Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being in a Workplace with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being in a Workplace with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Becoming aware of what’s going on around you can make a huge difference, because we spend so much time wrapped up in our thoughts that we lose contact with the real world. That’s especially the case if you’re constantly bombarded by email, Facebook posts and Twitter. It’s not really conducive to a calm and productive work environment.“ – Danny Penman

 

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

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “A mindfulness training program based on brief practices (M-PBI) to reduce stress in the workplace: a randomised controlled pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060839/ ), Arredondo and colleagues recruited stressed employees and randomly assigned them to either be in a wait-list control group or to receive an 8-week mindfulness training program. The training occurred once a week for 1.5 hours and included daily practices. The participants were measured before and after training and 20 weeks later for mindfulness, perceived stress, self-compassion, decentering, burnout, and heart rate variability.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the mindfulness trained group had significant decreases in perceived stress and the components of burnout of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment, and significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and decentering. These differences were enduring as they were still significant at the 20-week follow-up. They also found an increase in heart rate variability indicative of reduced stress.

 

These results are very encouraging and suggest that mindfulness training can be very beneficial in reducing workplace stress levels and burnout. It also appears to improve the overall psychological well-being of the employees improving mindfulness, self-compassion, and decentering. The ability of mindfulness training to reduce stress and burnout, and to increase self-compassion and decentering have been previously observed with different participant population. The study would have been stronger had an active control group been included. But, nevertheless the findings are suggestive that mindfulness training can be quite beneficial for stressed employees.

 

So, reduce stress and improve well-being in a workplace with mindfulness.

 

“Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they run rampant. It’s a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier, less stressful, ways.” –  Drew Hansen

 

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

 

Arredondo, M., Sabaté, M., Valveny, N., Langa, M., Dosantos, R., Moreno, J., & Botella, L. (2017). A mindfulness training program based on brief practices (M-PBI) to reduce stress in the workplace: a randomised controlled pilot study. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 23(1), 40–51. http://doi.org/10.1080/10773525.2017.1386607

 

Abstract

Work stress is a major contributor to absenteeism and reduced work productivity. A randomised and controlled study in employee-volunteers (with Perceived Stress Scale [PSS-14]>22) was performed to assess a mindfulness program based on brief integrated mindfulness practices (M-PBI) with the aim of reducing stress in the workplace. The PSS-14 of the employees before and after 8-weeks M-PBI program, as well as after a 20-week follow-up, was assessed (primary endpoint). The employees also carried the following questionnaires (secondary endpoints): Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), Experiences Questionnaire-Decentering (EQ-D), and Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS). Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was measured during each session in a subgroup of employees (n = 10) of the interventional group randomly selected. A total of 40 employees (77.5% female median [SD] age of 36.6 [5.6] years) took part in this study: 21 and 19 in the intervention and control group, respectively. No differences in baseline characteristics were encountered between the groups. Results show a significant decrease in stress and increase in mindfulness over time in the intervention group (PSS-14 and FFMQ; p < 0.05 both). Additionally, an improvement in decentering (EQ-D), self-compassion (SCS) and burnout (MBI-GS) were also observed compared to the control group (p < 0.05 in all). HRV measurement also showed an improvement. In conclusion, a brief practices, 8-weeks M-BIP program is an effective tool to quickly reduce stress and improve well-being in a workplace.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060839/

 

Reduce Perceived Stress with Mindfulness

Reduce Perceived Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being.” – Shamash Alidina

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. One reason for these benefits is that mindfulness training improves the individual’s physical and psychological reactions to stress. Stress is an integral part of life, that is actually essential to the health of the body. In moderation, it is healthful, strengthening, and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths. So, it is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. The research, however, at times, involves weak research designs and suffers from lack of control for social support and experimenter and participant expectancy effects. In addition, it is not known how mindfulness training influences levels of perceived stress. In today’s Research News article “Investigating the Specific Effects of an Online Mindfulness-Based Self-Help Intervention on Stress and Underlying Mechanisms.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6061241/ ),  Gu and colleagues examined the effects of mindfulness training on stress levels in a well controlled experimental design.

 

They recruited university students and staff and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions; online Mindfulness-Based Self-Help training, listening to classical music online, or to a wait list. The Mindfulness training occurred over 2 weeks with 4 times per week 10-minute online recordings and home practice. The online listening to classical music conditions paralleled the mindfulness condition in being presented over 2 weeks with 4 times per week 10-minute recorded instructions and home practice. The participants were measured before during and after the training for mindfulness, self-compassion, worry, perceived stress, how engaged was the participant in practice, and participant expectancies.

