Improve Psychological Well-Being and Productivity with Work-Place Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Well-Being and Productivity with Work-Place Mindfulness


“Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they run rampant. It’s a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier, less stressful, ways.” – Drew Hansen


Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. 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 physical and mental 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. Indeed, 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. There is a need, however, to better document the benefits of these programs.


In today’s Research News article “A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Kersemaekers and colleagues recruited employees in major European corporations and provided them with a workplace mindfulness program that consisted of 2 day-long training days plus eight 2.5 h-long sessions implemented in a group setting and included trainings in mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, pausing meditation, body scan and compassion meditation. They were also encouraged to practice at home. Participants were measured one month before, just before, and after the program for burnout, perceived stress, mindfulness, well-being, team environment; including organizational climate, team climate and personal performance, and program feasibility and satisfaction.


They compared the changes during the one-month baseline period to those occurring during the mindfulness training period and found that after training there were significantly greater reductions in burnout, perceived stress, particularly tension and worry, and organizational stress, and significantly greater improvements in psychological well-being and mindfulness, including presence and acceptance. There were also significant improvements in the participants perceptions of the organizational culture, including team decision making and cooperation, of the organizational climate, including atmosphere and respect, and of personal performance and productivity. There were high compliance and participation rates in the program. Hence, the workplace mindfulness program appeared to be feasible, safe, and effective.


The results have to be interpreted with caution as there wasn’t a control group. But, the fact that there was a one-month baseline where reactivity, bias, and time-based changes could be assessed, the conclusion would appear to be guardedly valid. Workplace mindfulness training improved the psychological well-being and mindfulness of the workers, the organizational climate, and the workers productivity. This suggests that workplace mindfulness programs can be of substantial benefit to the workers and the organization.


So, Improve Psychological Well-Being and Productivity with work-Place mindfulness.


“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” – Lao Tzu


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Kersemaekers W, Rupprecht S, Wittmann M, Tamdjidi C, Falke P, Donders R, Speckens A and Kohls N (2018) A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Front. Psychol. 9:195. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195


Background: Mindfulness trainings are increasingly offered in workplace environments in order to improve health and productivity. Whilst promising, there is limited research on the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions in workplace settings.

Objective: To examine the feasibility and effectiveness of a Workplace Mindfulness Training (WMT) in terms of burnout, psychological well-being, organizational and team climate, and performance.

Methods: This is a preliminary field study in four companies. Self-report questionnaires were administered up to a month before, at start of, and right at the end of the WMT, resulting in a pre-intervention and an intervention period. There was no separate control group. A total of 425 participants completed the surveys on the different time points. Linear mixed model analyses were used to analyze the data.

Results: When comparing the intervention period with the pre-intervention period, significantly greater improvements were found in measures of burnout (mean difference = 0.3, p < 0.001), perceived stress (mean difference = -0.2, p < 0.001), mindfulness [mean difference = 1.0 for the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) and 0.8 for the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), both p < 0.001], and well-being (mean difference = 0.4, p < 0.001). Additionally, greater increases in team climate, organizational climate and personal performance were reported during the intervention compared to the pre-intervention period with largest improvements in team cooperation (mean difference = 0.3, p < 0.001), productivity (mean difference = 0.5, p < 0.001), and stress (mean difference = -0.4, p < 0.001). Effect sizes were large for mindfulness (d > 0.8), moderate for well-being, burnout and perceived stress (d = 0.5–0.8), and ranged from low to moderate for organizational and team climate and personal performance (d = 0.2–0.8).

Conclusion: These preliminary data suggest that compared to the pre-intervention period, the intervention period was associated with greater reductions in burnout and perceived stress, improvements in mindfulness, well-being, and increases in team and organizational climate and personal performance. Due to design limitations, no conclusions can be drawn on the extent to which the WMT or non-specific factors such as time have contributed to the findings. Further studies, preferably using randomized controlled designs with longer follow up periods are needed to evaluate whether the associations found can be attributed to the WMT and whether these sustain after the training.


Mindfulness is Associated with Lower Aggression by Lowering Rumination

Mindfulness is Associated with Lower Aggression by Lowering Rumination


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness may restore the emotional resources needed to maintain self-control, and thus may have an important role to play in anger management by helping people to mindfully respond to provocation rather than react with anger.”- AMRA


The human tendency to lash out with aggression when threatened was adaptive for the evolution of the species. It helped promote the survival of the individual, the family, and the tribe. In the modern world, however, this trait has become more of a problem than an asset. It results in individual violence and aggression such as physical abuse, fights, road rage, and even murders, and in societal violence such as warfare. It may even be the basis for the horrors of terrorism and mass murder. Obviously, there is a need in modern society to control these violent and aggressive urges.


Aggression may, at least in part, be amplified by anger rumination; an uncontrollable, repetitive thinking about anger and its sources. This can produce a downward spiral where people repeatedly think about their anger which, in turn, reinforces the anger making it worse and worse. It is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. It’s replaying a dispute in the individual’s mind. It’s going over their anger, again and again. Fortunately, rumination may be interrupted by mindfulness. This may, in part, be a mechanism by which mindfulness training reduces aggression and hostility. Hence, mindfulness may be an antidote to violent and aggressive urges by interrupting anger rumination.


