Stop worrying

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

Humans worry a lot. It is built into our DNA. Being concerned about what might happen in the future from an evolutionary perspective is a very good thing. It can help us anticipate or prevent problems from happening. It can help us avoid harmful occurrences. Worry about what another driver in front of us might do is useful in preventing accidents. So, worrying can help us survive.

Worry involves cognitive processes (thoughts) that help us to project into the future and anticipate potentially harmful events. But, worry itself can become a problem. Worrying is an unpleasant state. It can produce fear and anxiety. It produces unpleasant feelings. So, we can even worry about the bad internal feelings that worrying produces and end up worrying about worrying. It can become a vicious cycle and can make us miserable. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy” (Leo Buscaglia).

Worry can be useful but if we worry about every possible negative outcome or event it becomes rumination and produces more trouble than it prevents. As Mark Twain quipped “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” So, we need to use worry in constructive ways while not letting it get out of hand and wreak havoc with our emotions.

Contemplative practices have been shown to decrease worry and rumination. The mindfulness training appears to be an antidote to being overly worried. In today’s Research News article “Dissociation between the cognitive and interoceptive components of mindfulness in the treatment of chronic worry

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1047670165256909/?type=1&theater

Delgado-Pastor and colleagues demonstrated that mindfulness training reduces worry, depression, and anxiety in overly worried female students. They took it, however, one step further and found that a mindfulness practice that involved particularly paying attention to the internal feelings associated with worry was more effective in reducing worry than a practice focused on the thoughts surrounding worry. In other words, it appeared that focusing on feeling rather than thoughts was the best strategy for dealing with excessive worry but both strategies were helpful.

What does mindfulness do to help regulate worry? For one thing it helps us focus on the present and experience it in preference for the past or the future. Since worry involves concerns about future occurrences to some extent based upon past experiences, the more one can focus on the present the less opportunity there is for worries to arise. Mindfulness training also involves learning to view events non-judgmentally. It trains the individual to accept the worry, experience it, and then move on. This reduces the impact of the worry and prevents the development of worrying about worrying.

Particularly by learning to mindfully pay attention to the feelings arising with worry the individual can learn to experience the unpleasant feelings associated with the anxiety produced with non-judgmental awareness. This undercuts the power of the worries. Learning to mindfully pay attention to the thought process involved in worry, the individual can learn to rationally evaluate the thoughts and sort out which anticipated future events are likely and should be avoided and which are too unlikely to be concerned about, eliminating many worries altogether.

So, be mindful, follow the Dalai Lama’s advice and stop worrying.

CMCS

Does spirituality account for mindfulness’ anti-depressive effects.

Mindfulness training has physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual components. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is even more complex as it contains yoga and body scan in addition to meditation. Because of the complexity and the variety of effects of these practices it is difficult to know which components are effective in promoting well-being and which are not.

In today’s Research News article “Decreased Symptoms of Depression After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Potential Moderating Effects of Religiosity, Spirituality, Trait Mindfulness, Sex, and Age.”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1046335465390379/?type=1&theater

It is well established that MBSR is quite effective in treating and preventing depression. But it is not clear who benefits the most and what characteristics of the individual might be related to MBSR effectiveness. Greeson and colleagues investigate this question, particularly whether spirituality and religiosity or other demographic characteristics might be important for MBSR effects on depression. They demonstrate that MBSR acts independent of these other characteristics; it works regardless of level of spirituality or religiousness.

These results should not be surprising as chronic depression, as opposed to reactive depression, appears to be primarily physiologically based. It appears to be a problem with neurotransmitter balance in the central nervous system and is highly related to genetic inheritance. So, it is not surprising that behavioral and psychological characteristics such as  spirituality and religiousness would not be associated with effective treatment.

MBSR, like all contemplative practices, has marked physiological effects. It is known to change the nervous system, increasing the size of some areas, decreasing others, and altering connectivity. It also changes hormonal balances and activity in the peripheral nervous system producing greater calm and lower arousal. It is likely that these physiological effects of MBSR are responsible for its effectiveness in treating depression.

This is not to discount the importance of spirituality and religiousness. They can be very helpful with a number of conditions. Had Greeson and colleagues investigated MBSR effects on more experientially based psychological problems, such as eating disorders or panic disorder, they might have seen a large impact of spirituality and religiousness.

It is clear though that depression can be treated effectively with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

CMCS

Heart Healthy Yoga

Metabolic Syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It generally results from overweight and abdominal obesity and includes high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevation of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. It is an important risk factor as it increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes five-fold and heart attack or stroke three-fold.

Metabolic Syndrome incidence has been rising rapidly approaching epidemic proportions. It is estimated that it currently affects 34% of US adults. Needless to say this is a major health problem. The good news is that timely treatment can prevent or reverse the risk. The simplest treatment is simply exercise and weight loss.

Yoga has been used to promote health and well-being for thousands of years. In today’s Research News article “Effects of 1-year yoga on cardiovascular risk factors in middle-aged and older adults with metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1045854842105108/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440276/

Siu and colleagues examine whether yoga is an effective treatment for metabolic syndrome. They found that a 1-year yoga program reduced waist circumference, blood pressure, and resting heart rate and increased activity levels. This suggests that yoga is effective in reducing the symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome.

Probably the most important finding was a 3.5% reduction in waist circumference. Most of the Symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome result from a high level of abdominal fat. This produces the insulin resistance which in turn increases diabetes risk and raises cholesterol and triglycerides which increases cardiovascular risk. Hence, a key to treatment is to reduce this belly fat and yoga appears to be effective at doing just that.

Yoga is in part an exercise and this by itself could be responsible for the improvement. Indeed yoga practice increased activity levels which promotes the conversion of fat to muscle. So, even if there is no change in weight there is a reduction in abdominal fat, the primary culprit in Metabolic Syndrome.

Yoga, however, produces other beneficial effects that could be responsible for the improvement in Metabolic Syndrome. Yoga practice reduces the physiological symptoms of stress. It reduces the levels of stress hormones and it relaxes the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight system. Stress exacerbates the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome. By reducing the physiological mechanisms by which stress affects Metabolic Syndrome, yoga can markedly improve the symptoms. In addition, by reducing stress, yoga can improve immune system response, increasing the individual’s ability to fight off diseases.

So practice yoga and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

CMCS

Mindfully “Get a Grip”

Strong emotions often produce behaviors that can be damaging and are regretted later. We overreact to a perceived slight and hurt the ones we care about most. We overreact to a driving incident doing something dangerous in response. We overreact to attractive potential romantic partners, making fools of ourselves. We overreact to restrictions with rebellion. We overreact to a drop in stock prices and unnecessarily sell at a loss. The examples are almost endless.

It is obvious that we need to better control our emotions and our responses to these emotions. Mindfulness can potentially help. It has been well established that mindfulness is associated with improved emotion regulation. Mindfulness does not simply lead to less emotionality, or that mindful people experience less emotion, but rather through a present-moment awareness and acceptance of emotional experience.

Emotions are also important to our happiness. A blunting of emotionality is actually characteristic of depression. The good thing about mindfulness is that emotions aren’t blocked. They are felt and experienced. It just makes us better able to effectively work with them. This allows mindful individuals to detect emotions early on and stop them from spiraling out of control.

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and emotion regulation—an fMRI study“

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1045341555489770/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040090/

Lutz and colleagues demonstrate a neural changes underlying the improved emotion regulation. They demonstrate that when dealing with negative emotions, mindful individuals have increased activity of the prefrontal regions of the brain. They also found that activity was reduced in the amygdala, and parahippocampal gyrus.

The prefrontal area is associated with self-awareness and cognitive control, indicating that mindfulness increases our ability to be aware of the emotions and to exert control over them. Although mindfulness increased the activity in this area it was also found that the higher the level of mindfulness the less the activation. This seemingly paradoxical finding indicates that as people become more mindful they require less energy and effort to effectively regulate the emotion. In other words they get more efficient.

The amygdala, and parahippocampal gyrus are involved in the processing of emotions. So, the reduced activity associated with mindfulness suggests that mindful individuals are less reactive to the emotion. It has been shown that mindfulness reduces the response of the sympathetic nervous system which is involved in producing the physical sensations in emotions. By holding down the emotion’s intensity both centrally and peripherally mindful people are less likely to be overwhelmed by and overreact to their emotions.

Mindfulness actually expands awareness of the emotion even though it tamps down its intensity. Mindful people are very aware of what they’re feeling. This allows the storm of emotions to take its course, feeling it completely, not suppressing or denying it. This allows the individual to effectively process it with reason and understanding and thus deal with it more effectively.

Mindfulness has also been shown to decrease rumination where we try to think our way out of the problem. Rumination is also called fixating, or obsessing and leads to repetitive thoughts such as “Why do I feel this way? What could I have done differently? I’m no good. I’m letting people down. What’s wrong with me?” These tend to amplify the emotion making it more difficult to control it. Being more attuned to the present moment can reduce this tendency making emotion less problematic.

The research findings clearly suggest that mindfulness better equips the individual to regulate their emotions. To experience them fully and process them fully, but react efficiently and effectively and then move on.

So, practice mindfulness and “get a grip” on your emotions.

CMCS

Mindfulness improves Mental Health via Two Factors

Mindfulness has been repeatedly shown to be beneficial for mental health. Training in mindfulness can decrease stress, anxiety, and depression at every level of severity. It can improve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, suicidality, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, and major mental illnesses. It is as yet unclear how such a relatively simple technique could be effective for such a wide range of disparate psychological problems.

Mindfulness may work with very different disorders because it is itself a multifaceted concept. It is usually measured with paper and pencil tests, psychometric instruments. One of the most popular measures is the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). It contains five subscales that purport to measure observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judgmental awareness, and non-reactive awareness. But, there is an active research discussion whether it may in fact be measuring fewer aspects.

In today’s Research News article “The Serenity of the Meditating Mind: A Cross-Cultural Psychometric Study on a Two-Factor Higher Order Structure of Mindfulness, Its Effects, and Mechanisms Related to Mental Health among Experienced Meditators.”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1053095211381071/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4199716/

Tran and colleagues demonstrate that the five different aspects of mindfulness can be best accounted for with two higher-order constructs, Self-regulated Attention and Orientation to Experience in both meditators and non-meditators.

The factor of self-regulated attention refers to the ability to sustain attention on the present moment. This factor is increased by meditation experience and was found to be related to lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Central to meditation is training on paying attention to the contents of present moment experience. So, it’s not surprising that meditation training would increase self-regulated attention.

Anxiety is an emotional state that derives from worries about possible future problems. Stress effects are exacerbated by worries produced about the future and memories of past stresses. Depression often is magnified by ruminations about past events and expectations of failure in the future. So, improving the focus on the present moment, as produced by meditation training, should improve these psychological problems by removing the past and the future from adding to the problem.

The factor of orientation to experience refers to an ability to maintain an open, curious, and accepting attitude toward experience. This factor is also increased by meditation experience and was also found to be related to lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. These issues are all affected by low levels of emotion regulation. The individual cannot control the emotion from prompting maladaptive behaviors. In addition, the lack of regulation allows positive feedback mechanisms to multiply the magnitude of the emotion. This can occur as one becomes anxious about being anxious, stressed by being stressed, and depressed about being depressed. The meditation induced improvement in the ability to be open and accepting of what they’re experiencing, including emotions, can markedly improve the ability to regulate the emotions. In this way meditation can improve emotion regulation and decrease stress, anxiety and depression.

In stress, anxiety and depression the individual can become attached to the state where they incorporate it into their self-concept. This can occur when the individual classifies themselves as a “stress case”, a depressive, or a worrier. The meditation induced improvement in the ability to be open and accepting of what is being experienced can undercut the attachment. One cannot be open and accepting and simultaneously be attached. In this way meditation by reducing attachment can decrease stress, anxiety and depression.

So, meditate and improve psychological health.

CMCS

Building a Better Adult – Preschool Mindfulness Training

What we learn as young children continues to affect us throughout our lives. If we wish to build better adults the place to start is in early childhood education. Here we can mold and build behaviors and attitudes that will shape the individual’s behavior over a lifetime.