 

They found that in comparison to before training and the music and wait list conditions, the mindfulness group had significantly lower levels of perceived stress and worry and significantly higher levels of mindfulness and self-compassion. They also performed a mediation analysis to investigate whether the effects of stress may have been mediated by the effects on mindfulness, worry, and or self-compassion. They found that higher mindfulness scores produced by the mindfulness intervention were associated with lower perceived stress. Similarly, lower worry scores produced by the mindfulness intervention were associated with lower perceived stress and higher self-compassion or scores produced by the mindfulness intervention were associated with lower perceived stress. Importantly, there were no significant differences between the conditions in engagement or expectancy effects.

 

These results demonstrate that mindfulness training lowers perceived stress levels and this could not be accounted for by expectancy or engagement effects. They further demonstrated that a mindfulness intervention lowers perceived stress by increasing mindfulness and self-compassion and lowers worry. Previous research has demonstrated that mindfulness training decreases perceived stress and worry, and increases mindfulness and self-compassion. The contribution of the current study is to demonstrate that the effects were not due to experimental contaminants and that the effects on perceived stress are due to effects on all three of these variables.

 

So, reduce perceived stress with mindfulness.

 

“There is nothing a busy man is less busied with than living; there is nothing harder to learn.” — Seneca

 

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

 

Gu, J., Cavanagh, K., & Strauss, C. (2018). Investigating the Specific Effects of an Online Mindfulness-Based Self-Help Intervention on Stress and Underlying Mechanisms. Mindfulness, 9(4), 1245–1257. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0867-y

 

Abstract

Previous research examining the effects of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and their mechanisms of change has been hampered by failure to control for non-specific factors, such as social support and interaction with group members, facilitator contact and expectation of benefit, meaning that it remained possible that benefits of MBIs could have been attributable, perhaps entirely, to non-specific elements. This experimental study examined the effects of a 2-week online mindfulness-based self-help (MBSH) intervention compared to a well-matched classical music control condition and a waitlist control condition on perceived stress. This study also tested mindfulness, self-compassion and worry as mechanisms of the effects of MBSH versus both control conditions on stress. University students and staff (N = 214) were randomised to MBSH, classical music, or waitlist conditions and completed self-report measures pre-, mid- and post-intervention. Post-intervention, MBSH was found to significantly reduce stress compared to both control conditions. Bootstrapping-based mediation analyses used standardised residualised change scores for all variables, with mediators computed as change from baseline to mid-intervention, and the outcome computed as change from baseline to post-intervention. Changes in mindfulness, self-compassion and worry were found to significantly mediate the effects of MBSH versus both control conditions on changes in stress. Findings suggest that cultivating mindfulness specifically confers benefits to stress and that these benefits may occur through improving theorised mechanisms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6061241/

 

Relaxation and Mindfulness Training Have Differing Psychological and Neural Effects

Relaxation and Mindfulness Training Have Differing Psychological and Neural Effects

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“this practice of nonjudgmental self-awareness is one of the most effective ways to improve mood and anxiety.” – Neda Gould

 

Mindfulness 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, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding mindfulness training effects is that there are, a wide variety of mindfulness techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Many can be characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. 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.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. One way to distinguish between the effects of these different meditation techniques is to observe the effects of each technique on the brain.  In today’s Research News article “Common and Dissociable Neural Activity After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Response Programs.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5976535/ ), Sevinc and colleagues recruited adults and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions with 20 minutes of daily home practice with guided recordings of either a Relaxation Response program or a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

 

In the Relaxation Response program, the participants practiced a body scan with emphasis on relaxation and focused meditation on the breath in a 20-minute session. In the MBSR program the participants practiced body scan with focus on awareness of the sensations from the body for 2 weeks, yoga for 2 weeks, and open monitoring meditation for 2 weeks. The last 2 weeks the participants could chose whichever of the practices they wanted to perform. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, mindfulness, self-compassion, rumination, and life stressors. They also underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) while they listened to a guided recording for the body scan from their home practices.

 

They found that both practices equivalently reduced perceived stress and increased mindfulness. But the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program also significantly increased self-compassion and decreased rumination. Interestingly, although both practices produced increases functional connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and motor cortex, the two practices also produced different connectivities. When the body scan was practiced with emphasis on relaxation there was increased functional connectivity was with the right inferior frontal gyrus. This is an area that’s involved in behavioral inhibition. On the other hand, when the body scan was practiced with emphasis on awareness of sensations there was increased functional connectivity between the Insula and Cingulate Cortex, areas associated with sensory awareness.

 

Hence, although both practices were beneficial, the MBSR program appears to create better psychological well-being. In addition, the body scan technique used in the MBSR program, emphasizing sensory awareness, appears to increase the connectivity between brain areas that are involved in sensory awareness. On the other hand, a relaxation instruction with the body scan appears to produce increased brain systems devoted to restraining responses. Different mindfulness techniques produced different psychological and neural outcomes. Both appear to improve stress responding and mindfulness, but the MBSR program also produces better compassion for the self and less repetitive negative thinking, rumination.

 

So, there may be a place for the relaxation response program, but with these otherwise healthy adults, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program appears to produce superior results.

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Sevinc, G., Hölzel, B. K., Hashmi, J., Greenberg, J., McCallister, A., Treadway, M., … Lazar, S. W. (2018). Common and Dissociable Neural Activity After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Response Programs. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(5), 439–451. http://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000590

 

ABSTRACT

Objective

We investigated common and dissociable neural and psychological correlates of two widely used meditation-based stress reduction programs.

Methods

Participants were randomized to the Relaxation Response (RR; n = 18; 56% female) or the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; n = 16; 56% female) programs. Both programs use a “bodyscan” meditation; however, the RR program explicitly emphasizes physical relaxation during this practice, whereas the MBSR program emphasizes mindful awareness with no explicit relaxation instructions. After the programs, neural activity during the respective meditation was investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results

Both programs were associated with reduced stress (for RR, from 14.1 ± 6.6 to 11.3 ± 5.5 [Cohen’s d = 0.50; for MBSR, from 17.7 ± 5.7 to 11.9 ± 5.0 [Cohen’s d = 1.02]). Conjunction analyses revealed functional coupling between ventromedial prefrontal regions and supplementary motor areas (p < .001). The disjunction analysis indicated that the RR bodyscan was associated with stronger functional connectivity of the right inferior frontal gyrus—an important hub of intentional inhibition and control—with supplementary motor areas (p < .001, family-wise error [FWE] rate corrected). The MBSR program was uniquely associated with improvements in self-compassion and rumination, and the within-group analysis of MBSR bodyscan revealed significant functional connectivity of the right anterior insula—an important hub of sensory awareness and salience—with pregenual anterior cingulate during bodyscan meditation compared with rest (p = .03, FWE corrected).

Conclusions

The bodyscan exercises in each program were associated with both overlapping and differential functional coupling patterns, which were consistent with each program’s theoretical foundation. These results may have implications for the differential effects of these programs for the treatment of diverse conditions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5976535/

 

Reduce Anxiety and Depression in Stressed College Students with Mindfulness

Reduce Anxiety and Depression in Stressed College Students with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is so vital. It’s being right there in the moment. It helps you be successful in everything you do. College students are under a lot of stress — that’s been a given forever. Now, they have the tools in their pocket.” – Cathleen Hardy Hansen

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school. The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditationmindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. So, it would seem important to examine various techniques to relieve the stress and its consequent symptoms in college students.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Attention Training Technique and Mindful Self-Compassion for Students with Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00827/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_662896_69_Psycho_20180605_arts_A ), Haukaas and colleagues explore the ability of attention training and mindfulness training to help relieve the anxiety and depression in college students resulting from stress.

 

They recruited undergraduate and graduate students who self-reported depression, anxiety, and stress. They were randomly assigned to receive 3 group sessions for 45 minutes for three consecutive weeks of either Attention Training or Mindfulness and Self-Compassion training. Each training included daily home practice with pre-recorded audio recordings. Attention training was designed “to strengthen attentional control and promote external focus of attention, to interrupt and break free of the cognitive attentional syndrome, consisting of prolonged worry or rumination, threat monitoring, and different unhelpful coping styles accompanied by a heightened self-focused attention.” Mindfulness and Self-Compassion training consisted of training to pay attention to the present moment and “to relate to oneself in a kinder and more accepting manner.” Training including Loving Kindness Meditation practice. Participants were measured before and after training for depression, anxiety, self-compassion, responses to thoughts, and mindfulness.

 

They found that both Attention Training and Mindfulness and Self-Compassion training produced significant reductions in general and test anxiety and depression and significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, attention flexibility, and self-esteem. The effects were moderate to large indicating fairly powerful effects of the treatments. It should be noted that there wasn’t a control condition and both treatments were associated with significant changes. It is thus possible that confound or bias was present that could account for some or all of the changes. But, the effects were strong and commensurate with previous findings that mindfulness training reduces anxiety and depression and increases self-compassion. Thus, it would appear that the two treatments are effective for improving the psychological health of stressed university students.

 

So, reduce anxiety and depression in stressed college students with mindfulness and attention training.

