Improve Neuroticism with Mindfulness

Mindfulness Neuroticism2 Armstrong

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honor. In truth, the negatively biased are more prone to depression, anxiety, self-consciousness and hypochondria, to name just a few behavioral tripwires. Neuroticism is no fun for anyone.” – Psychology Today

 

We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.

 

Neuroticism, however, is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of the individual. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. It appears to be linked to vulnerability to stress. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable. There is some hope for people with high neuroticism as this relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. This is potentially important and deserves further investigation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1245647922125798/?type=3&theater

or below

Armstrong and Rimes examined the ability of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat individuals high in neuroticism. They randomly assigned participants with high neuroticism to either an 8-week, once a week for 2-hours, MBCT treatment group or and on-line self-help treatment control group. Measures were taken before and 4-weeks after treatment of mindfulness, neuroticism, impairment in everyday functioning, anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-compassion, beliefs about emotions, rumination, and decentering.

 

They found that after treatment in comparisons to the control group the MBCT group had significantly lower neuroticism scores, and rumination, and a trend toward lower functional impairment due to stress. In addition, the MBCT group had significantly higher self-compassion and decentering and trends toward lessened unhelpful beliefs and emotions and higher mindfulness. Surprisingly, since MBCT was developed specifically to treat depression, there were no significant differences in anxiety or depression.

 

These results are interesting and potentially important. This, however, was a pilot study that had relatively small group sizes (17). The fact that significant differences were detected nonetheless indicates that the effects were fairly strong. The results clearly indicate that a larger randomized controlled trial is called for.

 

Mindfulness may affect neuroticism in a number of ways. By focusing the individual on the present moment, mindfulness should lessen the neuroticism characteristics of rumination about the past and worry about the future. Mindfulness is also known to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and stress is known to contribute to neuroticism. Finally, mindfulness has been shown to produce heightened emotion regulation. So, the mindful individual feels and appreciates their emotions but responds appropriately and adaptively. This should lessen the moodiness, negative feelings, and loneliness characteristic of neuroticism. So, it is not surprising the mindfulness based treatments would be effective in lowering neuroticism. This is a hopeful development, as people high in neuroticism are very unhappy people. Mindfulness may provide some relief and help them toward a happier life.

 

So, improve neuroticism with mindfulness.

 

“Being in the moment with those thoughts and recognizing them for what they are has really helped me to kind of shove them aside, or to kind of diffuse them,” she says. “I think it’s really helped me become a more aware person of what other people might be feeling.” – JoSelle Vanderhooft

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Armstrong L, Rimes KA. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study. Behav Ther. 2016 May;47(3):287-98. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005. Epub 2016 Jan 5. PMID: 27157024. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005

 

Highlights

  • A new MBCT intervention for neuroticism versus online general self-help is examined
  • Compared with self-help, MBCT results in significantly lower levels of neuroticism
  • Rumination and self-compassion improved more in the MBCT group than the control group
  • MBCT is an acceptable and feasible intervention for neuroticism
  • Neuroticism may be amenable to change through psychological intervention

Abstract

Objective: Neuroticism, a characteristic associated with increased stress vulnerability and the tendency to experience distress, is strongly linked to risk of different forms of psychopathology. However, there are few evidence-based interventions to target neuroticism. This pilot study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) compared with an online self-help intervention for individuals with high levels of neuroticism. The MBCT was modified to address psychological processes that are characteristic of neuroticism. Method: Participants with high levels of neuroticism were randomized to MBCT (n = 17) or an online self-help intervention (n = 17). Self-report questionnaires were administered preintervention and again at 4 weeks postintervention. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses found that MBCT participants had significantly lower levels of neuroticism postintervention than the control group. Compared with the control group, the MBCT group also experienced significant reductions in rumination and increases in self-compassion and decentering, of which the latter two were correlated with reductions in neuroticism within the MBCT group. Low drop-out rates, high levels of adherence to home practice, and positive feedback from MBCT participants provide indications that this intervention may be an acceptable form of treatment for individuals who are vulnerable to becoming easily stressed. Conclusions: MBCT specifically modified to target neuroticism-related processes is a promising intervention for reducing neuroticism. Results support evidence suggesting neuroticism is malleable and amenable to psychological intervention. MBCT for neuroticism warrants further investigation in a larger study.

 

Promote Physical and Mental Well-Being with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi exercise had positive effects on the self-assessed physical and mental health of college students. Scores on the mental health dimension appeared to be particularly sensitive to change. Colleges/universities might consider offering Tai Chi as a component of their ongoing physical activity programs available to students.” – Y. T. Wang

 

Many people have fond memories of their college years. It is likely, however, that they forgot about the stress and angst of those years. The truth is that college is generally very stressful for most students, from the uncertainty of freshman year, to the social stresses of emerging adulthood, to the anxiety of launching into a career after senior year. Evidence for the difficulties of these years can be found in college counseling centers which are swamped with troubled students. In fact, it’s been estimated that half of all college students report significant levels of anxiety and depression.

 

Being able to perform at an optimum level is important in college. It would be very helpful if a

safe and effective way could be found to reduce stress, depression and anxiety in college students. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression . So, mindfulness training would appear to be well suited to deal with the problems of college students. The ancient eastern practice of mindful movement Tai Chi has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Hence, it would make sense to investigate whether Tai Chi practice might be effective for improving college student angst.

 

In today’s Research News article “A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1180406471983277/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4733099/

Webster and colleagues review the published literature on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice in improving college student physical and psychological states. They found that that the preponderance of evidence in the literature reported that Tai Chi practice significantly improved muscular flexibility. But the most interesting effects were in the psychological domain with Tai Chi practice significantly reducing depression, anxiety, symptoms of compulsion, somatization symptoms, hostility, and symptoms of phobia, and improved interpersonal sensitivity.

 

Hence, the published scientific literature suggests that Tai Chi practice can be of significant benefit for college students, improving them physically and improving their psychological well-being. Tai Chi practice is a gentle mindful movement practice. It is safe, having few if any adverse consequences, and effective with college students. This suggests that the engagement in Tai Chi practice should be encouraged in college promoting the physical and mental well-being of the students.

.

 

“Of all the exercises, I should say that T’ai Chi is the best. It can ward off disease, banish worry and tension, bring improved physical health and prolong life. It is a good hobby for your whole life, the older you are, the better. It is suitable for everyone – the weak, the sick, the aged, children, the disabled and blind. It is also an economical exercise. As long as one has three square feet of space, one can take a trip to paradise and stay there to enjoy life for thirty minutes without spending a single cent.” ~T.T. Liang

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Buffer Yourself from Neuroticism with Mindfulness

We have long observed that every neurosis has the result, and therefore probably the purpose, of forcing the patient out of real life, of alienating him from actuality.Sigmund Freud

 

We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.

 

But, neuroticism is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of individuals. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable.

 

This relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. Mindfulness training also has been found to improve individuals’ subjective well-being. So, it makes sense to think that mindfulness may be involved in the link between neuroticism and low subjective well-being. This possible link is explored in today’s Research News article “Curb your neuroticism – Mindfulness mediates the link between neuroticism and subjective well-being”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1094124517278140/?type=3&theater

Wenzel and colleagues studied individuals high in neuroticism and found that they tended to have negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life; that is low subjective well-being.

 

Wenzel and colleagues then added mindfulness to the prediction and found that mindfulness in part mediated the relationship between neuroticism and low subjective well-being especially in individuals who had high levels of neuroticism. It thus appears that neuroticism lowers mindfulness which in turn results in negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life. This suggests that being mindful may in part protect an individual from the effects of neuroticism on their well-being.

 

There are a number of potential explanations for these effects of mindfulness. Neuroticism is characterized by rumination and worry, which are thought processes centered on the past and future. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is an ability to focus on the present moment. Hence, mindfulness could be seen as an antidote to the past and future orientation in neuroticism.

 

Neuroticism is also characterized by moodiness and loneliness. Mindfulness has been shown to improve emotion regulation; the ability to feel and recognize an emotional state but be able to understand it and respond to it appropriately (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/20/regulate-emotions-with-mindfulness/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/control-emotions-the-right-way-with-mindfulness/). So mindfulness would also appear to be an antidote for the moodiness involved in neuroticism. Indeed, it has been shown that mindfulness can reduce feelings of anger and depression and improve self-control among people with high neuroticism.

 

So, buffer yourself from neuroticism with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness has helped me succeed in almost every dimension of my life. By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.” – Dustin Moskovitz

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies