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

 

Make Self-Views More Positive and Relieve Social Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

Make Self-Views More Positive and Relieve Social Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I call this type of mindfulness practice while we are interacting with others—or even while we are simply around others—curiosity training. We are learning to get out of our heads and into the moment. Instead of focusing our attention on ourselves—criticizing our performance or appearance, trying to guess what others are thinking of us, struggling to script out what to say—we learn to treat all those thoughts as background noise—something we’re aware of but not paying attention to—and instead return our attention to taking interest in the situation, the person, and the conversation.” – Larry Cohen

 

It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well and the anxiety is overwhelming, causing the individual to withdraw. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and feeling embarrassed or humiliated by their actions. This fear may be so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other activities and may negatively affect the person’s ability to form relationships.

 

SAD is the most common form of anxiety disorder and it is widespread, occurring in about 7% of the U.S. population and is particularly widespread among young adults. Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But, there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for SAD. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) contains three mindfulness trainings, meditation, body scan, and yoga, and has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders. It is not known, however, how these treatments produce their effects.

 

In today’s Research News article “Self-Views in Social Anxiety Disorder: The Impact of CBT versus MBSR.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376221/ ), Thurston and colleagues recruited unmedicated patients with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and randomly assigned them to receive 12 weekly sessions of 2.5 hours of either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy (CBGT) or a wait-list control condition. They also recruited a group of healthy control participants. They were measured before and after training for social anxiety and positive and negative self-views.

 

They found that in comparison to healthy controls, participants with SAD had significantly lower positive self-views and significantly higher negative self-views. Both Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy (CBGT) produced significant reductions in social anxiety and significant improvements in self-views, reducing negative and increasing positive self-views. Importantly, they found that changes in positive, but not negative self-views were the intermediary between MBSR and CBGT treatments and improvement in social anxiety. That is, the treatments improved the patients’ positive views of themselves and this in turn produced reduced social anxiety.

 

These results are interesting and potentially important. By demonstrating that changing the patients’ views concerning themselves was a key to improving social anxiety, the findings suggest that tailoring treatment to improving positive self-views might produce more effective therapies for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

 

So, make self-views more positive and relieve social anxiety disorder with mindfulness.

 

“Our nervous system is like the soundtrack for every scene in life that we encounter. It is all but impossible to experience a scene as safe and happy when the music tells us otherwise. With a mindful, body-based approach, clients can learn to change their music.” – Jeena Cho

 

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

 

Thurston, M. D., Goldin, P., Heimberg, R., & Gross, J. J. (2017). Self-Views in Social Anxiety Disorder: The Impact of CBT versus MBSR. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 47, 83–90. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2017.01.001

 

Go to:

Abstract

This study examines the impact of Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy (CBGT) versus Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) versus Waitlist (WL) on self-views in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD). One hundred eight unmedicated patients with SAD were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of CBGT, MBSR, or WL, and completed a self-referential encoding task (SRET) that assessed self-endorsement of positive and negative self-views pre- and post-treatment. At baseline, 40 healthy controls (HCs) also completed the SRET. At baseline, patients with SAD endorsed greater negative and lesser positive self-views than HCs. Compared to baseline, patients in both CBGT and MBSR decreased negative self-views and increased positive self-views. Improvement in self-views, specifically increases in positive (but not decreases in negative) self-views, predicted CBGT- and MBSR-related decreases in social anxiety symptoms. Enhancement of positive self-views may be a shared therapeutic process for both CBGT and MBSR for SAD.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376221/

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 Self-Esteem with Yoga Postures

Improve Self-Esteem with Yoga Postures

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga allows us to start to slow down the self-critic, and start to observe that this voices in our heads isn’t necessarily the reality. To slow down and get into the body and say ‘OK, when these thoughts are coming up, there’s something actually behind the thoughts that we’re observing’ — that connects us more to our true self versus the dialogue that may be running us.” – Vyda Bielkus

 

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.

