Reduce Social Anxiety and Drinking with Mindfulness

Reduce Social Anxiety and Drinking with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When you practice sitting in curious awareness, without forcing it, mindfulness becomes easier and easier. You become an observer, rather than a participant in the damaging thoughts that run through your head. As you become more aware, you are less prone to engage in mindless harmful behaviors, like drinking, and more apt to act with intention and self-love and acceptance.” – Keri Wiginton

 

Inappropriate use of alcohol is a major societal problem. In fact, about 25% of US adults have engaged in binge drinking in the last month and 7% have what is termed an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol abuse is very dangerous and frequently fatal. Nearly 88,000 people in the US and 3.3 million globally die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Drunk driving accounted for over 10,000 deaths; 31% of all driving fatalities. Excessive alcohol intake has been shown to contribute to over 200 diseases including alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries. It is estimated that over 5% of the burden of disease and injury worldwide is attributable to alcohol consumption. These are striking and alarming statistics and indicate that controlling alcohol intake is an important priority for the individual and society

 

Alcohol intake is often promoted by its perceived ability to improve social behavior and reduce social anxiety. It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. Social anxiety is widespread, and reaches clinically significant levels in about 7% of the U.S. population. It has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder. In addition, mindfulness training has been successfully applied to treating alcohol abuse. It appears to increase the ability of the drinker to control alcohol intake. Since, mindfulness appears to hold promise as a treatment for excessive alcohol intake and social anxiety, there is a need to examine the relationships between social anxiety, alcohol abuse, and mindfulness in people with alcohol abuse problems and who suffer with social anxiety.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Facets, Social Anxiety, and Drinking to Cope with Social Anxiety: Testing Mediators of Drinking Problems.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381930/ ), Clerkin and colleagues recruited adults with alcohol dependence and high social anxiety. They had them complete measures of mindfulness, symptoms of alcohol dependence, alcohol consumption, drinking problems, social anxiety, drinking to cope with social anxiety, depression, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These measures were subjected to a path analysis to identify the interconnections between them.

 

They found that the greater the levels of social anxiety symptoms the higher the levels of drinking to cope with social anxiety and, in turn, the higher the levels of drinking problems. Further they found that found that the greater the levels of the mindfulness and the facets of mindfulness of acting with awareness, accepting without judgment, and describing the lower the levels of social anxiety symptoms and thereby the lower the levels of drinking to cope with this anxiety and, in turn, the lower the levels of drinking problems.

 

Hence, as has been previously observed, social anxiety tends to promote drinking problems by driving a coping strategy of using alcohol intake to deal with the anxiety. But, significantly, mindfulness is associated with reduced levels of social anxiety which is associated with lower drinking problems. In particular, the more the individual could describe how they are feeling, accept it without judgement, and be aware of their actions in the present moment, the less they felt anxiety in social situations. This, through reducing coping mechanisms, was associated with fewer drinking problems.

 

This study was correlative and causation cannot be concluded within the study itself. But, in other studies, increasing mindfulness was found to reduce anxiety, including social anxiety  and to assist in controlling alcohol consumption. So, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the relationships observed in the present study were due to causal connections such that high mindfulness lowers social anxiety which lowers coping with anxiety by drinking.

 

So, reduce social anxiety and drinking with mindfulness.

 

“We live in an alcohol-addicted culture. Alcohol is used as a social lubricant, and has become such a crutch for most people to feel comfortable socially that they would feel lost without it.” – Sheryl Paul

 

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

 

Clerkin, E. M., Sarfan, L. D., Parsons, E. M., & Magee, J. C. (2017). Mindfulness Facets, Social Anxiety, and Drinking to Cope with Social Anxiety: Testing Mediators of Drinking Problems. Mindfulness, 8(1), 159–170. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0589-6

 

Abstract

This cross-sectional study tested social anxiety symptoms, trait mindfulness, and drinking to cope with social anxiety as potential predictors and/or serial mediators of drinking problems. A community-based sample of individuals with co-occurring social anxiety symptoms and alcohol dependence were recruited. Participants (N = 105) completed measures of social anxiety, drinking to cope with social anxiety, and alcohol use and problems. As well, participants completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, which assesses mindfulness facets of accepting without judgment, acting with awareness, not reacting to one’s internal experiences, observing and attending to experiences, and labeling and describing. As predicted, the relationship between social anxiety symptoms and drinking problems was mediated by social anxiety coping motives across each of the models. Further, the relationship between specific mindfulness facets (acting with awareness, accepting without judgment, and describe) and drinking problems was serially mediated by social anxiety symptoms and drinking to cope with social anxiety. This research builds upon existing studies that have largely been conducted with college students to evaluate potential mediators driving drinking problems. Specifically, individuals who are less able to act with awareness, accept without judgment, and describe their internal experiences may experience heightened social anxiety and drinking to cope with that anxiety, which could ultimately result in greater alcohol-related problems.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381930/

 

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Smartphone Aps

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Smartphone Aps

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“With apps reaching more people than face-to-face teaching can, he says, “nothing will influence how mindfulness is perceived and practised in our culture more in the next 20 years”. – Amy Fleming

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, Apps for smartphones have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But, the question arises as to the effectiveness of these Apps in inducing mindfulness and improving psychological health.

 

In today’s Research News article “Efficacy of a Mindfulness-Based Mobile Application: a Randomized Waiting-List Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5770479/ ), van Emmerik and colleagues recruited adults who had an interest in mindfulness and spirituality through social media and randomly assigned them to either a mindfulness App group or a wait-list control group.

 

The mindfulness App participants were directed to download from the App Store of Google Play Store the VGZ Mindfulness Coach App and complete the 5-week program consisting of 25 exercises including “breathing exercises, attention exercises, body scan exercises, guided meditation exercises, visualization exercises, mantra exercises, and yoga exercises.” The participants were measured before the program and 8 and 20 weeks later for mindfulness, including the observing, describing, non-reacting, non-judging, and acting with awareness facets, quality of life, including physical health, psychological health, social relationships and environment, psychiatric symptomology, self-actualization, and satisfaction with the App.

 

They found that the App produced large significant increases in mindfulness including all five facets, psychological health, social relationships and environment, and decreases in psychiatric symptomology. In addition, the participants reported a high degree of satisfaction and engagement with the App. Hence, the mindfulness App group evidenced marked improvement in mindfulness and psychological health.

 

The results need to be interpreted with caution as the study did not contain an active control condition. This leaves open the possibility that the results were affected by biases such as placebo effects, demand characteristics, experimenter bias, etc. Nevertheless, with these caveats in mind, the results suggest that mindfulness can be increased with a smartphone app which may, in turn, improve psychological health in otherwise healthy individuals. This is exciting as the low cost, convenience, and ease of use, of such Apps allows for widespread applicability. This may provide a low-cost means of improving the mindfulness and psychological health of large swaths of the general population.

 

So, improve psychological health with mindfulness smartphone Aps.

 

“Every app uses varying voices, work flow styles, and types of guided meditation. . . At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you feel drawn to practice everyday.” – Marylyn Wei

 

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

 

Arnold A. P. van Emmerik, Fieke Berings, Jaap Lancee. Efficacy of a Mindfulness-Based Mobile Application: a Randomized Waiting-List Controlled Trial. Mindfulness (N Y) 2018; 9(1): 187–198. Published online 2017 Jun 21. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0761-7

 

Abstract

Although several hundreds of apps are available that (cl)aim to promote mindfulness, only a few methodologically sound studies have evaluated the efficacy of these apps. This randomized waiting-list controlled trial therefore tested the hypothesis that one such app (the VGZ Mindfulness Coach) can achieve immediate and long-term improvements of mindfulness, quality of life, general psychiatric symptoms, and self-actualization. One hundred ninety-one experimental participants received the VGZ Mindfulness Coach, which offers 40 mindfulness exercises and background information about mindfulness without any form of therapeutic guidance. Compared to 186 control participants, they reported large (Cohen’s d = 0.77) and statistically significant increases of mindfulness after 8 weeks and small-to-medium increases of the Observing, Describing, Acting with awareness, Nonjudging, and Nonreactivity mindfulness facets as measured with the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (Cohen’s d = 0.66, 0.26, 0.49, 0.34, and 0.43, respectively). Also, there were large decreases of general psychiatric symptoms (GHQ-12; Cohen’s d = −0.68) and moderate increases of psychological, social, and environmental quality of life (WHOQOL-BREF; Cohen’s d = 0.38, 0.38, and 0.36, respectively). Except for social quality of life, these gains were maintained for at least 3 months. We conclude that it is possible to achieve durable positive effects on mindfulness, general psychiatric symptoms, and several aspects of quality of life at low costs with smartphone apps for mindfulness such as the VGZ Mindfulness Coach.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5770479/

Reduce Responsiveness to Social Evaluative Threat with Mindfulness

Reduce Responsiveness to Social Evaluative Threat with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“You can’t judge yourself or worry about what the other person is thinking if you’re too busy experiencing the wonder of the here and now.” – Jonathan Hinek

 

Humans are social creatures. All that the species has accomplished resulted from its ability to work together and build upon the work of others. Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. It is 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. In fact, research has demonstrated that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death.

 

Mindfulness in general appears to improve social relationships. In today’s Research News article “Trait Mindfulness Modulates Neuroendocrine and Affective Responses to Social Evaluative Threat.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087919/ ), Brown and colleagues investigate the relationship of mindfulness with social anxiety. They recruited college students and randomly assigned them to either a social anxiety or control condition. The students performed a Trier Social Stress Test involving preparing and giving a 5-minute speech and doing simple math either in front of critical peer evaluators (social anxiety) or alone (control). Before and after the test the students provided saliva samples to assess cortisol levels, an indicator of stress. They were also measured for anxiety, negative emotions, fear of evaluation, and mindfulness.

 

They found that the social anxiety manipulation compared to the control condition produced a significant elevation of salivary cortisol and anxiety. But, mindfulness moderated the effects such that students high in mindfulness had significantly lower anxiety, negative emotions, and cortisol responses to the social anxiety test than students low in mindfulness. This was true even when the students’ levels of fear of evaluation were controlled for. On the other hand, there were no significant effects of mindfulness in the control condition. So, the mindfulness effects were only with social anxiety.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness buffers the response to social stress and is associated with lower levels of stress hormones and negative emotions when exposed to social evaluative stress. These results, however, are correlational. So, causation cannot be determined within this study. But other research has demonstrated that mindfulness produces lower levels of stress, negative emotions, and anxiety and better social performance. So, it is likely that the results from the present study are indicative of mindfulness lowering social anxiety.

 

So, reduce responsiveness to social evaluative threat with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness meditation starts with observing an experience without trying to change or control it. It’s a practice in accepting reality and minimizing your resistance to it. This means to stop judging social interactions with negative adjectives, such as, scary, intimidating, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and so on.” – Adam Rockman

 

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

 

Brown, K. W., Weinstein, N., & Creswell, J. D. (2012). Trait Mindfulness Modulates Neuroendocrine and Affective Responses to Social Evaluative Threat. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(12), 2037–2041. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.04.003

 

Abstract

Background

Individual differences in mindfulness have been associated with numerous self-report indicators of stress, but research has not examined how mindfulness may buffer neuroendocrine and psychological stress responses under controlled laboratory conditions. The present study investigated the role of trait mindfulness in buffering cortisol and affective responses to a social evaluative stress challenge versus a control task.

Methods

Participants completed measures of trait mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation before being randomized to complete the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; Kirschbaum et al., 1993) or a control task. At points throughout the session, participants provided five saliva samples to assess cortisol response patterns, and completed four self-report measures of anxiety and negative affect to assess psychological responses.

Results

In accord with hypotheses, higher trait mindfulness predicted lower cortisol responses to the TSST, relative to the control task, as well as lower anxiety and negative affect. These relations remained significant when controlling for the role of other variables that predicted cortisol and affective responses.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that trait mindfulness modulates cortisol and affective responses to an acute social stressor. Further research is needed to understand the neural pathways through which mindfulness impacts these responses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087919/

The Variety of Meditation Experiences

The Variety of Meditation Experiences

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“One can have almost any type of physical sensation during meditation in any area of the body. . .  The ticklish sensation in your heart just means that some normalization is occurring there, allowing for a more full expression of your emotions. The sense of anxiety or fear is a by-product of that clearing process.” – Depak Chopra

 

Meditation is a wonderful practice that has many documented beneficial effects on mental, physical and spiritual health. For the most part, people have positive experiences during meditation, but it is not all positive. People begin meditation with the misconception that meditation will help them escape from their problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, meditation does the exact opposite, forcing the meditator to confront their issues. In meditation, the practitioner tries to quiet the mind. But, in that relaxed quiet state, powerful, highly emotionally charged thoughts and memories sometimes emerge.

 

Many practitioners never experience these issues or only experience very mild states. There are, however, few systematic studies of the extent of negative experiences. In general, the research has reported that unwanted (negative) experiences are quite common with meditators, but for the most part, are short-lived and mild. There is, however, a great need for more research into the nature of the experiences that occur during meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “The varieties of contemplative experience: A mixed-methods study of meditation-related challenges in Western Buddhists.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5443484/ ),

Lindahl and colleagues recruited experienced adult meditation practitioners and teachers from a variety of different traditions. Meditators were excluded if they had a history of unusual psychological experiences prior to learning meditation. They conducted extensive semi-structured interviews that consisted of open-ended questions regarding meditation-related experiences. Interviews with the participants were conducted either in person, by videoconferencing, or by telephone. Transcripts of the interviews were then subjected to qualitative data analysis focusing on challenging or difficult experiences.

 

They found that most practitioners had experienced at least some challenging experiences. 29% encountered challenges in their first year of practice while 45% encountered them in their first 10 years. For 73% of the practitioners, challenging experiences were associated with meditation retreats, while the rest were associated with daily practice. The more meditation per day the greater the likelihood of negative experiences with only 25% who practiced for 30-60 minutes per day having negative experiences, 34% who practiced 1-9 hours per day, and 41% who practiced over 10 hours per day. One of the most striking findings was the duration of negative experiences. They were not brief or fleeting. In fact, on average they were reported to persist from 1 to 3 years and as long as 10 years.

 

Thematic content analysis of the transcripts revealed 59 different categories of experiences that occurred in 7 higher order domains; cognitive, perceptual, affective, somatic, conative, sense of self, and social. 73% of practitioners had experiences falling into at least 6 domains.

 

The Cognitive Domain consisted in “Changes . . . to mental functioning, including the frequency, quality and content of thoughts, as well as . . . planning, decision-making and memory.” Most experiences in this domain were pleasant but unpleasant experiences also occurred including inability to concentrate for extended periods, problems with memory, the disintegration of conceptual meaning structures, “mind racing,” vivid imagery, and delusional, irrational, or paranormal beliefs.

 

The Perceptual domain consisted of ”changes to any of the five senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste and somatosensory processing” and interoception and proprioception. Unpleasant experiences in this domain included hypersensitivity to stimuli, illusions, hallucinations, dissolution of perceptual objects, distortions in time and space, and sensations appearing dreamlike, as if in a fog.

 

The Affective domain consisted of changes in the type, frequency, or intensity of emotions. For many the affective experiences were pleasant including bliss and euphoria, sometimes verging on mania. But, unpleasant experiences were very frequent and involved both increased and decreased emotionality including anxiety fear, panic, re-experiencing trauma, irritability, anger, and paranoia with 82% reporting it. For some flat affect occurred with a loss of swings in emotion.

 

The Somatic domain consisted of “changes in bodily functioning or physiological processes.” Unpleasant experiences in this domain included sleep disruption, feelings of pressure, tension, and hot and cold, electricity like voltages or currents through the body sometimes resulting in involuntary movements.

 

The Conative domain consisted of “changes in motivation or goal-directed behaviors.” Unpleasant experiences in this domain included loss of desire for previously enjoyed activities and loss of motivation to achieve goals.

 

The Sense of Self domain consisted of “changes in how a practitioner conceives of himself or herself over time.” Unpleasant experiences in this domain including a dissolution of boundaries between the individuals and others and the environment, loss of a sense of ownership of thoughts, emotions and agency (the doer), and loss of a sense of self entirely.

 

The Social domain consisted of “changes in interpersonal activities or functioning, including level of engagement, quality of relationships, or periods of conflict, isolation or withdrawal.” Unpleasant experiences in this domain included problems re-integrating into society after a retreat or intensive practice, impaired functioning at work or with family, and doubt and loss of faith. In fact, many of the negative experiences bled over into everyday life affecting all social interactions.

 

These findings need to be kept in perspective as most experience with meditation are pleasant and positive and even the negative experiences are mainly brief and manageable. But the results emphasize that it’s not all what people are led to believe. It can turn unpleasant or even ugly. It is important that this be taught and managed in the meditation community. In the monasteries this is well understood and managed. But in the secular world, these negative experiences are rarely taught, understood, reacted to properly, or managed. For many negative experiences can lead to stopping practice, but for others they can lead to grave psychological harm. It is important that the practitioner be made aware of these possible experiences before they begin, so they are better able to understand them a handle them astutely.

 

Meditation should not be engaged in blindly without proper instruction. It can produce great benefit but sometimes great harm. In order to maximize the benefits and minimize the harm proper education and management is needed.

 

Emotions that come up during meditation represent one of two things: 1) undigested past negative emotions that are rising up to be processed, or 2) a present-moment experience of raw emotion from something happening now, which can be positive or negative. Either way, it can make for an uncomfortable meditation and is one of the most common reasons people stop meditating.” – Trista Thorp

 

 

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

 

Lindahl, J. R., Fisher, N. E., Cooper, D. J., Rosen, R. K., & Britton, W. B. (2017). The varieties of contemplative experience: A mixed-methods study of meditation-related challenges in Western Buddhists. PLoS ONE, 12(5), e0176239. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176239

 

Abstract

Buddhist-derived meditation practices are currently being employed as a popular form of health promotion. While meditation programs draw inspiration from Buddhist textual sources for the benefits of meditation, these sources also acknowledge a wide range of other effects beyond health-related outcomes. The Varieties of Contemplative Experience study investigates meditation-related experiences that are typically underreported, particularly experiences that are described as challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing, and/or requiring additional support. A mixed-methods approach featured qualitative interviews with Western Buddhist meditation practitioners and experts in Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan traditions. Interview questions probed meditation experiences and influencing factors, including interpretations and management strategies. A follow-up survey provided quantitative assessments of causality, impairment and other demographic and practice-related variables. The content-driven thematic analysis of interviews yielded a taxonomy of 59 meditation-related experiences across 7 domains: cognitive, perceptual, affective, somatic, conative, sense of self, and social. Even in cases where the phenomenology was similar across participants, interpretations of and responses to the experiences differed considerably. The associated valence ranged from very positive to very negative, and the associated level of distress and functional impairment ranged from minimal and transient to severe and enduring. In order to determine what factors may influence the valence, impact, and response to any given experience, the study also identified 26 categories of influencing factors across 4 domains: practitioner-level factors, practice-level factors, relationships, and health behaviors. By identifying a broader range of experiences associated with meditation, along with the factors that contribute to the presence and management of experiences reported as challenging, difficult, distressing or functionally impairing, this study aims to increase our understanding of the effects of contemplative practices and to provide resources for mediators, clinicians, meditation researchers, and meditation teachers.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5443484/

Improve Social and Nature Connectedness with Meditation

Improve Social and Nature Connectedness with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Loving-kindness meditation is a contemplative practice focused on self-generated emotions of compassion, love, and goodwill toward oneself and others. . . individuals who regularly practiced loving-kindness meditation for approximately 2 months experienced significant increases in self-reported positive emotions, such as joy, awe, and gratitude. . .  they also reported a stronger sense of social connectedness. . . individuals in the loving-kindness meditation group perceived themselves as being closer and more “in tune” with others during social interactions.” – Laura Schenck

 

We are social animals. Alone we are weak and vulnerable and would not have fared well in evolution. But, in concert with others we have dominated our world. By working together in organized societies, we have not only been able to provide for a vast population but create technical wonders expanding interpersonal interaction possibilities. It is obvious that we are connected to and depend upon one another and that, in general, is a good thing. All that the species has accomplished resulted from the ability to work together cooperatively and build upon the work of others.

 

Beyond, the importance of the group, interactions with other people are fundamental to personal well-being. People need to be with and connected with others. Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. Some are better than others, but everyone struggles with human connections to some extent. Hence it is important for us to find ways to improve how we connect with other people.

 

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is specifically designed to develop positive feelings toward the self and others.  In LKM the meditator focuses on repeatedly wishing positive things, wellness, safety, happiness, health etc. for oneself and toward multiple other people from loved ones to enemies. LKM and other mindfulness practices have been shown to improve positive mood and improve social interactions. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation.” (See summary below). Aspy and Proeve examine the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) to improve connectedness to others and to nature.

 

They recruited college students who were occasional meditators and randomly assigned them to complete either a 15-minute recorded guided mindfulness meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), or relaxation session. Before and after the session they completed measures of positive and negative emotions, social connectedness, and connectedness to nature. The entire study was conducted over the internet. So, they included objective questions regarding the recordings to insure that the participants actually completed the appropriate 15-minute session. 24% of the original participants were excluded for providing incorrect answers.

 

They found that the two meditation groups had significantly higher social connectedness, and connectedness to nature than the relaxation group. But, there were no significant differences between the mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) groups. In addition, there were no significant differences between the three groups in positive and negative emotions. Hence, brief meditations appear to increase connectedness socially and to nature without altering mood.

 

It has been well established that both mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) increase positive emotions and decrease negative emotions. It is likely that a single brief meditation is not sufficient to improve mood. But, it is interesting that connectedness was improved. This makes sense for Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) as it includes thoughts about others. But mindfulness meditation does not, focusing on the breath and bodily sensations. But, mindfulness meditation has been shown previously to improve social behavior. So, although the two types of meditation have the same effect on connectedness, they may do so in different ways.

 

So, improve social and nature connectedness with meditation.

 

“Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others. . . compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that Loving Kindness Meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits ranging from benefitting well-being, to giving relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence.” – Emma Seppälä

 

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

 

Denholm J. Aspy, Michael Proeve. Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation. Psychological Reports, Vol 120, Issue 1, pp. 102 – 117, 2017. 10.1177/0033294116685867

 

Abstract

An experiment involving 115 undergraduate students (74.8% females; mean age = 20.5 years, SD = 4.3) was conducted to explore effects of meditation on social connectedness, nature connectedness, and affect. Participants listened to one of three brief guided meditation Mp3 recordings via the internet, which involved mindfulness meditation (MM), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), or progressive muscle relaxation (active control group). Participants in the MM and LKM groups reported greater social and nature connectedness at post-test than those in the control group. There were no significant differences in connectedness between the MM and LKM groups, suggesting they are both effective for enhancing connectedness. There were no significant changes in negative or positive affect at post-test due to the interventions. Recommendations for future research are provided.

Improve Social Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

Improve Social Anxiety Disorder with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“regular and consistent mindfulness meditation will help to strengthen your ability to overcome the initial problems that you experience. If you are suffering with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD), regular practice will eventually improve your self-concept and ability to handle negative emotions. You will also learn how to better respond to troubling thoughts and treat yourself with more compassion.” – Arlin Cuncic

 

It is 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 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. It has a typical onset in late childhood or young adulthood, prior to the age of 25. Hence, it is particularly widespread among young adults. 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. There are a number of psychological therapies for SAD. Although, these therapies can be effective they are costly and only available to a small numbers of sufferers. In addition, 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. So, it would be reasonable to expect that MBSR training would improve the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in young adults.

 

In today’s Research News article “An open trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for young adults with social anxiety disorder.” (See summary below), Hjeltnes and colleagues perform a pilot study of the effectiveness of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in young adults. They recruited university students, aged 19 to 25 years, who suffered from SAD. The students participated in a standard 8-week MBSR program. They were assessed at the beginning, midway, and at the end of the program for social anxiety, global psychological distress, mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-esteem.

 

They found that the MBSR program produced a large clinically significant reduction in social anxiety and global psychological distress. They also found significant increases in mindfulness, particularly in the non-judging and non-reacting facets of mindfulness, self-esteem, self-compassion, self-kindness, and common humanity. These results are impressive, but, it needs to be recognized that this was an uncontrolled pilot trial and as such the results could have been due to a number of contaminating factors including placebo effects, experimenter bias, attention effects etc. It remains for a randomized controlled clinical trial to verify these findings. But the magnitudes of the effects are impressive and the fact that MBSR has been demonstrated in controlled trials to reduce anxiety, makes it more likely that the MBSR program was responsible.

 

Anxiety is a fear of potential future negative events. It is dependent upon future oriented thought processes. Mindfulness training may counteract this by focusing the individual on the present moment. Since, there are no negative events there in the present moment, anxiety dissipates. In addition, mindfulness training improves the individual’s ability to see the negative future projections as they arise in the mind and recognize that they are not based in present reality. This can lead to reduced anxiety and better performance at school, work and other activities and improve the person’s ability to form relationships.

 

So, improve social anxiety disorder with mindfulness.

 

“When you develop a mindfulness-based relationship with your inner emotions, your anxiety and fear, you set up a completely different inner environment that greatly facilitates transformation, resolution and healing of the emotional constructs of anxiety and fear. The simple fact is that reactivity inhibits change, while mindfulness promotes change and healing.” – Peter Strong

 

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

Aslak Hjeltnes, Helge Molde, Elisabeth Schanche, Jon Vøllestad, Julie Lillebostad Svendsen, Christian Moltu and Per-Einar Binder. An open trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for young adults with social anxiety disorder. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 1, February 2017, Pages: 80–90, DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12342.

 

Abstract

The present study investigated mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for young adults with a social anxiety disorder (SAD) in an open trial. Fifty-three young adults in a higher education setting underwent a standard eight-week MBSR program. Eight participants (15%) did not complete the program. Participants reported significant reductions in SAD symptoms and global psychological distress, as well as increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-esteem. Using intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses, effect sizes ranged from large to moderate for SAD symptoms (Cohen’s d = 0.80) and global psychological distress (d = 0.61). Completer analyses yielded large effect sizes for SAD symptoms (d = 0.96) and global psychological distress (d = 0.81). The largest effect sizes were found for self-compassion (d = 1.49) and mindfulness (d = 1.35). Two thirds of the participants who were in the clinical range at pretreatment reported either clinically significant change (37%) or reliable improvement (31%) on SAD symptoms after completing the MBSR program, and almost two thirds reported either clinically significant change (37%) or reliable improvement (26%) on global psychological distress. MBSR may be a beneficial intervention for young adults in higher education with SAD, and there is a need for more research on mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions for SAD.

Be Less Dependent upon Others with Mindfulness 2

Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge. – Fritz Perls

 

We are social animals. Alone we are weak and vulnerable and would not have fared well in evolution. But, in concert with others we have dominated our world. By working together in organized society we have not only been able to provide for a vast population but create technical wonders expanding interpersonal interaction possibilities. It is obvious that we depend upon one another and that, in general, is a good thing.

 

We are born totally helpless. We are completely dependent upon our parents and would perish without them. We take decades to fully develop and become completely independent of our parents. There is no other creature on the planet that takes so long to become independent. But we never really are independent, as the saying goes, “No man is an island”– John Donne. Independence simply means that we can guide ourselves through the intricacies of societal dependencies without another person directing us. That independence notwithstanding, we are forever dependent on others.

 

This is healthy. But, if that dependency is so strong that it interferes with the individual’s ability to live a happy and productive life then it becomes a personality disorder, called Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency (MID). It is “characterized by the tendency to overrely on others for nurturance, support, and guidance. … the perception of oneself as weak and helpless, along with the perception of others as strong and powerful. . . fears of negative evaluation, fears of abandonment, and . . . passivity, submissiveness, reassurance seeking” Andrew McClintock. This pattern is associated with a number of other psychological disorders, but the most serious is an association with suicidality.

 

There is little known about MID and there are currently no empirically demonstrated effective treatments available. Mindfulness, however, has been shown to reduce interpersonal dependency (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/11/21/be-less-dependent-upon-others-with-mindfulness/). So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that it may be effective for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency (MID). In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Therapy for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1143873198969938/?type=3&theater

McClintock and colleagues examined the ability of a mindfulness based treatment, Mindfulness Therapy for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency (MT-MID), to relieve the symptoms of MID in comparison to an equally time intensive control condition. They documented a significant improvement in interpersonal dependency produced by the MT-MID treatment. This occurred with a large effect size, indicating a clinically meaningful impact on MID.

 

McClintock and colleagues reported that the mindfulness treatment group had significantly higher mindfulness and significantly lower maladaptive dependency, helplessness, fears of negative evaluation, and excessive reassurance-seeking as compared to control participants. They also found that these effects were mediated by the increased mindfulness. In other words the MT-MID treatment increased mindfulness which, in turn, produced the relief of MID symptoms. The effects were still present a month after the end of the program, indicating that MT-MID produces sustained benefit for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency.

 

These results are potentially very important suggesting that a mindfulness based treatment program is effective for the clinical treatment of a personality disorder, MID, for which there was previously no known treatment. But, how can increases in mindfulness improve interpersonal dependency?

 

It is likely that interpersonal dependency is maintained by heightened levels of fear and anxiety and low self-esteem. Mindfulness has a number of known effects that may underlie its effectiveness for interpersonal dependency. It has been shown to reduce fear and anxiety (see  http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/anxiety/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/fear/) and to improve self-esteem (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/self-esteem/). So, mindfulness addresses some of the problems underlying MID. It would seem reasonable to infer that these were the changes induced by mindfulness training that were responsible for its effectiveness for MID.

 

So, practice mindfulness and be less dependent upon others.

 

“Authority is not a quality one person ‘has,’ in the sense that he has property or physical qualities. Authority refers to an interpersonal relation in which one person looks upon another as somebody superior to him.” ― Erich Fromm

 

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 

John Donne

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Be Positive with Loving-Kindness Meditation

There is a long history in psychology of a focus on mental illnesses and uncomfortable states. In other words, psychology was very much focused on the negative. Over the last couple of decades, however, a new movement has emerged in psychology to focus on the positive, to look for the effects of positive emotions and states and for ways to increase these positive states.

Meditation has been found to not only reduce negative conditions but to also increase positive states such as joy, love, and happiness. As a result positive psychology has become very interested in studying meditation effects.  Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is specifically designed to develop positive feelings toward the self and others.  In LKM the meditator focuses on repeatedly wishing positive things, wellness, safety, happiness, health etc. for oneself and toward multiple other people from loved ones to enemies. (See http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/loving-kindness-meditation-and-the-disease-of-the-west/)

LKM has been shown to improve positive mood and improve social interactions (See https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1043326459024613/?type=1&theater

http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/loving-kindness-meditation-and-social-function/). In today’s Research News article “The interventional effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions and interpersonal interactions”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1069935599697032/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4450657/

He and colleagues demonstrated that a brief loving-kindness meditation practice increased positive emotions, interpersonal interactions, and complex understanding of others and decreased negative emotions in Chinese college students.

So, practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation can make you feel more positive toward yourself and others, can improve your interactions with others, and can even make you more understanding of the complexities of human nature. Once we develop compassion and kindness toward ourselves and others, which is the object of Loving-Kindness Meditation, it markedly alters not only our feelings towards ourselves and others, but also allows the cognitive understandings to grow and blossom.

These positive feelings and understandings of ourselves and others has wide ranging consequences. It appears to improve mental and physical health, increase longevity, change neural structures, make us better at coping with stress, improve social connections, and make us feel better about ourselves.

It’s quite remarkable that such a simple technique can have such profound consequences. This seems to support the old saying that “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. You can get much more good things done by emphasizing the positive than attempting to fix the negative. Along the same lines, it’s long been known in psychology that learning occurs much more swiftly and permanently with positive rewards than avoidance of punishment. Once again positivity is much more effective than negativity.

So, practice Loving Kindness Meditation and be positive.

CMCS

Loving Kindness Meditation and Social Function

Humans are social creatures. All that the species has accomplished resulted from its ability to work together and build upon the work of others. Beyond, the importance of the group, interactions with other people are fundamental to personal well-being. People need to be with and connected with others.

Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. Some are better than others, but everyone struggles with human interaction to some extent. Hence it is important for us to find ways to improve how we interact with other people.

Mindfulness in general appears to improve social relationships. In today’s Research News article “The interventional effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions and interpersonal interactions.”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1043326459024613/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4450657/

one form of mindfulness training, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), is shown to be quite effective in facilitating interpersonal interactions, and enhancing the complex understanding of others. This appears to produce an enhanced ability to interact socially and to increase positive emotions, improving the individual happiness.

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is a meditative practice that focuses on repeatedly wishing well to the self and others. It focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards the self and others. It is simple in concept, yet powerful in effect. How can this simple practice improve one’s social relationships?

LKM appears to increase positive emotional states and it is known that we tend to find people experiencing positive emotions as more attractive. In addition, feeling positive emotions in the presence of others increases our self-confidence and enjoyment of social interactions. LKM like other forms of meditation reduces perceived stress. Many people find social interactions stressful. So reducing perceived stress should make it easier to engage with other people.

These effects by themselves could account for LKM’s improvement of social interactions.

LKM has been shown to increase compassion and empathy and decrease biases. It also increases our feelings about ourselves and decreases self-criticism. These effects of LKM produce more positive and caring feelings towards ourselves and others. Not only does this make us feel better about others, it is communicated either verbally or nonverbally to others making them feel better about us, hence, improving interactions. Indeed, being around people who like themselves and understand others on an emotional level, induces positive feelings toward these people and is very attractive, facilitating interpersonal connection.

Finally, LKM appears to have direct effects on our ability to engage in social interactions. LKM is associated with increases in prosocial behavior, increasing helping behavior. It also improves feelings of social connection. In addition, it improves our ability to have a sophisticated understanding of other people in their full complexity. All of these effects of LKM positively influence our ability and effectiveness in interacting with others.

Loving Kindness Meditation appears to be a technique to help us develop positive feeling toward ourselves and others. This makes us want to help others, feel good in their presence, and helps us understand and care for them. It’s quite amazing that such a simple practice could have such far reaching effects.

So, practice Loving Kindness Meditation and be better socially.

CMCS