Spirituality is Associated with Greater Resilience in College Students

Spirituality is Associated with Greater Resilience in College Students

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

for many people, religion, personal beliefs and spirituality are a source of comfort, wellbeing, security, meaning, sense of belonging, purpose and strength.” – World Health Organization

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Stress is ubiquitous in people’s lives and it can interfere with the individual’s ability to achieve their goals and maintain psychological well-being.  When highly stressed, resilience is required to cope with the stress and prevent its negative impact on psychological well-being. It would seem likely that since both spirituality and resilience are related to psychological well-being that they would be related to each other.

 

In today’s Research News article “Relationship between aggression and individual resilience with the mediating role of spirituality in academic students – A path analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7032025/), Sadeghifard and colleagues recruited university students and had them complete measures of spirituality, aggression, and resilience. They then analyzed the relationships between these variables with structural equation modelling.

 

They found that the higher the levels of spirituality the higher the levels of resilience. While the higher the levels of resilience the lower the levels of aggression. They also found that spirituality was related to resilience both directly and indirectly. Structural equation modelling revealed that spirituality was directly related to higher levels of resilience and also indirectly by being related to lower levels of aggression which was, in turn, was related to higher resilience.

 

The study was correlational. So, causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the ability to effectively cope with stress and life’s difficulties, resilience, is an important part of maintaining psychological well-being and resilience appears to be impaired by aggression. Spirituality is known to contribute to psychological well-being and it is related to both lower levels of aggression and higher levels of resilience. It can be speculated that the relationship of spirituality to mental health results from its negative relationship with aggression and its positive relationship with resilience.

 

So, spirituality may make college students more resilient and thereby improve their psychological well-being.

 

for many people, religion, personal beliefs and spirituality are a source of comfort, wellbeing, security, meaning, sense of belonging, purpose and strength.” – Olivia Goldhill

 

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

 

Sadeghifard, Y. Z., Veisani, Y., Mohamadian, F., Azizifar, A., Naghipour, S., & Aibod, S. (2020). Relationship between aggression and individual resilience with the mediating role of spirituality in academic students – A path analysis. Journal of education and health promotion, 9, 2. https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_324_19

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The importance of spirituality and spiritual growth in humans has been increasingly taken to attention by psychologists and mental health professionals. In this study, we aimed to investigate the relationship between the tendency to aggression and individual resilience also considering the role of mediator of spirituality in academic students by path analysis.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

A cross-sectional study was conducted using structural equation method (SEM). The target population consisted all of undergraduate academic students in Ilam, Iran University of Applied Sciences, in 2018. Participants included 200 people whom were selected by stratified random sampling. Data collection tools were demographic, Buss and Perry aggression, spirituality assessment, and resiliency of Connor and Davidson questionnaire. In this study, bivariate analysis was used to determine the directionality correlation between the study variables.

RESULTS:

The results showed that there was a significant and positive correlation between spirituality and resilience (r = 154% r = 83%). Furthermore, there was a negative and nonsignificant relationship between aggression with resiliency (r = −122% P = 101). In addition, there was no significant correlation between the aggression and spirituality (r = 0.05%, P = 0.942). The results of SEM showed that spirituality and aggression can predict about 20% of the variations in the degree of resilience in academic students. Accordingly, the results of SEM spirituality in an indirect path reduce the aggression and thus increase the resilience (r = 0.102).

CONCLUSION:

The results of this study showed the effect of spirituality on increasing the level of resilience and also positive mediator role of spirituality between aggression and resiliency.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7032025/

Lower Depression is Associated with Buddhism in Thailand

Lower Depression is Associated with Buddhism in Thailand

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The lay life of Thai Buddhism focuses on living ethically in the worldly life. While it is okay to enjoy the conveniences and joys of the material world, one should live ethically and not cause suffering to others. Lay people should also still be mindful of the law of impermanence and that all things must come to an end. The key to true happiness comes from within, through personal practice, not through material enjoyment.” – Nicholas Liusuwan

 

Religion and spirituality have been promulgated as solutions to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. What evidence is there that these claims are in fact true? The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of religiosity and spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. A growing body of studies, however, have suggested that Western religious practices may be contributing to depression. But there is very little research on Eastern religious practices, such as Buddhism and its effects on depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “Buddhism and Depressive Symptoms among Married Women in Urban Thailand.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037506/), Xu and colleagues recruited a multistage cross sectional sample of urban Thai adults and had them complete a questionnaire measuring sociodemographic characteristics, depression, religious preference, and frequency of participation in religious practices.

 

They found that 91% of the respondents were identified as Buddhist. They also found that Buddhist participants reported significantly lower levels of depression than the non-Buddhist participants. In addition, they found that the greater the frequency of participation in Buddhist practices the lower the levels of depression.

 

It should be kept in mind that the present study was correlational and causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the results suggest that in and Eastern society, Thailand, the practice of Buddhism is associated with better mental health. Studies in Western cultures have generally found that being spiritual has greater positive benefits for mental health than being religious. The fact that the frequency of Buddhist practice was associated with lower depression suggests that spirituality might also here be the most impactful factor on mental health. Additionally, Buddhist practice frequently employs meditation, chanting, and other techniques that promote mindfulness. Since, mindfulness is associated with lower levels of depression, it is possible that the present findings of lower depression in Buddhist practitioners was due to these practices promoting mindfulness.

 

So, lower depression is associated with Buddhism in Thailand.

 

In their long history of existence the Thais seem to have been predominantly Buddhists, at least ever since they came into contact with the tenets of Buddhism. All the Thai kings in the recorded history of present-day Thailand have been adherents of Buddhism. The country’s constitution specifies that the King of Thailand must be a Buddhist and the Upholder of Buddhism.” – Karuna Kusalasaya

 

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

 

Xu, T., Xu, X., Sunil, T., & Sirisunyaluck, B. (2020). Buddhism and Depressive Symptoms among Married Women in Urban Thailand. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), 761. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030761

 

Abstract

A growing body of research has documented salutary associations between religious involvement and poor mental health outcomes, such as depressive symptoms and psychological distress. However, little scholarly attention has been given to the association between Buddhism, a non-Western religious faith, and depressive symptomatology in Thailand. Using random survey data collected from urban Thailand, this study examines the association between religious involvement and depressive symptoms among married women in Bangkok. Findings from multiple linear regression models reveal that (1) Buddhist respondents report significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than their non-Buddhist counterparts, (2) the frequency of participation in religious activities is significantly and inversely associated with the level of depressive symptoms, and (3) the inverse association between religious participation and depressive symptoms is more salient for Buddhists who frequently practice their faith (i.e., significant interaction effect). Research limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037506/

 

Spirituality is associated with Childhood Trauma

Spirituality is associated with Childhood Trauma

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

traumatic childhood experiences must be solved by making new good experiences with relationships, with closeness.” – Gopal Klein

 

Child maltreatment is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Exposure to intimate partner violence is also sometimes included as a form of child maltreatment” (World Health Organization, 2016)

 

This maltreatment is traumatic and can leave in its wake symptoms which can haunt the victims for the rest of their lives. These include persistent recurrent re-experiencing of the traumatic event, including flashbacks and nightmares, loss of interest in life, detachment from other people, increased anxiety and emotional arousal, including outbursts of anger, difficulty concentration, and jumpiness, startling easily. Unfortunately, childhood maltreatment can continue to affect mental and physical health throughout the individual’s life. How individuals cope with childhood maltreatment helps determine the effects of the maltreatment on their mental health. It has been found that experiencing the feelings and thoughts completely allows for better coping. This can be provided by mindfulness. Indeed, mindfulness has been found to be effective for relieving trauma symptoms.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of spirituality to childhood trauma.

 

In today’s Research News article “Childhood Trauma Is Associated with the Spirituality of Non-Religious Respondents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068247/), Kosarkova and colleagues sampled the Czech population over 15 years of age and had them complete measures of childhood trauma, including emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect and physical neglect subscales, religiosity, spirituality, and religious conversion experiences.

 

They found that the higher the levels of spirituality in the non-religious but not the religious participants in the sample the greater the amounts of childhood trauma including emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect and physical neglect. Hence, for the non-religious people childhood trauma of all varieties are associated with spirituality.

 

The present results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. It is equally likely that childhood trauma increases spirituality, spirituality increases childhood trauma, or some third factor was responsible for both. It can be speculated, though, that the individual experiencing trauma looks for a means to explain the reason for the trauma. Individuals who are religious may interpret it in a religious context and conclude that god has abandoned them and so become even less spiritual. On the other hand, non-religious individuals would not fault god for the trauma and thus could take refuge in spirituality as a coping mechanism. It remains for future research to investigate these possibilities.

 

childhood violence survivors often mention the importance of spirituality in their survival and recovery as being a resource for healing, meaning making, and truth.” -Thelma Bryant-Davis

 

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

 

Kosarkova, A., Malinakova, K., Koncalova, Z., Tavel, P., & van Dijk, J. P. (2020). Childhood Trauma Is Associated with the Spirituality of Non-Religious Respondents. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(4), 1268. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041268

 

Abstract

Childhood trauma experience (CT) is negatively associated with many aspects of adult life. Religiosity/spirituality (R/S) are often studied as positive coping strategies and could help in the therapeutic process. Evidence on this is lacking for a non-religious environment. The aim of this study was to assess the associations of different types of CT with R/S in the secular conditions of the Czech Republic. A nationally representative sample (n = 1800, mean age = 46.4, SD = 17.4; 48.7% male) of adults participated in the survey. We measured childhood trauma, spirituality, religiosity and conversion experience. We found that four kinds of CT were associated with increased levels of spirituality, with odds ratios (OR) ranging from 1.17 (95% confidence interval 1.03–1.34) to 1.31 (1.18–1.46). Non-religious respondents were more likely to report associations of CT with spirituality. After measuring for different combinations of R/S, each CT was associated with increased chances of being “spiritual but non-religious”, with OR from 1.55 (1.17–2.06) to 2.10 (1.63–2.70). Moreover, converts were more likely to report emotional abuse OR = 1.46 (1.17–1.82) or emotional neglect with OR = 1.42 (1.11–1.82). Our findings show CT is associated with higher levels of spirituality in non-religious respondents. Addressing spiritual needs may contribute to the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic treatment of the victims.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068247/

 

Content Free Awareness is Associated with Increased Brain Attentional Activity and Decreased Self-Awareness Activity

Content Free Awareness is Associated with Increased Brain Attentional Activity and Decreased Self-Awareness Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While scientists do not yet fully understand the true origin of consciousness, many agree that it can be measured within the brainwave patterns of the individual.” – EOC Institute

 

In meditation there occurs a number of different states of consciousness. One of the highest levels achieved is content free awareness. In this state there is nothing that the meditator is aware of other than awareness. The meditator is aware and aware of being aware, but nothing else. Changes in awareness are associated with changes in the activity of the brain which can be seen in the Electroencephalogram (EEG) and also in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). But content free awareness is elusive and what activity in the brain accompanies it is unknown.

 

In today’s Research News article “Content-Free Awareness: EEG-fcMRI Correlates of Consciousness as Such in an Expert Meditator.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A), Winter and colleagues recruited an meditator with 40 years of experience and over 50,000 hours of formal meditation practice. They simultaneously recorded heart rate, respiration, and brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) during rest, attention to external stimuli, attention to internal stimuli including memories, and during meditation in a state of content-minimized awareness. After the content free awareness “he reported that he had no awareness of any mental content or any sensory event, including the noise of the MRI scanner. Similarly, he reported having had no experience of self, time, or space of any kind whatsoever at this stage.”

 

They found that heart rate and respiration decreased over the various states reaching its lowest levels during content free awareness. They found that there was a sharp decrease in EEG alpha rhythm power and increase in theta rhythm power during content free awareness. Finally, they found a decrease in functional connectivity in the posterior default mode network and increase in the dorsal attention network during content free awareness.

 

These are interesting results but it must be kept in mind that this was from a single adept expert meditator. Nevertheless, they provide a glimpse at the state of the nervous system during the deepest mental state occurring during meditation. The default mode network is involved in mind wandering, daydreaming, and self-referential thought. The fact that the connectivity within this system was markedly reduced during content free awareness suggests that non-specific mental activity and the idea of self are greatly reduced if not eliminated. The fact that connectivity within the dorsal attentional network increased while there was no increase in the sensory areas of the brain suggests that during content free awareness there was a focused attention that was decoupled from sensory experience. Hence, the brain activity observed in this meditator markedly corresponds to the mental state achieved.

 

So, content free awareness is associated with increased brain attentional activity and decreased self-awareness activity.

 

“The higher state of consciousness is somewhere in between the waking, sleeping and dreaming states. Here, we know we “are” but we don’t know “where” we are. This knowledge that I “am,” but I don’t know “where” I am or “what” I am, is called Shiva.” – Ravi Shankar

 

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

 

Winter U, LeVan P, Borghardt TL, Akin B, Wittmann M, Leyens Y and Schmidt S (2020) Content-Free Awareness: EEG-fcMRI Correlates of Consciousness as Such in an Expert Meditator. Front. Psychol. 10:3064. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064

 

The minimal neural correlate of the conscious state, regardless of the neural activity correlated with the ever-changing contents of experience, has still not been identified. Different attempts have been made, mainly by comparing the normal waking state to seemingly unconscious states, such as deep sleep or general anesthesia. A more direct approach would be the neuroscientific investigation of conscious states that are experienced as free of any specific phenomenal content. Here we present serendipitous data on content-free awareness (CFA) during an EEG-fMRI assessment reported by an extraordinarily qualified meditator with over 50,000 h of practice. We focused on two specific cortical networks related to external and internal awareness, i.e., the dorsal attention network (DAN) and the default mode network (DMN), to explore the neural correlates of this experience. The combination of high-resolution EEG and ultrafast fMRI enabled us to analyze the dynamic aspects of fMRI connectivity informed by EEG power analysis. The neural correlates of CFA were characterized by a sharp decrease in alpha power and an increase in theta power as well as increases in functional connectivity in the DAN and decreases in the posterior DMN. We interpret these findings as correlates of a top-down-initiated attentional state excluding external sensory stimuli and internal mentation from conscious experience. We conclude that the investigation of states of CFA could provide valuable input for new methodological and conceptual approaches in the search for the minimal neural correlate of consciousness.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A

 

Religious and Spiritual Coping Reduces the Risk of Hypertension.

Religious and Spiritual Coping Reduces the Risk of Hypertension.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Scientific literature have recorded that spiritual well-being is associated with better physical and mental health, according to psycho-neuro-immune models of health. Spirituality and religion can help patients, their families and caregivers dealing with illness and other stressful life events.” – Marcelo Saad

 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths, roughly 1,000 deaths each day, had high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.  It is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. Hypertension is more prevalent in African American populations.

 

High blood pressure, because it doesn’t have any primary symptoms, is usually only diagnosed by direct measurement of blood pressure usually by a health care professional. When hypertension is chronically present over three quarters of patients are treated with antihypertensive drugs. But these medications often have adverse side effects. So, patients feel lousy when taking the drugs, but fine when they’re not. So, compliance is a major issue with many patients not taking the drugs regularly or stopping entirely. Obviously, there is a need for alternative to drug treatments for hypertension.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental healthReligiosity is also known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the influence of spirituality and religiosity on hypertension in African Americans.

 

In today’s Research News article “). Religious and Spiritual Coping and Risk of Incident Hypertension in the Black Women’s Health Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230974/), Cozier and colleagues performed a secondary analysis of the data provided by a large U.S. national sample of adult black women. The women had completed a large array of measures. But for the present study measures were extracted of religion/spirituality, positive religious coping, perceived stress, depression, and experiences of racism. They were also measured 8 years later for the incidence of hypertension.

 

They found that women who reported high levels of religion/spirituality were older, more educated, less likely to smoke or drink, lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and with lower levels of perceived stress. Significantly, they also found that women high in positive religious coping had a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension 8 years later. This association was strongest in women with the highest levels of perceived stress.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that the development of hypertension is associated with stress and that positive religious coping can mitigate the effects of stress on blood pressure. Positive religious coping involves using “religious and spiritual resources to cope with and adapt to stressful life circumstances.” Hence spiritualty and religiosity can promote better health in black women by providing them with methods to cope with the stresses in their lives.

 

So, reduce the risk of hypertension with religious/spiritual coping.

 

Religious coping now represents a key variable of interest in research on health outcomes, not only because many individuals turn to their faith in times of illness, but also because studies have frequently found that religious coping is associated with desirable health outcomes.” – Jeremey Cummings

 

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

 

Cozier, Y. C., Yu, J., Wise, L. A., VanderWeele, T. J., Balboni, T. A., Argentieri, M. A., … Shields, A. E. (2018). Religious and Spiritual Coping and Risk of Incident Hypertension in the Black Women’s Health Study. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 52(12), 989–998. doi:10.1093/abm/kay001

 

Abstract

Background

The few studies of the relationship between religion and/or spirituality (R/S) and hypertension are conflicting. We hypothesized that R/S may reduce the risk of hypertension by buffering adverse physiological effects of stress.

Methods

We prospectively assessed the association of R/S with hypertension within the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a cohort study initiated in 1995 that follows participants through biennial questionnaires. The 2005 questionnaire included four R/S questions: (i) extent to which one’s R/S is involved in coping with stressful situations, (ii) self-identification as a religious/spiritual person, (iii) frequency of attending religious services, and (iv) frequency of prayer. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for each R/S variable in relation to incident hypertension using Cox proportional hazards regression models, controlling for demographics, known hypertension risk factors, psychosocial factors, and other R/S variables.

Results

During 2005–2013, 5,194 incident cases of hypertension were identified. High involvement of R/S in coping with stressful events compared with no involvement was associated with reduced risk of hypertension (IRR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.75, 1.00). The association was strongest among women reporting greater levels of perceived stress (IRR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.98; p interaction = .01). More frequent prayer was associated with increased risk of hypertension (IRR: 1.12; 95% CI: 0.99, 1.27). No association was observed for the other R/S measures.

Conclusion

R/S coping was associated with decreased risk of hypertension in African American women, especially among those reporting higher levels of stress. Further research is needed to understand the mechanistic pathways through which R/S coping may affect health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230974/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Mental and Physical Health and Cognitive Ability in African Americans

Spirituality is Associated with Better Mental and Physical Health and Cognitive Ability in African Americans

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

all black religious expression has most of the following attributes: It is animistic, or spirit-filled; anthropocentric, or human-centered; dynamic; expressionistic; shamanistic (believing in communicating with spirits); and thaumaturgic (belief in miracle working).” – Diana Hayes

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Depression is linked with increase inflammatory responses. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response.  In addition, spirituality has been shown to be associated with reduced depression. African Americans have significantly greater incidences of disease. So, it is reasonable to investigate the relationships of spirituality, depression, inflammation and health in African Americans.

 

In today’s Research News article “Influence of Spirituality on Depression-Induced Inflammation and Executive Functioning in a Community Sample of African Americans.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478044/), Herren and colleagues recruited healthy adult African Americans and measured them for depression, daily spiritual experiences, cognitive ability, and response inhibition. Blood was drawn and measured for inflammatory cytokines; IL-1a, TNF-a and IL-6.

 

They found that the higher the levels of depression the lower the levels of cognitive ability (executive function). This relationship was in part mediated by the levels of the inflammatory cytokine, IL-6, such that depression was associated with higher levels of IL-6 which in turn were associated with lower cognitive ability. Interestingly, they also found that the higher the frequency of daily spiritual experiences the lower the levels of depression and the higher the levels of cognitive ability and response inhibition. In addition, spirituality moderated the relationships of IL-6 with cognitive ability, such that the greater the frequency of spiritual experiences the smaller the negative relationship of IL-6 with cognitive ability.

 

These findings are interesting but they are correlational and causation cannot be determined. But they suggest that spirituality is associated with better physical and psychological health in African Americans. It is associated with lower depression levels and better cognitive performance. Additionally, it was associated with a lessened negative relationship between the inflammatory response and cognitive ability.

 

African Americans are generally more religious and spiritual than other groups. The present findings may help to explain why. Their spirituality is associated with better mental and physical health and cognitive ability. It remains for future research to determine if these relationships are causal and spirituality produces these benefits. It also remains to be seen if these relationships are present in other ethnic and racial groups.

 

Spirituality is associated with better mental and physical health and cognitive ability in African Americans.

 

Changing our thoughts, feelings and behaviour to positivity, optimism, hope, acceptance and love boosts immunity at the physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual levels.” – Sunnyside

 

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

 

Herren, O. M., Burris, S. E., Levy, S. A., Kirk, K., Banks, K. S., Jones, V. L., … Campbell, A. L. (2019). Influence of Spirituality on Depression-Induced Inflammation and Executive Functioning in a Community Sample of African Americans. Ethnicity & disease, 29(2), 267–276. doi:10.18865/ed.29.2.267

 

Abstract

African Americans (AAs) are disproportionately affected by cerebrovascular pathology and more likely to suffer from premature cognitive decline. Depression is a risk factor for poorer cognitive functioning, and research is needed to identify factors that serve to mitigate its negative effects. Studies have demonstrated positive influences of spirituality within the AA community. Determining whether spirituality attenuates the effects of depressive symptoms on cognitive functioning and the pathophysiological mechanisms that explain these relationships in AAs is paramount. This study examines the influence of daily spiritual experiences on the relationship between depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning, and how inflammatory markers may partially explain these associations. A sample of 212 (mean age= 45.6) participants completed the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), Trail Making Test A and B (TMT) and Stroop Color and Word Test (Stroop). Blood samples were collected to measure inflammatory mediators (IL-6, IL-1a, TNF-a). Linear regression analyses were used to evaluate associations. Higher BDI-II scores were associated with poorer psychomotor speed and visual scanning, measured by TMT A (B=1.49, P=.01). IL-6 explained a significant amount of variance in this relationship (B=.24, CI 95% [.00, .64]). IL-6 also significantly mediated the relationship between depressive symptoms and psychomotor speed and mental flexibility, measured by TMT B performance (B=.03, CI 95% [.003, .095]). Frequent spiritual experiences among AAs may ameliorate the negative influence of depressive symptoms on cognitive functioning.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478044/

 

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

 

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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/

 

Spirituality Interferes with Successful Treatment of Cannabis Abuse in Adolescents

Spirituality Interferes with Successful Treatment of Cannabis Abuse in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“there are three main reasons that cannabis is seen as a spiritual tool. First, “It is a light intoxicant and can therefore be used fairly frequently and without the kinds of impairment associated with major hallucinogens.” Second, cannabis is conducive to group social use and fosters conversation about philosophical and theological matters. Finally, cannabis weakens our ability for sustained attention. . . . it’s great for aiding in shifts of perspective and giving experiences a more pluralistic character.” – Robert Fuller

 

Drug and alcohol addictions are very difficult to kick and if successful about half the time the individual will relapse. So, there have been developed a number of programs to help the addict recover and prevent relapse. The 12 step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, etc. have been as successful as any programs in treating addictions. These programs insist that spirituality is essential to recovery.

 

Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Recent data suggest that 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.” National Institute of Drug Abuse.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. Spirituality has been shown to assist in addiction recovery. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of spirituality with the ability of adolescents to recover from cannabis abuse.

 

In today’s Research News article “”God put weed here for us to smoke”: A mixed-methods study of religion and spirituality among adolescents with cannabis use disorders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6430642/), Yeterian and colleagues recruited adolescents, aged 14 to 21 years, who were undergoing a 12-step program for the treatment of cannabis abuse. The adolescents were measured before treatment and at 3 and 6-month follow-ups for religiosity, spirituality, and substance abuse. They also underwent interviews about their substance use and the program.

 

They found at follow-up that the higher the levels of spirituality the greater the increase in the use of cannabis by the adolescents, while the higher the levels of spirituality at baseline, the lower the levels of alcohol consumption. The results of the interviews suggested that the relationship of spirituality with increased cannabis use was due to the adolescents believing that cannabis deepened the sense of their spirituality.

 

Twelve-step programs emphasize spirituality and the current results suggest that this may be useful in treating alcohol abuse. But it may be counterproductive in treating cannabis abuse, contributing to greater use. The adolescents appear to see cannabis use as enhancing their spirituality and thus spiritual youths are susceptible to continued and increased cannabis use. This suggests that treatment programs for cannabis abuse should not include spirituality as part of the treatment.

 

So, spirituality interferes with successful treatment of cannabis abuse in adolescents.

 

“It is important for clinicians to be aware of the dynamics of spirituality and religion in the cause, maintenance, and treatment of substance misuse problems.” – John Allen

 

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

 

Yeterian, J. D., Bursik, K., & Kelly, J. F. (2018). “God put weed here for us to smoke”: A mixed-methods study of religion and spirituality among adolescents with cannabis use disorders. Substance abuse, 39(4), 484–492. doi:10.1080/08897077.2018.1449168

 

Abstract

Background:

A growing literature on adults with substance use disorders (SUD) suggests that religious and spiritual processes can support recovery, such that higher levels of religiosity and/or spirituality predict better substance use outcomes. However, studies of the role of religion and spirituality in adolescent SUD treatment response have produced mixed findings, and religiosity and spirituality have rarely been examined separately.

Methods:

The present study examined religiosity and spirituality as predictors of outcomes in an outpatient treatment adolescent sample (N = 101) in which cannabis was the predominant drug of choice. Qualitative data were used to contextualize the quantitative findings.

Results:

Results showed that higher levels of spirituality at post-treatment predicted increased cannabis use at 6-month follow-up (β = .237, p = .043), whereas higher levels of baseline spirituality predicted a lower likelihood of heavy drinking at post-treatment (OR = .316, p = .040). Religiosity did not predict substance use outcomes at later timepoints. When asked to describe the relation between their religious/spiritual views and their substance use, adolescents described believing that they had a choice about their substance use and were in control of it, feeling more spiritual when under the influence of cannabis, and being helped by substance use.

Conclusions:

Together, findings suggest that for adolescents with SUD, religion and spirituality may not counteract the use of cannabis, which may be explained by adolescents’ views of their substance use as being consistent with their spirituality and under their control.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6430642/

 

Have Higher Job Satisfaction with Cancer Survivors with Spirituality

Have Higher Job Satisfaction with Cancer Survivors with Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Although addressing spiritual concerns is often considered an end-of-life issue, such concerns may arise at any time after diagnosis. Acknowledging the importance of these concerns and addressing them, even briefly, at diagnosis may facilitate better adjustment throughout the course of treatment and create a context for richer dialogue later in the illness.” – National Cancer Institute

 

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. Cancer survivors are often challenged with a wide range of residual issues including chronic pain, sleep disturbance, sexual problems, loss of appetite, and chronic fatigue. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions. Hence there is a need to identify safe and effective treatments for the physical, emotional, and financial hardships that can persist for years after diagnosis and treatment.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatiguestress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. In addition, religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they’re diagnosed with cancer or when living with cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality may be a useful tool for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness. A very important issue for cancer survivors is returning to work. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality to cancer survivors’ ability to adjust to their work situations.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” The Mediating Effect of Workplace Spirituality on the Relation between Job Stress and Job Satisfaction of Cancer Survivors Returning to Work. (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6846173/), Jin and Lee recruited cancer survivors who had returned to work for at least 6 months following treatment. They completed measures of job stress, job satisfaction, and workplace spirituality.

 

They found that the higher the levels of spirituality in the cancer survivors, the lower the reported levels of job stress and the higher the reported levels of job satisfaction. They also noted that higher the levels of job stress were associated with lower levels of job satisfaction. In addition, a mediation analysis revealed that the negative relationship of job stress with job satisfaction was in part mediated by spirituality, such that high levels of job stress was directly negatively related to job satisfaction and was also related indirectly by being associated with lower levels of spirituality which were, in turn, related to lower levels of job satisfaction.

 

These findings are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But it can be speculated that for cancer survivors stress on the job is detrimental to satisfaction with the job and that being spiritual helps to buffer the influence of stress on satisfaction. Hence, being spiritual may help cancer survivors to better weather stress effects and thus be happier with their work. This may assist the survivors in overcoming some of the residual problems and being better able to return to their occupations.

 

So, have higher job satisfaction with cancer survivors with spirituality/

 

“Spirituality and religion can be important to the well-being of people who have cancer, enabling them to better cope with the disease. Spirituality and religion may help patients and families find deeper meaning and experience a sense of personal growth during cancer treatment, while living with cancer, and as a cancer survivor.” – National Comprehensive Cancer Network

 

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

 

Jin JH, Lee EJ. The Mediating Effect of Workplace Spirituality on the Relation between Job Stress and Job Satisfaction of Cancer Survivors Returning to Work. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Sep 20;16(19):3510. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16193510. PMID: 31547142; PMCID: PMC6801382.

 

Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the mediating effect of workplace spirituality in the relation between job stress and job satisfaction as well as the level of job stress, job satisfaction, and workplace spirituality of cancer survivors returning to work. A total of 126 cancer survivors who returned to work more than six months prior to the research participated in this study. Participants were recruited through snowball sampling; they were visiting the outpatient clinic at two general hospitals located in a metropolitan city and their clinical stage was stage 0 or stage 1. The collected data were analyzed using SPSS 22.0. Job stress, workplace spirituality, and job satisfaction had a negative correlation, whereas workplace spirituality and job satisfaction had a positive correlation. The Sobel test was performed to verify the significance of the mediating effect size of workplace adaptation, the results confirmed a partial mediating effect of workplace spirituality on the relation between job stress and job satisfaction (Z = –4.72, p < 0.001). This study confirmed the mediating effect of workplace spirituality in the relation between job stress and job satisfaction. A systematic program needs to be developed to enhance workplace spirituality, a spiritual approach, to relieve job stress and increase job satisfaction.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6801382/

 

Augment Mystical Experiences in Meditation and Long-Term Well-Being with Psilocybin

Augment Mystical Experiences in Meditation and Long-Term Well-Being with Psilocybin

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Trying to harness the mind in meditation is a bit like holding a water wiggly—those tubular, slippery, jelly-filled toys that leap out of your hand whenever you try to hold onto them. With the addition of a psychedelic state of mind, it could be like grasping with a greased hand.” – Paul Austin

 

Psychedelic substances have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. Psychedelics produce effects that are similar to those that are reported in spiritual awakenings. They report a loss of the personal self. They experience what they used to refer to as the self as just a part of an integrated whole. They report feeling interconnected with everything else in a sense of oneness with all things. They experience a feeling of timelessness where time seems to stop and everything is taking place in a single present moment. They experience ineffability, being unable to express in words what they are experiencing and as a result sometimes producing paradoxical statements. And they experience a positive mood, with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

 

It is easy to see why people find these experiences so pleasant and eye opening. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. Even though the effects of psychedelic substances have been experienced and reported on for centuries, only very recently have these effects come under rigorous scientific scrutiny.

