Improve Mindfulness Training with Natural Settings

Improve Mindfulness Training with Natural Settings

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our deepest origins lie in the natural world and time in the great outdoors can be calming, invigorating, beautiful… and lots of fun! Mindfulness is paying attention without judgement to the present moment and it’s the perfect way to enhance our connection with nature.”- Claire Thompson

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve mood. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if mindfulness training occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly improve the effectiveness of mindfulness practice. Pictures in the media of meditation almost always show a practitioner meditating in a beautiful natural setting. But there is little systematic research regarding the effects of mindfulness training in nature. It’s possible that the combination might magnify the individual benefits of each.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747393/), Diernis and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effects of combining mindfulness training with natural environments. They found 26 published studies.

 

They report that the published research studies found that mindfulness practice in nature produced greater improvements in psychological, social, and physical well-being with moderate to small effect sizes. These effects were present regardless of whether the study employed a no-treatment or active control condition. In addition, natural environments that were wild and/or forested tended to produce greater effects than natural environments that were garden or park environments.

 

The meta-analysis suggests that mindfulness training in the natural environment, especially in wild environments, produces greater benefits than similar training in non-natural settings. It is not clear why this would be true. Perhaps, removing the individual from the environments that their accustomed to, potentiates mindfulness training. Or perhaps, returning the individual to the type of environments that reflect their evolutionary history, reduces stress and produces greater relaxation and improved attention. Regardless, it’s clear that practicing mindfulness in nature is very beneficial.

 

So, improve mindfulness training with natural settings.

 

During my first mindfulness-in-nature retreat, when my hand touched the sun-warmed ground, I felt a connection to the Earth I didn’t know was possible. It was as if the energy of the Earth connected with my own. There was no separation. It was grounding, warm, and it felt like home.” – Sara Overton

 

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

 

Djernis, D., Lerstrup, I., Poulsen, D., Stigsdotter, U., Dahlgaard, J., & O’Toole, M. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(17), 3202. doi:10.3390/ijerph16173202

 

Abstract

Research has proven that both mindfulness training and exposure to nature have positive health effects. The purpose of this study was to systematically review quantitative studies of mindfulness interventions conducted in nature (nature-based mindfulness), and to analyze the effects through meta-analyses. Electronic searches revealed a total of 25 studies to be included, examining 2990 participants. Three analyses were conducted: Nature-based mindfulness interventions evaluated as open trials (k = 13), nature-based mindfulness compared with groups in non-active control conditions (k = 5), and nature-based mindfulness compared with similar interventions but without contact with nature (k = 7). The overall combined psychological, physiological, and interpersonal effects from pre- to post-intervention were statistically significant and of medium size (g = 0.54, p < 0.001). Moderation analyses showed that natural environments characterized as forests/wild nature obtained larger numerical effects than environments characterized as gardens/parks, as did informal mindfulness compared with formal mindfulness. The small number of studies included, as well as the heterogeneity and generally low quality of the studies, must be taken into consideration when the results are interpreted

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747393/

 

Increase Social Contact and Reduce Loneliness with A Mindfulness Smartphone App

Increase Social Contact and Reduce Loneliness with A Mindfulness Smartphone App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Loneliness and social isolation are among the most robust known risk factors for poor health and early death. . . Our research shows that a 14-day smartphone-based mindfulness program can target both, and that practice in welcoming and opening to all of our inner experiences—good or bad—is the key ingredient for these effects,” – Emily Lindsay

 

Humans are social animals. We are generally happiest when we’re with family and friends. Conversely, being without close social contact makes us miserable. It’s the close relationship that is so important as we can be around people all day at work and still feel deep loneliness. These contacts are frequently superficial and do not satisfy our deepest need. It is sometimes said that we live in “the age of loneliness.” It is estimated that 20% of Americans suffer from persistent loneliness. This even when we are more connected than ever with the internet, text messaging, social media, etc. But these create the kinds of superficial contacts that we think should be satisfying, but are generally not. This has led to the counterintuitive findings that young adults, 18-34, have greater concerns with loneliness than the elderly.

 

The consequences of loneliness are dire. It has been estimated that being socially isolated increases mortality by 14%. This is twice the elevation produced by obesity. Even worse, for people over 60, loneliness increases their risk of death by 45%. When a spouse loses a marital partner there’s a 30% increase in mortality in the 6-months following the death. Hence, loneliness is not only an uncomfortable and unhappy state, but it is also a threat to health and longevity. It is clear that this epidemic of loneliness needs to be addressed.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness training reduces loneliness and increases social contact in a randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6397548/), Lindsay and colleagues recruited stressed but otherwise healthy adults and randomly assigned them to a 14 lesson smartphone app with one of three conditions; monitoring present moment experience, monitoring present moment experience plus accepting the experience, or reappraisal and coping strategies). They reported daily on their smartphones their level of loneliness, social contacts, and social support for three days before and 3 days after training with the App.

 

They found that after the intervention the monitoring present moment experience plus accepting the experience group had significantly lower levels of loneliness than prior to training and significantly greater number of social contacts, while neither the monitoring present moment experience or reappraisal and coping strategies groups had significant improvements.

 

These are interesting and potentially important results. Training to monitor present moment experience is not enough by itself to improve loneliness or increase social contact. It requires additional training in acceptance of experience. Many mindfulness training programs, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT),  Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) already include both present moment and acceptance training. In fact, most meditation trainings emphasize both present moment and acceptance. So, it would be un usual for a training program not to have both components. But the present results suggest that is important to have both components to produce benefits.

 

The study did not have an acceptance alone condition. So, it cannot be determined if acceptance training also requires present moment training to produce benefits or if acceptance training alone can. Nevertheless, it is clear that the combination is a safe and effective means to reduce loneliness and enhance social contact. It is not clear whether the enhanced social contact was responsible for the reduced loneliness or that reducing loneliness encourages more social contact or that these two effects are produced separately by training.

 

Regardless, reducing loneliness is very important for the physical and psychological health and well-being of adults and mindfulness plus acceptance training is capable of doing just that. The fact that the training can occur without therapist contact with a smartphone App is important as this means that the treatment is scalable and can be implemented conveniently and at low cost.

 

So, increase social contact and reduce loneliness with a mindfulness smartphone App.

 

“In Unified Mindfulness terms, it appears that equanimity (acceptance) combines with concentration and sensory clarity to reduce loneliness and social isolation.” – Unmindfulness.com

 

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

 

Lindsay, E. K., Young, S., Brown, K. W., Smyth, J. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2019). Mindfulness training reduces loneliness and increases social contact in a randomized controlled trial. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(9), 3488–3493. doi:10.1073/pnas.1813588116

 

SIGNIFICANCE

Loneliness (i.e., feeling alone) and social isolation (i.e., being alone) are among the most robust known risk factors for poor health and accelerated mortality. Yet mitigating these social risk factors is challenging, as few interventions have been effective for both reducing loneliness and increasing social contact. Mindfulness interventions, which train skills in monitoring present-moment experiences with an orientation of acceptance, have shown promise for improving social-relationship processes. This study demonstrates the efficacy of a 2-wk smartphone-based mindfulness training for reducing loneliness and increasing social contact in daily life. Importantly, this study shows that developing an orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences is a critical mechanism for mitigating these social risk factors.

Loneliness (i.e., feeling alone) and social isolation (i.e., being alone) are among the most robust known risk factors for poor health and accelerated mortality. Yet mitigating these social risk factors is challenging, as few interventions have been effective for both reducing loneliness and increasing social contact. Mindfulness interventions, which train skills in monitoring present-moment experiences with an orientation of acceptance, have shown promise for improving social-relationship processes. This study demonstrates the efficacy of a 2-wk smartphone-based mindfulness training for reducing loneliness and increasing social contact in daily life. Importantly, this study shows that developing an orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences is a critical mechanism for mitigating these social risk factors.

Keywords: mindfulness, social relationships, loneliness, acceptance, ambulatory assessment

ABSTRACT

Loneliness and social isolation are a growing public health concern, yet there are few evidence-based interventions for mitigating these social risk factors. Accumulating evidence suggests that mindfulness interventions can improve social-relationship processes. However, the active ingredients of mindfulness training underlying these improvements are unclear. Developing mindfulness-specific skills—namely, (i) monitoring present-moment experiences with (ii) an orientation of acceptance—may change the way people perceive and relate toward others. We predicted that developing openness and acceptance toward present experiences is critical for reducing loneliness and increasing social contact and that removing acceptance-skills training from a mindfulness intervention would eliminate these benefits. In this dismantling trial, 153 community adults were randomly assigned to a 14-lesson smartphone-based intervention: (i) training in both monitoring and acceptance (Monitor+Accept), (ii) training in monitoring only (Monitor Only), or (iii) active control training. For 3 d before and after the intervention, ambulatory assessments were used to measure loneliness and social contact in daily life. Consistent with predictions, Monitor+Accept training reduced daily-life loneliness by 22% (d = 0.44, P = 0.0001) and increased social contact by two more interactions each day (d = 0.47, P = 0.001) and one more person each day (d = 0.39, P= 0.004), compared with both Monitor Only and control trainings. These findings describe a behavioral therapeutic target for improving social-relationship functioning; by fostering equanimity with feelings of loneliness and social disconnect, acceptance-skills training may allow loneliness to dissipate and encourage greater engagement with others in daily life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6397548/Loneliness and social isolation are a growing public health concern, yet there are few evidence-based interventions for mitigating these social risk factors. Accumulating evidence suggests that mindfulness interventions can improve social-relationship processes. However, the active ingredients of mindfulness training underlying these improvements are unclear. Developing mindfulness-specific skills—namely, (i) monitoring present-moment experiences with (ii) an orientation of acceptance—may change the way people perceive and relate toward others. We predicted that developing openness and acceptance toward present experiences is critical for reducing loneliness and increasing social contact and that removing acceptance-skills training from a mindfulness intervention would eliminate these benefits. In this dismantling trial, 153 community adults were randomly assigned to a 14-lesson smartphone-based intervention: (i) training in both monitoring and acceptance (Monitor+Accept), (ii) training in monitoring only (Monitor Only), or (iii) active control training. For 3 d before and after the intervention, ambulatory assessments were used to measure loneliness and social contact in daily life. Consistent with predictions, Monitor+Accept training reduced daily-life loneliness by 22% (d = 0.44, P = 0.0001) and increased social contact by two more interactions each day (d = 0.47, P = 0.001) and one more person each day (d = 0.39, P= 0.004), compared with both Monitor Only and control trainings. These findings describe a behavioral therapeutic target for improving social-relationship functioning; by fostering equanimity with feelings of loneliness and social disconnect, acceptance-skills training may allow loneliness to dissipate and encourage greater engagement with others in daily life.