Our focus to date in early education has been almost exclusively on building knowledge and performance on standardized tests. We have neglected to specifically work on developing cognitive, emotional, and social skills despite the fact that it has been established that these skills are not only important unto themselves, but are also turn out to be very important in developing academic skills. Research has demonstrated that cognitive, emotional, and social skills in childhood predict health, financial stability, and educational attainment into adulthood.

Childhood is an optimum time to develop these skills. Children are malleable and their nervous systems are particularly plastic and capable of being shaped and molded. In today’s Research News article “Promoting prosocial behavior and self-regulatory skills in preschool children through a mindfulness-based kindness curriculum.”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1044882172202375/?type=1&theater

Lisa Flook and colleagues test the effectiveness of a mindfulness program in 4 and 5 year old preschool children. They demonstrate that a brief program in mindfulness improves a whole spectrum of cognitive and social behaviors, including social competence, health, social-emotional development, cognitive flexibility and delay of gratification and even improves report card grades. That the effect may be lasting was evidenced by the fact that the improved grades carried over into the semester following the training.

This is quite remarkable that relatively brief mindfulness training with 4 to 5 year olds can produce such far ranging effects. A key element may be that the mindfulness training improves self-regulation. The better performance of the trained children in the delay of gratification task is indicative of improved ability for self-control. Doing well on this task has been shown to predict success in later life. This improved self-regulation may also be the reason for the improved grades.

Another key element of mindfulness training is improvement in attentional ability. Young children have very limited attentional ability and any increase can have far ranging consequences for the child’s behavior. Attention is also a component in self-regulation further strengthening the self-control. It also is important for academic achievement and its enhancement may be a major contributor to the grade improvements.

Mindfulness training also improves mindfulness itself. It improves engagement with what is transpiring in the present. Such focus is important in successful academic and social competence. It has also been shown to produce appreciation for life and increased happiness. These attitudes can infect everything that the child engages in, making them more effective and popular.

Humans are social creatures and skillful social behavior can be a key to not only later success but also happiness. Once again attention and self-regulation are important in social interactions and these may be contributing to the improved social competence in the trained children. But an additional focus of the training was on developing the qualities of kindness and care toward oneself and others. This kind of training has been shown to improve empathy and compassion, which are important skills for social success.

So train your children in mindfulness and produce a better adult.

CMCS

Rethink your Emotions

Our emotions impact our lives in many ways. They provide much of the pleasure and happiness in life. They also torment us with painful, unpleasant, feelings that interfere with our well-being and happiness. Many mental illnesses involve distorted or exaggerated emotions. So a key to our happiness and our mental health is the ability to deal with emotions effectively.

It is well established that mindfulness training increases the ability to control emotions and our responses to the emotions. This is called emotion regulation. It is a very important benefit of mindfulness and it has positive effects on many life situations from dealing with stress and depression, to assisting in recovery from cancer, to improving caregiver well-being, to being a better negotiator.

Since, the mindfulness induced improvement in emotion regulation is so important, understanding it becomes extremely important. There is a need to understand exactly what mindfulness does to improve emotion regulation and what intermediaries are affected that link mindfulness with the emotions. One aspect of this question is addressed in today’s Research News Article “State Mindfulness during Meditation Predicts Enhanced Cognitive Reappraisal”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1044275768929682/?type=1&theater

The study found that mindfulness was associated with emotional reappraisal which inferred that mindfulness promotes emotion regulation by enhancing cognitive reappraisal.

Cognitive reappraisal is a strategy that involves changing the direction or magnitude of an emotional response by reinterpreting the meaning of the situation that evoked the emotion. For example if you have to give a speech and you are overwhelmed with anxiety a possible cognitive reappraisal would be to ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen, your voice may quake and you may forget a few words. That’s not so bad. Then you focus on the positives for example how honored you are by the opportunity to speak to this group and the impact you will have on them. Note how the reappraisal diminishes the anxiety and replaces it with pride.

After a first date a lady does not hear from the gentleman again and becomes deeply depressed. Looking at the thought process involved the lady notes that the snub reinforced her feeling of worthlessness exacerbating her depression. A reappraisal strategy is to look carefully at the date and see that they were no really compatible and continuing dating would only lead to a dead end. Seeing it this way removes it from the problems with self-worth and reinterprets it as a good thing that he didn’t call. This Flips the situation it from a negative to a positive.

Mindfulness teaches us to look carefully at an emotion and experience it fully and not run away from it. This affords the opportunity to think about it and reappraise it. Mindfulness also relaxes the sympathetic nervous system which is highly activated with strong emotions. This makes the feeling less intense and not so overwhelming that the individual can take a look at the rationally and cognitively reappraise them.

So, practice mindfulness and better manage your emotions.

CMCS

Control Emotions the Right Way with Mindfulness

Sometimes we get carried away by our emotions. Anger is a frequent culprit. Road rage is a perfect example. But we can also get overtaken by many other emotions such as love, jealousy, fear, etc. When this happens we often engage in behaviors that are either harmful or that we deeply regret later.

How do we control these powerful emotions? Can we learn to regulate them so that they don’t overwhelm us? One strategy is to actively strive to suppress the emotion. This is difficult, requires immense self-control, and most of the time doesn’t work. In addition, repression of extreme emotions can lead to later psychological issues. It has long been thought that repression can be problematic as the emotions reemerge late often in disguised forms.

A better strategy is mindfulness. It has been demonstrated that mindfulness training leads to a decrease in emotionality and to an increase in ability to regulate and respond appropriately to these emotions. With mindfulness the emotion is experienced fully, recognized, and appreciated for what it is. Because the emotion is processed, its power to affect behavior is reduced allowing the individual to form a more appropriate response to the situation. This is the exact opposite of emotional suppression which attempts to eliminate the emotion.

In today’s Research News article “Neural Networks for Mindfulness and Emotion Suppression”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1043795708977688/?type=1&theater

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0128005

it is demonstrated that dealing with emotions with mindfulness or with emotional suppression operate through different neural pathways. Both strategies attenuated the response of the amygdala to the emotional triggers. This area has long been known to be a key neural structure for the production of emotions. It can be thought of as a final common pathway through which emotionality is produced. So, it is not surprising that both mindfulness and emotional suppression result in a decrease in Amygdala activity.

It was shown, however, that the two strategies work through different regulation pathways to affect the Amygdala. The mindful approach affects the Amygdala via connections from the Medial Prefrontal Cortex, which is an important region for emotional awareness and mindfulness, while emotional suppression uses connections with other regions including the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex and an area called the Precuneus, which are involved in top-down regulatory processing and which therefore require more cognitive effort.

The neural systems involved in the two strategies make sense given what we know about mindful vs. suppressive emotion regulation. Suppression takes intentional effort and this can be seen in the activation of cognitive processing areas of the brain. Mindfulness doesn’t take such effort. It is much more laid back and effortless. The structures involved reflect this.

So, use mindfulness to help control emotions; it’s a better way and even takes less effort.

CMCS

Loving Kindness Meditation and Social Function

Humans are social creatures. All that the species has accomplished resulted from its ability to work together and build upon the work of others. Beyond, the importance of the group, interactions with other people are fundamental to personal well-being. People need to be with and connected with others.

Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. Some are better than others, but everyone struggles with human interaction to some extent. Hence it is important for us to find ways to improve how we interact with other people.

Mindfulness in general appears to improve social relationships. In today’s Research News article “The interventional effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions and interpersonal interactions.”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1043326459024613/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4450657/

one form of mindfulness training, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), is shown to be quite effective in facilitating interpersonal interactions, and enhancing the complex understanding of others. This appears to produce an enhanced ability to interact socially and to increase positive emotions, improving the individual happiness.

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is a meditative practice that focuses on repeatedly wishing well to the self and others. It focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards the self and others. It is simple in concept, yet powerful in effect. How can this simple practice improve one’s social relationships?

LKM appears to increase positive emotional states and it is known that we tend to find people experiencing positive emotions as more attractive. In addition, feeling positive emotions in the presence of others increases our self-confidence and enjoyment of social interactions. LKM like other forms of meditation reduces perceived stress. Many people find social interactions stressful. So reducing perceived stress should make it easier to engage with other people.

These effects by themselves could account for LKM’s improvement of social interactions.

LKM has been shown to increase compassion and empathy and decrease biases. It also increases our feelings about ourselves and decreases self-criticism. These effects of LKM produce more positive and caring feelings towards ourselves and others. Not only does this make us feel better about others, it is communicated either verbally or nonverbally to others making them feel better about us, hence, improving interactions. Indeed, being around people who like themselves and understand others on an emotional level, induces positive feelings toward these people and is very attractive, facilitating interpersonal connection.

Finally, LKM appears to have direct effects on our ability to engage in social interactions. LKM is associated with increases in prosocial behavior, increasing helping behavior. It also improves feelings of social connection. In addition, it improves our ability to have a sophisticated understanding of other people in their full complexity. All of these effects of LKM positively influence our ability and effectiveness in interacting with others.

Loving Kindness Meditation appears to be a technique to help us develop positive feeling toward ourselves and others. This makes us want to help others, feel good in their presence, and helps us understand and care for them. It’s quite amazing that such a simple practice could have such far reaching effects.

So, practice Loving Kindness Meditation and be better socially.

CMCS

Spirituality Improves Recovery from Addiction

In a previous post we described the relationship between spirituality and recovery from alcoholism. https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1032110166812909/?type=1&theater

This is great, but, what about other addictions? Is spirituality helpful with these also?

Substance abuse and addiction is a terrible problem. It isn’t just illicit drugs but includes many prescriptions drugs especially opioid pain relievers. It is estimated that there are approximately 17,000 deaths from illicit drug overdoses. Prescription drugs, however, exceed this total with overdoses of prescription pain killers producing over 22,000 deaths per year and over 500,000 visits per year to the emergency room.

These statistics, although startling are only the tip of the iceberg. Drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. It can renders the individual ineffective at work, it tears apart families, it makes the individual dangerous both driving and not, It also degrades the person’s life expectancy, which is about 15-20 years from the moment of addiction.

An effective treatment for addiction has been elusive. Most programs and therapies to treat addictions have poor success rates. Recent research is indicating that mindfulness and also spirituality can be quite helpful for kicking the habit. In today’s Research News article, “NIDA-Drug Addiction Treatment Outcome Study (DATOS) Relapse as a Function of Spirituality/Religiosity”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1042790469078212/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455957/

it was found that high levels of spirituality/religiosity are associated with much lower relapse rates for drug additions. This was the case for cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and marijuana relapse. Unfortunately, prescription drugs were not investigated.

 Why is spirituality/religiosity associated with better outcomes? In today’s study it was found that the strongest association between remission and spirituality involved attending religious services weekly. Hence, it would appear that it is important to participate in religious/spiritual groups. These groups tend to be populated with non-addicts and abusers. So, engagement with these groups provides a social network of people likely to provide support rather than temptation. It is very difficult to prevent relapse when those around you are using drugs themselves and especially when they encourage you to join them. So religious/spiritual groups should help to make it easier to abstain as a substitute for a drug culture.

It has also the case that spirituality/religiosity is associated with negative beliefs about drug abuse. Buddhism teaches that intoxication is an impediment to spiritual development. Other religions completely prohibit drugs while many decry the behaviors that occur under their influence.  This provides what psychologists call cognitive dissonance; an uncomfortable feeling when there is an incompatibility between drug abuse and spirituality/religiosity. The recognition that drug use is not an OK thing to do might provide the extra motivation to help withstand the cravings.

In addition, spirituality/religiosity provides a source of comfort as the individual faces the challenges of refraining from drugs. The challenges provided in everyday life can be a source of motivation to use drugs. An addict often uses drugs to escape from the pressures, stresses, and emotional upheavals that occur during ordinary life. Spirituality/religiosity may provide another way to cope with the individual’s problems. The individual can take solace in the religion instead of drugs when upheavals occur.

It is not known whether the same pattern of results would occur for prescription drug addicts. But, it would seem that the same logic would apply. Hopefully further research will test whether spirituality/religiosity is predictive of improved outcomes with prescription drug addiction.

Regardless the association is clear that spirituality/religiosity is associated with more positive outcomes in relapse prevention with drugs of abuse.

CMCS