High Frequency of Yoga Practice Produces Greater Benefits

High Frequency of Yoga Practice Produces Greater Benefits

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration. Body- and self-awareness are particularly beneficial, because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.” – Natalie Nevins

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. It is both an exercise and a mind-body practice that stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. There has, however, not been much attention paid to the characteristics of practice that are important for producing maximum benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Yoga Asana Practice Approach on Types of Benefits Experienced.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746050/), Wiese and colleagues emailed a questionnaire to a large sample of yoga practitioners. They were asked for demographic information and to describe their yoga practice and physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits of yoga.

 

They found that the higher the frequency of practice the greater the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits. Weaker relationships were found between consistency of practice, teaching yoga, and teacher experience and the benefits. In addition, there was a relationship between the frequency of practice without a teacher and self-confidence. Evening practice was found to be a negative predictor of benefits.

 

These findings suggest, as has been previously reported, that yoga practice produces myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. The characteristic of practice that was most highly related to these benefits was how many times per week yoga was practiced, particularly when the practice occurred 5 or more times per week; the more practice, the greater the benefits. Also associated with benefits were consistency of practice, teaching yoga, and teacher experience, while evening practice was associated with less benefit.

 

It should be noted that these results are correlations and caution must be exercised in assigning causation. But the findings are consistent with finding from controlled studies, suggesting that yoga practice produces great benefit.

 

So, practice frequently to obtain the greatest benefits from yoga practice.

 

Multiple studies have confirmed the many mental and physical benefits of yoga. Incorporating it into your routine can help enhance your health, increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Finding the time to practice yoga just a few times per week may be enough to make a noticeable difference when it comes to your health.” – Rachel Link

 

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

 

Wiese, C., Keil, D., Rasmussen, A. S., & Olesen, R. (2019). Effects of Yoga Asana Practice Approach on Types of Benefits Experienced. International journal of yoga, 12(3), 218–225. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_81_18

 

Abstract

Context:

Modern science and the classic text on hatha yoga, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, report physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits of yoga practice. While all have specific suggestions for how to practice, little research has been done to ascertain whether specific practice approaches impact the benefits experienced by practitioners.

Aims:

Our aim was to relate the experience level of the practitioner, the context of practice approaches (time of day, duration of practice, frequency of practice, etc.), and experience level of the teacher, to the likelihood of reporting particular benefits of yoga.

Methods:

We conducted a cross-sectional descriptive survey of yoga practitioners across levels and styles of practice. Data were compiled from a large voluntary convenience sample (n = 2620) regarding respondents’ methods of practice, yoga experience levels, and benefits experienced. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify approaches to yoga practice that positively predicted particular benefits.

Results:

Frequency of practice, either with or without a teacher, was a positive predictor of reporting nearly all benefits of yoga, with an increased likelihood of experiencing most benefits when the practitioner did yoga five or more days per week. Other aspects of practice approach, experience level of the practitioner, and the experience level of the teacher, had less effect on the benefits reported.

Conclusions:

Practice frequency of at least 5 days per week will provide practitioners with the greatest amount of benefit across all categories of benefits. Other practice approaches can vary more widely without having a marked impact on most benefits experienced.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746050/

 

Improve Personal Growth in Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness and Spirituality

Improve Personal Growth in Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness and Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“religion and spirituality can help cancer patients find meaning in their illness and provide comfort in the face of fear.” – American Cancer Society

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.

 

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 and mindfulness may be useful tools for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality and mindfulness on the ability of cancer survivors to positively adjust to their situation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340393/), Rudaz and colleagues recruited cancer survivors and had them complete questionnaires measuring spiritual coping (using spirituality as a comfort during difficulties), spiritual mindfulness, personal growth, and positive reinterpretation (interpreting stressful events in a positive way).

 

They found that for the cancer survivors, the greater the levels of mindfulness, the greater the levels of personal growth and the greater the levels of positive reinterpretation. Hence mindfulness was associated with positive adjustments to their illness. Further they found that higher levels of spiritual coping were associated with higher levels of personal growth and higher levels of positive reinterpretation only when mindfulness was high. No relationship was present when mindfulness was low. Younger participants and those with higher levels of education had significantly higher levels of personal growth.

 

It has to be kept in mind that the study was correlational and as such no conclusions about causation can be reached. But the results suggest that spiritual mindfulness is associated with two positive characteristics in cancer survivors, personal growth and positive reinterpretation. In other words, being mindful was associated with an ability to interpret the illness in a positive way and use it as a springboard for greater personal growth. Being able to take solace in spirituality (spiritual coping) was only an effective strategy when the cancer survivors had high levels of mindfulness. Hence, mindfulness is an important characteristic on its own but also one that allows for spirituality to be associated with growth. They appear to have to work together.

 

So, improve personal growth in cancer survivors with mindfulness and spirituality.

 

“Results show promise for mindfulness-based interventions to treat common psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression in cancer survivors and to improve overall quality of life.” — Linda E. Carlson

 

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

 

Rudaz, M., Ledermann, T., & Grzywacz, J. G. (2018). Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors. Journal of psychosocial oncology, 36(5), 609–623. doi:10.1080/07347332.2018.1464091

 

Abstract

Purpose.

This study examined the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness on the association between spiritual coping and perceived growth in individuals with and without current treatment for cancer.

Design/Sample.

Adults with a cancer history (N = 534) from the Midlife in the United States study completed a telephone interview and self-administered questionnaires.

Methods/Findings.

Moderated regression analyses, controlled for age and educational attainment, showed that mindfulness moderated the effect of spiritual coping on personal growth and on positive reinterpretation. High mindfulness amplified the effect of spiritual coping on both personal growth and positive reinterpretation. Further, this moderating effect was significantly different for adults with versus without current treatment for cancer for positive reinterpretation but not for personal growth.

Conclusions/Implications.

These findings highlight the potential amplifying effect of spiritual mindfulness on the effect of spiritual coping on perceived growth in cancer survivors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340393/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Psychological Well-Being but also Cognitive Distortions

Spirituality is Associated with Better Psychological Well-Being but also Cognitive Distortions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

No causal link has been established, but higher levels of spirituality have been linked to increased compassion, strengthened relationships, and improved self-esteem.” – Psychology Today

 

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. Hence, it makes sense to study the relationships of spirituality with the individual’s characteristics to better understand how spirituality might influence psychological well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spirituality, dimensional autism, and schizotypal traits: The search for meaning.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6407781/), Crespi and colleagues recruited undergraduate students and had them complete questionnaires measuring spirituality including subscales measuring belief in God, search for meaning, mindfulness, and security, and also autism traits including social skills, communication, attention to detail, attention switching, and imagination subscales, and also schizotypal traits including constricted affect, social anxiety, magical thinking, unusual perceptions, ideas of reference, eccentric behavior, and odd speech.

 

They found that the higher the total levels of spirituality the lower the levels of autism traits and the higher the levels of positive schizotypal traits. Of the spirituality subscales they found that the higher the belief in God the higher the levels of positive schizotypal traits, including magical thinking and unusual perceptions. Of the spirituality subscales they found that the higher the search for meaning the lower the levels of autism traits and the higher the levels of positive schizotypal traits, including magical thinking and unusual perceptions. Of the spirituality subscales they found that the higher the mindfulness the lower the levels of autism traits.

 

It should be kept in mind that the results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. The findings suggest that spirituality, especially search for meaning and mindfulness, is associated with less autism traits suggesting healthier personalities. But they also suggest that spirituality, especially belief in God and search for meaning, is associated with greater positive schizotypal traits, particularly with magical thinking and unusual perceptions. These findings suggest that belief in God and search for meaning are associated with distorted cognitive processes.

 

In total, the findings suggest that spirituality is associated with some strengths in the personality but also with cognitive distortions. It is possible that adherence to particular religions (religiosity) may be the reason for the opposing findings. Indeed, this idea is supported by the fact that belief in God was associated with the cognitive distortions. Unfortunately, the present study did not measure religiosity. Hopefully, future research will include measurement of religiosity.

 

So, spirituality is associated with better psychological well-being but also cognitive distortions.

 

There’s a lot of research linking health and more contentment with life, and having a regular spiritual practice. I personally can’t imagine getting through each day without connecting with my spiritual self, especially when life feels overwhelming or when I’m feeling a bit lost.” – Cara Howell

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Crespi, B., Dinsdale, N., Read, S., & Hurd, P. (2019). Spirituality, dimensional autism, and schizotypal traits: The search for meaning. PloS one, 14(3), e0213456. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0213456

 

Abstract

The relationships of spirituality with human social cognition, as exemplified in autism spectrum and schizophrenia spectrum cognitive variation, remain largely unstudied. We quantified non-clinical levels of autism spectrum and schizotypal spectrum traits (using the Autism Quotient and the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire-Brief Revised) and dimensions of spirituality (using the Hardt Spirituality Questionnaire) in a large sample of undergraduate students. We tested in particular the hypothesis, based on the diametrical model of autism and psychosis, that autism should be negatively associated, and positive schizotypal traits should be positively associated, with spirituality. Our primary findings were threefold. First, in support of the diametric model, total Spirituality score was significantly negatively correlated with total Autism Quotient score, and significantly positively correlated with Positive Schizotypal traits (the Schizotypal Personality Cognitive-Perceptual subscale), as predicted. Second, these associations were driven mainly by opposite patterns regarding the Search for Meaning Spirituality subscale, which was the only subscale that was significantly negatively associated with autism, and significantly positively associated with Positive Schizotypal traits. Third, Belief in God was positively correlated with Positive Schizotypal traits, but was uncorrelated with autism traits. The opposite findings for Search for Meaning can be interpreted in the contexts of well-supported cognitive models for understanding autism in terms of weak central coherence, and understanding Positive Schizotypal traits in terms of enhanced salience.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6407781/

 

Teen Health and Life Satisfaction are Associated with Spirituality

Teen Health and Life Satisfaction are Associated with Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

While adolescents may question or review their spirituality, it remains a critical aspect of adolescent stability. . . studies of religiosity have found a positive correlation with an adolescent sense of well-being, positive life attitudes, altruism, resiliency, school success, health and positive identity, as well as a negative correlation with alcohol and drug use, delinquency, depression, excessive risk-taking and early sexual activity.” – Kenneth Doka

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

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 even in adolescents. So, it makes sense to investigate the influence of spirituality on youths’ physical and psychological well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spirituality but not Religiosity Is Associated with Better Health and Higher Life Satisfaction among Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313303/), Dankulincova Veselska and colleagues employed the data from a large representative sample of adolescents from Slovakia in the 5th through 9th grades. They completed measures of physical and psychological health, life satisfaction, religiosity, spirituality, and family affluence.

 

They found that there were significant relationships between spirituality and the other measures, with the higher the level of spirituality the higher the levels of health and life satisfaction and the lower the levels of health complaints. On the other hand, religiosity was not found to be associated with any of the variables.

 

This study was correlational and as such conclusions regarding causation cannot be reached. But, the adolescents’ levels of religiosity (church attendance and importance of faith) were not related to their physical or psychological health or life satisfaction, suggesting that simply being religious is not sufficient to enhance well-being. But being spiritual (have meaning in life, connections to nature) is associated with the youths’ well-being.

 

So, teen health and life satisfaction are associated with spirituality.

 

“Spiritual health has long been recognised as an important component in maintaining overall health and wellbeing, with a growing body of research which supports linkages between mindfulness-based practices and positive mental health and resilience.” – HBSC News

 

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

 

Dankulincova Veselska, Z., Jirasek, I., Veselsky, P., Jiraskova, M., Plevova, I., Tavel, P., & Madarasova Geckova, A. (2018). Spirituality but not Religiosity Is Associated with Better Health and Higher Life Satisfaction among Adolescents. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(12), 2781. doi:10.3390/ijerph15122781

 

Abstract

Careful conceptualization and differentiation of both spirituality and religiosity is a necessary precondition for understanding the potential role they play in health, whether physical or mental. The aim of this study was to explore the associations of spirituality with self-rated health, health complaints, and life satisfaction of adolescents with the moderating role of religiosity. Data from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study conducted in 2014 in Slovakia were used. The final sample consisted of 658 adolescents (mean age = 15.37; 50.6% boys). Data regarding spirituality, religiosity, self-rated health, health complaints, and life satisfaction were obtained. Binary logistic models revealed spirituality to be associated with self-rated health, health complaints, and life satisfaction. A moderating role of religiosity was not confirmed. The presented findings indicate the need to distinguish between the concepts of religiosity and spirituality in connection with subjective health and life satisfaction.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313303/

Spirituality is Associated with Enhanced Well-Being

Spirituality is Associated with Enhanced Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

despite differences in specific rituals and beliefs among the world’s major religions, that being spiritual tended to improve someone’s health, regardless of his or her actual religion.” – Christopher Bergland

 

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.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Role of Spirituality and Religiosity in Subjective Well-Being of Individuals With Different Religious Status.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630357/), Villani and colleagues recruited adults online and had them complete an online questionnaire. They were measured for life satisfaction, positive and negative emotions, spirituality, including purpose, innerness, interconnection, and transcendence, and religiosity, including commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment. Path analysis was used to investigate the interrelationships of these variables.

 

They found that the spirituality dimension of purpose was positively associated with life satisfaction and positive emotions while the dimension if innerness was negatively associated with negative emotions. This was found to be true regardless of the participants religiosity. They found that the religiosity dimension of commitment was also positively associated with and positive emotions regardless of the participants religiosity but with life satisfaction for only individuals who considered themselves religious and not individuals who were religiously uncertain. Further they found that the religiosity dimension of commitment was positively associated with and negative emotions for individuals who were religiously uncertain and negatively associated for individuals who considered themselves religious.

 

This study was correlational, so caution must be exercised in inferring causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that being spiritual is associated with high levels of psychological well-being regardless of whether the individual is religious or uncertain. On the other hand, the results suggest that religiosity is associated with high levels of psychological well-being only for individuals who are religious, while for uncertain individuals, religious commitment actually is associated with poorer well-being.

 

Thus, spirituality is associated with enhanced well-being.

 

“Spirituality/Religion and its role in promoting physical and behavioral health has been embraced in many public health settings as an important tool to promote wellness.” – SAMHSA

 

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

 

Villani, D., Sorgente, A., Iannello, P., & Antonietti, A. (2019). The Role of Spirituality and Religiosity in Subjective Well-Being of Individuals With Different Religious Status. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1525. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01525

 

Abstract

Spirituality and religiosity have been found to be positive predictors of subjective well-being, even if results are not altogether consistent across studies. This mixed evidence is probably due to the inadequate operationalization of the constructs as well as the neglect of the moderation effect that the individuals’ religious status can have on the relation between spirituality/religiosity and subjective well-being. The current study aimed to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity with subjective well-being (operationalized as both life satisfaction and balance between positive and negative affect) and to test whether differences exist according to individuals’ religious status (religious, non-religious, and uncertain). Data were collected from 267 Italian adults aged 18–77 (M = 36.68; SD = 15.13), mainly women (59.9%). In order to test the role of spirituality (operationalized as Purpose, Innerness, Interconnection, and Transcendence) and religiosity (operationalized as three dimensions of the religious identity: Commitment, In-depth Exploration, and Reconsideration of Commitment) in subjective well-being, two path analysis models were run, one for each predictor. To test the invariance of the two models across the individuals’ religious status, two multi-group models were run. The models concerning spirituality were tested on the entire sample, finding that spirituality had a positive impact on subjective well-being (except for the dimension of Interconnection) and that this relation is unaffected by the individual’s religious status. The models concerning religiosity were instead tested only on religious and uncertain, finding that the relationship between religiosity and subjective well-being changes across religious status. In particular, the main difference we found was that religious identity commitment positively predicted satisfaction with life among religious, but not among uncertain individuals. An interpretation of the results and their implications are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630357/

 

Spirituality Improves Health Behaviors Particularly When Coupled with Religion

Spirituality Improves Health Behaviors Particularly When Coupled with Religion

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Spirituality is a universal phenomenon and an inherent aspect of human nature that unfolds during adolescence as the individual searches for transcendence, meaning, and purpose in life.” – Sangwon Kim

 

We tend to think that illness is produced by physical causes, disease, injury, viruses, bacteria, etc. But many health problems are behavioral problems or have their origins in maladaptive behavior. This is evident in car accident injuries that are frequently due to behaviors, such as texting while driving, driving too fast or aggressively, or driving drunk. Other problematic behaviors are cigarette smoking, alcoholism, drug use, or unprotected sex. It is well established that if patterns and habits of healthy behaviors can be established early in life, long-term health can be promoted and ill health can be prevented. Adolescence is a time when these behavioral causes of health problems usually develop.

 

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 the ability of adolescents to develop positive health behaviors.

 

In today’s Research News article “”I am spiritual, but not religious”: Does one without the other protect against adolescent health-risk behaviour?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6353810/), Malinakova and colleagues obtained data from a Czechoslovakian survey of a representative sample of adolescents aged 11, 13, and 15 years. Among other measures the youths completed measures of religious attendance, spirituality, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use, drug use experience, and sexual intercourse.

 

They found that either religious attendance or high spirituality was associated with a lower risk of smoking while only high spirituality was associated with lower alcohol use and only religious attendance appeared to be associated with lower early sexual intercourse. But when the combination of religious attendance and high spirituality was looked at, there were large significantly lower levels of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use and lifetime drug use.

 

These results are interesting but correlational. So, caution must be exercised in making conclusions about causality. They suggest, though, that individually religious attendance and spirituality only have limited associations with lower levels of health risk behaviors in adolescents. But in combination they have a strong association with lower levels of these behaviors. This suggests that just attending religious services doesn’t impact health risk behaviors unless it is combined with spirituality. It would appear that when youths are religious and also spiritual, they are much less likely to engage in behaviors that may damage their health.

 

So, spirituality improves health behaviors particularly when coupled with religion.

 

The results also showed a consistent relationship between high levels of spiritual health and positive overall self-rated health. Overall, while the perceived importance of spiritual health declined by age, for adolescents who maintain a strong sense of the importance of self-perceived spiritual health, the possible benefits are striking.” – HBSC News

 

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

 

Malinakova, K., Kopcakova, J., Madarasova Geckova, A., van Dijk, J. P., Furstova, J., Kalman, M., … Reijneveld, S. A. (2019). “I am spiritual, but not religious”: Does one without the other protect against adolescent health-risk behaviour?. International journal of public health, 64(1), 115–124. doi:10.1007/s00038-018-1116-4

 

Abstract

Objectives

Spirituality and religious attendance (RA) have been suggested to protect against adolescent health-risk behaviour (HRB). The aim of this study was to explore the interrelatedness of these two concepts in a secular environment.

Methods

A nationally representative sample (n = 4566, 14.4 ± 1.1 years, 48.8% boys) of adolescents participated in the 2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children cross-sectional study. RA, spirituality (modified version of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale), tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and drug use and the prevalence of sexual intercourse were measured.

Results

RA and spirituality were associated with a lower chance of weekly smoking, with odds ratios (OR) 0.57 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.36–0.88] for RA and 0.88 (0.80–0.97) for spirituality. Higher spirituality was also associated with a lower risk of weekly drinking [OR (95% CI) 0.91 (0.83–0.995)]. The multiplicative interaction of RA and spirituality was associated with less risky behaviour for four of five explored HRB. RA was not a significant mediator for the association of spirituality with HRB.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that high spirituality only protects adolescents from HRB if combined with RA.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6353810/

 

Spirituality is associated with Character Strength, Well-Being, and Prosociality in Adolescents

Spirituality is associated with Character Strength, Well-Being, and Prosociality in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Given that adolescents are at the crossroads of life and face many issues and challenges that are unique, uncertain and value-conflict, they need to critically reflect on practical interests and examine broad issues on religiously tethered and untethered spirituality in their lives.” – Charlene Tan

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred.” Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. It makes sense, then, to investigate the influence of spirituality on the ability of youths to navigate this difficult time and develop positive qualities and better mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400865/), Kor and colleagues recruited adolescents (aged 13 to 17 years) from middle schools in Israel. They were measured at three points over 14 months for optimism, prosociality, spirituality, religious practices, personal devotion, spiritual transcendence, positive and negative emotions, satisfaction with life, and 24 character strengths consisting of curiosity, love of learning, judgment, creativity, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality.

 

They found that spirituality was relatively stable over time and was moderately associated with interpersonal character strengths. High levels of spirituality were significantly associated with high levels of life satisfaction, positive emotions, and prosociality at all three measurement times. Hence, spirituality was associated with the character strength and well-being of the adolescents.

 

These results are correlational and as such caution must be exercised in reaching causal conclusions. But the study suggests that being spiritual is associated with positive characters in the adolescents and greater well-being and attentiveness to the needs of others (prosociality). This further suggests that being spiritual may help adolescents navigate the complex and difficult terrain of adolescence. It remains to be seen if promoting spirituality may produce improvements in adolescent character and well-being.

 

So, spirituality is associated with character strength, well-being, and prosociality in adolescents.

 

Adolescent well-being has received extensive attention, with ample evidence of the positive role of religion and spirituality in youth development.” – Chris Boyatzis

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kor, A., Pirutinsky, S., Mikulincer, M., Shoshani, A., & Miller, L. (2019). A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 377. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377

 

Abstract

Using data from 1,352 middle-school Israeli adolescents, the current study examines the interface of spirituality and character strengths and its longitudinal contribution to subjective well-being and prosociality. Participants were approached three times over a 14-months period and completed measures of character strengths, spirituality, subjective well-being (positive emotions, life satisfaction), and prosociality. Findings revealed a fourth-factor structure of character strengths that included the typical tripartite classification of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual strengths together with spirituality emerging as a statistically autonomous factor. Spirituality was stable over time and contributed to higher subjective well-being and prosociality both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Discussion focuses on spirituality as a fundamental character strength and an important aspect of positive development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400865/

 

Religion and Spirituality are Associated with Brain Difference is Individuals At-Risk for Major Depression

Religion and Spirituality are Associated with Brain Difference is Individuals At-Risk for Major Depression

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

There are two possible explanations. One is that a thicker cortex is more associated with being interested in spiritual questions, the connectedness of people, etc and is simultaneously protective against depression. The other is that a lifelong habit of meditating and/or contemplation of spirituality stimulates the metabolism and neurogeneration in areas of the brain that confer resilience to trauma and therefore reduce the risk of developing depression.” – Emily Deans

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

One way that spirituality can have its effects on the individual is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. So, religion and spirituality may be associated with changes in the nervous system.

 

In today’s Research News article “A diffusion tensor imaging study of brain microstructural changes related to religion and spirituality in families at high risk for depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379589/), Li and colleagues recruited adult (average 33 years old) offspring of patients with major depressive disorder (high risk) and offspring from individuals who have no psychiatric conditions (low risk). Their brains were scanned with a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). They also completed a scale measuring the importance they ascribed to religion and spirituality.

 

They found that in participants who believed that religion / spirituality was of low importance but were of high risk for major depression had significantly decreased integrity and microstructure in white matter regions neighboring the precuneus, superior parietal lobe, superior and middle frontal gyrus, and bilateral insula, supplementary motor area, and postcentral gyrus. Participants who believed that religion / spirituality was of high importance and were of high risk for major depression had significantly decreased integrity and microstructure in white matter regions surrounding the left superior, and middle frontal gyrus, left superior parietal lobule, and right supplementary motor area.

 

These are complex findings that suggest that adults at high risk of developing major depression have lower integrity (functionality) of the connections between brain regions (white matter) potentially making them more susceptible for the development of major depression. These neural changes appear to be different depending upon the individuals’ beliefs of the importance of religion / spirituality. Religion / spirituality may be associated with reorganized connections that may be associated with protection from the development of major depression. This may be a mechanism by which religion / spirituality helps to protect individuals from developing major depression.

 

This is highly speculative and it will take much more research to test these ideas. But, nonetheless, the results suggest that how well the brain operates is damaged by having parents with major depressive disorder. But, being religious / spiritual may alter the disruptions of the brain protecting the individual from the development of a major depressive disorder.

 

people with habitual spiritual practices show cortical thickening in the prefrontal cortex. Intriguingly, she says that individuals who live with chronic depression experience cortical thinning in the same brain region.” – Maria Cohut

 

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

 

Li, X., Weissman, M., Talati, A., Svob, C., Wickramaratne, P., Posner, J., & Xu, D. (2019). A diffusion tensor imaging study of brain microstructural changes related to religion and spirituality in families at high risk for depression. Brain and behavior, 9(2), e01209. doi:10.1002/brb3.1209

 

Abstract

Introduction

Previously in a three‐generation study of families at high risk for depression, we found that belief in the importance of religion/spirituality (R/S) was associated with thicker cortex in bilateral parietal and occipital regions. In the same sample using functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalograph (EEG), we found that offspring at high familial risk had thinner cortices, increased default mode network connectivity, and reduced EEG power. These group differences were significantly diminished in offspring at high risk who reported high importance of R/S beliefs, suggesting a protective effect.

Methods

This study extends previous work examining brain microstructural differences associated with risk for major depressive disorder (MDD) and tests whether these are normalized in at‐risk offspring who report high importance of R/S beliefs. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data were selected from 99 2nd and 3rd generation offspring of 1st generation depressed (high‐risk, HR) or nondepressed (low‐risk, LR) parents. Whole‐brain and region‐of‐interest analyses were performed, using ellipsoidal area ratio (EAR, an alternative diffusion anisotropy index comparable to fractional anisotropy). We examined microstructural differences associated with familial risk for depression within the groups of high and low importance of R/S beliefs (HI, LI).

Results

In the LI group, HR individuals showed significantly decreased EAR in white matter regions neighboring the precuneus, superior parietal lobe, superior and middle frontal gyrus, and bilateral insula, supplementary motor area, and postcentral gyrus. In the HI group, HR individuals showed reduced EAR in white matter surrounding the left superior, and middle frontal gyrus, left superior parietal lobule, and right supplementary motor area. Microstructural differences associated with familial risk for depression in precuneus, frontal lobe, and temporal lobe were nonsignificant or less significant in the HI group.

Conclusion

R/S beliefs may affect microstructure in brain regions associated with R/S, potentially conferring resilience to depression among HR individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379589/

 

Improve Psychological Adjustment with Meditation

Improve Psychological Adjustment with Meditation

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Fine-tuning which type of mindfulness or meditation someone uses as a prescriptive to treat a specific need will most likely be the next big advance in the public health revolution of mindfulness and meditation.” – Christopher Bergland

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise and fall away without paying them any further attention. Loving Kindness Meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment. They are also similar to many religious and spiritual practices. There are large differences between these practices that are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. But what those differences are is not known. In today’s Research News article “Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_951898_69_Psycho_20190404_arts_A), Montero-Marin and colleagues explore the different effects of these practices on the psychological well-being of practitioners.

 

They recruited adult participants online and had them complete measures of happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and negative psychological adjustment. They were also asked to indicate the amount of prayer, and the types and amounts of meditation practices engaged in, including open monitoring, focused, and compassion meditation types.

 

They found that positive psychological states were associated with the amount of the various meditation practices and not particularly with religiosity or prayer. They found that the amount of focused meditation practice was significantly related to all measures of psychological adjustment, including happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and negative psychological adjustment. On the other hand, open monitoring practice was significantly associated with self-regulation of negative emotions and compassion meditation was significantly related to positive emotions and happiness.

 

These are interesting results that are cross-sectional and correlative. So, care must be taken in concluding causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that meditation practice has positive benefits for the psychological state of the practitioner that are superior to religious practices. It appears that focused meditation practice has the greatest benefits while compassion meditation may help increase happiness and open monitoring meditation may help with dealing with negative emotions. Previous research has indicated some additional benefits of religiosity, prayer, and focused, open monitoring, and compassion meditation techniques. It remains for future research to better clarify the advantages and disadvantages of each of these meditation types.

 

So, improve psychological adjustment with meditation.

 

”For someone who meditates, the practice offers a chance to improve physical wellbeing, as well as emotional health. However, there is no “right way” to meditate, meaning people can explore the different types until they find one that works for them.” – Zawn Villines

 

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

 

Montero-Marin J, Perez-Yus MC, Cebolla A, Soler J, Demarzo M and Garcia-Campayo J (2019) Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment. Front. Psychol. 10:630. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630

 

There has been increased interest in the relationships between religiosity, meditation practice and well-being, but there is lack of understanding as to how specific religious components and distinct meditation practices could influence different positive and negative psychological adjustment outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the explanatory power of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), and compassion meditation (CM) on psychological adjustment, taking into consideration a number of practice-related variables such as session length, frequency of practice and lifetime practice. Psychological adjustment was assessed by means of happiness, positive affect, depression, negative affect, and emotional overproduction. A cross-sectional design was used, with a final sample comprising 210 Spanish participants who completed an online assessment protocol. Hierarchical regressions were performed, including age, sex and psychotropic medication use in the first step as possible confounders, with the addition of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, FA, OM, and CM in the second step. FA session length was related to all psychological adjustment outcomes: happiness (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.25, p = 0.001), positive affect (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.18, p = 0.014), depression (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.004; β = -0.27, p < 0.001), negative affect (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = -0.27, p < 0.001) and emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.013; β = -0.23, p = 0.001). CM session length was related to positive affect (β = 0.18, p = 0.011). CM practice frequency was associated with happiness (ΔR2 = 0.06, p = 0.038; β = 0.16, p = 0.041). Lifetime practice of FA was related to happiness (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = 0.21, p = 0.030) and OM to emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.037; β = -0.19, p = 0.047). Religious beliefs and prayer seemed to be less relevant than meditation practices such as FA, OM, and CM in explaining psychological adjustment. The distinct meditation practices might be differentially related to distinct psychological adjustment outcomes through different practice-related variables. However, research into other forms of institutional religiosity integrating social aspects of religion is required.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_951898_69_Psycho_20190404_arts_A

 

Promote Well-Being in Adolescents with Spirituality

Promote Well-Being in Adolescents with Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Call it faith. Call it spirituality. Call it zealotry. Our consciousness creates the reality that reflects it. If we feel apart, other, afraid, and deadened, we will live in a world that reflects and perpetuates these energies.” – Kelly Brogan

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. ”Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms.

 

It makes sense, then, to investigate the influence of spirituality on the ability of youths to navigate this difficult time and develop positive qualities and better mental health. In today’s Research News article “A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A ), Kor and colleagues recruited adolescents aged 13 to 17 years and had them complete scales at baseline and 3 and 14 months later measuring character strength, optimism, spirituality, religiosity, transcendence, devotion, positive and negative emotions, life satisfaction, and prosociality.

 

They found that spirituality in adolescents was composed of spirituality, religiosity, transcendence, and devotion and was relatively stable over the 14-month measurement period. They found that the higher the levels of spirituality, the greater the levels of character strength, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and prosocial behaviors over all three measurement time points.

 

These findings are interesting but correlational. So, conclusions regarding causation cannot be reached. But the findings suggest that, surprisingly, spirituality does not fluctuate greatly over time in adolescents. They also suggest that spirituality is associated with a relatively satisfying and happy life that is engaged positively with other people. Hence, spirituality would appear to be a positive factor that is helpful to youths in maintaining well-being over the turbulent time of adolescence.

 

So, promote well-being in adolescents with spirituality.

 

“Both religion and spirituality can have a positive impact on mental health. In some ways, they provide the same impact. For example: Both religion and spirituality can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose and forgiveness.” – Laura Greenstein

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kor A, Pirutinsky S, Mikulincer M, Shoshani A and Miller L (2019) A Longitudinal Study of Spirituality, Character Strengths, Subjective Well-Being, and Prosociality in Middle School Adolescents. Front. Psychol. 10:377. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377

 

Using data from 1,352 middle-school Israeli adolescents, the current study examines the interface of spirituality and character strengths and its longitudinal contribution to subjective well-being and prosociality. Participants were approached three times over a 14-months period and completed measures of character strengths, spirituality, subjective well-being (positive emotions, life satisfaction), and prosociality. Findings revealed a fourth-factor structure of character strengths that included the typical tripartite classification of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual strengths together with spirituality emerging as a statistically autonomous factor. Spirituality was stable over time and contributed to higher subjective well-being and prosociality both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Discussion focuses on spirituality as a fundamental character strength and an important aspect of positive development.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00377/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A