Meditation Reduces the Brain’s Empathetic Response

Meditation Reduces the Brain’s Empathetic Response

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness’s most profound benefit may not be the one that’s most often touted—adapting to a stressful, competitive, even unkind 24/7 world. Instead, meditation might fundamentally alter how we treat those around us.” – David Destino

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. Empathy and compassion are essential for appropriate social engagement and cooperation. In order for these abilities to emerge and strengthen, individuals must be able to see that other people are very much like themselves.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion, and empathy. It is not known how mindfulness practice might do this. Mindfulness is known to alter the nervous system through a process called neuroplasticity. It is possible that mindfulness improves empathy by altering the brain systems that underlie it.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation regulates anterior insula activity during empathy for social pain.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6867068/), Laneri and colleagues recruited long-term meditators with at least 5 years of regular meditation practice and a group of non-meditators. All participants performed an empathy task while having their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Half of the meditators meditated for 8 minutes prior to being measured for empathy while half did not. Empathy was measured by having the participants view sketches of either socially embarrassing or neutral situations and rate them for the degree of embarrassment. After the session the participants completed measures of compassionate love and interpersonal reactivity.

 

They found that while viewing the sketches of socially embarrassing situations there were increased activations of the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, medial prefrontal cortex and temporal pole of the brain in both groups. These are all areas of the brain that have been associated with empathy and compassion processing. But the meditators who meditated immediately before the task had a significantly reduced activation of the anterior insula and the greater the level of the individual’s trait compassion, the lower the levels of activation.

 

The insula has been suspected to be involved in empathy and interoceptive awareness; the ability to be aware of one’s internal state. The results, then suggest that the immediate, short-term effects of meditation in practiced meditators is to reduce the awareness of their internal responses to observing embarrassment. The meditating participants, nevertheless, rated the situations as equivalently embarrassing as the non-meditating meditators and the non-meditators. This suggests that all participants reacted with similar levels of empathy but perhaps different levels of physiological arousal.

 

It is interesting that long-term meditation did not appear to alter empathy or the brains response to socially embarrassing situations. But, on the short-term, the immediate effects of meditation is to reduce the brains response. Meditation is known to reduce arousal and this may underly the lower responses in the insula. After meditation, the participants are simply more relaxed and less responsive to physiological arousal but equally able to comprehend the embarrassing situations effect.

 

So, meditation reduces the brain’s empathetic response.

 

through mindfulness training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion.” – Christopher Berglund

 

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

 

Laneri, D., Krach, S., Paulus, F. M., Kanske, P., Schuster, V., Sommer, J., & Müller-Pinzler, L. (2017). Mindfulness meditation regulates anterior insula activity during empathy for social pain. Human brain mapping, 38(8), 4034–4046. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.23646

 

Abstract

Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, promote health, and well‐being, as well as to increase compassionate behavior toward others. It reduces distress to one’s own painful experiences, going along with altered neural responses, by enhancing self‐regulatory processes and decreasing emotional reactivity. In order to investigate if mindfulness similarly reduces distress and neural activations associated with empathy for others’ socially painful experiences, which might in the following more strongly motivate prosocial behavior, the present study compared trait, and state effects of long‐term mindfulness meditation (LTM) practice. To do so we acquired behavioral data and neural activity measures using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during an empathy for social pain task while manipulating the meditation state between two groups of LTM practitioners that were matched with a control group. The results show increased activations of the anterior insula (AI) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) as well as the medial prefrontal cortex and temporal pole when sharing others’ social suffering, both in LTM practitioners and controls. However, in LTM practitioners, who practiced mindfulness meditation just prior to observing others’ social pain, left AI activation was lower and the strength of AI activation following the mindfulness meditation was negatively associated with trait compassion in LTM practitioners. The findings suggest that current mindfulness meditation could provide an adaptive mechanism in coping with distress due to the empathic sharing of others’ suffering, thereby possibly enabling compassionate behavior.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6867068/

 

Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

tai chi appears to improve executive function—the ability to multitask, manage time, and make decisions—in people without any cognitive decline. In those with mild cognitive impairment, tai chi slowed the progression to dementia more than other types of exercise and improved their cognitive function in a comparable fashion to other types of exercise or cognitive training.” – Harvard Health

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our cognitive (mental) abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. The research findings have been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effectiveness of Tai Chi for reducing cognitive decline during aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi is Effective in Delaying Cognitive Decline in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Evidence from a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7132349/), Yang and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effects of Tai Chi practice on mental decline in the elderly. They identified 11 published research studies with a total of 1061 participants over the age of 60 with mild cognitive impairment.

 

They report that the published research found that Tai Chi practice produced a significant increase in global cognitive function including improved memory, learning ability, mental speed, attention, ideas, abstraction, creativity, mental flexibility, and visuospatial perception. In general, the effect sizes were modest, but they tended to signal a reversal of the decline. Hence, Tai Chi practice appears to improve the mental capabilities of the elderly with mild cognitive impairment. The studies included in the analysis did not have a comparison of Tai Chi practice to another form of exercise. So, it is possible that the benefits were produced, not by Tai Chi per se but by moderate exercise.

 

Tai Chi is an ancient mindfulness practice that involves slow prescribed movements. It is gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, are inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. This suggests that Tai Chi practice should be recommended for inclusion in the lifestyle of aging individuals.

 

So, improve cognitive function in the elderly with Tai Chi.

 

Tai Chi has consistent, small effects on improving cognitive performance in both healthy older adults and older adults with some cognitive impairment.” – P. M. Wayne

 

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

 

Yang, J., Zhang, L., Tang, Q., Wang, F., Li, Y., Peng, H., & Wang, S. (2020). Tai Chi is Effective in Delaying Cognitive Decline in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Evidence from a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 3620534. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/3620534

 

Abstract

To determine whether Tai Chi (TC) is effective in slowing cognitive decline in older populations with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), we performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on Tai Chi and MCI. We searched eight electronic databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Wanfang, Web of Science, MEDLINE, CNKI, EBSCO, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) for appropriate RCTs published up to August 2019. For those studies included, the data were extracted, methodological quality was evaluated, and then meta-analysis was performed using Review Manager software (version 5.3). A total of 11 of the studies were available for systematic review, which together included 1061 participants, met the inclusion criteria, and ten of these were included in the meta-analysis. For most RCTs, the methodological quality was moderate. The meta-analysis revealed that Tai Chi could significantly improve global cognitive function; memory and learning; mental speed and attention; ideas, abstraction, figural creations, and mental flexibility; and visuospatial perception. The present review adds to the evidence showing that Tai Chi is potentially beneficial in improving cognitive functions among elderly people with MCI. However, strictly designed and well-reported RCTs are required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7132349/

 

Mindfulness Improves Flexibility Which Improves Residual Symptoms of Depression

Mindfulness Improves Flexibility Which Improves Residual Symptoms of Depression

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Living resiliently represents a whole new way of being and doing. It isn’t just for the hard times — it’s for all times. Empowering us to live, love, and work adventurously in the face of change, it builds a well from which we can draw for the rest of our lives.” – Lynda Klau

 

Depression affects over 6% of the population. Depression can be difficult to treat. It is usually treated with antidepressant medication. But, of patients treated initially with drugs only about a third attained remission of the depression. Even after remission there are a number of symptoms that remain. These include lingering dysphoria, impaired psychosocial functioning, fatigue, and decreased ability to work. These residual symptoms can lead to relapse.

 

Mindfulness training is an alternative treatment for depression. It has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression and its recurrence and even in the cases where drugs failAcceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy technique that is employs many of the techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). ACT focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes.

 

It is not known how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) might affect the residual symptoms in individuals in remission from depression. In today’s Research News article “Psychological Flexibility in Depression Relapse Prevention: Processes of Change and Positive Mental Health in Group-Based ACT for Residual Symptoms.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7119364/), Østergaard and colleagues recruited patients in remission from major depressive disorder and provided them with 8 weekly sessions of group based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). They were measured before and after ACT and 6 months and 1 year later for psychiatric symptoms, mental health depression, cognitive defusion, flexibility, values, engaged living and mindfulness.

 

They found that after treatment and for the year following there were significant reductions in depression and increases in positive mental health. Mediation analysis revealed that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) decreased depression and increased positive mental health directly and indirectly by increasing psychological flexibility. That is ACT not only directly decreased depression and increased positive mental health but also increased psychological flexibility which in turn decreased depression and increased positive mental health. They also showed that ACT had these effects by changing acceptance, cognitive defusion, values, and committed action, all of which increased psychological flexibility.

 

Psychological flexibility is the ability to make changes in behavior in order to produce positive effects. It’s the individual’s ability to avoid rumination and brooding over negative emotions that contribute to depression. In this way psychological flexibility contributes to maintaining positive mental health. The study shows that ACT directly reduces residual symptoms and also increases psychological flexibility which in turn reduces residual symptoms in patients in remission from major depressive disorder. It is important to note that these benefits produced by ACT were enduring lasting over the year of testing. Hence, treatment with ACT  should reduce the likelihood of future depressive episodes.

 

So, mindfulness improves flexibility which improves residual symptoms of depression.

 

Mindfulness is a shallow description of a much larger process that makes us resilient when bad things happen.” – Michael Unger

 

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

 

Østergaard, T., Lundgren, T., Zettle, R. D., Landrø, N. I., & Haaland, V. Ø. (2020). Psychological Flexibility in Depression Relapse Prevention: Processes of Change and Positive Mental Health in Group-Based ACT for Residual Symptoms. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 528. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00528

 

Abstract

Relapse rates following a depressive episode are high, with limited treatments available aimed at reducing such risk. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a cognitive-behavioral approach that has gained increased empirical support in treatment of depression, and thus represents an alternative in relapse prevention. Psychological flexibility (PF) plays an important role in mental health according to the model on which ACT is based. This study aimed to investigate the role of PF and its subprocesses in reducing residual symptoms of depression and in improving positive mental health following an 8-week group-based ACT treatment. Adult participants (75.7% female) with a history of depression, but currently exhibiting residual symptoms (N = 106) completed measures before and after intervention, and at 6 and 12-month follow-up. A growth curve model showed that positive mental health increased over 12-months. Multilevel mediation modeling revealed that PF significantly mediated these changes as well as the reduction of depressive symptoms, and that processes of acceptance, cognitive defusion, values and committed action, in turn, mediated increased PF.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7119364/

 

Improve Fertility with Mindfulness

 

Improve Fertility with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

those who participate in a mind-body wellness program are 32% more likely to become pregnant!” – Michelle Anne

 

Infertility is primarily a medical condition due to physiological problems. It is quite common. It is estimated that in the U.S. 6.7 million women, about 10% of the population of women are infertile. Infertility can be more than just a medical issue. It can be an emotional crisis for many couples, especially for the women. Couples attending a fertility clinic reported that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Women with infertility reported feeling as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.

 

Mindfulness training been shown to be an effective treatment for depression and its recurrence and even in the cases where drugs fail. This is especially true for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which was specifically developed to treat depression. MBCT has been shown to be effective in treating infertility. At this point it’s useful to step back and summarize what has been learned about mindfulness training and infertility.

 

In today’s Research News article “Application of Mindfulness-Based Psychological Interventions in Infertility.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7295259/), Patel and colleagues review and summarize the published scientific research of the effectiveness of mindfulness training in treating infertility. They identified 9 published research studies.

 

They report that the research found that mindfulness training decreases anxiety, depression, stress, and anger, and increases well-being and quality of life of infertile women. These enhance the self-efficacy of women coping with infertility. Mindfulness training also has been found to reduce emotional stress and stress hormones and improve sleep and immune function all of which are known to play an important role in infertility. These all lead to increased conception rates.

 

The psychological and emotional issues that result from infertility produce a negative spiral, where infertility increases emotional dysfunction, which in turn lessens the likelihood of conception, which increases emotionality and so on. Mindfulness training appears to interrupt this cycle by improving the psychological and physical well-being of infertile women. This allows the women to relax and better cope with the issues surrounding infertility. This in turn improves their likelihood of conception. Hence, mindfulness training should be recommended for infertile women.

 

So, improve fertility with mindfulness.

 

mindfulness becomes the perfect antidote for the paradoxical land mines infertility presents. Mindfulness starts from the perspective that you are whole and complete already, regardless of flaws or imperfections. It is based on the concept of original goodness: your essential nature is good and pure. Proceeding from this vantage point gives you freedom from the bondage of inadequacy and insecurity.” – Janetti Marotta

 

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

 

Patel, A., Sharma, P., & Kumar, P. (2020). Application of Mindfulness-Based Psychological Interventions in Infertility. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, 13(1), 3–21. https://doi.org/10.4103/jhrs.JHRS_51_19

 

Abstract

Living mindfully helps one gain a deeper understanding into realities of life. It enables people to witness suffering, desire, attachments, and impermanence without any fear, anxiety, anger, or despair. This is considered the hallmark of true psychological insight. As a skill, mindfulness can be inculcated by anyone. Mindfulness helps in attending, getting aware and understanding experiences in a compassion and open-minded way. Research suggests that applying mindfulness in daily life has been known to tame our emotional mind and enabled people to perceive things “as they are” without ascribing expectations, judgments, cynicism, or apprehensions to them. This review unravels the therapeutic power of mindfulness meditation in the context of infertility distress. It serves to integrate the evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based psychological interventions to improve the emotional well-being and biological outcomes in Infertility.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7295259/

 

Mindfulness Area Research: Negative Experiences with Mindfulness

Mindfulness Area Research: Negative Experiences with Mindfulness

 

People begin meditation with the misconception that meditation will help them escape from their problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, meditation does the exact opposite, forcing the meditator to confront their issues. In meditation, the practitioner tries to quiet the mind. But, in that relaxed quiet state, powerful, highly emotionally charged thoughts and memories are likely to emerge. The strength here is that meditation is a wonderful occasion to begin to deal with these issues. But often the thoughts or memories are overwhelming. At times, professional therapeutic intervention may be needed.

 

Many practitioners never experience these negative experiences or only experience very mild states. There are, however, few systematic studies of the extent of negative experiences. In general, the research has reported that unwanted (negative) experiences are quite common with meditators, but for the most part, are short-lived and mild. There is, however, a great need for more research into the nature of the experiences that occur during meditation.

 

Summaries of recent studies on negative experiences with mindfulness can be found at the Negative Experiences link http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/negative-experiences/  on the Contemplative Studies blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/ .

 

Links to the Research on Negative Experiences with Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness Training can Produce Harm but Much can be Avoided

http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2019/10/08/mindfulness-training-can-produce-harm-but-much-can-be-avoided/

 

Yoga Injuries are Common but Most Can Be Avoided

http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2019/10/01/yoga-injuries-are-common-but-most-can-be-avoided/

 

The Variety of Meditation Experiences

http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2018/01/26/the-variety-of-meditation-experiences/

 

Meditation Can Produce Uncomfortable Effects

http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2017/11/03/meditation-can-produce-uncomfortable-effects/

 

What’s Wrong with Meditation II – Improper Instruction

http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2017/03/05/whats-wrong-with-meditation-ii-improper-instruction/

 

 

Improve Health, Well-Being, and Quality of Life with Breast Cancer with an Integrative Program Including Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness

Improve Health, Well-Being, and Quality of Life with Breast Cancer with an Integrative Program Including Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our cancer experiences take up a lot of energies, mental focus and can drain us emotionally. It is important to have a few tools to help us create ‘down’ and ‘out’ times, and to replenish and reconnect with who we are.  Mindfulness can also help during specific times of our cancer treatment – to prepare for surgery, while undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and before or during scans to help with scanxiety. “ – Karen Sieger

 

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. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer. These symptoms markedly reduce the quality of life of the patients.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to relieve chronic pain. It can also help treat the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbancefear, and anxiety and depression. Diet and exercise have also been shown to be effective for breast cancer patients who tend to become overweight or obese. The majority of research, however, explores mindfulness, diet, and exercise separately as treatments for breast cancer patients. It will be important to establish if the combination of these treatments may be especially effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Influence of a Multidisciplinary Program of Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness on the Quality of Life of Stage IIA-IIB Breast Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7265566/), Ruiz-Vozmediano and colleagues recruited breast cancer patients who had completed treatment at least 12 months earlier. They were randomly assigned to a no-treatment control group or to receive a 6-month program of diet, exercise, and mindfulness. The diet intervention consisted of a 5-hour workshop on healthy eating that was repeated after 2 months. Exercise consisted of 7-weeks of 3 times per week for an hour stretching and weekly 50-minutes of dancing. Mindfulness training consisted of a 4-week, twice a week for 90 minutes Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program including discussion, meditation, yoga, and body scan. They were measured before and 6 months after the intervention for body size, food intake, and cancer quality of life. They also provided a blood sample that was assayed for glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels, and tumor markers.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group the participants who received the diet, exercise, and mindfulness intervention had significantly higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet, and greater quality of life including physical, role, and social functioning quality of life. They also had significant reductions in body weight, body mass index (BMI), blood triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein.

 

The results suggest that an integrated treatment of diet, exercise, and mindfulness training produces positive changes in breast cancer survivors including improvements in their quality of life, diet, body size, and blood lipid levels. Future research should perform a component analysis to determine the effects of each treatment component and their combinations on the patients. Regardless, the effects observed in the present study tend to predict maintained psychological and physical health in these patients.

 

So, improve health, well-being, and quality of life with breast cancer with an integrative program including diet, exercise, and mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness-based stress reduction can be effective in alleviating anxiety and depression, decreasing long-term emotional and physical side effects of treatments and improving the quality of sleep in breast cancer patients.” – BCRF

 

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

 

Ruiz-Vozmediano, J., Löhnchen, S., Jurado, L., Recio, R., Rodríguez-Carrillo, A., López, M., Mustieles, V., Expósito, M., Arroyo-Morales, M., & Fernández, M. F. (2020). Influence of a Multidisciplinary Program of Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness on the Quality of Life of Stage IIA-IIB Breast Cancer Survivors. Integrative cancer therapies, 19, 1534735420924757. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735420924757

 

Abstract

Background: Integrative oncology has proven to be a useful approach to control cancer symptoms and improve the quality of life (QoL) and overall health of patients, delivering integrated patient care at both physical and emotional levels. The objective of this randomized trial was to evaluate the effects of a triple intervention program on the QoL and lifestyle of women with breast cancer. Methods: Seventy-five survivors of stage IIA-IIB breast cancer were randomized into 2 groups. The intervention group (IG) received a 6-month dietary, exercise, and mindfulness program that was not offered to the control group (CG). Data were gathered at baseline and at 6 months postintervention on QoL and adherence to Mediterranean diet using clinical markers and validated questionnaires. Between-group differences at baseline and 3 months postintervention were analyzed using Student’s t test for related samples and the Wilcoxon and Mann-Whitney U tests. Results: At 6 months postintervention, the IG showed significant improvements versus CG in physical functioning (p = .027), role functioning (p = .028), and Mediterranean diet adherence (p = .02) and a significant reduction in body mass index (p = .04) and weight (p = .05), with a mean weight loss of 0.7 kg versus a gain of 0.55 kg by the CG (p = .05). Dyspnea symptoms were also increased in the CG versus IG (p = .066). Conclusions: These results demonstrate that an integrative dietary, physical activity, and mindfulness program enhances the QoL and healthy lifestyle of stage IIA-IIB breast cancer survivors. Cancer symptoms may be better managed by the implementation of multimodal rather than isolated interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7265566/

 

Altered Brain Metabolism is Associated with Long-Term Yoga Practice

Altered Brain Metabolism is Associated with Long-Term Yoga Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

the benefits of yoga are more encompassing than just the physical. And, thanks to modern technology and functional MRI scans, we’re now able to see how regular practice affects your brain.” – Emmy Lymn

 

The practice of yoga has many benefits for the individual’s physical and psychological health. Yoga has diverse effects because it is itself diverse having components of exercise, mindfulness meditation, and spirituality. So, yoga nourishes the body, mind, and spirit. As a result, yoga practice would be expected to produce physical changes. These include the relaxation response and stress relief. These should be obvious in the muscles, tendons and joints, but, less obvious in the nervous system. The nervous system changes in response to how it is used and how it is stimulated in a process called neuroplasticity. Highly used areas grow in size, metabolism, and connectivity. Mindfulness practices in general are known to produce these kinds of changes in the structure and activity of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Long-term Ashtanga yoga practice decreases medial temporal and brainstem glucose metabolism in relation to years of experience.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7225240/), Aalst and colleagues recruited experienced adult yoga practitioners (at least 2 years of 3 times per week practice) and non-practitioners matched for age, gender, education, and physical activity levels. They had the experienced yoga practitioners perform 75 minutes of yoga while the control group practiced 75 minutes of aerobic exercise. Before and after they underwent a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain scan to determine changes in glucose metabolism (metabolic activity) in various brain regions.

 

They found that the experienced yoga practitioners at rest had significantly lower levels of activity in the hippocampus, parahippocampus, amygdala, insula, anterior midbrain, striatum (globus pallidus), and cerebellum compared to non-practitioners. After yoga practice there was a significant increase in activity in the cerebellum that wasn’t present for the non-practitioners after aerobic exercise. No significant differences in grey matter volume was observed.

 

The findings that the activity (brain metabolism) in the yoga practitioners while at rest is altered suggests that these are relatively permanent neuroplastic changes in the brain produced by long-term yoga practice. These changes are in areas that are known to be involved in mood and emotion regulation (limbic system, hippocampus, parahippocampus, amygdala), motor movements (cerebellum and striatum), and interoception and body awareness (Insula). These results are in line with the established ability of yoga practice to improve mood and emotion regulation, interoception and body awareness, and movement.

 

The findings are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But prior research has established that yoga training produces similar improvements in well-being and changes in the brain suggesting that these effects are caused by yoga practice. Yoga practice is a complex set of activities including postures, meditation, breathing practice, spirituality, and relaxation. It will remain for future research to determine which of these components or which combinations are responsible for which effects.

 

Yoga practitioners have different levels of brain activity at rest reflecting the psychological changes observed in yoga practitioners. The psychological changes suggest that the better emotional and physical well-being in yoga practitioners is due to neuroplastic changes in the brain produced by long-term yoga practice. These results support the recommendation of practicing yoga to improve physical and psychological well-being.

 

So, altered brain metabolism is associated with long-term yoga practice.

 

“The practice of yoga helps improve emotional regulation to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and that seems to improve brain functioning.” – Neha Gothe

 

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

 

van Aalst, J., Ceccarini, J., Schramm, G., Van Weehaeghe, D., Rezaei, A., Demyttenaere, K., Sunaert, S., & Van Laere, K. (2020). Long-term Ashtanga yoga practice decreases medial temporal and brainstem glucose metabolism in relation to years of experience. EJNMMI research, 10(1), 50. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13550-020-00636-y

 

Abstract

Background

Yoga is increasingly popular worldwide with several physical and mental benefits, but the underlying neurobiology remains unclear. Whereas many studies have focused on pure meditational aspects, the triad of yoga includes meditation, postures, and breathing. We conducted a cross-sectional study comparing experienced yoga practitioners to yoga-naive healthy subjects using a multiparametric 2 × 2 design with simultaneous positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance (PET/MR) imaging.