 

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that is found naturally in a number of varieties of mushrooms. It has been used for centuries particularly by Native Americans for their spiritual practices. When studied in the laboratory under double blind conditions, Psilocybin has been shown to “reliably occasion deeply personally meaningful and often spiritually significant experiences (e.g. mystical-type experiences).” Since the effects of meditation and psilocybin appear similar, it’s important to look at the effects of the combination of meditation with psilocybin.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6813317/ ), Smigielski and colleagues recruited experienced adult meditators participating in a 5-day meditation retreat and randomly assigned them to receive either a high dose of psilocybin or a placebo. The participants were matched for age, gender, mindfulness level, and meditation experience. They were administered psilocybin or placebo on the fourth day of the retreat. Before and after and on each day of the retreat they were measured for mindfulness and meditation depth. Six hours after psilocybin or placebo administration they were measured for altered states of consciousness and mystical experiences. Four months after the retreat they were evaluated for changes in behavior by self-report and that of a significant other. They did not observe any adverse events associated with psilocybin administration.

 

They found that on the day of administration the psilocybin group had significantly greater depth of meditation and after the retreat significantly higher mindfulness. While the drugs were in effect the psilocybin group had large significant increases in altered states of consciousness, including unity, spiritual experience, blissfulness, insightfulness, and disembodiment and large significant increases in mystical experiences, including complex imagery, elementary imagery, audiovisual synesthesia, and changed meaning of percepts. Four months after the retreat the participants who were administered psilocybin had significant changes in behavior documented by themselves and a significant other including significantly greater appreciation for life, self-acceptance, quest for meaning/sense of purpose, and appreciation of death.

 

Meditation retreats have been shown to increase meditation depth, mindfulness, mystical experiences, and to produce changes in consciousness. The present results suggest that psilocybin administration produces large and significant amplifications of these effects. In fact, the participants who received psilocybin reported that the experience was equivalent to the greatest mystical experiences that they have ever had. Remarkably, the effects of the single administration were enduring, altering and deepening their acceptance of themselves as they are, their appreciation of life and death, and their sense of meaning and purpose. These results suggest that the combination of meditation with psilocybin may be a safe and effective means to improve psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

 

So, augment mystical experiences in meditation and long-term well-being with psilocybin.

 

“After the retreat, mushroom-assisted meditators reported less self-consciousness and more illusions and hallucinations than the control group. What’s more, their brains showed alterations in the functioning of the default mode network—a group of interacting brain regions linked to self-awareness and rumination—during open awareness meditation. . . . What is even more remarkable is that experienced meditators in the psilocybin group reported better social functioning four months later.” – Grace Bullock

 

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

 

Smigielski, L., Kometer, M., Scheidegger, M., Krähenmann, R., Huber, T., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2019). Characterization and prediction of acute and sustained response to psychedelic psilocybin in a mindfulness group retreat. Scientific reports, 9(1), 14914. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-50612-3

 

Abstract

Meditation and psychedelics have played key roles in humankind’s search for self-transcendence and personal change. However, neither their possible synergistic effects, nor related state and trait predictors have been experimentally studied. To elucidate these issues, we administered double-blind the model psychedelic drug psilocybin (315 μg/kg PO) or placebo to meditators (n = 39) during a 5-day mindfulness group retreat. Psilocybin increased meditation depth and incidence of positively experienced self-dissolution along the perception-hallucination continuum, without concomitant anxiety. Openness, optimism, and emotional reappraisal were predictors of the acute response. Compared with placebo, psilocybin enhanced post-intervention mindfulness and produced larger positive changes in psychosocial functioning at a 4-month follow-up, which were corroborated by external ratings, and associated with magnitude of acute self-dissolution experience. Meditation seems to enhance psilocybin’s positive effects while counteracting possible dysphoric responses. These findings highlight the interactions between non-pharmacological and pharmacological factors, and the role of emotion/attention regulation in shaping the experiential quality of psychedelic states, as well as the experience of selflessness as a modulator of behavior and attitudes. A better comprehension of mechanisms underlying most beneficial psychedelic experiences may guide therapeutic interventions across numerous mental conditions in the form of psychedelic-assisted applications.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6813317/