 

Studies of yoga postures suggests that different postures may have different psychological effects. Erect, vertical and erect and open body postures have been associated with power and dominance (see a in attached picture). So, they are sometimes called power postures. Low ‘power poses’ emphasize slumping of the spine and decreasing the size of the chest (see b in attached picture). On the other hand, standing yoga poses emphasize the lift of the spine and the lift and openness of the chest rather than expansiveness of the body (see c in attached picture). Some standing yoga poses have arms crossed and covering the front of the body. They are considered constrictive, covered front yoga poses (see d in attached picture).

 

In today’s Research News article “Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to “Power Poses.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5425577/, de Zavala and colleagues compared power vs. yoga poses with open front of body vs. covered front of body in their ability to alter energy and self-esteem. They recruited college students and randomly assigned them to one of four groups; power pose-open front, power pose-covered front, yoga pose-open front, yoga pose-covered front in a 2X2 randomized factorial design. The participants held two poses in their respective category for 1 minute each. They were measured before and after the brief yoga practice for self-esteem and subjective energy.

 

They found that momentarily holding yoga poses, but not power poses, produced a significant increase in self-esteem that was mediated by increases in subjective energy. That is, both the yoga pose-open front and yoga pose-covered front increased subjective energy which, in turn, increased self-esteem. These effects are particularly interesting as they were produced by holding two poses for only 1 minute each. It’s quite striking to see such extremely brief poses producing significant effects on the participants psychology.

 

It is also striking that these effects were only present for the yoga poses and not the power poses. The explanation for these effects is not obvious. It is possible, though, that erect, straight poses, particularly those where the hands are held above the head are more strenuous, particularly on the cardiovascular system, and this leads to a sympathetic arousal response, making the individual feel more energetic. Feeling more energetic may make the individual feel better about themselves which in turn improves self-esteem.

 

This study is particularly interesting as it points to a productive strategy to unraveling how yoga practice has such widespread benefits for the physical and mental health of the participants. By investigating the physiological and psychological effects of individual poses it may be possible to glimpse the mechanisms by which complex yoga practices produce their benefits. This is a classic case of reductionism, taking a complex phenomenon apart into its constituent parts and then recombining the individual effects of the parts to understand the whole. This is an interesting strategy that only future research will determine if it’s a valuable way to unlock the mechanisms producing the benefits of yoga practice.

 

“Yoga makes a difference because of its emphasis on self-acceptance, something that’s largely missing for those of us who dislike our bodies. The program in our heads—I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough—builds in volume over years until it’s practically the only radio station playing. Odd as it seems, the vessel that keeps us alive, that nourishes us, begins to get nothing but our scorn in return.” – Dorothy Foltz-Gray

 

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

 

Golec de Zavala, A., Lantos, D., & Bowden, D. (2017). Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to “Power Poses.” Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 752. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00752

 

Abstract

Research on beneficial consequences of yoga focuses on the effects of yogic breathing and meditation. Less is known about the psychological effects of performing yoga postures. The present study investigated the effects of yoga poses on subjective sense of energy and self-esteem. The effects of yoga postures were compared to the effects of ‘power poses,’ which arguably increase the sense of power and self-confidence due to their association with interpersonal dominance (Carney et al., 2010). The study tested the novel prediction that yoga poses, which are not associated with interpersonal dominance but increase bodily energy, would increase the subjective feeling of energy and therefore increase self-esteem compared to ‘high power’ and ‘low power’ poses. A two factorial, between participants design was employed. Participants performed either two standing yoga poses with open front of the body (n = 19), two standing yoga poses with covered front of the body (n = 22), two expansive, high power poses (n = 21), or two constrictive, low power poses (n = 20) for 1-min each. The results showed that yoga poses in comparison to ‘power poses’ increased self-esteem. This effect was mediated by an increased subjective sense of energy and was observed when baseline trait self-esteem was controlled for. These results suggest that the effects of performing open, expansive body postures may be driven by processes other than the poses’ association with interpersonal power and dominance. This study demonstrates that positive effects of yoga practice can occur after performing yoga poses for only 2 min.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5425577/

Improve Psychological Well-Being in Gay Men with Spirituality

Improve Psychological Well-Being in Gay Men with Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality can offer a vision of hope and meaning in a world that sometimes appears to be a hopeless miasma of pain and suffering. At its best, spirituality bestows vision and love of life. It widens our perspective. It sensitizes us to beauty and vitality–the very things at which gay men excel.” – Toby Johnson
Psychological well-being is sometimes thought of as a lack of mental illness. But, it is more than just a lack of something. It is a positive set of characteristics that lead to happy, well-adjusted life. These include the ability to be aware of and accept one’s strengths and weaknesses, to have goals that give meaning to life, to truly believe that your potential capabilities are going to be realized, to have close and valuable relations with others, the ability to effectively manage life issues especially daily issues, and the ability to follow personal principles even when opposed to society. These are also all characteristics that the great psychologist Abraham Maslow labelled self-actualization.

 

These are lofty goals that only few truly accomplish completely. But, we can strive to improve at each. Religion and spirituality encourage such personal growth. Indeed, spirituality appears to be associated with more positive attitudes toward physical and psychological difficulties and improved overall psychological well-being. For gay men, there can be a conflict between their religion and their sexual identity as “many religious/spiritual institutions continue to hold conservative and/or hostile attitudes toward same-sex behaviors.” As a result, the relationship between religion/spirituality and psychological well-being can be complicated for gay men.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychological well-being among religious and spiritual-identified young gay and bisexual men.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5289650/

Meanley and colleagues study the relationship of religion and spirituality to psychological well-being in gay men. They recruited male gay men and transsexuals between the ages of 18 to 29 years to complete an on-line survey containing measures of religious commitment, participation, and coping, self-esteem, life purpose, internalize homophobia, and community stigma. Interestingly, 80% of the sample identified as religious and or spiritual.

 

As evidence that religion and spirituality can produce a conflict with sexual identity they found that participants who identified as religious/spiritual had significantly high internalized homophobia. Importantly, they also found that religiosity was associated with higher community stigma and internalized homophobia and lower purpose in life and self-esteem. But, on the other hand, spirituality was associated with higher purpose in life and self-esteem.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that for young gay men, adherence and commitment to a religion is associated with poorer psychological well-being while spirituality is associated with better psychological well-being. This makes sense as many traditional religions have teachings contrary to same sex sexual behaviors. But, the spiritual domain does not contain any particular dogma. By adhering to spirituality as opposed to religion gay men can bypass the conflict and reap the benefits of spirituality for psychological well-being.

 

So, improve psychological well-being in gay men with spirituality.

 

“many homosexuals naturally embody the traits of sensitivity and gentleness that religion is intended to teach. Gay men are often saints and moral exemplars. In spite of the contrary examples that can be offered, there is a goodness and virtue that runs through gay men’s lives, and a demonstration of real spirituality in how many of us resolve the problem of making sense of religion in the modern world.” – Toby Johnson

 

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

Meanley, S., Pingel, E. S., & Bauermeister, J. A. (2016). Psychological well-being among religious and spiritual-identified young gay and bisexual men. Sexuality Research & Social Policy : Journal of NSRC : SR & SP, 13(1), 35–45. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-015-0199-4

 