Methods

18F-FDG PET, morphometric and diffusion tensor imaging, resting state fMRI, and MR spectroscopy were acquired in 10 experienced (4.8 ± 2.3 years of regular yoga experience) yoga practitioners and 15 matched controls in rest and after a single practice (yoga practice and physical exercise, respectively).

Results

In rest, decreased regional glucose metabolism in the medial temporal cortex, striatum, and brainstem was observed in yoga practitioners compared to controls (p < 0.0001), with a significant inverse correlation of resting parahippocampal and brainstem metabolism with years of regular yoga practice (ρ < − 0.63, p < 0.05). A single yoga practice resulted in significant hypermetabolism in the cerebellum (p < 0.0001). None of the MR measures differed, both at rest and after intervention.

Conclusions

Experienced yoga practitioners show regional long-term decreases in glucose metabolism related to years of practice. To elucidate a potential causality, a prospective longitudinal study in yoga-naive individuals is warranted.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7225240/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Physical and Mental Health

Spirituality is Associated with Better Physical and Mental Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. . . Spirituality also incorporates healthy practices for the mind and body, which positively influences mental health and emotional wellbeing.” – Luna Greestein

 

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 “Private religion/spirituality, self-rated health, and mental health among US South Asians.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297387/), Kent and colleagues recruited U.S. adults over 40 years of age of south Asian descent. They completed questionnaires on their health, daily spiritual experiences, gratitude, anxiety, anger, religious service attendance, religious affiliation, yoga practice, belief in God, closeness to God, positive religious coping, and divine hope. They were separated into a theistic group who believed in god and a non-theistic group who did not.

 

They found that in the total sample that the health of the participants was positively related to yoga practice, daily spiritual experiences and gratitude. Emotional functioning was positively related to gratitude and daily spiritual experiences. In addition, anxiety and anger were negatively associated with gratitude and daily spiritual experiences.

 

In the theistic subsample there were significant positive relationships between health and closeness to god and positive religious coping. There were significant positive relationships between emotional functioning and daily spiritual experiences, closeness to god and positive religious coping and negative relationships with negative religious coping. Anxiety and anger were related to negative religious coping and religious/spiritual struggles.

 

The results make it clear that religion and spirituality are associated with better physical and mental health. It should be noted that these results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. It is equally likely that spirituality promotes mental and physical health, that people with better mental and physical health tend to be more religious and spirituality, or that a third factor is related to both. These results also have limited generalizability as they were obtained from a community sample of people in the U.S. of south Asian descent. They may not apply to other ethnic or religious groups.

 

Nevertheless, the results present a positive picture of religion and spirituality and its relationships to physical and mental health. Positive religious coping to stress involves the belief that god is guiding the individual for good reasons and this type of coping is associated with better mental health. On the other hand, negative religious coping to stress which involves belief that god is, for some reason, punishing the individual, has negative emotional consequences. So, religion and spirituality are double edged swords depending on how the individual interprets and employs them.

 

So, spirituality is associated with better physical and mental health.

 

positive associations have been found between some styles of religion/spirituality and general wellbeing, marital satisfaction and general psychological functioning.” – Deborah Cornah

 

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

 

Kent, B. V., Stroope, S., Kanaya, A. M., Zhang, Y., Kandula, N. R., & Shields, A. E. (2020). Private religion/spirituality, self-rated health, and mental health among US South Asians. Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation, 29(2), 495–504. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-019-02321-7

 

Abstract

Purpose:

Connections between private religion/spirituality and health have not been assessed among U.S. South Asians. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between private religion/spirituality and self-rated and mental health in a community-based sample of U.S. South Asians.

Methods:

Data from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study (collected 2010–2013 and 2015–2018) and the attendant Study on Stress, Spirituality, and Health (n=881) were analyzed using OLS regression. Self-rated health measured overall self-assessed health. Emotional functioning was measured using the Mental Health Inventory-3 index (MHI-3) and Spielberger scales assessed trait anxiety and trait anger. Private religion/spirituality measures included prayer, yoga, belief in God, gratitude, theistic and non-theistic spiritual experiences, closeness to God, positive and negative religious coping, divine hope, and religious/spiritual struggles.

Results:

Yoga, gratitude, non-theistic spiritual experiences, closeness to God, and positive coping were positively associated with self-rated health. Gratitude, non-theistic and theistic spiritual experiences, closeness to God, and positive coping were associated with better emotional functioning; negative coping was associated with poor emotional functioning. Gratitude and non-theistic spiritual experiences were associated with less anxiety; negative coping and religious/spiritual struggles were associated with greater anxiety. Non-theistic spiritual experiences and gratitude were associated with less anger; negative coping and religious/spiritual struggles were associated with greater anger.

Conclusion:

Private religion/spirituality are associated with self-rated and mental health. Opportunities may exist for public health and religious care professionals to leverage existing religion/spirituality for well-being among U.S. South Asians.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297387/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Better Ability to Negotiate

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Better Ability to Negotiate

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness training increases empathy . . . enabling us to better appreciate the standpoint of the other parties to the negotiation. It makes it easier to reach a compromise and allows us to feel more connected with those we’re negotiating with – thus creating a sense of affiliation.” – Mindfulness Works

 

Negotiations are important not only in business but also in conflict resolution and mindfulness can help. It is important in negotiations to be sensitive to the nuances of behaviors. By being mindful the negotiator becomes more attentive and empathetic, making it easier to read the nonverbal cues from the other person. These cues are important for understanding their emotional reactions to each stage of the negotiations and can thereby assist the negotiator in understanding the needs of the other and thereby refining offers and counteroffers. Being attuned to another makes responses better aligned with what is needed for a successful negotiation.

 

Another way that mindfulness can be of help in negotiations is through improved emotion regulation. Mindfulness is associated with a heightened ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions. In a negotiation it is easy to react to emotions and as a result respond inappropriately or ignore the most logical negotiating step. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve problem solving and creativity. A negotiation can be viewed as a problem-solving task to identify the optimum strategy to produce the desired outcome. Also, by applying greater creativity to the problem the negotiator can devise novel solutions, optimizing outcomes.

 

In today’s Research News article “Variables Associated With Negotiation Effectiveness: The Role of Mindfulness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01214/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1356251_69_Psycho_20200618_arts_A), Pérez-Yus and colleagues recruited adult non-meditators and meditators with a daily practice of at least 6 months in duration. They completed questionnaires measuring negotiation effectiveness, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, personality, motivation, negotiation style, and their meditation practice.

 

They found that the higher the level of negotiation effectiveness the higher the level of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, achievement motivation, extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness, the personality traits of extraversion, openness and conscientiousness, and the negotiation styles of integrating, dominating, and compromising, and the lower the levels of neuroticism. In comparison to non-meditators, the meditators had significantly greater levels of emotional intelligence clarity, mindfulness, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, a greater tendency to acquire an integrating style in the negotiation, and a greater effectiveness of the negotiation and lower levels of neuroticism.

 

This study is correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. To establish causation, future research should examine the ability of mindfulness training to improve negotiation effectiveness. Nevertheless, the results suggest that meditation practice and mindfulness are associated with better negotiation effectiveness. Meditators are better negotiators. This is associated with emotional intelligence, and positive personality traits. Meditators had higher levels of integrating style of negotiations. In this style the negotiator is more attuned to the needs of everyone involved in the negotiation. So, meditators are better able to adjust the negotiation to satisfy everyone’s needs.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with better negotiation ability.

 

The results suggest that when a negotiation was more effective, mindfulness was a causal condition.” – Jamil Awaida

 

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

 

Pérez-Yus MC, Ayllón-Negrillo E, Delsignore G, Magallón-Botaya R, Aguilar-Latorre A and Oliván Blázquez B (2020) Variables Associated With Negotiation Effectiveness: The Role of Mindfulness. Front. Psychol. 11:1214. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01214

 

Negotiation is the main mean of conflict resolution. Despite its capital importance, little is known about influencing variables or effective interventions. Mindfulness has shown to improve subjects’ performance in different settings but until now, no study has shown its impact in negotiation. The aim of this study is to analyze which variables are associated with effectiveness and to determine if meditators are more effective in negotiation. A cross-sectional descriptive study was carried out. The study variables were: socio-demographic variables, negotiation effectiveness (Negotiation Effectiveness Questionnaire), mindfulness (Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire), emotional intelligence (Trait Meta-Mood Scale Questionnaire), personality (NEO-FFI personality inventory), motivation (McClelland Questionnaire), and negotiation style (Rahim Organizational Conflict Inventory-II). A correlational study and a multivariate model were developed. Negotiation effectiveness was associated with age, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, achievement motivation, integrating, dominating, and compromising negotiation styles and inversely correlated toward neuroticism. The effectiveness of the negotiation is explained by the variables clarity, age, conscientiousness, dominating, and compromising style. Meditators were found to be more effective than non-meditators.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01214/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1356251_69_Psycho_20200618_arts_A

 

Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms with Qigong

Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Evidence is growing for the Traditional Chinese practice of qigong as a treatment for fibromyalgia..” – Adrienne Dellwo

 

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder whose causes are unknown. It is very common affecting over 5 million people in the U.S., about 2% of the population with about 7 times more women affected than men. It is characterized by widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that lead to psychological distress. Fibromyalgia may also have morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, thinking and memory problems, and painful menstrual periods. The symptoms are so severe and debilitating that about half the patients are unable to perform routine daily functions and about a third have to stop work. Although it is not itself fatal, suicide rates are higher in fibromyalgia sufferers. Clearly, fibromyalgia greatly reduces the quality of life of its’ sufferers.

 

There are no completely effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Symptoms are generally treated with pain relievers, antidepressant drugs and exercise. But these only reduce the severity of the symptoms and do not treat the disease directly. Mindfulness practices have also been shown to be effective in reducing pain from fibromyalgia. Qigong is an ancient Chinese practice involving mindfulness and gentle movements. They are easy to learn, safe, and gentle. So, it may be appropriate for patients with fibromyalgia where exercise can produce painful flares. This suggests that Qigong might also be effective. Qigong practice involves body movements and also breathing exercises and meditation. It is not known which of these components are essential to produce benefits,

 

In today’s Research News article “The therapeutic efficacy of Qigong exercise on the main symptoms of fibromyalgia: A pilot randomized clinical trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235941/), Sarmento and colleagues recruited adult non-obese female patients with fibromyalgia and randomly assigned them to receive either Qigong practice or a sham Qigong control condition. They received 2 weekly 45-minute training sessions followed by 10 weeks of daily practice at home. Qigong practice consisted of “deep diaphragmatic breathing, mild body movements, and meditation, along with uttering six healing sounds.”  The sham Qigong practice consisted of the body movements only. They were measured before and after training for self-reported pain levels, pressure pain thresholds, fibromyalgia impact, sleep quality, fatigue, quality of life, depression, and anxiety.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the sham Qigong group the participants that practiced Qigong had significantly lower levels of self-reported pain, fibromyalgia impact, fatigue, depression, and anxiety and significantly higher pressure pain thresholds and levels of sleep quality. These results are very interesting in that they demonstrate that Qigong practice markedly improves the symptoms of fibromyalgia in women.

 

The results are also interesting in that they demonstrate that the body movements component of Qigong practice is not essential for the benefits. The fact that the exercise is not effective alone is not surprising as it’s been reported that exercise can actually increase the likelihood of a fibromyalgia flare. The results suggest that breath control and meditation are essential for Qigong practice to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It would appear that the mindfulness components of Qigong practice are essential. Previous research has shown that mindfulness training can improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The present results further confirm the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing the women’s suffering.

 

Fibromyalgia patients suffer greatly and to bring relief with a simple, gentle, safe practice is very important. Qigong is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. Hence, Qigong practice would appear to be a wonderful effective treatment for the relief of the suffering of fibromyalgia patients.

 

So, improve fibromyalgia symptoms with qigong.

 

“qigong in fibromyalgia. . . . there are consistent benefits in pain, sleep, impact, and physical and mental function following the regimen, with benefits maintained at 4-6 months.” – Jane Sawynok

 

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

 

Sarmento, C., Moon, S., Pfeifer, T., Smirnova, I. V., Colgrove, Y., Lai, S. M., & Liu, W. (2020). The therapeutic efficacy of Qigong exercise on the main symptoms of fibromyalgia: A pilot randomized clinical trial. Integrative medicine research, 9(4), 100416. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2020.100416

 

Abstract

Background

Some of the most debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia (FM) include widespread chronic pain, sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Yet, there is a lack of effective self-management exercise interventions capable of alleviating FM symptoms. The objective of this study is to examine the efficacy of a 10-week daily Qigong, a mind–body intervention program, on FM symptoms.

Methods

20 participants with FM were randomly assigned to Qigong (experimental) or sham-Qigong (control) groups, with participants blinded to the intervention allocation. The Qigong group practiced mild body movements synchronized with deep diaphragmatic breathing and meditation. The sham-Qigong group practiced only mild body movements. Both groups practiced the interventions two times per day at home, plus one weekly group practice session with a Qigong instructor. Primary outcomes were: pain changes measured by the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire, a visual analog scale for pain, pressure pain threshold measured by a dolorimeter. Secondary outcomes were: the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Quality of Life Scale.

Results

The experimental group experienced greater clinical improvements when compared to the control group on the mean score differences of pain, sleep quality, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia impact, all being statistically significant at p < 0.05.

Conclusion

Daily practice of Qigong appears to have a positive impact on the main fibromyalgia symptoms that is beyond group interaction.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235941/