 

“taking time to catch your breath and meditate can help increase students’ overall life satisfaction. We found that underneath the stress that students are experiencing is a deep desire to appreciate life and feel meaningful connections with other people.” – Kamila Dvorakova

 

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

 

Haukaas RB, Gjerde IB, Varting G, Hallan HE and Solem S (2018) A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Attention Training Technique and Mindful Self-Compassion for Students With Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety. Front. Psychol. 9:827. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00827

 

The Attention Training Technique (ATT) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) are two promising psychological interventions. ATT is a 12-min auditory exercise designed to strengthen attentional control and promote external focus of attention, while MSC uses guided meditation and exercises designed to promote self-compassion. In this randomized controlled trial (RCT), a three-session intervention trial was conducted in which university students were randomly assigned to either an ATT-group (n = 40) or a MSC-group (n = 41). The students were not assessed with diagnostic interviews but had self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress. Participants listened to audiotapes of ATT or MSC before discussing in groups how to apply these principles for their everyday struggles. Participants also listened to audiotapes of ATT and MSC as homework between sessions. Participants in both groups showed significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression accompanied by significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and attention flexibility post-intervention. These results were maintained at 6-month follow-up. Improvement in attention flexibility was the only significant unique predictor of treatment response. The study supports the use of both ATT and MSC for students with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Further, it suggests that symptom improvement is related to changes in attention flexibility across both theoretical frameworks. Future studies should focus on how to strengthen the ability for attention flexibility to optimize treatment for emotional disorder.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00827/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_662896_69_Psycho_20180605_arts_A

 

Improve Mental Health in Medical Residents with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health in Medical Residents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system as it contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. It would be best to provide techniques to combat burnout early in a medical career. Medical residency is an extremely stressful period and many express burnout symptoms. This would seem to be an ideal time to intervene.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So, improve mental health in medical residents with mindfulness.

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

Background

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

Objective

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

Design

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

Participants

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

Intervention

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

Main Measures

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

Key Results

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

Conclusions

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

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

 

Grazing is Associated with Lower Mindful Eating and Greater Body Fatness

Grazing is Associated with Lower Mindful Eating and Greater Body Fatness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yep, most vets suggest not leaving food out to graze on. As humans, we can follow the same guidelines to avoid becoming overweight. A consistent routine is more easily transitioned into habit. If you currently graze all day long, shift to scheduled meals and snacks. It will take some mindfulness, but try to leave two to three hours between all points of eating.” – Jill Koegel

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population are considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling. This is because of the health consequences of obesity. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat obesity.

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs but rather to the environment and or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues can be powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food. A pattern of food intake called “grazing” is defined as the uncontrolled and repetitive eating of small amounts of food. It is not known if this pattern may be associated with overeating and obesity.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake by affecting the individual’s response to non-homeostatic cues for eating. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity. Hence, mindful eating may counter non-homeostatic eating. It is also possible that it may counter the “grazing” pattern of intake.

 

In today’s Research News article “How does grazing relate to body mass index, self-compassion, mindfulness and mindful eating in a student population?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846935/ ), Mantzios and colleagues recruited college students and measured them for body size, mindfulness, self-compassion, mindful eating, and “grazing”. The relationships between these measures were explored with a regression analysis.

 

As predicted, they found that the higher the levels of “grazing” the larger the degree of obesity (Body Mass Index, BMI) and the lower the levels of self-compassion. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of mindful eating the smaller the degree of obesity. Finally, they found that the relationship between ”grazing” and body fatness was mediated by mindful eating. That is, ”grazing” is associated with reduced mindful eating which, in turn, is associated with lower body fatness. Hence, it appears that “grazing” is associated with obesity by being associated with less mindful eating.

 

This study is correlative and thus no conclusions regarding causation can be supported. But, the result suggests an interesting potential association between “grazing” and obesity, mediated by mindful eating. Future research should look at the effect in increasing mindful eating on the relationship between “grazing” and obesity and also at the effect of reducing “grazing” on mindful eating and body fatness. It is possible that altering the grazing pattern may be a useful strategy in reducing intake and perhaps body weight and fatness.

 

“Learning how to snack mindfully can help you create a healthy relationship with your food, mind and body. We need to accept our cravings and recognise when we’re experiencing them but also arm ourselves with snacks that are wise and nutritious.” – Mindfood

 

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

 

Mantzios, M., Egan, H., Bahia, H., Hussain, M., & Keyte, R. (2018). How does grazing relate to body mass index, self-compassion, mindfulness and mindful eating in a student population? Health Psychology Open, 5(1), 2055102918762701. http://doi.org/10.1177/2055102918762701

 

Abstract

Contemporary research investigating obesity has focused on grazing (i.e. an uncontrolled and repetitive consumption of small amounts of food). Meanwhile, constructs such as mindfulness, mindful eating and self-compassion have received much attention in assisting individuals with eating behaviours and weight regulation. The association between those constructs and grazing, however, has not been explored. In a cross-sectional study, university students (n = 261) were recruited to explore the relationship of mindfulness, mindful eating and self-compassion with current weight and grazing. Results indicated that all constructs were negatively related to grazing, but only mindful eating related negatively to current weight. In addition, mindful eating mediated the relationship between grazing and current weight. Possible explanations and future directions are discussed further with an emphasis on the need for more empirical work.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846935/

 

Reduce Distress at Hearing Voices with Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Reduce Distress at Hearing Voices with Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is increasingly being used for psychological approaches to voice-hearing and other experiences that can be seen as ‘psychotic’ . . The aim of mindfulness is to develop an accepting approach to thoughts and feelings and through understanding these experiences develop more detachment and choice about how they influence us.” – Hearing Voices Network

 

Hearing voices is quite common, occurring in around 2% – 4% of the population. Neuroimaging has demonstrated that the voices that people hear are experienced as if there were a real person talking to them with the same brain areas becoming active during voice hearing as during listening to actual speech. So, it would appear that voice hearers are actually experiencing voices.