 

Overweight and Obese Yoga Practitioners have a Higher Quality of Life

Overweight and Obese Yoga Practitioners have a Higher Quality of Life

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Doing yoga decreases stress, improves flexibility, and increases muscle tone and strength. People with larger bodies often have trouble with joint pain; yoga can help by improving the body’s alignment to reduce strain on joints by allowing the frame to bear more of the body’s weight.” – Ann Pizer

 

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

 

Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to obese individuals. But, despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment. Mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesityalter eating behavior and improve health in obesity. This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity alone or in combination with other therapies. Yoga may be particularly beneficial for the obese as it is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise. Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. These include significant loss in weight and body mass index (BMI), resting metabolism, and body fat in obese women with Type 2 diabetes and improve health in the obese.

 

In today’s Research News article “Quality of Life in Yoga Experienced and Yoga Naïve Asian Indian Adults with Obesity.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515061/), Telles and colleagues recruited overweight and obese (BMI>25) adults (aged 20-59 years) and assessed them for participation in yoga practice and their quality of life, including general self-esteem, enjoyment in physical activities, satisfactory social contacts, satisfaction concerning work, sexual pleasure, and focus on eating behavior.

 

They found that in comparison to non-participants in yoga practice, the yoga participants had significantly higher overall quality of life including higher levels of general self-esteem, enjoyment in physical activities, satisfactory social contacts, and satisfaction concerning work. Hence, participation in yoga practice was found to be associated with significantly higher quality of life in overweight and obese individuals.

 

These findings are correlational and causation cannot be determined. It is possible that yoga practice causes improved quality of life, or that people with high quality of life tend to engage in yoga practice, or that some other factor, e.g. affluence, large social network, results in higher levels of both. Nevertheless, it is clear that practicing yoga is associated with better, more enjoyable lives, that overweight and obese yoga practitioners have a higher quality of life.

 

“’I think yoga can be a wonderful form of movement that bigger-bodied people can adapt for themselves.’ For folks carrying more weight, low-impact exercises like yoga may be more comfortable than, say, running on the pavement.” – Laura McMullen

 

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

 

Telles, S., Sharma, S. K., Singh, A., Kala, N., Upadhyay, V., Arya, J., & Balkrishna, A. (2019). Quality of Life in Yoga Experienced and Yoga Naïve Asian Indian Adults with Obesity. Journal of obesity, 2019, 9895074. doi:10.1155/2019/9895074

 

Abstract

Background

Obesity adversely affects quality of life which then acts as a barrier to weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Hence, those interventions which positively influence the quality of life along with weight reduction are considered useful for sustained weight loss in persons with obesity. An earlier study showed better quality of life in obese adults who had experience of yoga compared to yoga naïve obese adults. However, the main limitation of the study was the small sample size (n=20 in each group).

Objective

The present study aimed to determine whether with larger sample sizes the quality of life would differ in yoga experienced compared to yoga naïve adults with obesity.

Methods

There were 596 Asian Indian obese adults (age range 20 to 59 years; group mean age ± SD; 43.9 ± 9.9 years): of whom (i) 298 were yoga experienced (154 females; group mean age ± SD; 44.0 ± 9.8 years) with a minimum of 1 month of experience in yoga practice and (ii) 298 were yoga naïve (154 females; group mean age ± SD; 43.8 ± 10.0 years). All the participants were assessed for quality of life using the Moorehead–Ardelt quality of life questionnaire II. Data were drawn from a larger nationwide trial which assessed the effects of yoga compared to nutritional advice on obesity over a one-year follow-up period (CTRI/2018/05/014077).

Results

There were higher participant-reported outcomes for four out of six aspects of quality of life in the yoga experienced compared to the yoga naïve (p < 0.008, based on t values of the least squares linear regression analyses, Bonferroni adjusted, and adjusted for age, gender, and BMI as covariates). These were enjoyment in physical activities, ability to work, self-esteem, and social satisfaction.

Conclusion

Obese adults with yoga experience appear to have better quality of life in specific aspects, compared to yoga naïve persons with a comparable degree of obesity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515061/

 

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/