Abstract

Religiosity and spirituality are often integral facets of human development. Young gay and bisexual men (YGBM), however, may find themselves at odds when attempting to reconcile potentially conflicting identities like religion and their sexual orientation. We sought to explore how different components of religiosity (participation, commitment, spiritual coping) are linked to different markers of psychological well-being (life purpose, self-esteem, and internalized homophobia). Using data collected in Metro Detroit (N = 351 ages 18–29 years; 47% African American, 29% Non-Latino White, 8% Latino, 16% Other Race), we examined how components of religiosity/spirituality were associated with psychological well-being among religious/spiritual-identified participants. An overwhelming majority (79.5%) identified as religious/spiritual, with most YGBM (91.0%) reporting spirituality as a coping source. Over three quarters of our religious/spiritual sample (77.7%) reported attending a religious service in the past year. Religious participation and commitment were negatively associated with psychological well-being. Conversely, spiritual coping was positively associated with YGBM’s psychological well-being. Programs assisting YGBM navigate multiple/conflicting identities through sexuality-affirming resources may aid improve of their psychological well-being. We discuss the public health potential of increasing sensitivity to the religious/spiritual needs of YGBM across social service organizations.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5289650/

Relieve Social Anxiety with Mindfulness

Relieve Social Anxiety with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is shown in research to use neural pathways in the brain that cause the nervous system to calm. Using mindfulness, we can begin to notice what happens in the body when anxiety is present and develop strategies to empower clients to “signal safety” to their nervous system. Over time, clients feel empowered to slow down their response to triggers, manage their body’s fear response (fight-or-flight) and increase their ability to tolerate discomfort.“ – Jeena Cho

 

It is almost a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. This is particularly true when asked to perform in a social context such as giving a speech. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well with the anxiety or the level of anxiety is overwhelming, causing the individual to withdraw. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and feeling embarrassed or humiliated by their actions. This fear may be so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other activities and may negatively affect the person’s ability to form relationships. SAD is the most common form of anxiety disorder occurring in about 7% of the U.S. population.

 

Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. It has been estimated that 11% of women in the U.S. are taking anti-anxiety medications. But, there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. Although, psychological therapy can be effective it is costly and only available to a small numbers of sufferers. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). There is a need, however, to investigate the effectiveness of different therapeutic techniques for anxiety disorders.

 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed to treat depression but has been found to also be effective for other mood disorders. MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting and walking meditation and body scan, and cognitive therapy to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate mood disorders. In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Iranian Female Adolescents Suffering From Social Anxiety.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292141/

Ebrahiminejad and colleagues examine the ability of (MBCT) to relieve Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

 

They recruited High School students with SAD and randomly assigned them to receive either and 8-week, 1.5 hours once a week, MBCT program or a no-treatment control condition. The students were measured before and after treatment for Social Anxiety and self-esteem. MBCT sessions were held in a group format with 15 students per group. They found that following the MBCT program the students had a significant, 21%, improvement in Social Anxiety and a significant three-fold improvement in self-esteem, while the control groups showed no improvement in either measure. Hence, the results of this pilot study suggest that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is effective in treating Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in adolescents.

 

Anxiety is a fear of what might happen in the future. Mindfulness training by focusing the individual on the present moment, would tend to counteract anxiety. In addition, the cognitive therapy component of the MBCT program is targeted on changing the thought processes that lead to the anticipation of pending negative consequences. Hence, MBCT both alters the aberrant thinking and the focus on the future, resulting in marked improvement in anxiety disorders.

 

These are potentially important results as SAD is such a common disorder that interferes with the social development of adolescents. It should be pointed out that the control condition received no treatment whatsoever. So, the conclusions must be tempered with the understanding that a number of confounding factors, such as placebo effects, experimenter bias, attentional effects, etc., could be responsible for the outcomes. But, this pilot study demonstrates significant effects and suggests that a randomized controlled clinical trial be conducted that includes an active control condition.

 

“mindfulness meditation training made people with social anxiety disorder feel less anxious and less depressed and improved their self-views.” – Mindful

 

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

Ebrahiminejad, S., Poursharifi, H., Bakhshiour Roodsari, A., Zeinodini, Z., & Noorbakhsh, S. (2016). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Iranian Female Adolescents Suffering From Social Anxiety. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 18(11), e25116. http://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.25116

 

Abstract

Background

Social anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders that exists among children and adolescents, and it has profound effects on their psychological states and academic achievements.

Objectives

The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) on diminishing social anxiety disorder symptoms and improving the self-esteem of female adolescents suffering from social anxiety.

Patients and Methods

Semi-experimental research was conducted on 30 female students diagnosed with social anxiety. From the population of female students who were studying in Tehran’s high schools in the academic year of 2013 – 2014, 30 students fulfilling the DSM-5 criteria were selected using the convenience sampling method and were randomly assigned to control and experimental groups. The experimental group received eight sessions of MBCT treatment. The control group received no treatment. All participants completed the social phobia inventory (SPIN) and Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES) twice as pre- and post-treatment tests.

Results

The results from the experimental group indicated a statistically reliable difference between the mean scores from SPIN (t (11) = 5.246, P = 0.000) and RSES (t (11) = -2.326, P = 0.040) pre-treatment and post-treatment. On the other hand, the results of the control group failed to reveal a statistically reliable difference between the mean scores from SPIN (t (12) = 1.089, P = 0.297) and RSES pre-treatment and post-treatment (t (12) = 1.089, P = 0.000).

Conclusions

The results indicate that MBCT is effective on both the improvement of self-esteem and the decrease of social anxiety. The results are in accordance with prior studies performed on adolescents.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292141/

 

Get Mindful Before Public Speaking

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness helps us discover a different kind of confidence.  We learn that courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s being willing to have that fear, and knowing that we can cope, by holding it in kind awareness.” – Sheila Bayliss

 

It is so common to fear giving speeches in public, that it is actually less common not to. In fact, about 75% of humanity has severe anxiety about speaking in public. Indeed, people prefer to administer small but uncomfortable shocks to themselves than give a 5-min speech about their personal attributes.  Surveys suggest that people fear public speaking more than death. It’s been quipped that we would prefer to be in the coffin than giving the eulogy!

 

Public speaking is very stressful including physiological responses indicative of the fight or flight response such as increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels. There are, however, a variety of therapies that are effective for speech phobia. Mindfulness training would appear to be a likely candidate. It has been shown to reduce anxiety, alleviate phobias, and reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. In today’s Research News article ““Letting Go” (Implicitly): Priming Mindfulness Mitigates the Effects of a Moderate Social Stressor.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1302912356399354/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4904283/

Bergeron and colleagues investigate whether a brief induction of mindfulness with an implicit priming procedure can improve the recovery from the anxiety, arousal, and stress of giving a public speech.

 

They recruited college students and measured mindfulness prior to a laboratory session in which the students completed scales measuring self-esteem, stress, and positive and negative emotions. They then provided a saliva sample for measurement of cortisol. They were then instructed and gave a public speech and provided another saliva sample. Afterwards they were randomly separated into either an implicit mindfulness priming group was primed with mindfulness words or a control group that was primed with neutral words. Afterwards, they again competed measures of self-esteem, stress, positive and negative emotions, and physiological arousal. Finally, they provided three more saliva samples immediately after the priming, and 15 and 30 minutes later.

 

Bergeron and colleagues found that participants who were low to begin with in mindfulness were helped by the mindfulness priming results in higher self-esteem and lower levels of stress, physiological arousal, and negative emotions. They also found that the mindfulness priming produced a greater decrease in the indicator of stress, cortisol levels. So, a brief mindfulness induction improves recovery from the anxiety, arousal, and stress of public speaking.

 

These results suggest that a simple implicit priming procedure improves the recovery from stress for everyone and improves the psychological state of participants who were low in mindfulness at the outset. The findings are in line with previous studies of mindfulness training effects. But, these results are particularly interesting because they didn’t require extensive mindfulness training to produce reductions in responsiveness to stress or improve psychological well-being. It only required a brief implicit mindfulness prime. This suggests that anything that improves mindfulness can have marked effects on stress and well-being for as long as the increased mindfulness persists. Training can produce long-lasting increase in mindfulness and therefor long-lasting effects while mindfulness priming can produce brief increases in mindfulness and brief effects.

 

 “The power of a mindfulness practice, however, may come in the realization that one can live a meaningful life even with social anxiety. Schjerning, says that he still feels nervous in social situations but now feels compassion — not judgment — for himself, and sees that “I can be more the person I want to be.” –  Jason Drwal

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Bergeron, C. M., Almgren-Doré, I., & Dandeneau, S. (2016). “Letting Go” (Implicitly): Priming Mindfulness Mitigates the Effects of a Moderate Social Stressor. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 872. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00872

 

Abstract

This experimental study investigated whether implicitly priming mindfulness would facilitate psychological and cortisol recovery after undergoing a standardized psychological stressor. After completing baseline measures of well-being, all participants (N = 91) completed a public speaking stress task, were implicitly primed with “mindfulness” or “neutral” concepts using a scrambled sentence task, and finally, reported their situational well-being and provided cortisol samples. Simple moderation regression analyses revealed that the implicit mindfulness condition had significant beneficial effects for participants with low trait mindfulness. These participants reported higher situational self-esteem as well as less negative affect, perceived stress, and self-reported physiological arousal than their counterparts in the control condition. Cortisol analyses revealed that participants in the implicit mindfulness condition, regardless of level of trait mindfulness, showed a greater decline in cortisol during the early recovery stage compared to those in the control condition. Overall, results suggest that implicitly activating mindfulness can mitigate the psychological and physiological effects of a social stressor.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4904283/

 

Improve Children’s Self-Esteem with Meditation in School

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In both the public and private sector, schools have found adding mindfulness techniques into the curriculum to benefit student’s overall well-being (with the side benefit of increased student creative productivity).” – Mark W. Guay

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This occurs almost without any intervention from the adults as the child appears to be programmed to learn. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But, what is absorbed depends on the environment. If it is replete with speech, the child will learn speech, if it is replete with trauma, the child will learn fear, if it is replete with academic skills the child will learn these, and if it is replete with interactions with others, the child will learn social skills. If the child’s environment, however, is replete with negativity, bullying, criticism, punishment, and failure the child will learn a negative self-image and develop a poor self-concept.

 

What is developed in childhood has a lasting impact, especially how the child views him/herself. This self-concept will be carried throughout life effecting not only how they see themselves and interact with others, but also their productivity, creativity, and happiness. This is why it is so important for adults to promote the development of a positive self-concept in children. Elementary school is an environment that has a huge effect on the development of knowledge, attitudes, skills, and importantly self-concept. Hence, it is also an excellent time for adults to intervene to insure that this development is positive.

 

Mindfulness http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/school/ training in school, at all levels has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve the student’s self-concept. http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2016/01/20/improve-high-level-thinking-with-mindfulness/  Since, this can have such a profound, long-term effect on the child it is important to further study the impact of mindfulness training on the development of self-concept in grammar school children.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1241471572543433/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4776824/

Yo and Lee recruited two third grade classes in different but very similar schools, assigning one class to receive meditation training and the other class to serve as an untreated control. In the meditation classroom the students meditated for 30 minutes, twice a week, for 15 weeks. They found that the children in the meditation classroom increased their self-esteem significantly with a large effect size while the children in the control classroom did not. Similar findings were found with school adjustment but the effect size was considerably smaller. In summary, the study found that the self-esteem and school adjustment of third grade children could be significantly increased by the practice of meditation in the classroom.

 

It should be noted that this was a quasi-experimental research design and it is not clear whether the differences in the schools or their students might have been important variables. In addition, there were no controls for participant expectations, experimenter bias, placebo effects, etc. So, the conclusions must be viewed as tentative. These results need to be repeated using a much stronger research design, perhaps with the children in the control classroom napping during the equivalent time as the meditation.

