Improve Psychological Well-Being at Work with a Mindfulness App

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being at Work with a Mindfulness App

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

Mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. It’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual, as well as organizational, goals.” Jacqueline Carter

 

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

 

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

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with busy employee 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 reducing stress and improving psychological well-being in employees in real-world work settings.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6215525/), Bostock and colleagues recruited healthy adults in the workplace and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to 45 days of daily mindfulness training with the “Headspace” app for their smartphones. They were measured before and after the intervention and 8 weeks later for blood pressure and daily well-being at 5 different times during the day, psychological well-being, anxiety, depression, job strain, job status, workplace social support, and mindfulness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list controls the participants who used the mindfulness training app had significantly higher levels of psychological well-being, daily positive emotions, and workplace social support and significantly lower levels of blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and job strain. They found that these benefits only occurred in participants who completed 10 or more practice sessions. Most of these improvements were maintained at the 8-week follow-up.

 

The research design contained a control condition but the condition was not active. This leaves open the possibility of placebo effects, demand characteristics, and experimenter bias. Employees that used the app less than 10 times, however, could be seen as an active control and they did not show improvements. Nevertheless, the results suggest that using a mindfulness training smartphone app can improve the psychological well-being of employees in the workplace. Since they can receive the training at their own convenience and schedule, it is especially applicable to busy real-world work environments. The low cost of this training suggests that it can be used over large numbers of employees, at diverse locations.

 

So, improve psychological well-being at work with a mindfulness app.

 

“mindfulness and mindfulness-based practices improve self-regulation of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, linking them to both performance and employee well-being in the workplace.” Theresa Glomb

 

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

 

Bostock, S., Crosswell, A. D., Prather, A. A., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of occupational health psychology, 24(1), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000118

 

Abstract

We investigated whether a mindfulness meditation program delivered via a smartphone application (app) could improve psychological well-being, reduce job strain, and reduce ambulatory blood pressure during the workday. Participants were 238 healthy employees from two large UK companies that were randomized to a mindfulness meditation practice app or a wait-list control condition. The app offered 45 pre-recorded 10–20 minute guided audio meditations. Participants were asked to complete one meditation per day. Psychosocial measures, and blood pressure throughout one working day, were measured at baseline and 8 weeks later; a follow-up survey was also emailed to participants 16 weeks after the intervention start. Usage data showed that during the 8-week intervention period, participants randomized to the intervention completed an average of 17 meditation sessions (range 0 to 45 sessions). The intervention group reported significant improvement in well-being, distress, job strain, and perceptions of workplace social support compared to the control group. In addition, the intervention group had a marginally significant decrease in self-measured workday systolic blood pressure from pre to post intervention. Sustained positive effects in the intervention group were found for well-being and job strain at the 16-week follow-up assessment. This trial suggests that short guided mindfulness meditations delivered via smartphone and practiced multiple times per week can improve outcomes related to work stress and well-being, with potentially lasting effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6215525/

 

Improve Mood with Tai Chi or Qigong Practice

Improve Mood with Tai Chi or Qigong Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“adding a mind-body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults. . . With tai chi, we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing patients to additional medications.” – Helen Lavretsky

 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18% of the population. A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is that the suffer overly identifies with and personalizes their thoughts. The sufferer has recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. Indeed, Mindfulness practices have been shown to be quite effective in relieving anxiety. Clinically diagnosed depression affects over 6% of the population. Depression can be difficult to treat. Fortunately, Mindfulness training is also effective for treating depression.

 

Anxiety disorders and clinical depression have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders and for depression either alone or in combination with other therapies. Mindful Movement practices such as Qigong and Tai Chi have been found to be effective for depression and anxiety. Research has been accumulating. So, it is important to step back and examine what has been learned regarding the application of Qigong and Tai Chi practices for mood.

 

In today’s Research News article “Qigong and Tai-Chi for Mood Regulation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6519567/), Yeung and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness of Qigong and Tai Chi practices for improving mood.

 

They found that the published research reports that Qigong and Tai Chi practice produce significant decreases in anxiety and depression and increases in psychological well-being, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. In addition, Qigong and Tai Chi practice have been shown to be effective in reducing depression that accompanies diseases including fibromyalgia, arthritis, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

 

The mechanisms by which Qigong and Tai Chi practice improves mood are unknown. But it has been speculated that it may work by increasing mindfulness, reduces perceived stress, improving interoception, producing neuroplastic changes in the brain, improving respiration control, and altering genes. It may be that these practices produce the benefits through a combination of mechanisms or that different mechanisms underlie different benefits. Regardless, the evidence is compelling that Qigong and Tai Chi practice have beneficial effects on the psychological well-being of healthy people and people with diseases.