 

Hearing voices (auditory hallucinations) is seen as a prime symptom of psychosis and is considered a first rank symptom of schizophrenia. Hearing voices, however, is not always indicative of psychosis. But, only about a third of voice hearers are considered psychotic. On the other hand, about two thirds of voice hearers are quite healthy and function well. They cope effectively with the voices they’re hearing, do not receive the diagnosis of psychosis, and do not require psychiatric care.

 

The differences between people with psychoses and healthy people who hear voices, is not in the form but the content of the heard speech. Non-psychotic individuals hear voices both inside and outside their head just like the psychotic patients but either the content is positive or the individual feels positive about the voice or that they are in control of it. By contrast the psychotic patients are frightened of the voices, the voices are more malevolent, and they feel less control over them. Mindfulness has been shown to be negatively related to the distress felt by the individual about hearing voices, such that the higher the level of mindfulness, the lower the level of distress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness of voices, self‐compassion, and secure attachment in relation to the experience of hearing voices.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811822/ ), Dudley and colleagues explore the relationships between mindfulness, self-compassion, and distress and severity of hearing voices. They recruited adults through social media who currently hear voices and administered an on-line survey. They completed scales measuring self-compassion; including self‐kindness, self‐judgement, common humanity, mindfulness, isolation, and over‐identification, mindfulness of voices, severity of voices; including frequency, negative content, loudness, distress, impact on self‐appraisal, clarity, and compliance with commands., and attachment styles: including secure, dismissing, preoccupied, and fearful.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness of voices and self-compassion, the lower the levels of severity of voices and fearful attachment and the higher the levels of secure attachment style. Mediation analysis demonstrated that self-compassion, in part, mediated the negative relationship between mindfulness of voices and severity of voices, and that mindfulness of voices, in part, mediated the negative relationship between self-compassion and severity of voices. In other words, people who were high in mindfulness of voices tended to also be high in self-compassion and, in turn, low in the severity of the impact of hearing voices.

 

These results suggest that how difficult and distressful the voices are for the individual is lower when the individual is mindful about the voices and when the individual has a high degree of compassion for themselves. These results are correlational. So, causation cannot be concluded. There is a need for future research to train mindfulness and/or self-compassion and observe whether there are commensurate changes in how distressful the voices are to determine if changes in mindfulness and self-compassion may cause reductions in the distress caused by hearing voices. If this is found to be the case then these trainings may be an effective means to reduce the distress produced by hearing voices and prevent hearing voices from becoming a basis for a psychosis.

 

So, reduce distress at hearing voices with self-compassion and mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness practice and discussion, . . .delivered over 12 weeks effectively impacts key dimensions of the voice hearing experience, supports meaningful behaviour change, and has lasting effects on mood,” – Batya Swift Yasgur

 

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

 

James Dudley, Catrin Eames, John Mulligan, Naomi Fisher. Mindfulness of voices, self‐compassion, and secure attachment in relation to the experience of hearing voices. Br J Clin Psychol. 2018 Mar; 57(1): 1–17. Published online 2017 Aug 12. doi: 10.1111/bjc.12153

 

Abstract

Objectives

Developing compassion towards oneself has been linked to improvement in many areas of psychological well‐being, including psychosis. Furthermore, developing a non‐judgemental, accepting way of relating to voices is associated with lower levels of distress for people who hear voices. These factors have also been associated with secure attachment. This study explores associations between the constructs of mindfulness of voices, self‐compassion, and distress from hearing voices and how secure attachment style related to each of these variables.

Design

Cross‐sectional online.

Method

One hundred and twenty‐eight people (73% female; M age = 37.5; 87.5% Caucasian) who currently hear voices completed the Self‐Compassion Scale, Southampton Mindfulness of Voices Questionnaire, Relationships Questionnaire, and Hamilton Programme for Schizophrenia Voices Questionnaire.

Results

Results showed that mindfulness of voices mediated the relationship between self‐compassion and severity of voices, and self‐compassion mediated the relationship between mindfulness of voices and severity of voices. Self‐compassion and mindfulness of voices were significantly positively correlated with each other and negatively correlated with distress and severity of voices.

Conclusion

Mindful relation to voices and self‐compassion are associated with reduced distress and severity of voices, which supports the proposed potential benefits of mindful relating to voices and self‐compassion as therapeutic skills for people experiencing distress by voice hearing.

Practitioner points

  • Greater self‐compassion and mindfulness of voices were significantly associated with less distress from voices. These findings support theory underlining compassionate mind training.
  • Mindfulness of voices mediated the relationship between self‐compassion and distress from voices, indicating a synergistic relationship between the constructs.
  • Although the current findings do not give a direction of causation, consideration is given to the potential impact of mindful and compassionate approaches to voices.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811822/

Improve the Self-Concept with the Mindful Self

Improve the Self-Concept with the Mindful Self

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is about living with intention and awareness which creates the mind body connection towards a whole self. When we feel disconnected or fragmented from ourselves, others and what was once important to us we become open to a multitude of problems in life.” – Naila Narsi

 

Most people strongly believe that they have a self, an ego. Reflecting this, our language is replete with concepts that contain self; oneself, myself, himself, herself, ourselves, self-concept, self-esteem, self-love, self-regard, selfless, selfish, selfhood, selfie, etc. But, particularly note the term self-concept. It directly states that self is a concept. It is not a thing. It is an idea.  This is important, as most of us think that there is a thing that is the self, when, in fact, there is not. A concept is a way to summarize a set of phenomena that appear to have common properties, such as fruit, or more abstractly, attention. But, note there is not a single entity that is fruit. It is a set of things that are grouped together by common biological factors. The idea of attention is not a thing. Rather it refers to a set of processes. This is also true of the concept of self.

 

The self is a concept and is created by thought. In other words, there’s a process involving thinking that creates the concept of a self. This is a verb. We are not a self, we are producing a self, we are selfing! This suggests that the self can change and grow with circumstances. One that appears to have profound effects on the idea of self is mindfulness training. In today’s Research News article “The Mindful Self: A Mindfulness-Enlightened Self-view.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_433120_69_Psycho_20171024_arts_A, Xiao and colleagues explore the literature and theorization regarding the effects of mindfulness practice on the self-view.

 

They posit that mindfulness training “is a way of looking deeply into oneself in a spirit of self-inquiry and self-understanding.” This can alter the way the individual thinks of the self, a form of re-perceiving the self. The published research indicates that mindfulness training can produce improvements in self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-perspective change, self-consciousness, self-concept, self-deconstruction and reconstruction, and self-referential processing. So, with mindfulness training the individual becomes more compassionate and accepting toward self and others and less self-focused; able to step outside and observe experience from a distance. In other words, mindfulness changes the components that make up the self-concept and in essence change the individual’s idea of their self.

 

Xiao and colleagues label this new perspective and idea of the self, created by mindfulness training, as the “Mindful Self.” This is viewed as a more authentic and true self and is similar to the highest level of psychological development, as visualized by Abraham Maslow, called self-actualization. The “Mindful Self” Is a balanced self-identity with a detached awareness, an understanding of interdependence, greater compassion and acceptance of self and others, empathy, and a desire for the cultivation of happiness; and growth, including a consideration of the development of the self and others.

 

The published literature supports the idea that mindfulness training produces a marked improvement in how the individual conceptualizes the self. It moves the concept of self toward a more authentic and integrated whole that is more connected to others and the environment. This “Mindful Self” is constructed by altering less mature ideas of the self with focused and relaxed attention on what is actually happening both inside and outside the individual. This is a great step in maturation, leading to a more accurate and integrated notion of the self. This, in turn, leads to improved interactions with others and greater overall happiness.

 

So, improve the self-concept with the “Mindful Self.”

 

“We all have a sense of self. Whether that sense of self is positive or negative is based upon our experiences in life and our perceptions and assessment of ourself. . . .However, the problem is that our perception of ourself is often distorted.” – Monica Frank

 

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

 

Xiao Q, Yue C, He W and Yu J-y (2017) The Mindful Self: A Mindfulness-Enlightened Self-view. Front. Psychol. 8:1752. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752

 

Abstract

This paper analyzes studies of mindfulness and the self, with the aim of deepening our understanding of the potential benefits of mindfulness and meditation for mental health and well-being. Our review of empirical research reveals that positive changes in attitudes toward the self and others as a result of mindfulness-enabled practices can play an important role in modulating many mental and physical health problems. Accordingly, we introduce a new concept—the “mindful self”—and compare it with related psychological constructs to describe the positive changes in self-attitude associated with mindfulness meditation practices or interventions. The mindful self is conceptualized as a mindfulness-enlightened self-view and attitude developed by internalizing and integrating the essence of Buddhist psychology into one’s self-system. We further posit that the mindful self will be an important intermediary between mindfulness intervention and mental health problems, and an important moderator in promoting well-being. More generally, we suggest that the mindful self may also be an applicable concept with which to describe and predict the higher level of self-development of those who grow up in the culture of Buddhism or regularly engage in meditation over a long period of time.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_433120_69_Psycho_20171024_arts_A

Improve Parent and Infant Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Parent and Infant Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindful parenting is not about being the perfect parent. It’s about being more aware, present in the moment and open-hearted. That makes a huge difference to our children and how we respond to them.” – Myla Kabat-Zinn

 

Raising children, parenting, is very rewarding. But, it can also be challenging. Children test parents frequently. They test the boundaries of their freedom and the depth of parental love. They demand attention and seem to especially when parental attention is needed elsewhere. They don’t always conform to parental dictates or aspirations for their behavior. They are often affected more by peers, for good or evil, than by parents. It is the parents challenge to control themselves, not overreact, and act appropriately in the face of strong emotions.

 

The initial challenges of parenting begin immediately after birth. Parenting an infant requires that the parent be able to deal with stress, to regulate their own emotions, and to be sensitive and attentive to their baby. These skills are exactly those that are developed in mindfulness training. It improves the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It improves emotion regulation. And it improves the ability to maintain attention and focus in the face of high levels of distraction. Mindful parenting involves having emotional awareness not only of themselves but also having emotional awareness of and compassion for the baby. It also involves having the skills to pay full attention to the baby in the present moment, to accept parenting non-judgmentally and be emotionally non-reactive to the baby.

 

Hence, it makes sense to learn mindful parenting early in the life of the infant. In today’s Research News article “Mindful with Your Baby: Feasibility, Acceptability, and Effects of a Mindful Parenting Group Training for Mothers and Their Babies in a Mental Health Context.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605590/, Potharst and colleagues examine the effectiveness of mindful parenting training with the infant and mother on psychological states of mother and infant.

 

They recruited mothers of newborns who evidenced high stress levels, mental health problems, infant regulation problems, or mother-infant interaction problems. They provided an 8-week “Mindful with Your Baby” program that was based upon Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  It occurred in once weekly 2-hour session with both mother and infant present and included home meditation practice and a follow-up session 8 weeks after the conclusion of training. The mothers were measured before and after training and 8 weeks and 1 year later for mindfulness, mindful parenting skills, self-compassion, well-being, psychopathology, parenting stress and confidence, warmth and negativity toward the baby, and infant temperament.

 

The program was acceptable with high attendance rates and only 7% of the participants dropped out. Importantly, they found that compared to baseline the “Mindful with Your Baby” program produced significant increases in mindfulness, mindful parenting skills, and self-compassion that were maintained a year later. There were also improvements in well-being, psychopathology, parenting stress and confidence, warmth and negativity toward the baby, and infant temperament that were weak after training but grew stronger over the one-year period.

 

These are exciting findings but must be tempered with the understanding that there was no control comparison condition and this opens the way for a myriad of alternative, confounding, explanations for the results. A Randomized Controlled Clinical (RCT) is need to confirm the conclusion that the mindfulness training was responsible for the effects. In addition, these mothers were mentally troubled to begin with and may be particularly benefited by mindfulness training. The program need to be tested also with otherwise normal new mothers. Nevertheless, the results suggest that a program of mindfulness training for mothers and their infants may be very effective in improving parenting and improving the psychological conditions of bot the mother and the infant.

 

So, improve parent and infant mental health with mindfulness.

 

“Being mindful while holding a baby can be an incredibly gratifying, renewing and sometimes challenging mindfulness practice. Babies cycle through various states of being throughout their days and nights. How you are in relationship to a baby in these various states is truly a practice in everyday life. It can be helpful to remember that whatever state of being that your baby is in at any particular moment, it is not a permanent condition. Nothing is.” — Nancy Bardacke

 

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

 

Potharst, E. S., Aktar, E., Rexwinkel, M., Rigterink, M., & Bögels, S. M. (2017). Mindful with Your Baby: Feasibility, Acceptability, and Effects of a Mindful Parenting Group Training for Mothers and Their Babies in a Mental Health Context. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1236–1250. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0699-9

 

Abstract

Many mothers experience difficulties after the birth of a baby. Mindful parenting may have benefits for mothers and babies, because it can help mothers regulate stress, and be more attentive towards themselves and their babies, which may have positive effects on their responsivity. This study examined the effectiveness of Mindful with your baby, an 8-week mindful parenting group training for mothers with their babies. The presence of the babies provides on-the-spot practicing opportunities and facilitates generalization of what is learned. Forty-four mothers with their babies (0–18 months), who were referred to a mental health clinic because of elevated stress or mental health problems of the mother, infant (regulation) problems, or mother-infant interaction problems, participated in 10 groups, each comprising of three to six mother-baby dyads. Questionnaires were administered at pretest, posttest, 8-week follow-up, and 1-year follow-up. Dropout rate was 7%. At posttest, 8-week follow-up, and 1-year follow-up, a significant improvement was seen in mindfulness, self-compassion, mindful parenting, (medium to large effects), as well as in well-being, psychopathology, parental confidence, responsivity, and hostility (small to large effects). Parental stress and parental affection only improved at the first and second follow-ups, respectively (small to medium effects), and maternal attention and rejection did not change. The infants improved in their positive affectivity (medium effect) but not in other aspects of their temperament. Mindful with your baby is a promising intervention for mothers with babies who are referred to mental health care because of elevated stress or mental health problems, infant (regulation) problems, or mother-infant interaction problems.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605590/

8-Week Mindfulness Training Produces Greater Benefits than a 4-Week Training

8-Week Mindfulness Training Produces Greater Benefits than a 4-Week Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“adaptations of MBSR that include less class time than the traditional format may be worthwhile for populations for whom reduction of psychological distress is an important goal and for whom a lesser time commitment may be an important determinant of their ability or willingness to participate” – James Carmody

 

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 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. With impacts so great it is important to know how to optimize the development of mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness is defined as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (John Kabat-Zinn). This is the goal of mindfulness training. There are, however, a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditationyogamindful movementscontemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. Some are recommended to be practiced for years while others are employed for only a few weeks. Regardless of the technique, they all appear to develop and increase mindfulness. It is unclear exactly how much training is essential to producing maximum benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Efficacy of 8- and 4-Session Mindfulness-Based Interventions in a Non-clinical Population: A Controlled Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01343/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_368025_69_Psycho_20170822_arts_A, Demarzo and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control condition or to receive either a 4-week or 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs that met once a week for 2 hours. MBSR consists of body scan, meditation, and mindful movement practice. Participants were also request to practice at home each day. Participants were measured before and after training and 6 months later for mindfulness, self-compassion, anxiety, depression, positive and negative emotions, and resilience.

 

They found that both the 4-week and 8-week mindfulness training groups in comparison to the control condition had, after training and at the 6-month follow-up, significantly improved mindfulness overall and in the mindfulness facets of describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting, and in positive and negative emotions. On the other hand, only the 8-week mindfulness training produced a significant increase in self-compassion and decreases in anxiety and depression.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown in prior studies to improve mindfulness, emotions, anxiety, depression, self-compassion, and resilience. So, the benefits found in this study are not surprising. But the results on the amount of practice are interesting and suggest that considerable benefits accrue to participants in a short, 4-week, mindfulness training but for the full benefits an 8-week program is needed. Hence, unless an abbreviated program is needed for pragmatic reasons, training should be conducted for the full 8-week training period.

 

“people who have been mindfulness meditators for several decades have structural features in their brains that are proportional to their number of hours of practice.” – Daniel Segal

 

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

 

Demarzo M, Montero-Marin J, Puebla-Guedea M, Navarro-Gil M, Herrera-Mercadal P, Moreno-González S, Calvo-Carrión S, Bafaluy-Franch L and Garcia-Campayo J (2017) Efficacy of 8- and 4-Session Mindfulness-Based Interventions in a Non-clinical Population: A Controlled Study. Front. Psychol. 8:1343. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01343

 

Background: Many attempts have been made to abbreviate mindfulness programmes in order to make them more accessible for general and clinical populations while maintaining their therapeutic components and efficacy. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) programme and a 4-week abbreviated version for the improvement of well-being in a non-clinical population.

Method: A quasi-experimental, controlled, pilot study was conducted with pre-post and 6-month follow-up measurements and three study conditions (8- and 4-session MBI programmes and a matched no-treatment control group, with a sample of 48, 46, and 47 participants in each condition, respectively). Undergraduate students were recruited, and mindfulness, positive and negative affect, self-compassion, resilience, anxiety, and depression were assessed. Mixed-effects multi-level analyses for repeated measures were performed.

Results: The intervention groups showed significant improvements compared to controls in mindfulness and positive affect at the 2- and 6-month follow-ups, with no differences between 8- vs. 4-session programmes. The only difference between the abbreviated MBI vs. the standard MBI was found in self-kindness at 6 months, favoring the standard MBI. There were marginal differences in anxiety between the controls vs. the abbreviated MBI, but there were differences between the controls vs. the standard MBI at 2- and 6-months, with higher levels in the controls. There were no differences in depression between the controls vs. the abbreviated MBI, but differences were found between the controls vs. the standard MBI at 2- and 6-months, favoring the standard MBI. There were no differences with regard to negative affect and resilience.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study to directly investigate the efficacy of a standard 8-week MBI and a 4-week abbreviated protocol in the same population. Based on our findings, both programmes performed better than controls, with similar effect size (ES). The efficacy of abbreviated mindfulness programmes may be similar to that of a standard MBI programme, making them potentially more accessible for a larger number of populations. Nevertheless, further studies with more powerful designs to compare the non-inferiority of the abbreviated protocol and addressing clinical populations are warranted.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01343/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_368025_69_Psycho_20170822_arts_A