In today’s Research News article “Both trait and state mindfulness predict lower aggressiveness via anger rumination: A multilevel mediation analysis.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Eisenlohr-Moul and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete measures of overall and daily levels of mindfulness, anger, anger rumination, anger expression, aggressive inclinations, and aggressive behaviors. Daily measures were collected for 35 consecutive days. They analyzed the responses with sophisticated statistical modelling techniques.


They found that the higher the levels of daily the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness and non-judging the lower the levels of daily aggression, daily anger, and daily anger rumination. They also found that the higher the levels of daily anger and daily anger rumination the higher the levels of daily aggression. Hence, mindfulness predicted lower aggression while anger and anger rumination predicted higher aggression. When all three were used to predict aggression, the effects of mindfulness disappeared. With a mediation model, they were able to demonstrate that mindfulness was associated with lower aggression indirectly by mindfulness’ effects on anger and anger rumination which in turn effected aggression. So, mindfulness acted on aggression by the intermediaries of reduced anger and anger rumination.


These results are correlational and thus causation cannot be determined. There is a need to investigate whether mindfulness training can produce similar effects. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that the ability of mindfulness to lower anger and interrupt anger rumination may be the keys to the effectiveness of mindfulness in lowering aggression. By focusing on the present moment and not on past transgressions or worries about the future, rumination is disrupted. This in turn, lowers the likelihood of aggressive behavior. In this way mindfulness may be a means to lower the levels of aggression and violence in the modern world.


So, lower aggression by lowering rumination with mindfulness.


“The first step to managing your anger is to sit with it long enough to hear what it wants to tell you. To do this, you must turn to your body. Your body contains an abundance of information, and it never lies. By listening carefully to your body, you can build new habits for approaching your feelings. A new response strategy will replace the passive-aggressive pattern that may have dominated your life. And mindfulness is the key.” – Andrea Brandt


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Eisenlohr-Moul, T. A., Peters, J. R., Pond, R. S., & DeWall, C. N. (2016). Both trait and state mindfulness predict lower aggressiveness via anger rumination: A multilevel mediation analysis. Mindfulness, 7(3), 713–726.



Trait mindfulness, or the capacity for nonjudgmental, present-centered attention, predicts lower aggression in cross-sectional samples, an effect mediated by reduced anger rumination. Experimental work also implicates state mindfulness (i.e., fluctuations around one’s typical mindfulness) in aggression. Despite evidence that both trait and state mindfulness predict lower aggression, their relative impact and their mechanisms remain unclear. Higher trait mindfulness and state increases in mindfulness facets may reduce aggression-related outcomes by (1) limiting the intensity of anger, or (2) limiting rumination on anger experiences. The present study tests two hypotheses: First, that both trait and state mindfulness contribute unique variance to lower aggressiveness, and second, that the impact of both trait and state mindfulness on aggressiveness will be uniquely partially mediated by both anger intensity and anger rumination. 86 participants completed trait measures of mindfulness, anger intensity, and anger rumination, then completed diaries for 35 days assessing mindfulness, anger intensity, anger rumination, anger expression, and self-reported and behavioral aggressiveness. Using multilevel zero-inflated regression, we examined unique contributions of trait and state mindfulness facets to daily anger expression and aggressiveness. We also examined the mediating roles of anger intensity and anger rumination at both trait and state levels. Mindfulness facets predicted anger expression and aggressiveness indirectly through anger rumination after controlling for indirect pathways through anger intensity. Individuals with high or fluctuating aggression may benefit from mindfulness training to reduce both intensity of and rumination on anger.

Mindfulness is Associated with Improved Athletic Psychology in Elite Athletes

Mindfulness is Associated with Improved Athletic Psychology in Elite Athletes


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Meditation is becoming popular for many reasons, especially related to health. Athletes are also taking up the practice more and more because research has shown that meditation can be used as a tool to manage pain, decrease anxiety and improve focus.” – Kris Eiring


Athletic performance requires the harmony of mind and body. Excellence is in part physical and in part psychological. Without inheriting an athletic body and without many hours of training the individual will never reach an elite level. But, once there, the difference between winning and losing is psychological. That is why an entire profession of Sports Psychology has developed. “In sport psychology, competitive athletes are taught psychological strategies to better cope with a number of demanding challenges related to psychological functioning.” They use a number of techniques to enhance performance including anxiety or energy management, attention and concentration control (focusing), communication, goal setting, imagery, visualization, mental practice, self-talk, controlling negative emotions, team building, time management/organization.


Mindfulness training has been shown to enhance a number of the characteristics that are taught by Sports Psychologists. Mindfulness training improves attention and concentration and emotion regulation and reduces anxiety and worry and rumination, and the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, mindfulness training, including meditation and yoga practices, have been employed by elite athletes and even by entire teams to enhance their performance. There have been, however, very few empirical tests of the efficacy of mindfulness training to enhance elite athletes’ performance or the mechanism of action.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Mechanisms in Sports: Mediating Effects of Rumination and Emotion Regulation on Sport-Specific Coping.” (See summary below), Josefsson and colleagues examined the relationship of mindfulness effects on rumination and emotion regulation on athletic performance. They recruited a large sample of elite High School athletes from a variety of sports and requested that they complete measures of mindfulness, rumination, emotion regulation, and athletic coping skills. They analyzed the obtained data with correlation techniques and a sophisticated statistical technique called path analysis.


They found that, as has previous studies, that the higher the levels of mindfulness of the athletes the lower the levels of rumination and the higher the levels of emotion regulation. They also found with path analysis that mindfulness levels were associated with better athletic coping skills in two ways, directly and indirectly through mindfulness’ relationships with rumination and emotion regulation. In other words, the higher the levels of mindfulness the better the athletic coping skills. This occurred by a direct relationship of mindfulness on athletic coping skills and also due to the mindfulness’ association with lower rumination and improved emotion regulation and their relationships with improved athletic coping skills.


This study was correlational and causation cannot be determined. But the results suggest that mindfulness is an important asset for the elite athlete. They further suggest that mindfulness may enhance athletic performance by improving the athletes ability to cope with their emotions and by decreasing worry and rumination. It remains for future studies to actively train athletes in mindfulness skills and determine if emotion regulation, rumination, athletic coping skills, and athletic performance are enhanced. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness skills help and athlete cope with the psychological demands of elite athletic performance.


“The application of mindfulness to sport performance has recently become a popular research endeavor. By enhancing current moment awareness, a critical component of peak sport performance, some research has suggested that mindfulness exercises can help to generate “flow”, or a state of complete focus on the task or event at hand . . . mindfulness-based interventions for sports are effective because they help athletes direct their attention to the current athletic task, while minimizing external distractions.” – Mitch Plemmons


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary

Torbjörn Josefsson, Andreas Ivarsson, Magnus Lindwall, Henrik Gustafsson, Andreas Stenling, Jan Böröy, Emil Mattsson, Jakob Carnebratt, Simon Sevholt, Emil Falkevik. Mindfulness Mechanisms in Sports: Mediating Effects of Rumination and Emotion Regulation on Sport-Specific Coping. Mindfulness (2017). doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0711-4



The main objective of the project was to examine a proposed theoretical model of mindfulness mechanisms in sports. We conducted two studies (the first study using a cross-sectional design and the second a longitudinal design) to investigate if rumination and emotion regulation mediate the relation between dispositional mindfulness and sport-specific coping. Two hundred and forty-two young elite athletes, drawn from various sports, were recruited for the cross-sectional study. For the longitudinal study, 65 elite athletes were recruited. All analyses were performed using Bayesian statistics. The path analyses showed credible indirect effects of dispositional mindfulness on coping via rumination and emotion regulation in both the cross-sectional study and the longitudinal study. Additionally, the results in both studies showed credible direct effects of dispositional mindfulness on rumination and emotion regulation. Further, credible direct effects of emotion regulation as well as rumination on coping were also found in both studies. Our findings support the theoretical model, indicating that rumination and emotion regulation function as essential mechanisms in the relation between dispositional mindfulness and sport-specific coping skills. Increased dispositional mindfulness in competitive athletes (i.e. by practicing mindfulness) may lead to reductions in rumination, as well as an improved capacity to regulate negative emotions. By doing so, athletes may improve their sport-related coping skills, and thereby enhance athletic performance.

Improve the Symptoms of Stress with Mindfulness

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Improve the Symptoms of Stress with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Through mindfulness, individuals start to see their thoughts as less powerful. These distorted thoughts – such as “I always make mistakes” or “I’m a horrible person” – start to hold less weight. We ‘experience’ thoughts and other sensations, but we aren’t carried away by them. We just watch them come and go.” – William Marchand


Stress is universal. We are constantly under some form of stress. In fact, if we don’t have enough stress, we seek out more. Moderate stress can be a good thing promoting growth and flourishing. But, it must be moderate or what is called the optimum level of stress. Too little or too much stress can be damaging. Unfortunately for many of us living in a competitive, multitasking, modern environment stress is all too often higher than desirable. In addition, many of the normal mechanisms for dealing with stress have been eliminated. The business of modern life removes opportunities for rest, extra sleep, and leisure activities. Instead people are working extra hours and limiting or passing up entirely vacations to stay competitive. Persistently high levels of stress are damaging and can directly produce disease or debilitation increasing susceptibility to other diseases. Indeed, chronic stress has been associated with depression, anxiety, burnout, suicide attempts, poor immune functioning, and cardiovascular disorders.


It is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, 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 including meditation practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Because of their ability to relieve stress, mindfulness trainings are increasingly being practiced by individuals and are even being encouraged in some workplaces. But, some other treatments such as exercise or biofeedback may also be effective.


In today’s Research News article “A RCT Comparing Daily Mindfulness Meditations, Biofeedback Exercises, and Daily Physical Exercise on Attention Control, Executive Functioning, Mindful Awareness, Self-Compassion, and Worrying in Stressed Young Adults.” See:

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

de Bruin and colleagues recruited young adults, aged 18-40 years, who were high in perceived stress and randomly assigned them to either a daily mindfulness meditations, daily heart rate variability biofeedback, or daily physical exercise groups. The participants were provided a 2-hour orientation instruction and then practiced daily over 5 weeks for 10 to 20 minutes per day on an individualized practice plan. They were measured before and after treatment and 6-weeks later for attention control, executive function, mindfulness, self-compassion, and worry.


They found that all three interventions produced significant improvement from the pretest to posttest in attention control, executive function, mindfulness, self-compassion, and worry. These effects remained significant at the 6-week follow-up, suggesting lasting effects. All practices had moderate to large effects sizes. Surprisingly there were no significant differences between the three different practices as all produced significant improvements in the measures.


It is interesting that all three practices produced significant increases in mindfulness. This would be expected for the mindfulness meditation group but is somewhat surprising for the heart rate variability biofeedback and physical exercise groups. This fact may explain why all of the practices were beneficial. It suggests that improved mindfulness is responsible for the improvements in attention control, executive function, self-compassion, and worry. This seems reasonable, give that mindfulness training has been shown previously to improve attention control, executive function, self-compassion, and worry. Hence it appears that there are a number of practices that can improve the psychological conditions of stressed young adults and that they act by increasing mindfulness.


So, improve the symptoms of stress with mindfulness.


“mindfulness meditation promotes metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotion-regulation strategies.” Daphne Davis


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

De Bruin, E. I., van der Zwan, J. E., & Bögels, S. M. (2016). A RCT Comparing Daily Mindfulness Meditations, Biofeedback Exercises, and Daily Physical Exercise on Attention Control, Executive Functioning, Mindful Awareness, Self-Compassion, and Worrying in Stressed Young Adults. Mindfulness, 7(5), 1182–1192.



Our Western society is characterized by multitasking, competition, and constant time pressure. Negative effects of stress for the individual (anxiety, depression, somatic complaints) and for organizations and society (costs due to work absence) are very high. Thus, time-efficient self-help interventions to address these issues are necessary. This study assessed the effects of daily mindfulness meditations (MM) versus daily heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF) and daily physical exercise (PE) on attention control, executive functioning, mindful awareness, self-compassion, and worrying. Young adults (n = 75, age range 18 to 40) with elevated stress levels were randomized to MM, HRV-BF, or PE, and measurements were taken at pre-test, post-test, and follow-up. Interventions in all three groups were self-guided and lasted for 5 weeks. Generalized estimating equation analyses showed that overall, all three interventions were effective and did not differ from each other. However, practice time differed between groups, with participants in the PE group practicing much more than participants in the other two groups. Therefore, additional analyses were carried out in two subsamples. The optimal dose sample included only those participants who practiced for at least 70 % of the total prescribed time. In the equal dose sample, home practice intensity was equal for all three groups. Again, the effects of the three interventions did not differ. In conclusion, MM, HRV-BF, and PE are all effective self-help methods to improve attention control, executive functioning, mindful awareness, self-compassion, and worrying, and mindfulness meditation was not found to be more effective than HRV-biofeedback or physical exercise for these cognitive processes.


Get Mindful On-Line and Get Feeling Better


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“mindfulness exercises delivered in face-to-face settings or remotely via the Internet seem to yield similar changes in symptoms. The remote delivery does not seem to lessen the efficacy of mindfulness interventions.”– Johanna Boettcher


Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving the physical and psychological condition of otherwise healthy people and also treating the physical and psychological issues of people with illnesses. Techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be particularly effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.


The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, adopted so far, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules. As a results, there has been attempts to develop on-line mindfulness training programs. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs and making training schedules much more flexible. But, the question arises as to whether these programs are as effective as their traditional counterparts. Many believe that the presence of a therapist is a crucial component to the success of the programs and the lack of an active therapist in on-line programs may greatly reduce their effectiveness.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Interventions Delivered by Technology Without Facilitator Involvement: What Research Exists and What Are the Clinical Outcomes?” See:

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

Fish and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of technology-based mindfulness training programs that did not include an active facilitator’s participation. They found 10 studies published, 9 of which were web-based programs. They found that, in general, the mindfulness programs produced increases in mindfulness and reductions in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and rumination and these effects were maintained at follow-ups occurring as much as 6-months later. Unfortunately, compliance was relatively low and drop-out rates were relatively high.


These are encouraging findings and suggest that mindfulness can be effectively trained with web-based materials and that this can produce psychologically beneficial results. But, there were no direct comparisons to traditional programs. So, it cannot be determined if the web-based programs are as effective as traditional programs. In addition, there methods need to be developed to help maintain compliance and decrease dropping out of web-based programs. Regardless, the benefits are substantial and the results are sufficiently positive to encourage further research.


So, get mindful on-line and get feeling better.


“Internet delivery of mindfulness training may be a viable alternative if an evidence base can be established. It can be self-paced, less costly, and more accessible while additionally allowing for participant anonymity. “ – David Messer


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Fish, J., Brimson, J., & Lynch, S. (2016). Mindfulness Interventions Delivered by Technology Without Facilitator Involvement: What Research Exists and What Are the Clinical Outcomes? Mindfulness, 7(5), 1011–1023.



New cost-effective psychological interventions are needed to contribute to treatment options for psychiatric and physical health conditions. This systematic review aims to investigate the current literature on one potentially cost-effective form of mindfulness-based therapy, those delivered through technological platforms without any mindfulness facilitator input beyond the initial design of the programme. Three electronic databases (Ovid Medline, PsychINFO and Embase) were searched for relevant keywords, titles, medical subject headings (MeSH) and abstracts using search terms derived from a combination of two subjects: ‘mindfulness’ and ‘technology’. Overall, ten studies were identified. The majority of studies were web-based and similar in structure and content to face-to-face mindfulness-based stress reduction courses. Clinical outcomes of stress (n = 5), depression (n = 6) and anxiety (n = 4) were reported along with mindfulness (n = 4), the supposed mediator of effects. All eight studies that measured significance found at least some significant effects (p < .05). The highest reported effect sizes were large (stress d = 1.57, depression d = .95, both ps > .005). However, methodological issues (e.g. selection bias, lack of control group and follow-up) which reflect the early nature of the work mean these largest effects are likely to be representative of maximal rather than average effects. Whilst there are important differences in the construction, length and delivery of interventions, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the most effective models. Suggestions of key characteristics are made though, needing further investigation preferably in standardised interventions. Given the existing research and the speed at which technology is making new platforms and tools available, it seems important that further research explores two parallel lines: first, refinement and thorough evaluation of already established technology-based mindfulness programmes and second, exploration of novel approaches to mindfulness training that combine the latest technological advances with the knowledge and skills of experienced meditation teachers.


Improve Neuroticism with Mindfulness

Mindfulness Neuroticism2 Armstrong

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honor. In truth, the negatively biased are more prone to depression, anxiety, self-consciousness and hypochondria, to name just a few behavioral tripwires. Neuroticism is no fun for anyone.” – Psychology Today


We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.


Neuroticism, however, is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of the individual. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. It appears to be linked to vulnerability to stress. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable. There is some hope for people with high neuroticism as this relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. This is potentially important and deserves further investigation.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study.” See:

or below

Armstrong and Rimes examined the ability of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat individuals high in neuroticism. They randomly assigned participants with high neuroticism to either an 8-week, once a week for 2-hours, MBCT treatment group or and on-line self-help treatment control group. Measures were taken before and 4-weeks after treatment of mindfulness, neuroticism, impairment in everyday functioning, anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-compassion, beliefs about emotions, rumination, and decentering.


They found that after treatment in comparisons to the control group the MBCT group had significantly lower neuroticism scores, and rumination, and a trend toward lower functional impairment due to stress. In addition, the MBCT group had significantly higher self-compassion and decentering and trends toward lessened unhelpful beliefs and emotions and higher mindfulness. Surprisingly, since MBCT was developed specifically to treat depression, there were no significant differences in anxiety or depression.


These results are interesting and potentially important. This, however, was a pilot study that had relatively small group sizes (17). The fact that significant differences were detected nonetheless indicates that the effects were fairly strong. The results clearly indicate that a larger randomized controlled trial is called for.


Mindfulness may affect neuroticism in a number of ways. By focusing the individual on the present moment, mindfulness should lessen the neuroticism characteristics of rumination about the past and worry about the future. Mindfulness is also known to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and stress is known to contribute to neuroticism. Finally, mindfulness has been shown to produce heightened emotion regulation. So, the mindful individual feels and appreciates their emotions but responds appropriately and adaptively. This should lessen the moodiness, negative feelings, and loneliness characteristic of neuroticism. So, it is not surprising the mindfulness based treatments would be effective in lowering neuroticism. This is a hopeful development, as people high in neuroticism are very unhappy people. Mindfulness may provide some relief and help them toward a happier life.


So, improve neuroticism with mindfulness.


“Being in the moment with those thoughts and recognizing them for what they are has really helped me to kind of shove them aside, or to kind of diffuse them,” she says. “I think it’s really helped me become a more aware person of what other people might be feeling.” – JoSelle Vanderhooft


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available  on Google+


Study Summary

Armstrong L, Rimes KA. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study. Behav Ther. 2016 May;47(3):287-98. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005. Epub 2016 Jan 5. PMID: 27157024. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005



  • A new MBCT intervention for neuroticism versus online general self-help is examined
  • Compared with self-help, MBCT results in significantly lower levels of neuroticism
  • Rumination and self-compassion improved more in the MBCT group than the control group
  • MBCT is an acceptable and feasible intervention for neuroticism
  • Neuroticism may be amenable to change through psychological intervention


Objective: Neuroticism, a characteristic associated with increased stress vulnerability and the tendency to experience distress, is strongly linked to risk of different forms of psychopathology. However, there are few evidence-based interventions to target neuroticism. This pilot study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) compared with an online self-help intervention for individuals with high levels of neuroticism. The MBCT was modified to address psychological processes that are characteristic of neuroticism. Method: Participants with high levels of neuroticism were randomized to MBCT (n = 17) or an online self-help intervention (n = 17). Self-report questionnaires were administered preintervention and again at 4 weeks postintervention. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses found that MBCT participants had significantly lower levels of neuroticism postintervention than the control group. Compared with the control group, the MBCT group also experienced significant reductions in rumination and increases in self-compassion and decentering, of which the latter two were correlated with reductions in neuroticism within the MBCT group. Low drop-out rates, high levels of adherence to home practice, and positive feedback from MBCT participants provide indications that this intervention may be an acceptable form of treatment for individuals who are vulnerable to becoming easily stressed. Conclusions: MBCT specifically modified to target neuroticism-related processes is a promising intervention for reducing neuroticism. Results support evidence suggesting neuroticism is malleable and amenable to psychological intervention. MBCT for neuroticism warrants further investigation in a larger study.


Recover from Work with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“All this data suggest mindfulness has real impactful changes on our minds and bodies. And it’s helped make mindfulness more kosher with the corporate world, where it might’ve previously been considered new-agey. Mindful workers report higher levels of happiness and productivity” – David Gelles


We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our overall well-being, including our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is primarily due to the fact that stress is epidemic in the workplace. A recent Harris poll found that 80 percent of workers feel stressed about one or more things in the workplace. This stress can lead to physical and psychological problems for managers and employees, including fatigue, sleep problems, depression, absenteeism, lower productivity, lower job satisfaction, and personal and professional burnout. Indeed, 46.4% of employees, report having psychological distress.


Mindfulness training of employees is a potential help with work related stress. It has been shown to reduce the psychological and physical reactions to stress overall and particularly in the workplace and to reduce burnout. A problem in implementing mindfulness programs in the workplace is the time required for the training. This makes many managers reticent to try it. So, it is important to develop programs that do not seriously impact on work time. A potential solution is to train mindfulness on-line. This is feasible as mindfulness training over the internet has been found to be effective for anxiety depression.


In today’s Research News article “Internet-Based Instructor-Led Mindfulness for Work-Related Rumination, Fatigue, and Sleep: Assessing Facets of Mindfulness as Mechanisms of Change. A Randomized Waitlist Control Trial.” See:

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Querstret and colleagues randomly assigned full-time working adults to either receive a 4-week internet based mindfulness training or as a wait-list control. The mindfulness training was conducted on-line interactively led by experienced mindfulness instructors and was composed of elements from Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).


They found that the mindfulness training produced a significant increase in the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness, non-judging, and describing. Recovery from work was also significantly impacted by the mindfulness training with lower levels of emotional rumination and rumination after work about work-related issues, and lower levels of acute and chronic fatigue, and higher levels of sleep quality. These improvements were maintained 3 and 6 months following the end of mindfulness training. Finally, they found that the mindfulness training had its effects by altering the acting with awareness facet of mindfulness which, in turn, affected the work recovery variables.


These results demonstrate that an on-line mindfulness training program can have large and sustained effects on work-related problems. The fact that the program was conducted on-line is significant as these programs can be conducted without taking time away from work. This is important to employers and makes it more likely that such a program will be adopted.


It is interesting that the program appeared to work by affecting acting with awareness. This suggests that working with awareness is a key. By staying focused on their work tasks in the present moment the individual may be better able to perform them and thereby reduce stress and its consequent effects on after-work psychological processes. It is also known that mindfulness programs by themselves can lower the psychological and physiological effects of stress and improve emotion regulation, allowing the worker to experience their emotions but act adaptively in response to them. All of these effects of mindfulness training may add together to markedly improve the workers’ recovery from the stress of work.


So, recover from work with mindfulness.


“In this age of constant distractions and long hours, it’s difficult to find even a few minutes of time to reflect. Yet finding that time and space can help ease the stresses of your demanding working life.” -Peter Jaret


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


Study Summary

Querstret, D., Cropley, M., & Fife-Schaw, C. (2016, April 7). Internet-Based Instructor-Led Mindfulness for Work-Related Rumination, Fatigue, and Sleep: Assessing Facets of Mindfulness as Mechanisms of Change. A Randomized Waitlist Control Trial. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication.


This study aimed to extend our theoretical understanding of how mindfulness-based interventions exert their positive influence on measures of occupational health. Employing a randomized waitlist control study design, we sought to (a) assess an Internet-based instructor-led mindfulness intervention for its effect on key factors associated with “recovery from work,” specifically, work-related rumination, fatigue, and sleep quality; (b) assess different facets of mindfulness (acting with awareness, describing, nonjudging, and nonreacting) as mechanisms of change; and (c) assess whether the effect of the intervention was maintained over time by following up our participants after 3 and 6 months. Participants who completed the mindfulness intervention (n 60) reported significantly lower levels of work-related rumination and fatigue, and significantly higher levels of sleep quality, when compared with waitlist control participants (n 58). Effects of the intervention were maintained at 3- and 6-month follow-up with medium to large effect sizes. The effect of the intervention was primarily explained by increased levels of only 1 facet of mindfulness (acting with awareness). This study provides support for online mindfulness interventions to aid recovery from work and furthers our understanding with regard to how mindfulness interventions exert their positive effects.


Relieve Depression with Meditation and Exercise

Meditation Exercise Brain depression2 Alderman

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Studies have already suggested that physical activity can play a powerful role in reducing depression; newer, separate research is showing that meditation does, too. Now some exercise scientists and neuroscientists believe there may be a uniquely powerful benefit in combining the two.” – Melissa Dahl


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a severe mood disorder that includes mood dysregulation and cognitive impairment. It is estimated that 16 million adults in the U.S. (6.9% of the population suffered from major depression in the past year and affects females (8.4%) to a great extent than males (5.2%). It is second-leading cause of disability in the world following heart disease. The usual treatment of choice for MDD is drug treatment. In fact, it is estimated that 10% of the U.S. population is taking some form of antidepressant medication. But a substantial proportion of patients (~40%) do not respond to drug treatment. In addition, the drugs can have nasty side effects. So, there is need to explore other treatment options.


It has been shown that aerobic exercise can help to relieve depression. But, depressed individuals lack energy and motivation and it is difficult to get them to exercise regularly. As a result, aerobic exercise has not been used very often as a treatment. Recently, it has become clear that mindfulness practices are effective for the relief of major depressive disorder and as a preventative measure to discourage relapses. Mindfulness can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with drugs. It is even effective when drugs fail to relieve the depression.


As yet there has been no attempt to combine aerobic exercise and mindfulness training for major depressive disorder. It is possible that mindfulness practice may improve depression sufficiently to energize the individual to engage in aerobic exercise. So, the combination may be uniquely beneficial. In today’s Research News article “MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity”

Alderman and colleagues employ a combination of 20 minutes of minutes of sitting meditation followed immediately by 10 minutes of walking meditation with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise either on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. They tested the impact of this combination on a group of adults with major depressive disorder and a group of healthy non-depressed individuals.


They found that the treatment reduced depression in both groups but to a much greater extent with the depressed patients, reducing it by 40%. The treatment also reduced ruminative thinking in both groups. They also found that the combined aerobic exercise and mindfulness training changed the brains response to a cognitive task. After training there was a larger N2 (negative response) observed in the brains evoked electrical activity (ERP) and a larger P3 (positive response) in the ERP in response to the cognitive task.


The P3 response in the evoked potential (ERP) occurs around a quarter of a second following the stimulus presentation. It is a positive change that is maximally measured over the central frontal lobe. The P3 response has been associated with the engagement of attention. So, the P3 response is often used as a measure of brain attentional processing with the larger the positive change the greater the attentional focus. The N2 response in the evoked potential (ERP) generally precedes the P3 response. It is a negative change that is maximally measured over the frontal lobe. The N2 response has been associated with the engagement of attention to a new or novel stimulus. So, the N2 response is often used as a measure of brain attentional processing with the large the negative changes an indication of greater discrimination of new stimuli.


The findings indicate that the combination training improves brain electrical activity indicators of attention and stimulus discrimination during a cognitive task. It was also found that the size of the N2 response was negatively related to the amount of decrease in ruminative thought. Ruminative thought which requires attention to memories of the past and attention to the present cannot occur at the same time. So, by improving attention the training appeared to improve attention to the present and thereby decrease rumination which is a major contributor to the depressed state.


These are interesting and exciting results that suggest that the combination of mindfulness and aerobic exercise training may be a potent and effective treatment for major depressive disorder. This is particularly important as aerobic exercise and mindfulness training both have many other physical and psychological benefits and have minimal side effects. They may, in part, be effective by improving attention and thereby decreasing rumination in depressed patients. Given the design of the present study it is not possible to determine if the combination is more effective the either component alone or the sum of their independent effectiveness. Future research should address this issue.


So, relieve depression with meditation and exercise.


“We know these therapies can be practiced over a lifetime and that they will be effective in improving mental and cognitive health. The good news is that this intervention can be practiced by anyone at any time and at no cost.” – Brandon Alderman


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies



Study Summary


B L Alderman, R L Olson, C J Brush and T J Shors. MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry (2016) 6, e726; doi:10.1038/tp.2015.225. Published online 2 February 2016



Mental and physical (MAP) training is a novel clinical intervention that combines mental training through meditation and physical training through aerobic exercise. The intervention was translated from neuroscientific studies indicating that MAP training increases neurogenesis in the adult brain. Each session consisted of 30 min of focused-attention (FA) meditation and 30 min of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Fifty-two participants completed the 8-week intervention, which consisted of two sessions per week. Following the intervention, individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD; n=22) reported significantly less depressive symptoms and ruminative thoughts. Typical healthy individuals (n=30) also reported less depressive symptoms at follow-up. Behavioral and event-related potential indices of cognitive control were collected at baseline and follow-up during a modified flanker task. Following MAP training, N2 and P3 component amplitudes increased relative to baseline, especially among individuals with MDD. These data indicate enhanced neural responses during the detection and resolution of conflicting stimuli. Although previous research has supported the individual beneficial effects of aerobic exercise and meditation for depression, these findings indicate that a combination of the two may be particularly effective in increasing cognitive control processes and decreasing ruminative thought patterns.


Get College Students out of the Dumps with Mindfulness

“College is a great time in a young person’s life. You get to grow in many aspects; socially, academically and even spiritually. . . . Yes, college can be one of the best times, but it also comes with some of the worst times in your life. The constant stress of classes, exams, organization obligations, friend drama and family issues can completely break a person. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed and overworked, that we feel absolutely hopeless.” – Mariah Nicole Wild


Depression is a common mental illness. It is debilitating by producing any or all of a long list of symptoms including: feelings of sadness or unhappiness, change in appetite or weight, slowed thinking or speech, loss of interest in activities or social gatherings, fatigue, loss in energy, sleeplessness, feelings of guilt or anger over past failures, trouble concentrating, indecisiveness, anger or frustration for no distinct reason, thoughts of dying, death and suicide. This can be difficult at any point in life, but for college students with the intense demands on them, it can be devastating. Depression in college students is extremely common with 36.4% of reporting some level of depression. Depression is the number one reason students drop out of school. It also can lead to other symptoms including suicide Indeed, suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students.


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is most commonly treated with drugs, but they can have problematic side effects and are not always effective. So, there is a need for alternative treatments for Major Depressive Disorder. Behavioral Activation (BA) has been shown to be effective for depression. It involves behavioral strategies to increase positive reinforcement and the encouragement of activities that produce pleasure and feelings of accomplishment in the patient’s life. Mindfulness training is another alternative treatment for depression. It has been shown to be an effective treatment and is also effective for the prevention of its reoccurrence (see


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-based therapy and behavioral activation: A randomized controlled trial with depressed college students”

McIndoo and colleagues randomly assigned college students who suffered from Major Depressive Disorder to either Behavioral Activation, Mindfulness training, or to a wait list control group who did not receive treatment. Treatment occurred in one hour weekly sessions for four weeks. They found that both the Behavioral Activation and Mindfulness Training produced significant improvements in both self-reported and clinician assessed depression, perceived stress, and rumination, but not anxiety. The Mindfulness training alone produced increases in mindfulness. These were clinically significant changes of moderate to large effect sizes and these improvements were maintained at a one-month follow-up. Importantly, around two thirds of the treated groups attained remission from depression while only one quarter in the wait list group did.


These are impressive findings that a relatively brief treatment with either Mindfulness or Behavioral Activation training could produce such dramatic changes in the students. Since both approaches were clinically effective, the study findings suggest that either approach can be selected by clinicians tailored to the client. There were some indications that the Mindfulness training was preferred by the students, possibly because it is simpler and less stressful than Behavioral Activation. Regardless, both appear to be appropriate alternative treatments for major depressive disorder in college students.


So, get college students out of the dumps with mindfulness


“Imagine what effect it would have on you if someone stood behind you all day telling you how useless you were when you were trying desperately to cope with a difficult experience. Now imagine how much worse it would be if the criticism and harsh judgment came from inside your own mind.” ― Mark Williams
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


Age Healthily – Beat Increased Worry and Decreased Cognitive Ability with Mindfulness


Aging has a wonderful beauty and we should have respect for that. – Eartha Kitt


Worry and anxiety are associated with aging. These increases in the elderly can occur for very logical reasons. The elderly have to cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. All of these are legitimate sources of worry. But, no matter how reasonable, the increased worry and anxiety add extra stress that can impact on the elderly’s already deteriorating physical and psychological health. So, clearly ameliorating the worry and anxiety could be highly beneficial to the well-being of the elderly.


Cognitive decline is also a problem with aging. There are reductions in memory ability, crystalized intelligence, reasoning and problem solving, attention, and processing speed that normally occur even with healthy aging. These changes can be slowed by reducing stress, improving health, and staying mentally active. One way to do this is with contemplative practices. Indeed, a variety of these practices have been shown to be helpful with the mental and physical changes associated with aging (see


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for older adults with worry symptoms and co-occurring cognitive dysfunction”

Lenze and colleagues tested the ability of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to reduce worry and anxiety and the mental decline in individuals over 65-years of age who had significant difficulties with worry and anxiety. They found that the MBSR program produced improvements in both cognitive abilities and worry and anxiety. In particular, the MBSR program improved memory ability, verbal fluency, speed of processing, and the ability to screen out interference during processing. They also found a large, clinically significant reduction in worry and anxiety severity and a large significant increase in mindfulness after the MBSR training in the elderly participants. Further they found that the participants continued to practice mindfulness techniques six and twelve months after the endo of formal training.


These are very promising results and suggest that mindfulness training might be an effective program to assist with successful, healthy aging. It has been shown that mindfulness training reduces the physical and psychological responses to stress (see This by itself could be responsible to the positive effects of MBSR on the elderly. But mindfulness practice has also been shown to reduce worry (see and anxiety (see directly, which could also account for, the results with the elderly. This, however, may be a subcategory of mindfulness effects as mindfulness has been shown to improve emotion regulation in general (see Finally, mindfulness training has been shown to help protect the aging brain from deterioration (see which might be the primary mechanism for the reduction in cognitive decline in the elderly. Regardless of the mechanism mindfulness training should be recommended to assist the elderly in aging healthily.


So, beat increased worry and decreased cognitive ability with mindfulness.


No one can avoid aging, but aging productively is something else.” – Katharine Graham


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies