Spirituality is associated with Character Strength, Well-Being, and Prosociality in Adolescents

Spirituality is associated with Character Strength, Well-Being, and Prosociality in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Given that adolescents are at the crossroads of life and face many issues and challenges that are unique, uncertain and value-conflict, they need to critically reflect on practical interests and examine broad issues on religiously tethered and untethered spirituality in their lives.” – Charlene Tan

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred.” Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. It makes sense, then, to investigate the influence of spirituality on the ability of youths to navigate this difficult time and develop positive qualities and better mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400865/), Kor and colleagues recruited adolescents (aged 13 to 17 years) from middle schools in Israel. They were measured at three points over 14 months for optimism, prosociality, spirituality, religious practices, personal devotion, spiritual transcendence, positive and negative emotions, satisfaction with life, and 24 character strengths consisting of curiosity, love of learning, judgment, creativity, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality.

 

They found that spirituality was relatively stable over time and was moderately associated with interpersonal character strengths. High levels of spirituality were significantly associated with high levels of life satisfaction, positive emotions, and prosociality at all three measurement times. Hence, spirituality was associated with the character strength and well-being of the adolescents.

 

These results are correlational and as such caution must be exercised in reaching causal conclusions. But the study suggests that being spiritual is associated with positive characters in the adolescents and greater well-being and attentiveness to the needs of others (prosociality). This further suggests that being spiritual may help adolescents navigate the complex and difficult terrain of adolescence. It remains to be seen if promoting spirituality may produce improvements in adolescent character and well-being.

 

So, spirituality is associated with character strength, well-being, and prosociality in adolescents.

 

Adolescent well-being has received extensive attention, with ample evidence of the positive role of religion and spirituality in youth development.” – Chris Boyatzis

 

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

 

Kor, A., Pirutinsky, S., Mikulincer, M., Shoshani, A., & Miller, L. (2019). A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 377. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377

 

Abstract

Using data from 1,352 middle-school Israeli adolescents, the current study examines the interface of spirituality and character strengths and its longitudinal contribution to subjective well-being and prosociality. Participants were approached three times over a 14-months period and completed measures of character strengths, spirituality, subjective well-being (positive emotions, life satisfaction), and prosociality. Findings revealed a fourth-factor structure of character strengths that included the typical tripartite classification of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual strengths together with spirituality emerging as a statistically autonomous factor. Spirituality was stable over time and contributed to higher subjective well-being and prosociality both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Discussion focuses on spirituality as a fundamental character strength and an important aspect of positive development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400865/

 

Improve Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors with Meditation

Improve Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“From the philosophical and religious traditions from which mindfulness comes, it’s been long understood that practicing meditation, and cultivating mindfulness, in particular, can conduce to virtuous action.” – Daniel Berry

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism. These changes in turn reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. The research findings on the effectiveness of meditation practice in developing prosocial attitudes and behaviors is accumulating. So, it makes sense to take a step back and summarize what’s been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081743/), Luberto and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the effects of meditation practice on procociality; “empathy, compassion, sympathy, love, altruism, and kindness.” They discovered 26 studies, 22 examined adults while 4 examined children.

 

They report that the published studies found that meditation practices produced significant increases in empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors. Mediation analyses suggest that meditation practice improves social-emotional functioning that in turn improves prosocial behaviors. It also suggests that this is in part due to meditation practice producing a physical and psychological relaxation response that counters stress effects. Regardless the published research literature makes it clear that meditation practice improves social emotions and behaviors. This may lead to a smoother and more effectively functioning society and to greater social cohesion and happiness.

 

So, improve empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors with meditation.

 

“the research shows that mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others and for oneself, and that such attitudes are good for you.” – Shauna Shapiro

 

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

 

Luberto, C. M., Shinday, N., Song, R., Philpotts, L. L., Park, E. R., Fricchione, G. L., & Yeh, G. Y. (2018). A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors. Mindfulness, 9(3), 708–724. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0841-8

 

Abstract

Increased attention has focused on methods to increase empathy, compassion, and pro-social behavior. Meditation practices have traditionally been used to cultivate pro-social outcomes, and recently investigations have sought to evaluate their efficacy for these outcomes. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of meditation for pro-social emotions and behavior. A literature search was conducted in PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase, and Cochrane databases (inception-April 2016) using the search terms: mindfulness, meditation, mind-body therapies, tai chi, yoga, MBSR, MBCT, empathy, compassion, love, altruism, sympathy, or kindness. Randomized controlled trials in any population were included (26 studies with 1,714 subjects). Most were conducted among healthy adults (n=11) using compassion or loving kindness meditation (n=18) over 8–12weeks (n=12) in a group format (n=17). Most control groups were wait-list or no-treatment (n=15). Outcome measures included self-reported emotions (e.g., composite scores, validated measures) and observed behavioral outcomes (e.g., helping behavior in real-world and simulated settings). Many studies showed a low risk of bias. Results demonstrated small to medium effects of meditation on self-reported (SMD = .40, p < .001) and observable outcomes (SMD = .45, p < .001) and suggest psychosocial and neurophysiological mechanisms of action. Subgroup analyses also supported small to medium effects of meditation even when compared to active control groups. Clinicians and meditation teachers should be aware that meditation can improve positive pro-social emotions and behaviors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081743/

 

Become More Sensitive to Others with Meditation

Become More Sensitive to Others with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“as we pay attention to our breath, our body, our lives, in this simple and gentle way, a natural consequence is the opening of the heart.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. This deep need for positive social interactions heightens the pain of social rejection.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. In today’s Research News article “Exploring the Role of Meditation and Dispositional Mindfulness on Social Cognition Domains: A Controlled Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00809/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_963174_69_Psycho_20190416_arts_A), Campos and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness to social cognition, “the mental operations that underlie social interactions, including perceiving, interpreting, and generating responses to the intentions, dispositions, and behaviors of others”.

 

They recruited a group of healthy adult meditation practitioners and a group of non-meditators and had them complete measures of mindfulness, empathy, emotion recognition, theory of mind, attribution style, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Comparing the two groups they found that the meditators had significantly higher levels of mindfulness, interpersonal reactivity (empathy), emotion recognition, and theory of mind and significantly lower levels of cognitive impairment and lower levels of attribution style, including hostility bias intentionality bias, blame, anger bias, and aggressivity bias. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, particularly the non-reactivity facet of mindfulness, the higher the levels of empathy.

 

This study is cross-sectional and has to be interpreted with caution. The results, however suggest that meditators have higher levels of social cognition. That is, that meditators are much more sensitive to others. This, in turn, improves their ability to understand and interact with others. They also suggest that meditators have a better ability to be non-reactive to what is transpiring in the present moment. This would make them better at responding empathetically to others. Hence, the study suggests that meditation practice may improve the individual’s sensitivity to others.

 

So, become more sensitive to others with meditation.

 

“Learning to communicate with empathy can go a long way toward building more positivity in your relationships and reducing your stress. If we all focused more on listening and understanding each other, the world would be a lot less stressful—and a lot happier—place to live.” – Arthur Ciamamicoli

 

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

 

Campos D, Modrego-Alarcón M, López-del-Hoyo Y, González-Panzano M, Van Gordon W, Shonin E, Navarro-Gil M and García-Campayo J (2019) Exploring the Role of Meditation and Dispositional Mindfulness on Social Cognition Domains: A Controlled Study. Front. Psychol. 10:809. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00809

 

Research suggests that mindfulness can induce changes in the social domain, such as enhancing emotional connection to others, prosocial behavior, and empathy. However, despite growing interest in mindfulness in social psychology, very little is known about the effects of mindfulness on social cognition. Consequently, the aim of this study was to explore the relationship between mindfulness and social cognition by comparing meditators with non-meditators on several social cognition measures. A total of 60 participants (meditators, n = 30; non-meditators, n = 30) were matched on sex, age, and ethnic group, and then asked to complete the following assessment measures: Mindful Awareness Attention Scale (MAAS), Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire Short Form (FFMQ-SF), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), Revised Eyes Test, Hinting Task, Ambiguous Intentions and Hostility Questionnaire (AIHQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and Screening for Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatry (SCIP). The results showed that meditators reported higher empathy (except for the personal distress subscale), higher emotional recognition, higher theory of mind (ToM), and lower hostile attributional style/bias. The findings also demonstrated that dispositional mindfulness (both total score assessed with MAAS and mindfulness facets using the FFMQ) was associated with social cognition, although it was not equally correlated with all social cognition outcomes, and correlation patterns differ when analyses were conducted separately for meditators and non-meditators. In addition, results showed potential predictors for each social cognition variable, highlighting non-reactivity to inner experience as a key component of mindfulness in order to explain social cognition performance. In summary, the findings indicated that the meditator sample performed better on certain qualities (i.e., empathy, emotional recognition, ToM, hostile attributional style/bias) in comparison to non-meditators and, furthermore, support the notion that mindfulness is related to social cognition, which may have implications for the design of mindfulness-based approaches for use in clinical and non-clinical settings.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00809/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_963174_69_Psycho_20190416_arts_A

 

Promote Well-Being in Adolescents with Spirituality

Promote Well-Being in Adolescents with Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Call it faith. Call it spirituality. Call it zealotry. Our consciousness creates the reality that reflects it. If we feel apart, other, afraid, and deadened, we will live in a world that reflects and perpetuates these energies.” – Kelly Brogan

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. ”Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

It makes sense, then, to investigate the influence of spirituality on the ability of youths to navigate this difficult time and develop positive qualities and better mental health. In today’s Research News article “A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A ), Kor and colleagues recruited adolescents aged 13 to 17 years and had them complete scales at baseline and 3 and 14 months later measuring character strength, optimism, spirituality, religiosity, transcendence, devotion, positive and negative emotions, life satisfaction, and prosociality.

 

They found that spirituality in adolescents was composed of spirituality, religiosity, transcendence, and devotion and was relatively stable over the 14-month measurement period. They found that the higher the levels of spirituality, the greater the levels of character strength, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and prosocial behaviors over all three measurement time points.

 

These findings are interesting but correlational. So, conclusions regarding causation cannot be reached. But the findings suggest that, surprisingly, spirituality does not fluctuate greatly over time in adolescents. They also suggest that spirituality is associated with a relatively satisfying and happy life that is engaged positively with other people. Hence, spirituality would appear to be a positive factor that is helpful to youths in maintaining well-being over the turbulent time of adolescence.

 

So, promote well-being in adolescents with spirituality.

 

“Both religion and spirituality can have a positive impact on mental health. In some ways, they provide the same impact. For example: Both religion and spirituality can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose and forgiveness.” – Laura Greenstein

 

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

 

Kor A, Pirutinsky S, Mikulincer M, Shoshani A and Miller L (2019) A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents. Front. Psychol. 10:377. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377

 

Using data from 1,352 middle-school Israeli adolescents, the current study examines the interface of spirituality and character strengths and its longitudinal contribution to subjective well-being and prosociality. Participants were approached three times over a 14-months period and completed measures of character strengths, spirituality, subjective well-being (positive emotions, life satisfaction), and prosociality. Findings revealed a fourth-factor structure of character strengths that included the typical tripartite classification of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual strengths together with spirituality emerging as a statistically autonomous factor. Spirituality was stable over time and contributed to higher subjective well-being and prosociality both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Discussion focuses on spirituality as a fundamental character strength and an important aspect of positive development.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A

 

Social Mindfulness is Reduced in Patients with Psychosis

Social Mindfulness is Reduced in Patients with Psychosis

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“There is increasing evidence that specially adapted mindfulness techniques can be used safely and effectively in the management and treatment of severe mental health problems, such as psychosis.” – Carly Samson

 

Psychoses are mental health problems that cause people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations; seeing and, in some cases, feeling, smelling or tasting things that aren’t objectively there, or delusions; unshakable beliefs that, when examined rationally, are obviously untrue. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior, making it difficult if not impossible to function in society without treatment. Psychoses appear to be highly heritable and involves changes in the brain. The symptoms of psychoses usually do not appear until late adolescence or early adulthood. There are, however, usually early signs of the onset of psychoses which present as cognitive impairments.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be beneficial for patients with psychosis. Individuals with psychosis almost always have difficulties with social functioning. It is reasonable then to investigate the social mindfulness of patients having their first psychotic episode. In today’s Research News article “). Social Mindfulness and Psychosis: Neural Response to Socially Mindful Behavior in First-Episode Psychosis and Patients at Clinical High-Risk.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381043/ ), Lemmers-Jansen and colleagues recruited patients having their first psychotic episode aged 16 to 22 years, individuals at high clinical risk for developing psychosis, and healthy control participants..

 

The participants were measured for social mindfulness, intelligence, and positive and negative symptoms of psychosis. In the social mindfulness task, the participants made a choice that would either enhance (socially mindful) or decrease (socially unmindful) choices for another unseen participant. They performed the task initially without instruction and again after being instructed “to keep the other’s best interest in mind.” The participants performed the social mindfulness task while undergoing functional Magnetic Resonance Scans (f-MRI) of their brains.

 

They found that the patients with their first psychotic episode tended to make less socially mindful choices both before and after instruction than either the individuals at high clinical risk for developing psychosis, and healthy control participants. In addition, the patients with psychosis showed less activation of the caudate during mindful choices and less activation of the medial and dorsal prefrontal cortex and the cingulate cortex during unmindful choices that the other groups.

 

The neural findings suggest that the psychotic patients used less higher-level thinking when making socially unmindful choices (prefrontal cortex) and received less reward for making socially mindful choices (caudate). This suggests that the psychotic patients are less mindful because they’re responding with less thought and with less reinforcement for making socially mindful choices. Regardless, it is clear that a laboratory test confirms what is reported in the patients that they respond less well to social situations.

 

Fears about meditation triggering psychosis were holding back progress in this area, despite growing evidence that a specially adapted form of mindfulness training could prove safe and very beneficial for these patients.” – Plastic Brain

 

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

 

Lemmers-Jansen, I., Fett, A. J., Van Doesum, N. J., Van Lange, P., Veltman, D. J., & Krabbendam, L. (2019). Social Mindfulness and Psychosis: Neural Response to Socially Mindful Behavior in First-Episode Psychosis and Patients at Clinical High-Risk. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 47. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00047

 

Abstract

Background: Psychosis is characterized by problems in social functioning and trust, the assumed glue to positive social relations. But what helps building trust? A prime candidate could be social mindfulness: the ability and willingness to see and consider another person’s needs and wishes during social decision making. We investigated whether first-episode psychosis patients (FEP) and patients at clinical high-risk (CHR) show reduced social mindfulness, and examined the underlying neural mechanisms.

Methods: Twenty FEP, 17 CHR and 46 healthy controls, aged 16–31, performed the social mindfulness task (SoMi) during fMRI scanning, spontaneously and after the instruction “to keep the other’s best interest in mind.” As first of two people, participants had to choose one out of four products, of which three were identical and one was unique, differing in a single aspect (e.g., color).

Results: FEP tended to choose the unique item (unmindful choice) more often than controls. After instruction, all groups significantly increased the number of mindful choices compared to the spontaneous condition. FEP showed reduced activation of the caudate and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) during mindful, and of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), mPFC, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) during unmindful decisions. CHR showed reduced activation of the ACC compared to controls.

Discussion: FEP showed a trend toward more unmindful choices. A similar increase of mindful choices after instruction indicated the ability for social mindfulness when prompted. Results suggested reduced sensitivity to the rewarding aspects of social mindfulness in FEP, and reduced consideration for the other player. FEP (and CHR to a lesser extent) might perceive unmindful choices as less incongruent with the automatic mindful responses than controls. Reduced socially mindful behavior in FEP may hinder the building of trust and cooperative interactions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381043/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful emotion regulation represents the capacity to remain mindfully aware at all times, irrespective of the apparent valence or magnitude of any emotion that is experienced. It does not entail suppression of the emotional experience, nor any specific attempts to reappraise or alter it in any way. Instead, MM involves a systematic retraining of awareness and nonreactivity, leading to defusion from whatever is experienced, and allowing the individual to more consciously choose those thoughts, emotions and sensations they will identify with, rather than habitually reacting to them. In this way, it erodes the automatic process of appraisal that gives rise to disturbing emotions in the first place” – Richard Chambers

 

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

 

Adolescence should be a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, emotional, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Making these profound changes successfully requires a good deal or flexibility, adapting and changing with the physical, psychological, and social changes of adolescence and particularly to regulating the extreme fluctuations of emotions occurring during this time.

 

Hence, developing mindfulness and emotional regulation is important especially during adolescence. In today’s Research News article “Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness: Relation and Enhancement in the Classroom With Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_830687_69_Psycho_20181120_arts_A ), Rodríguez-Ledo and colleagues examine the relationship between emotional intelligence and mindfulness in adolescent school students, aged 11 to 14 years. They were randomly assigned to receive either 9 months of once a week for 55 minutes mindfulness, attention, and emotional intelligence training or no training. The students were measured before and after training for emotional intelligence, emotional development, socialization, empathy, and mindfulness. The mindfulness measure included scales of kinesthetic, internal, and external mindfulness. Kinesthetic mindfulness was paying attention to movements, internal mindfulness was paying attention to mental and emotional states, while external mindfulness was paying attention to stimuli outside of the individual.

 

Examining the pretest measures they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of emotional development, emotional intelligence, empathy, and self-control in social situations. The relationships with emotional development and emotional intelligence were especially strong for kinesthetic and internal mindfulness suggesting that the ability to attend to internal states is particularly important for understand and regulating their own emotions. The relationships with empathy was especially strong for external and internal mindfulness suggesting that the ability to attend to the environment and the internal state are particularly important for understanding others emotions. Finally, they found that the mindfulness training significantly increased kinesthetic and internal mindfulness.

 

These results are interesting and suggests that mindfulness training is effective in making school children more sensitive to their internal states and not to the external environment. Attention to these internal states appears to be related to emotional intelligence. So, adolescents can be trained in mindfulness of their internal milieu and this is related to their emotional intelligence. This makes sense as emotions are changes in internal states and the first step in regulating them is to become aware of them.

 

Since adolescence is a time of emotional upheaval, these skills may be particularly important for the navigation of this difficult time of development. It remains for future research to determine if mindfulness training of adolescents can have long lasting effects on their ability to regulate their emotions and successfully transition to adulthood.

 

“The appearance of things change according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” – Kahlil Gibran

 

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

 

Rodríguez-Ledo C, Orejudo S, Cardoso MJ, Balaguer Á and Zarza-Alzugaray J (2018) Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness: Relation and Enhancement in the Classroom With Adolescents. Front. Psychol. 9:2162. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162

 

Emotional intelligence (EI) and mindfulness are two constructs that have been separately studied, and the relation between them still remains unclear. Research in this area has not attempted to go further into how enhancing EI and mindfulness together can achieve better improvements in this ability to attend mindfully. To bridge this knowledge gap, our research goal was to study the relationship between EI and the mindfulness competence in our study sample and to assess the impact of implementing EI and a mindfulness competence developmental program (SEA) about participants’ mindfulness competence. The sample consisted of 156 students aged 11–14 years old from a Spanish public high school. One hundred and eight participants were randomly assigned to the experimental condition, and the remaining 48 were to the control condition. The instruments used to evaluate EI were the CDE-SEC, EQi-Youth Version and the General Empathy Scale. Mindfulness on the School Scope Scale was used to assess mindfulness competences. Social adaptation was evaluated by using the social abilities and adjustment questionnaire BAS3. All the instruments where answered by the participants and have been adapted to a sample of youths with such age specifications. The results showed that EI and mindfulness were related to many of the variables measured by the instruments. Showing a good mindfulness competence was particularly related to having a good general level of the EI trait, and to many of the assessed social and emotional variables. The data indicated a significant relation between the mindfulness competence and having better general empathy skills or being better socially adjusted to the school context. The data also indicated a significant effect on participants’ interior and kinesthetic mindfulness competence after implementing the SEA Program. These findings corroborate the relationship between EI and mindfulness, and the possibility of enhancing mindfulness by applying a direct intervention program in the classroom.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_830687_69_Psycho_20181120_arts_A

 

Withstand Rejection Better with Mindfulness

Withstand Rejection Better with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“People who have greater levels of mindfulness — or the tendency to maintain attention on and awareness of the present moment — are better able to cope with the pain of being rejected by others.” – Brian McNeill

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. This deep need for positive social interactions heightens the pain of social rejection.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. It can also improve the individual’s ability to respond adaptively to strong emotions. So, it is possible that mindfulness may work to counter the effects of social rejection. In today’s Research News article “When less is more: mindfulness predicts adaptive affective responding to rejection via reduced prefrontal recruitment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6022565/ ), Martelli and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness to the ability to cope with social rejection and its relationship to brain structure and connectivity.

 

They recruited healthy undergraduate students and measured them for mindfulness and social distress. They then played a video game while having their brain scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The game was called “Cyberball” which the participant believed they were playing on-line with others. The players tossed a “ball” to each others. After a while the participant stopped receiving the “ball” from other players simulating social rejection. They were then measured again for social distress.

 

They found that after the social “rejection” that the participants who were high in mindfulness were significantly lower in social distress. This suggests that mindfulness tends to protect the individual from the negative emotions associated with social rejection. In addition, they found that the high mindfulness was associated with lower activation of the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and less connectivity of the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex with the Amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This lower activity and connectivity was associated with lower social distress following social rejection.

 

This study employs a fairly artificial method to simulate the social distress produced by rejection. But, the participants reported ignorance that the game was not actually being played socially and the “rejection” appeared to increase distress. So, the lab task appeared to be valid. It should be kept in mind, however, that the findings are correlational and as a result no conclusions can be reached regarding causation. Future research should investigate the impact of mindfulness training on the social distress produced by rejection.

 

The results of the fMRI scans suggest that activation of a brain network including the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex are involved in social distress and that mindfulness is associated with lower activity in these structures resulting in less social distress. So, mindfulness may work to dampen brain activity that’s involved in social distress helping to protect the individual from the negative emotions produced by social rejection.

 

Rejection can be devastating to an individual. It can produce strong negative emotions. The fact that mindfulness appears to help the individual cope with the rejection is and important benefit of mindfulness. It further suggests that people suffering from social anxiety might benefit from mindfulness training. Indeed, previous research indicates exactly that. Mindfulness training is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder.

 

So, withstand rejection better with mindfulness.

 

“Mindful individuals are not as distressed by social rejection.  Mindful individuals appear to successfully regulate distressing emotions by not using effortful, inhibitory processes that suppress their feelings of social pain.” – Shawna Freshwater

 

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

 

Martelli, A. M., Chester, D. S., Warren Brown, K., Eisenberger, N. I., & DeWall, C. N. (2018). When less is more: mindfulness predicts adaptive affective responding to rejection via reduced prefrontal recruitment. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(6), 648–655. http://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsy037

 

Abstract

Social rejection is a distressing and painful event that many people must cope with on a frequent basis. Mindfulness—defined here as a mental state of receptive attentiveness to internal and external stimuli as they arise, moment-to-moment—may buffer such social distress. However, little research indicates whether mindful individuals adaptively regulate the distress of rejection—or the neural mechanisms underlying this potential capacity. To fill these gaps in the literature, participants reported their trait mindfulness and then completed a social rejection paradigm (Cyberball) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Approximately 1 hour after the rejection incident, participants reported their level of distress during rejection (i.e. social distress). Mindfulness was associated with less distress during rejection. This relation was mediated by lower activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex during the rejection incident, a brain region reliably associated with the inhibition of negative affect. Mindfulness was also correlated with less functional connectivity between the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the bilateral amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which play a critical role in the generation of social distress. Mindfulness may relate to effective coping with rejection by not over-activating top-down regulatory mechanisms, potentially resulting in more effective long-term emotion-regulation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6022565/

 

Improve Social Anxiety with Mindfulness

Improve Social Anxiety with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“for dealing with social anxiety, it is much more useful to practice mindful focus during conversations and other situations around people in which we are uncomfortable.” – 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.

 

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 anxiety. 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 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. MBCT has been found to help relieve anxiety and to be effective for social anxiety.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Pilot Study of the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Positive Affect and Social Anxiety Symptoms.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00866/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_662896_69_Psycho_20180605_arts_A ), Strege and colleagues recruited adults with social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder and provided them with an 8-week program of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Training occurred once a week for 2 hours with daily work at home. Participants completed measurements before and after treatment ofr social anxiety, positive and negative emotions, worry, and mindfulness.

 

They found that, as has been previously reported, after MBCT training there was a significant reduction in social anxiety symptoms. The amount of reduction in social anxiety symptoms was predicted by the amount of increase in positive emotions following MBCT training but not by the reduction in negative emotions. Also, the amount of increase in positive emotions following MBCT was associated with the amount of increase in mindfulness.

 

These are interesting results whose interpretation has to be tempered with the recognition that there wasn’t a control comparison condition. So, these results must be viewed as preliminary pilot findings that suggest that a more highly controlled randomized trial should be performed. Nevertheless, these results suggest that MBCT training improves positive feelings and this in turn produces improvements in social anxiety. This suggests that elevating mood, rather than eliminating sour mood, is the crucial change produced by MBCT.  In addition, it appears that the increased positive emotions are a product of increased mindfulness. All of this results in a tentative hypothesis that MBCT training increases mindfulness that, in turn, improves positive feelings and this then produces improvements in social anxiety.

 

So, improve social anxiety with mindfulness.

 

“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.” – 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

 

Strege MV, Swain D, Bochicchio L, Valdespino A and Richey JA (2018) A Pilot Study of the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Positive Affect and Social Anxiety Symptoms. Front. Psychol. 9:866. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00866

 

Abstract

Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is efficacious in reducing residual depressive symptoms and preventing future depressive episodes (Kuyken et al., 2016). One potential treatment effect of MBCT may be improvement of positive affect (PA), due to improved awareness of daily positive events (Geschwind et al., 2011). Considering social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by diminished PA (Brown et al., 1998Kashdan, 2007), we sought to determine whether MBCT would reduce social anxiety symptoms, and whether this reduction would be associated with improvement of PA deficits. Adults (N = 22) who met criteria for varied anxiety disorders participated in a small, open-label trial of an 8-week manualized MBCT intervention. Most participants presented with either a diagnosis (primary, secondary, or tertiary) of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (N = 15) and/or SAD (N = 14) prior to treatment, with eight individuals meeting diagnostic criteria for both GAD and SAD. We hypothesized participants would demonstrate improvements in social anxiety symptoms, which would be predicted by improvements in PA, not reductions in negative affect (NA). Results of several hierarchical linear regression analyses (completed in both full and disorder-specific samples) indicated that improvements in PA but not reductions in NA predicted social anxiety improvement. This effect was not observed for symptoms of worry, which were instead predicted by decreased NA for individuals diagnosed with GAD and both decreased NA and increased PA in the entire sample. Results suggest that MBCT may be efficacious in mitigating social anxiety symptoms, and this therapeutic effect may be linked to improvements in PA. However, further work is necessary considering the small, heterogeneous sample, uncontrolled study design, and exploratory nature of the study.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00866/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_662896_69_Psycho_20180605_arts_A

 

Can Prosocial Behavior be Improved with Mindfulness

Can Prosocial Behavior be Improved with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation made people feel moderately more compassionate or empathic, compared to if they had done no other new emotionally-engaging activity. But further analysis revealed that it played no significant role in reducing aggression or prejudice or improving how socially-connected someone was.” – James Anderson

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. Empathy and compassion are essential for appropriate social engagement and cooperation. In order for these abilities to emerge and strengthen, individuals must be able to see that other people are very much like themselves.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. In today’s Research News article “The limited prosocial effects of meditation: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5799363/ ), Kreplin and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on the effectiveness of meditation practice for the promotion of prosocial behaviors. They reviewed randomized controlled trials that examined meditation or mindfulness effects on “empathy, relationship, connectedness, compassion, love, interpersonal, anger, social, altruism, outgroup, thankfulness, forgiveness, prosocial.”

 

They found 16 published randomized controlled trials. The meta-analysis indicated that there were overall small but significant effects of meditation or mindfulness training on prosocial behavior, especially compassion and empathy. There were no significant effects on aggression or prejudice. These results suggest that meditation or mindfulness training has small but positive effects on prosocial but not antisocial behaviors.

 

Limiting the interpretation of the findings, they found that the effects on compassion were only present when the trainer for meditation or mindfulness was a listed author on the study. This raises the possibility that experimenter bias may have had a major influence such that the beliefs of the researcher that the training would be effective influenced the participants behaviors. In addition, they found that the effects on compassion were only present when the control, comparison, condition was passive, such as a wait-list or no-treatment control, with no significant effects when an active, alternative treatment, control condition was included. This raises the possibility that participant expectancies may have had major influences such that the beliefs of the participants that the training would be effective influenced the participants behaviors. Hence, the small positive results on prosocial behaviors may have been due to weaknesses in the research designs of the studies rather than to the effects of meditation and mindfulness training.

 

These results are important in that they point to issues with the research design that may have been responsible for significant effects. This calls into question the actual effectiveness of meditation and mindfulness training on prosocial behavior. Obviously, more tightly controlled research is necessary to determine if meditation and mindfulness training can be used to improve positive social behaviors.

 

Mindfulness is more than just moment-to-moment awareness. It is a kind, curious awareness that helps us relate to ourselves and others with compassion.”Shauna Shapiro

 

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

 

Kreplin, U., Farias, M., & Brazil, I. A. (2018). The limited prosocial effects of meditation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 8, 2403. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-20299-z

 

Abstract

Many individuals believe that meditation has the capacity to not only alleviate mental-illness but to improve prosociality. This article systematically reviewed and meta-analysed the effects of meditation interventions on prosociality in randomized controlled trials of healthy adults. Five types of social behaviours were identified: compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice. Although we found a moderate increase in prosociality following meditation, further analysis indicated that this effect was qualified by two factors: type of prosociality and methodological quality. Meditation interventions had an effect on compassion and empathy, but not on aggression, connectedness or prejudice. We further found that compassion levels only increased under two conditions: when the teacher in the meditation intervention was a co-author in the published study; and when the study employed a passive (waiting list) control group but not an active one. Contrary to popular beliefs that meditation will lead to prosocial changes, the results of this meta-analysis showed that the effects of meditation on prosociality were qualified by the type of prosociality and methodological quality of the study. We conclude by highlighting a number of biases and theoretical problems that need addressing to improve quality of research in this area.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5799363/

 

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

 

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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/