects of your moment-to-moment experience—what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you. To be mindful at work means to be consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state.” –  Shamash Alidina

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations burnout is all too prevalent. It frequently results from emotional exhaustion. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. Sleep disruption is an important consequence of the stress.  This exhaustion produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion. Regardless of the reasons for burnout or its immediate presenting consequences, it is a threat to the workplace. From a business standpoint, it reduces employee efficiency and productivity and increases costs. From the worker perspective, it makes the workplace a stressful, unhappy place, promoting physical and psychological problems. Hence, preventing burnout in the workplace is important. One technique that is gaining increasing attention is mindfulness training. It has been demonstrated to be helpful in treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindful2Work: Effects of Combined Physical Exercise, Yoga, and Mindfulness Meditations for Stress Relieve in Employees. A Proof of Concept Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241323/

de Bruin and colleagues performed a pilot study of the effectiveness of a program of exercise, meditation, and yoga for the relief of work related stress symptoms. They recruited

workers who were referred by physicians who diagnosed them with work related stress issues. The workers received training in six weekly 2-hour sessions and a follow-up session, consisting of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, 20 minutes of Hatha restorative yoga, and 80 minutes of mindfulness meditation including psycho-education. The participants were encouraged to practice at home. They were measured before and after the intervention, 6 weeks and 6 months after the completion of the program for workability, perceived stress, anxiety, depression, emotions, and sleep.

 

They found that the participants liked the program rating it at 8.1 on a 10-point scale. Following the intervention work-related fatigue and exhaustion (burnout) was markedly and significantly reduced while motivation, activation, focus and concentration, and energy were significantly increased. The employees became significantly less likely to leave their job, worked a significantly greater proportion of their contract hours, and found the work environment to be significantly better. Hence, the employees showed markedly improved attitudes and behavior toward their jobs. The employees’ psychological health was also greatly improved, with significant reductions in anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and increases in sleep quality and positive emotions. These effects all had very large effect sizes and were still strong and present 6 months after the conclusion of training. Hence, work-related psychological issues were improved in a lasting way with the intervention.

 

These results of this pilot study were impressive. But, the lack of a control group or condition markedly limits the conclusions that can be reached. Also, since the intervention contained meditation, yoga, and aerobic exercise, it cannot be determined which, or which combination of components are necessary for the benefits. But, the results certainly suggest that a large randomized controlled clinical trial should be conducted. With the intense stresses of the modern work environment, a program that reduced stress and improved attitudes and emotions, would be extremely valuable both to the employer and the employees.

 

So, improve attitudes and mental health at work with mindfulness.

 

“Many corporations and employees are realizing that the benefits of mindfulness practices can be dramatic. In addition to supporting overall health and well-being, mindfulness has been linked to improved cognitive functioning and lower stress levels.” – Carolyn Gregoire

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

De Bruin, E. I., Formsma, A. R., Frijstein, G., & Bögels, S. M. (2017). Mindful2Work: Effects of Combined Physical Exercise, Yoga, and Mindfulness Meditations for Stress Relieve in Employees. A Proof of Concept Study. Mindfulness, 8(1), 204–217. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0593-x

 

Abstract

Work-related stress and associated illness and burnout is rising in western society, with now as much as almost a quarter of European and half of USA’s employees estimated to be at the point of burnout. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and physical exercise have all shown beneficial effects for work-related stress and illness. This proof of concept study assessed the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effects of the newly developed Mindful2Work training, a combination of physical exercise, restorative yoga, and mindfulness meditations, delivered in six weekly group sessions plus a follow-up session. Participants (n = 26, four males), referred by company doctors with (work-related) stress and burnout complaints, completed measurements pre and post the intervention, as well as at 6-week (FU1) and 6-month (FU2) follow-up. Results showed very high feasibility and acceptability of the Mindful2Work training. The training and trainers were rated with an 8.1 and 8.4 on a 1–10 scale, respectively, and training dropout rate was zero. Significant improvements with (very) large effect sizes were demonstrated for the primary outcome measures of physical and mental workability, and for anxiety, depression, stress, sleep quality, positive and negative affect, which remained (very) large and mostly increased further over time. Risk for long-term dropout from work (checklist individual strength [CIS]) was 92 % at pre-test, reduced to 67 % at post-test, to 44 % at FU1, and 35 % at FU2, whereas employees worked (RTWI) 65 % of their contract hours per week at pre-test, which increased to 73 % at post-test, 81 % at FU1 and 93 % at FU2. Intensity of home practice or number of attended sessions were not related to training effects. To conclude, the newly developed Mindful2Work training seems very feasible, and acceptable, and although no control group was included, the large effects of Mindful2Work are highly promising.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241323/