 

Qigong and Tai Chi  practices are gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, are inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, they can also be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. All of these characteristics make Qigong and Tai Chi  excellent practices for the improvement mood.

 

So, improve mood with Tai Chi or Qigong Practice.

 

“In 82% of studies, tai chi greatly improved mood and lowered anxiety. Plus, it was shown to be an effective treatment for depression.” – Harvard Health

 

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

 

Yeung, A., Chan, J., Cheung, J. C., & Zou, L. (2018). Qigong and Tai-Chi for Mood Regulation. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing), 16(1), 40–47. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.focus.20170042

 

Abstract

Qigong and Tai-Chi are traditional self-healing, self-cultivation exercises originating in ancient China. These exercises are characterized by coordinated body posture and movements, deep rhythmic breathing, meditation, and mental focus based on traditional Chinese medicine theories. Although the exact mechanisms of Qigong’s and Tai-Chi’s effects on physical and mental well-being are unknown, these practices may be viewed as meditative movements and share many of the healing elements observed in mindfulness meditation. Clinical studies including randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses have shown that both Qigong and Tai-Chi have beneficial effects on psychological well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Qigong and Tai-Chi frequently involve anchoring attention to interoceptive sensations related to breath or other parts of the body, which has been shown to enhance nonreactivity to aversive thoughts and impulses. Preliminary studies suggest that the slow movements in Qigong and Tai-Chi with slowing of breath frequency could alter the autonomic system and restore homeostasis, attenuating stress related to hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity and modulating the balance of the autonomic nervous system toward parasympathetic dominance. Qigong’s and Tai-Chi’s effects on emotion regulation could occur through changes in multiple prefrontal regions, the limbic system, and the striatum or in the expression of genes linked to inflammatory responses and stress-related pathways.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6519567/

 

Yoga Practitioners have Better Physical and Psychological Health

Yoga Practitioners have Better Physical and Psychological Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Multiple studies have confirmed the many mental and physical benefits of yoga. Incorporating it into your routine can help enhance your health, increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.” – Rachel Link

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. It is both an exercise and a mind-body practice that stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. One way to look at the benefits of yoga practice is to look at the mental and physical health of yoga practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Yoga practice in the UK: a cross-sectional survey of motivation, health benefits and behaviours.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044896/ ), Cartwright and colleagues performed an online survey of yoga practitioners in the UK. They were asked to answer questions regarding yoga practice, meditation practice, body size, health, well-being, psychological health, smoking, diet, alcohol intake, fruit/vegetable intake, exercise apart from yoga, satisfaction with life, perceived stress, yoga impacts on health, and yoga related injuries.

 

They found that in comparison to the norms for the UK the yoga practitioners were higher in overall health, fruit/vegetable intake, exercise apart from yoga, happiness, and satisfaction with life, and lower in body size, smoking, alcohol intake, and perceived stress. The yoga practitioners believed that yoga practice improved their physical and mental health, stress levels, strength, flexibility, and sleep. Correlation analysis revealed that the higher the frequency of yoga practice the higher the levels of well-being, satisfaction with life, and happiness and the lower the levels of perceived stress.

 

These are interesting results but it should be kept in mind that the findings may represent differences in the people who chose to engage in a yoga practice rather than due to yoga practice itself. Regardless, the survey revealed that yoga practitioners are generally physically and psychologically healthy, engage in healthier behaviors, and believe that yoga practice is responsible for these benefits. Previous controlled studies have revealed that yoga practice improves the physical and psychological health of the participants. So, it is reasonable to conclude that the survey results are due, at least in part, to the beneficial effects of yoga practice.

 

So, improve physical and psychological health with yoga practice.

 

“On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. And on a psychological level, yoga can help you cultivate mindfulness as you shift your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.” – Linda Schlamadinger McGrath

 

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

 

Cartwright, T., Mason, H., Porter, A., & Pilkington, K. (2020). Yoga practice in the UK: a cross-sectional survey of motivation, health benefits and behaviours. BMJ open, 10(1), e031848. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031848

 

Abstract

Objectives

Despite the popularity of yoga and evidence of its positive effects on physical and mental health, little is known about yoga practice in the UK. This study investigated the characteristics of people who practise yoga, reasons for initiating and maintaining practice, and perceived impact of yoga on health and well-being.

Design, setting and participants

A cross-sectional online anonymous survey distributed through UK-based yoga organisations, studios and events, through email invites and flyers. 2434 yoga practitioners completed the survey, including 903 yoga teachers: 87% were women, 91% white and 71% degree educated; mean age was 48.7 years.

Main outcome measures

Perceived impact of yoga on health conditions, health outcomes and injuries. Relationships between yoga practice and measures of health, lifestyle, stress and well-being.

Results

In comparison with national population norms, participants reported significantly higher well-being but also higher anxiety; lower perceived stress, body mass index and incidence of obesity, and higher rates of positive health behaviours. 47% reported changing their motivations to practise yoga, with general wellness and fitness key to initial uptake, and stress management and spirituality important to current practice. 16% of participants reported starting yoga to manage a physical or mental health condition. Respondents reported the value of yoga for a wide range of health conditions, most notably for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions. 20.7% reported at least one yoga-related injury over their lifetime. Controlling for demographic factors, frequency of yoga practice accounted for small but significant variance in health-related regression models (p<0.001).

Conclusion

The findings of this first detailed UK survey were consistent with surveys in other Western countries. Yoga was perceived to have a positive impact on physical and mental health conditions and was linked to positive health behaviours. Further investigation of yoga’s role in self-care could inform health-related challenges faced by many countries.

Strengths and limitations of this study:

  • This is the first comprehensive survey to assess the practice and perceived impact of yoga on health, lifestyle-related behaviours and well-being in the UK.
  • The survey design captures the significant number of practitioners who take up yoga to manage a physical or mental health condition, and identifies health conditions for which yoga is rated as most helpful in self-management.
  • Despite the large sample, it was self-selected and unlikely to be representative of all yoga practitioners.
  • The results relied on retrospective and self-report data which may be subject to memory bias and social desirability.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044896/

 

Improve Doctor’s Performance and Well-Being with Mindfulness

Improve Doctor’s Performance and Well-Being with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Anyone whose work involves immense human suffering needs to be aware of their inner life. The nature of the work that physicians do makes [them] more vulnerable to negative emotions or making errors,” – Ronald Epstein

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion.

 

Improving the psychological health of doctors has to be a priority. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, improving emotional regulation, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to improve the performance and psychological health of doctors. Indeed, there have been a number of research studies on the topic. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been found.

 

In today’s Research News article “The impact of mindfulness-based interventions on doctors’ well-being and performance: A systematic review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7003865/), Scheepers and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effects of mindfulness training on the performance and well-being of doctors. They report on 24 published studies.

 

They report that the published studies found that mindfulness-based trainings significantly improved the performance and well-being of doctors. This was true particularly for group based mindfulness trainings and for trainings such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) that contained multiple elements of mindfulness trainings. There are “five different elements: (i) integration of mindfulness theory; (ii) provision of didactic information on mindfulness; (iii) development of self‐awareness about thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations; (iv) promotion of attentive and behavioural self‐regulation and positive qualities (curiosity, joy, compassion), and (v) training of meditation practice.” These positive effects were reported across different educational and hospital settings and equally for residents and specialists.

 

The accumulating evidence makes a convincing case for the efficacy of mindfulness-based trainings to improve the performance and well-being of physicians. This should improve their impacts on their patients’ health and should reduce the likelihood of eventual burnout. Although, the review did not focus on mechanisms it is likely that mindfulness has these effects by improving the doctors’ ability to withstand stress and improve their ability to effectively deal with their emotions.

 

So, improve doctor’s performance and well-being with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness is especially suited to physicians, because it can help counteract the worrying, perfectionism and self-judgment that are so common among doctors.” – WellMD

 

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

 

Scheepers, R. A., Emke, H., Epstein, R. M., & Lombarts, K. (2020). The impact of mindfulness-based interventions on doctors’ well-being and performance: A systematic review. Medical education, 54(2), 138–149. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.14020

 

Abstract

Objectives

The well‐being of doctors is at risk, as evidenced by high burnout rates amongst doctors around the world. Alarmingly, burned‐out doctors are more likely to exhibit low levels of professionalism and provide suboptimal patient care. Research suggests that burnout and the well‐being of doctors can be improved by mindfulness‐based interventions (MBIs). Furthermore, MBIs may improve doctors’ performance (eg in empathy). However, there are no published systematic reviews that clarify the effects of MBIs on doctor well‐being or performance to inform future research and professional development programmes. We therefore systematically reviewed and narratively synthesised findings on the impacts of MBIs on doctors’ well‐being and performance.

Methods

We searched PubMed and PsycINFO from inception to 9 May 2018 and independently reviewed studies investigating the effects of MBIs on doctor well‐being or performance. We systematically extracted data and assessed study quality according to the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument (MERSQI), and narratively reported study findings.

Results

We retrieved a total of 934 articles, of which 24 studies met our criteria; these included randomised, (un)controlled or qualitative studies of average quality. Effects varied across MBIs with different training contents or formats: MBIs including essential mindfulness training elements, or employing group‐based training, mostly showed positive effects on the well‐being or performance of doctors across different educational and hospital settings. Doctors perceived both benefits (enhanced self‐ and other‐understanding) and challenges (time limitations and feasibility) associated with MBIs. Findings were subject to the methodological limitations of studies (eg the use of self‐selected participants, lack of placebo interventions, use of self‐reported outcomes).

Conclusions

This review indicates that doctors can perceive positive impacts of MBIs on their well‐being and performance. However, the evidence was subject to methodological limitations and does not yet support the standardisation of MBIs in professional development programmes. Rather, health care organisations could consider including group‐based MBIs as voluntary modules for doctors with specific well‐being needs or ambitions regarding professional development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7003865/

Improve Healthcare Workers Wellness with Tai Chi

Improve Healthcare Workers Wellness with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice . . . has value in treating or preventing many health problems.” – Harvard Womens Health

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. Improving the psychological health of health care professionals has to be a priority.

 

Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Tai Chi and Qigong are mindfulness practices that have been shown to improve physical and psychological health. Hence, it is reasonable to examine the ability of Tai Chi practice as a means to improve the well-being of medical professionals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi and Workplace Wellness for Health Care Workers: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982315/), Cocchiara and colleagues reviewed and summarized the published research studies on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice on the psychological health of medical professionals. They report on the findings from 6 published research studies.

 

They report that the published studies found were not of high methodological quality and as such caution must be exercised in interpreting the findings. But the published reports suggest that Tai Chi practice improves the physical and psychological well-being of healthcare workers. It appears to work by reducing the physiological and psychological responses to stress in the workplace and this in turn results in improved well-being. Hence, although higher quality research is needed the published research suggests that Tai Chi practice is a safe and effective method of improving the well-being of healthcare workers.

 

So, improve healthcare workers wellness with Tai Chi.

 

you lose flexibility and balance as you get older, and tai chi is a way to get moving again without pounding on your joints.” – Christina Heiser

 

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

 

Cocchiara, R. A., Dorelli, B., Gholamalishahi, S., Longo, W., Musumeci, E., Mannocci, A., & La Torre, G. (2020). Tai Chi and Workplace Wellness for Health Care Workers: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(1), 343. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17010343

 

Abstract

Several studies show the positive effects of new non-medical therapies known as complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs). In this context, the discipline of tai chi is obtaining a wider consensus because of its many beneficial effects both on the human body and mind. The aim of this study was to perform a systematic review of the scientific literature concerning the relationship between tai chi practice and wellness of health care workers (HCW) in their professional setting. The research was performed in September 2019, investigating the databases Cinahl, Scopus, Web of Science, and PubMed. Full-text articles, written in English language and published after 1995, were taken into account. No restrictions regarding the study design were applied. A quality assessment was developed using AMSTAR, Jadad, Newcastle–Ottawa Scale, INSA, and CASE REPORT scale. Six papers were finally included: Three clinical trials, one observational study, one systematic review, and one case report. The methodological quality of the included studies was judged as medium level. In conclusion, this systematic review suggests the potential impact of interventions such as tai chi as tools for reducing work-related stress among healthcare professionals. Further research will be needed in order to gain robust evidence of its efficacy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982315/

 

Improve Well-Being with a Smartphone Mindfulness App

Improve Well-Being with a Smartphone Mindfulness App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“What do you do when you can’t afford therapy but are struggling to handle your mental illness alone? You could download an app. In recent years, there’s been a proliferation of mental health apps available to smartphone users. These reasonably-priced, or most often free, mental health apps offer a wealth of resources that make therapeutic techniques more accessible, portable, and cost-effective.” – Jessica Truchel

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. This results in costs that many college students 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 college 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 college students.

 

In today’s Research News article “Intermittent mindfulness practice can be beneficial, and daily practice can be harmful. An in depth, mixed methods study of the “Calm” app’s (mostly positive) effects.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6928287/?report=classic), Clarke and Draper recruited healthy college students and had them complete a 7-day mindfulness training with the “Calm” smartphone app. The program consists of once a day 10-minute trainings. The students completed measures before and after training of mindfulness, well-being, and self-efficacy.

 

They found that after the 7-day training there were significant increases in mindfulness, well-being, and self-efficacy. They report that students who only completed 1 or 2 of the 7 “Calm” modules did not obtain the benefits. It appears that completing 3 or more of the modules is necessary to improve the students’ psychological health.

 

This is a brief study without a comparison condition and so the results must be interpreted cautiously. But, a number of prior studies have demonstrated that mindfulness trainings with smartphone apps are effective in improving well-being. In addition, the students who did not complete a significant number of the 7 training modules did not show improvements in psychological health. So, it would appear that the use of smartphone apps are a convenient method to teach mindfulness and this can have a significant impact on the psychological health of the users.

 

So, improve well-being with a smartphone mindfulness app.

 

Mental health apps can be effective in making therapy more accessible, efficient, and portable.” – Mary Let

 

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

 

Clarke, J., & Draper, S. (2019). Intermittent mindfulness practice can be beneficial, and daily practice can be harmful. An in depth, mixed methods study of the “Calm” app’s (mostly positive) effects. Internet interventions, 19, 100293. doi:10.1016/j.invent.2019.100293

 

Abstract

Objectives

Despite a weak evidence base, daily use of mindfulness-based self-help smartphone applications (apps) is said to promote wellbeing. However, many do not use these apps in the way that app developers and mindfulness proponents recommend. We sought to determine whether the “Calm” app works, and whether it does so even when it is used intermittently.

Methods

Employing a mixed-methods design, we recruited a self-selected sample of 269 students from a Scottish university (81% female, 84% white, mean age 23.89) to engage with a seven-day introductory mindfulness course, delivered using Calm, currently one of the most popular, yet under-researched, apps.

Results

Daily course engagement was associated with significant gains in wellbeing (p ≤.001, d = 0.42), trait mindfulness (p ≤.001, d = 0.50) and self-efficacy (p ≤.014, d = 0.21). Intermittent course engagement was also associated with significant gains in wellbeing (p ≤.028, d = 0.34), trait mindfulness (p ≤.010, d = 0.47) and self-efficacy (p ≤.028, d = 0.32). This study is therefore the first to demonstrate that the Calm app is associated with positive mental health outcomes. It also shows that regular use is not essential. A thematic analysis of qualitative data supported these quantitative findings. However it also revealed that some participants had negative experiences with the app.

Conclusions for practice

Mindfulness-based self-help apps such as Calm have the potential to both enhance and diminish users’ wellbeing. Intermittent mindfulness practice can lead to tangible benefits. Therefore, mindfulness proponents should not recommend daily practice, should increase awareness of the potential for negative outcomes, and resist the idea that mindfulness practice works for everyone. Developers of mindfulness apps ought to make specific features customisable in order to enhance their effectiveness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6928287/?report=classic

 

Mindfulness is Related to the Well-Being of First Year College Students

Mindfulness is Related to the Well-Being of First Year College Students

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events,” – Abby Fortin

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

Contemplative practices including meditationmindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, these practices have been found to reduce stress and improve psychological health in college students. But these techniques have been primarily tested with western populations and may not be sensitive to the unique situations, cultures, and education levels of diverse populations. Hence, there is a need to investigate the relationships of mindfulness to psychological health with diverse populations. There are indications that mindfulness therapies may be effective in diverse populations. But there is a need for further investigation with different populations.

 

In today’s Research News article “Relationship Between Dispositional Mindfulness and Living Condition and the Well-Being of First-Year University Students in Japan.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02831/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1191386_69_Psycho_20191224_arts_A), Irie and colleagues had first year Japanese college students complete questionnaires measuring mindfulness, well-being, living conditions and daily stressors. These data were then subjected to hierarchical multivariate regression analysis.

 

They found that the greater the number of daily life stressors, the lower the well-being of the first-year college students and the higher the levels of mindfulness the greater the well-being of the students. In addition, they found that for students low in mindfulness, living alone decreased well-being. But for students high in mindfulness, living alone had no effect on well-being.

 

It has been well established with multiple groups that mindfulness improves well-being. The present findings suggest that mindfulness is positively related to well-being in first-year Japanese college students. This further expands the generalizability of the mindfulness-well-being relationship. In addition, the results suggest that mindfulness may protect the students from the deleterious effects of living alone, away from home, on the difficult psychological adjustments occurring during the transition to college. It is for future research to establish if mindfulness training may help students in their adjustment to college life.

 

So, mindfulness is related to the well-being of first year college students.

 

mindfulness training can improve the mental health of university students. The finding is important as recent evidence suggests university students are more likely to develop mental health problems when compared with the general population.” – Rick Nauert

 

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

 

Irie T and Yokomitsu K (2019) Relationship Between Dispositional Mindfulness and Living Condition and the Well-Being of First-Year University Students in Japan. Front. Psychol. 10:2831. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02831

 

The present study was conducted to examine how dispositional mindfulness and living conditions are related to well-being among first-year university students in Japan. Participants were 262 Japanese first-year students (156 females and 106 males; Mage = 18.77 years, SDage = 0.85). Dispositional mindfulness was measured using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), and living condition was operationalized as living at home or living alone after having left their home. Hierarchical multivariate regression analysis was used to analyze whether the factors of living condition and dispositional mindfulness had predictive effects on well-being. The results showed that dispositional mindfulness positively correlated with well-being in first-year university students; however, living condition had no significant correlation. On the other hand, the interaction between living condition and dispositional mindfulness significantly correlated with well-being. Simple slope analysis revealed that higher levels of dispositional mindfulness had a protective effect in the relationship between living condition and well-being. These results suggest that an intervention to promote dispositional mindfulness could be effective in protecting the well-being of first-year university students, especially for those who have left their home and are living alone. Further research will be necessary to examine, longitudinally, how mental health changes depending on the level of dispositional mindfulness of first-year university students.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02831/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1191386_69_Psycho_20191224_arts_A

 

Increase Equanimity and Insight Thereby Increasing Well-Being with Meditation

Increase Equanimity and Insight Thereby Increasing Well-Being with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Equanimity is a wonderful quality, a spaciousness and balance of heart. Although it grows naturally with our meditation practice, equanimity can also be cultivated in the same systematic way as mindfulness or compassion. We can feel this possibility of balance in our hearts in the midst of life when we recognize that life is not in our control.” – Insight Timer

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “PROMISE: A Model of Insight and Equanimity as the Key Effects of Mindfulness Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6817944/), Eberth and colleagues investigate a proposed model of how meditation experience produces its benefits. They performed 2 studies. In the first, they interviewed experienced meditators asking them to identify and elaborate on things that they noticed had changed about themselves as a result of meditation.

 

From the reports they identified two principal factors that were altered. The first they labelled as equanimity which was a “reduced frequency and duration of emotional reactions, such as boredom, self-blame, anxiety, guilt, greed, envy, and many more.”  There is not a cessation of emotions but they “would recognize the emotion-evoking feature of the situation (e.g., praise or blame) but not experience a desire or resistance that would prolong or intensify the emotion.” The second factor they labelled as insight which were “convictional alterations that are accompanied by a subjective feeling of deep understanding and by changes in perception, judgment and/or behavior.” The interviews reflected that it was these changes that lead to positive changes in behavior and an alteration in the ideas of self.

 

In a second study they recruited experienced meditators and a control group of individuals who engaged in leisure time activities such as sorts, gardening, music, etc. They completed questionnaires measuring meditation practice, observation mode, including present moment attention and decentering; concept deactivation, including openness and acceptance; equanimity; insight; and life satisfaction.

 

They found that the meditators had significantly higher levels of all of the measured variables; observation mode, concept deactivation, equanimity, insight, and life satisfaction. They found that the greater the meditation experience the higher the levels of both facets of the observation mode, present moment attention and decentering, openness and acceptance, and insight. They then performed a path analysis which found that meditation practice leads to increases in observation mode and concept deactivation that in turn lead to increases in equanimity and insight that in turn lead to increased life satisfaction.

 

These results are very interesting and support a model of how meditation changes the underlying mental processing of the individual leading to positive effects on the individual’s lives. They postulated that meditation practice leads to becoming very observant of the present moment without becoming attached to it, and to becoming more open and accepting of events without conceptualizing them. These changes then alter the practitioner to better be able to regulate their emotions and to better understand the nature of reality. These alterations in the individual improves their ability to enjoy and appreciate their existence.

 

This is an interesting model that deserves further research attention. A better understanding of the mechanisms by which meditation practice improves the individual’s physical and mental health and their enjoyment of life can lead to improved and targeted meditation practices for the improvement of the individual’s physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. This model is a good first step.

 

So, increase equanimity and insight thereby increasing well-being with meditation.

 

Insight Meditation is a simple and direct way to “see things as they are,” free from distortion.” – Josh Summers

 

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

 

Eberth, J., Sedlmeier, P., & Schäfer, T. (2019). PROMISE: A Model of Insight and Equanimity as the Key Effects of Mindfulness Meditation. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2389. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02389

 

Abstract

In a comprehensive meta-analysis on the effects of mindfulness meditation, Eberth and Sedlmeier (2012) identified a multitude of positive effects that covered a wide range of psychological variables, such as heightened mindfulness as measured through contemporary mindfulness scales, reduced negative emotions, increased positive emotions, changes in self-concept, enhanced attention, perception, and wellbeing, improved interpersonal abilities, and a reduction of negative personality traits. The present research aimed at developing and testing a comprehensive model explaining the wide range of mindfulness meditation effects and their temporal and causal relationships. In Study 1, interviews with meditators at different levels of experience were analyzed using a grounded theory procedure. The resulting model was triangulated and refined by concepts from both Western research and ancient Buddhist scriptures. The model developed highlights equanimity (reduction in emotional reactivity) and insight (alteration of cognitions) as the two key effects of mindfulness meditation that eventually lead to increased wellbeing. The model was pilot-tested with a large sample of meditators and non-meditators in Study 2. Data showed an acceptable fit with the model and indicated that meditators and non-meditators score significantly differently on the model’s core categories.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6817944/

 

Therapeutic Alliance is Important for Mindfulness Training to Improve the Psychological Health of Cancer Patients

Therapeutic Alliance is Important for Mindfulness Training to Improve the Psychological Health of Cancer Patients

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Both face-to-face and internet-based mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) reduced psychological distress compared with usual care in patients with cancer.” – Matthew Stenger

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that 15 million adults and children with a history of cancer are alive in the United States today. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. “Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions.” National Cancer Survivors Day.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depressionMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) consists of mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). During therapy the patient is trained to investigate and alter aberrant thought patterns underlying their reactions to cancer. It is thought that the alliance between therapist and patient that is formed during treatment is important for the effectiveness of therapy. So, it would make sense to study the effectiveness of MBCT and the therapeutic alliance on the psychological distress of cancer patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Development of the Therapeutic Alliance and its Association With Internet-Based Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Distressed Cancer Patients: Secondary Analysis of a Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6827984/), Bisseling and colleagues recruited adult cancer patients and randomly assigned them to either a wait list control condition or to receive Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in a group setting in 8 weekly 2.5 hour sessions with daily homework or online in 8 weekly practice sessions with therapist feedback emails. The participants were measured before and after training for anxiety, depression, mental well-being, and therapeutic alliance consisting of questions on “(1) how closely client and therapist agree on and are mutually engaged in the goals of treatment; (2) how closely client and therapist agree on how to reach the treatment goals; and (3) the degree of mutual trust, acceptance, and confidence between the client and therapist.

 

Of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) participants significantly more dropped out of the online version (12.1%) than the group version(5.6%). The therapeutic alliance increased significantly over the intervention and did not differ between MBCT groups. They found that relative to baseline and the wait list control group MBCT training produced significant reductions in psychological distress and increases in mental well-being. In addition, the higher the level of therapeutic alliance at week 2 of the intervention the greater the reduction in psychological distress and increase in mental well-being over the program. Finally, they found that if the therapeutic alliance was weak at week 2 then there was less improvement in psychological distress in the group version of MBCT than the online version.

 

These results are in line with previous findings that mindfulness training produces improves mental well-being and decreases psychological distress in cancer patients, that online mindfulness training is effective, and that therapeutic alliance is important for the effectiveness of mindfulness training. These results suggest that the development of therapeutic alliance be emphasized in mindfulness training. It is interesting that therapeutic alliance can be just as effectively developed online as in person and that it is less responsive to early low therapeutic alliance. This may explain, in part, why online mindfulness training is very effective.

 

So, therapeutic alliance is important for mindfulness training to improve the psychological health of cancer patients.

 

mindfulness-based therapy is an effective way of treating anxiety and depression in cancer patients.” – Robert Zachariae

 

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

 

Bisseling, E., Cillessen, L., Spinhoven, P., Schellekens, M., Compen, F., van der Lee, M., & Speckens, A. (2019). Development of the Therapeutic Alliance and its Association With Internet-Based Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Distressed Cancer Patients: Secondary Analysis of a Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(10), e14065. doi:10.2196/14065

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an evidence-based group-based psychological treatment in oncology, resulting in reduction of depressive and anxiety symptoms. Internet-based MBCT (eMBCT) has been found to be an effective alternative for MBCT. The therapeutic alliance (the bond between therapist and patient,) is known to have a significant impact on psychological treatment outcomes, including MBCT. A primary concern in the practice of eMBCT is whether a good therapeutic alliance can develop. Although evidence for the beneficial effect of therapist assistance on treatment outcome in internet-based interventions (IBIs) is accumulating, it is still unclear whether the therapeutic alliance is related to outcome in IBIs.

Objective

This study aimed to (1) explore whether early therapeutic alliance predicts treatment dropout in MBCT or eMBCT, (2) compare the development of the therapeutic alliance during eMBCT and MBCT, and (3) examine whether early therapeutic alliance is a predictor of the reduction of psychological distress and the increase of mental well-being at posttreatment in both conditions.

Methods

This study was part of a multicenter randomized controlled trial (n=245) on the effectiveness of MBCT or eMBCT for distressed cancer patients. The therapeutic alliance was measured at the start of week 2 (ie, early therapeutic alliance), week 5, and week 9. Outcome measures were psychological distress, measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and mental well-being, measured with the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form.

Results

The strength of early therapeutic alliance did not predict treatment dropout in MBCT or eMBCT (B=−.39; P=.21). Therapeutic alliance increased over time in both conditions (F2,90=16.46; Wilks λ=0.732; P<.001). This increase did not differ between eMBCT and MBCT (F1,91=0.114; P=.74). Therapeutic alliance at week 2 predicted a decrease in psychological distress (B=−.12; t 114=−2.656; P=.01) and an increase in mental well-being (B=.23; t 113=2.651; P=.01) at posttreatment. The relationship with reduction of psychological distress differed between treatments: a weaker early therapeutic alliance predicted higher psychological distress at posttreatment in MBCT but not in eMBCT (B=.22; t 113=2.261; P=.03).

Conclusions

A therapeutic alliance can develop in both eMBCT and MBCT. Findings revealed that the strength of early alliance did not predict treatment dropout. Furthermore, the level of therapeutic alliance predicted reduced psychological distress and increased mental well-being at posttreatment in both conditions. Interestingly, the strength of therapeutic alliance appeared to be more related to treatment outcome in group-based MBCT than in eMBCT.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6827984/

 

Improve Well-Being in Nurses with Mindfulness

Improve Well-Being in Nurses with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“For nurses, many of them went into the field because of their ability to connect with people and make a difference in their lives. Mindfulness is a path to help us reconnect with what brings meaning to the profession. It brings humanity back to healthcare.” – Susan Bauer-Wu

 

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

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to reduce burnout and improve well-being in nurses.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness to promote nurses’ well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6716566/), Penque recruited Registered Nurses (RNs). They participated in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 1-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants were also encouraged to perform daily practice at home. They were measured before and after training and 3 months later for mindfulness, self-compassion, serenity, interpersonal reactivity, work satisfaction, and burnout.

 

She found that following the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program there were significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion including  self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness, serenity, and interpersonal reactivity including perspective taking, and empathetic concern. There were also significant decreases in burnout, isolation, overidentification, self-judgment, and personal distress. She also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the higher the levels of self-compassion and serenity.

 

The results must be interpreted with caution as there wasn’t a control, comparison, group. So, potential confounds such as placebo effects, experimenter bias, Hawthorne effects, etc. were present. Other, better controlled studies, however, have demonstrated that mindfulness training increases self-compassion and reduces burnout. So, it is likely that these same benefits of mindfulness training occurred here irrespective of confounding conditions.

 

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is a complex of meditation, yoga, and body scan practices. It is not possible to determine which components or combination of components were responsible for the benefits. Regardless, the results suggest that MBSR training is a safe and effective program to improve the well-being of nurses and reduce burnout. This can not only improve the psychological health of the nurses but also improve the retention of these valuable and important healthcare workers.

 

So, improve well-being in nurses with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness can positively affect how nurses feel and cope with the pressures of their work, thereby resulting in better self-care and improved patient outcomes.” – Nursing Times

 

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

 

Penque S. (2019). Mindfulness to promote nurses’ well-being. Nursing management, 50(5), 38–44. doi:10.1097/01.NUMA.0000557621.42684.c4

 

This article examines the effects of MBSR on job-relevant factors, including mindfulness, self-compassion, empathy, serenity, work satisfaction, incidental overtime, and job burnout. Nursing is a high-stress profession that may be taking a toll on our nurses. Mindfulness-based programs can help nurses develop skills to manage clinical stress and improve their health; increase overall attention, empathy, and presence with patients and families; and experience work satisfaction, serenity, decreased incidental overtime, and reduced job burnout.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6716566/