 

But, with these reservations considered, the results are suggestive that meditation training has large effects on children’s self-esteem and adjustment to school. This is potentially very important as this may have profound, long-term, positive effects on the children. It can’t be overemphasized how important it is to help children feel more positive about themselves. This could be a key to the child’s well-being throughout their lifetime, their school success, and their success and happiness in life.

 

So, improve children’s self-esteem with meditation in school.

 

“Young people are incredibly stressed. There’s an explosion of mental health problems among young people and it’s going to be incredibly expensive to treat in the future. It’s much cheaper to focus on prevention and building resilience, and mindfulness is the single best tool that you could possibly give them.” – Michael Matania

 

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

Yoo, Y. G., & Lee, I. S. (2013). The Effects of School-Based Maum Meditation Program on the Self-Esteem and School Adjustment in Primary School Students. Global Journal of Health Science, 5(4), 14–27. http://doi.org/10.5539/gjhs.v5n4p14

 

Abstract

Self-esteem and school adjustment of children in the lower grades of primary school, the beginning stage of school life, have a close relationship with development of personality, mental health and characters of children. Therefore, the present study aimed to verify the effect of school-based Maum Meditation program on children in the lower grades of primary school, as a personality education program. The result showed that the experimental group with application of Maum Meditation program had significant improvements in self-esteem and school adjustment, compared to the control group without the application. In conclusion, since the study provides significant evidence that the intervention of Maum Meditation program had positive effects on self-esteem and school adjustment of children in the early stage of primary school, it is suggested to actively employ Maum Meditation as a school-based meditation program for mental health promotion of children in the early school ages, the stage of formation of personalities and habits.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4776824/

 

Love thyself

 

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” ~Malcolm S. Forbes

 

There is a widespread problem in the west that many people don’t seem to like themselves.  The term used to describe this in psychology is self-loathing, although this term is far too strong and is not an appropriate descriptor for the majority of people. In general, the dislike of self has a much smaller magnitude than the word loathing implies. As a result I prefer self-dislike.

 

The self-dislike sometimes means that the individual dislikes every aspect of themselves; but most frequently people only don’t like certain aspects of themselves. Often it is there physical appearance, their school achievement, their career, their social behavior, etc. Making matters worse, they tend to overlook their strengths and discount them, focusing instead in the parts that they find problematic.

 

The discounting and overlooking of strengths shows up in what psychologists call the Imposter Syndrome. Here very successful people do not appear to be able to assimilate their success and instead attribute it to luck. The esteem with which they’re held makes them feel like imposters. It is estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another.

 

When this issue of self-dislike was raised to the Dalai Lama he was totally perplexed and repeatedly asked for clarifications. Not liking oneself is unheard of in his culture. So, he was dumbfounded and without comment. Hence, the problem seems to be primarily one of western culture. This suggests that self-dislike is learned within a particular cultural context with western culture and its values particularly adept at producing it.

 

There are sometimes circumstances that underlie self-dislike. Abuse or bullying, belittling parents, learning disabilities, physical appearance or disabilities are apt to result in self-dislike. But, most frequently it originates from western culture’s tendency to promote unrealistic expectations.

 

Physical appearance is a good case in point where the media holds up extraordinarily attractive individuals as what we should strive to be. Very, very few people can ever measure up and so can end up disliking their appearance. Academic achievement is another case where for many anything less than an “A” is seen as failure. Once again few can measure up and most end up disliking their intellectual ability. Sports are another case where the media holds up professional athletes as role models. These are exceptional people and the vast majority of the population can’t perform anywhere near their level and thus feel inadequate. It is relatively easy to think of many other unrealistic expectations prompted by our hyper-success oriented culture.

 

What can we do to overcome self-dislike. Unfortunately, the self-dislike is usually deeply ingrained and becomes resistant to persuasion or evidence. No matter how successful the person becomes or how much praise is received the person cannot truly believe that he or she has value or worth. They believe themselves to be imposters.

 

Self-dislike is an indicator that the individual is unsatisfied with the way things are. There is a strong desire for them to be different and the individual believes that if one or more aspects of themselves changed, then things would be much better. This is in fact rarely true. An overweight person who loses a significant amount of weight doesn’t usually become happier instead it frequently produces depression. A far better approach is for people to learn to accept things, including themselves, just as they are.

 

Meditation is uniquely suited to promote accepting things as they are. So, it would seem appropriate for dealing with self-dislike. Meditation focuses on awareness of the present moment. As we’ve seen, self-dislike is often rooted in the past. By learning to focus on now, the past recedes in importance. When individuals learn to look closely at what is actually going on in the present moment they can begin to see that there is nothing wrong at all. In fact, there is tremendous good present. So, meditation can move the individual away from the past where the self-dislike originated and can then move forward in the present moment to develop self-acceptance.

 

Another method to address self-dislike is to employ what psychologists call counterconditioning where one behavior or belief is eliminated by replacing it with its opposite. Self-dislike can be eliminated by replacing it with self-love.  Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is designed to do just that. We practice loving ourselves and wishing ourselves well. It seems overly simple, but experience and research has shown that it can have remarkable impact.

 

Self-dislike is deeply ingrained. It will not be changed overnight. It will take practice and patience to weaken and eventually overcome it. But, contemplative practice can help.

 

So, engage in contemplative practice and learn to love thyself.

 

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” ~Buddha

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Differentiate Self and Emotions with Mindfulness

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman
As we grow and develop throughout our lifetime we need to develop a sense of self that is independent and separate from other people. This is particularly evident in social contexts where individuals and the group pressure the individual to conform or model other people. Self-differentiation involves a process of developing a strong and independent self that can immerse in a group or identify with others if that’s appropriate but which can stake out an independent path, take different stands, and develop a unique individuality.

 

An aspect of this differentiation is developing independence in emotional expression, allowing emotions to be felt and expressed that are representative of the true feelings of the individual regardless of the social context. These are emotional expressions that are completely aligned with the differentiated individual and are expressions of the true self. Alexithymia is the term used in psychology to describe individuals who suffer great difficulty in emotional expression. This can result in isolation as the individual may avoid close interpersonal relationships.

 

These processes of self-differentiation are not limited to childhood or adolescence but go on throughout the lifetime. For healthy development the individual must differentiate both in terms of personality but also emotionally. Mindfulness promotes the comprehension of the interdependence of all things, how each individual is connected to everyone else and to other organisms and the environment. But, this does not mean that individuality cannot be developed. Rather the development of full individuality requires understanding the interdependence and interconnections among people and things. This suggests that mindfulness would promote the development of self and emotional differentiation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Examining Mindfulness and Its Relation to Self-Differentiation and Alexithymia”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1112313908792534/?type=3&theater

Teixeira and Pereira investigated the relationship between mindfulness and self-differentiation and alexithymia in undergraduate college students. They found that high mindfulness was associated with high levels of awareness and acceptance of the present moment. In addition they found that high mindfulness was associated with high self-differentiation, including differentiation of self and others, and low levels of alexithymia including difficulty in identifying and describing feelings.

 

Hence, Teixeira and Pereira’s study indicates that mindfulness is associated with the development of individuality of self and emotional expression. It is well established that mindfulness promotes emotion regulation (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/10/take-command-and-control-of-your-emotions/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/rethink-your-emotions/) which improves the individual’s ability to feel emotions yet keep their intensity at manageable levels and respond appropriately to them. But, these results indicate that in addition to improved emotion regulation mindfulness improves the ability to express them regardless of social demands, to be free to express what is being felt and be close to other people.

 

Mindfulness then appears to be associated with the full development of an individual self that is unique and distinct from others. It is interesting and important that mindfulness is positively associated with this very high level of individual human development. It further suggests that mindfulness is useful in developing independence throughout the lifetime both in terms of the self and in the expression of emotions.

 

So, be mindful and differentiate self and emotions.

 

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” –  Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies