Reduce Pain and Relax the Autonomic Nervous System with Mindfulness

Reduce Pain and Relax the Autonomic Nervous System with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we impose a litany of negativity upon our pain, it only becomes worse, and potentially elicits other difficulties including depression and anxiety. When we become more aware of what we are actually experiencing, without the overlay of our judgment, the overall perception of pain is reduced.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to lower the psychological distress and improve the individual’s ability to cope with the pain.

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings that demonstrate that mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating pain. Mindfulness appears to work by changing how the patient relates to pain rather than actually reducing or eliminating the pain. What is not known is the mechanism by which mindfulness affects chronic pain.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Role of Heart Rate Variability in Mindfulness-Based Pain Relief.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6994350/ ) Adler-Neal and colleagues recruited healthy adult non-meditators and randomly assigned them to either a meditation or sham-meditation group. The group met for 4 25-minute sessions over 7 days and practiced focused breath meditation or sham-meditation. In the sham-meditation sessions the participants were told every 2 to 3 minutes to close their eyes and take a deep breath. They were measured before and after training for respiration and heart rate variability. In addition, the participants underwent noxious non-damaging thermal stimulation on the calf of the leg and rated their pain levels.

 

They found that after both meditation and sham-meditation training there was a significant reduction in pain intensity. pain unpleasantness, and respiration rate and increase in heart rate variability, with no group differences. They also found for the meditation group only that the greater the heart rate variability the lower the pain unpleasantness ratings.

 

Heart rate variability refers to the change in the time intervals between consecutive heart beats. Higher levels of HRV are indicative of flexibility in the Autonomic Nervous System and are associated with adaptability to varying environments and lower stress levels. Higher heart rate variability is an indicator of physiological relaxation. This relaxation may well underlie the reduced pain unpleasantness. Since contemplative practices such as meditation increases heart rate variability it makes sense that these practices would also lower the perception of pain.

 

It is interesting that sham-meditation had similar effects as real meditation on pain and heart rate variability. This suggests that mindfulness reduction in pain may be due to a placebo effect where the participants’ belief that the intervention would reduce pain produced reduced perception of pain. But it could also be that the sham-meditation was actually a mindfulness practice. By focusing the participant’s attention on the breath, it might have increased mindfulness. It remains for future research to investigate this possibility.

 

So, reduce pain and relax the autonomic nervous system with mindfulness.

 

The ancient Buddhist text called the Sullatta Sutta states that mindfulness practitioners have the ability to experience pain but then let go of it.” – Brain Tap

 

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

 

Adler-Neal, A. L., Waugh, C. E., Garland, E. L., Shaltout, H. A., Diz, D. I., & Zeidan, F. (2020). The Role of Heart Rate Variability in Mindfulness-Based Pain Relief. The journal of pain, 21(3-4), 306–323. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2019.07.003

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Mindfulness and sham mindfulness meditation reduced pain during noxious heat
  • Mindfulness and sham mindfulness meditation increased heart rate variability (HRV)
  • Mindfulness-based pain relief was associated with higher HRV
  • Higher HRV during sham mindfulness meditation was associated with higher pain

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation is a self-regulatory practice premised on sustaining non-reactive awareness of arising sensory events that reliably reduces pain. Yet, the specific analgesic mechanisms supporting mindfulness have not been comprehensively disentangled from the potential non-specific factors supporting this technique. Increased parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity is associated with pain relief corresponding to a number of cognitive manipulations. However, the relationship between the PNS and mindfulness-based pain attenuation remains unknown. The primary objective of the present study was to determine the role of high frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV), a marker of PNS activity, during mindfulness-based pain relief as compared to a validated, sham-mindfulness meditation technique that served as a breathing-based control. Sixty-two healthy volunteers (31 females; 31 males) were randomized to a four-session (25 minutes/session) mindfulness or sham-mindfulness training regimen. Before and after each group’s respective training, participants were administered noxious (49°C) and innocuous (35°C) heat to the right calf. HF HRV and respiration rate were recorded during thermal stimulation and pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings were collected after each stimulation series. The primary analysis revealed that during mindfulness meditation, higher HF HRV was more strongly associated with lower pain unpleasantness ratings when compared to sham-mindfulness meditation (B = −0.82, p = 0.04). This finding is in line with the prediction that mindfulness-based meditation engages distinct mechanisms from sham-mindfulness meditation to reduce pain. However, the same prediction was not confirmed for pain intensity ratings (B = −0.41). Secondary analyses determined that mindfulness and sham-mindfulness meditation similarly reduced pain ratings, decreased respiration rate, and increased HF HRV (between group ps < 0.05). More mechanistic work is needed to reliably determine the role of parasympathetic activation in mindfulness-based pain relief as compared to other meditative techniques.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6994350/

 

Meditation Changes the Brain Areas Underlying Executive Function and Mind Wandering

Meditation Changes the Brain Areas Underlying Executive Function and Mind Wandering

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation nurtures the parts of the brain that contribute to well-being. Furthermore, it seems that a regular practice deprives the stress and anxiety-related parts of the brain of their nourishment.” – Mindworks

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. There are a number of ways that mindfulness practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Resting State Functional Connectivity Associated With Sahaja Yoga Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8007769/ )  Barrós-Loscertales and colleagues recruited healthy adult non-meditators and long-term practitioners of Sahaja Yoga Meditation. They were measured for impulsiveness and cognitive control and response inhibition with a go/no-go task in which the participants had to respond to a target stimulus and withhold responding to another stimulus and a Simon task in which they had to respond to a target stimulus pointing in the same direction as its location and withhold responding to another stimulus pointing in a different direction than its location. The participants also had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found that the meditators had increased functional connectivity between the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and decreased functional connectivity between the left insula and mid-cingulate cortex and between the right angular gyrus and precuneus. They also found that the meditators had significantly less response interference and the greater the amount of response interference the lower the functional connectivity between the left insula and the mid-cingulate.

 

The ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex have been found to be involved in attention, cognitive control, and conflict resolution. The increased connectivity suggests that the meditators had higher levels of executive function. The insula, cingulate cortex, angular gyrus, and precuneus are all components of the default mode network that has been shown to be involved with mind wandering and self-referential thinking. The decreased functional connectivity between these areas suggests reductions in these processes.

 

It should be kept in mind that the meditation and non-meditation groups self-selected whether they meditated or not and thus may be systematically different people. So, causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, these results suggest that the meditators had more active attention and executive control networks and less active mind-wandering networks. These results replicate previous research that demonstrated that contemplative practices like meditation produce improvements in cognition and reductions in mind wandering.  So, the connectivity differences seen in the present study appear to show the neural mechanisms underlying the differences in thought processes.

 

So, meditation changes the brain areas underlying executive function and mind wandering.

 

It seems the longer you do meditation, the better your brain will be at self-regulation. You don’t have to consume as much energy at rest and you can more easily get yourself into a more relaxed state.” – Bin He

 

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

 

Barrós-Loscertales, A., Hernández, S. E., Xiao, Y., González-Mora, J. L., & Rubia, K. (2021). Resting State Functional Connectivity Associated With Sahaja Yoga Meditation. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 15, 614882. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2021.614882

 

Abstract

Neuroscience research has shown that meditation practices have effects on brain structure and function. However, few studies have combined information on the effects on structure and function in the same sample. Long-term daily meditation practice produces repeated activity of specific brain networks over years of practice, which may induce lasting structural and functional connectivity (FC) changes within relevant circuits. The aim of our study was therefore to identify differences in FC during the resting state between 23 Sahaja Yoga Meditation experts and 23 healthy participants without meditation experience. Seed-based FC analysis was performed departing from voxels that had shown structural differences between these same participants. The contrast of connectivity maps yielded that meditators showed increased FC between the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex but reduced FC between the left insula and the bilateral mid-cingulate as well as between the right angular gyrus and the bilateral precuneus/cuneus cortices. It thus appears that long-term meditation practice increases direct FC between ventral and dorsal frontal regions within brain networks related to attention and cognitive control and decreases FC between regions of these networks and areas of the default mode network.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8007769/

 

Improve Hypertension with Mindfulness Training

Improve Hypertension with Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Several practices that help calm the mind can also lower blood pressure. All are types of meditation, which use different methods to reach a state sometimes described as “thoughtful awareness” or “restful alertness.” – Harvard Health

 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths, roughly 1,000 deaths each day, had high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.  It is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. Treatment frequently includes antihypertensive drugs. But these medications often have adverse side effects. So, patients feel lousy when taking the drugs, but fine when they’re not. So, compliance is a major issue with many patients not taking the drugs regularly or stopping entirely.

 

Obviously, there is a need for alternatives to drugs for reducing blood pressure. Mindfulness practices have been shown to aid in controlling hypertension. There has accumulated a body of research on the ability of Mindfulness practices to affect hypertension. So, it makes sense to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Effective for People with Hypertension? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 30 Years of Evidence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8000213/ ) Conversano and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies of the effectiveness of mindfulness training on hypertension. They identified 6 published studies that employed either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (3 studies), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (2 studies), and mindfulness meditation (1 study).

 

They report that the published research found that mindfulness training improved hypertension with reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They further report that mindfulness training worked best when the number of patients taking antihypertensive drugs were low, with the lower the percentage of participants on antihypertensive drugs, the greater the effect size of mindfulness training on hypertension.

 

These are impressive results that suggest that mindfulness training is a safe and effective treatment for hypertension. The trainings appear to work best in the absence of drugs to control hypertension. It follows that mindfulness training would reduce the physical effects of hypertension and thereby improve the overall health and longevity of the patients.

 

So, improve hypertension with mindfulness training.

 

The hope is that if we can start mindfulness training early in life, we can promote a trajectory of healthy aging across the rest of people’s lives. That will reduce their chances of getting high blood pressure in the first place.” – Eric Loucks

 

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

 

Conversano C, Orrù G, Pozza A, Miccoli M, Ciacchini R, Marchi L, Gemignani A. Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Effective for People with Hypertension? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 30 Years of Evidence. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 11;18(6):2882. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18062882. PMCID: PMC8000213.

 

Abstract

Background: Hypertension is among the most important risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, which are considered high mortality risk medical conditions. To date, several studies have reported positive effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) interventions on physical and psychological well-being in other medical conditions, but no meta-analysis on MBSR programs for hypertension has been conducted. Objectives: The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of MBSR programs for hypertension. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examining the effects of MBSR on systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP), anxiety, depression, and perceived stress in people with hypertension or pre-hypertension was conducted. The PubMed/MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases were searched in November 2020 to identify relevant studies. Results: Six studies were included. The comparison of MBSR versus control conditions on diastolic BP was associated with a statistically significant mean effect size favoring MBSR over control conditions (MD = −2.029; 95% confidence interval (CI): −3.676 to −0.383, p = 0.016, k = 6; 22 effect sizes overall), without evidence of heterogeneity (I2 = 0.000%). The comparison of MBSR versus control conditions on systolic BP was associated with a mean effect size which was statistically significant only at a marginal level (MD = −3.894; 95% CI: −7.736–0.053, p = 0.047, k = 6; 22 effect sizes overall), without evidence of high heterogeneity (I2 = 20.772%). The higher the proportion of participants on antihypertensive medications was, the larger the effects of MBSR were on systolic BP (B = −0.750, z = −2.73, p = 0.003). Conclusions: MBSR seems to be a promising intervention, particularly effective on the reduction of diastolic BP. More well-conducted trials are required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8000213/

 

Improve Attention in Older Individuals with Exercise and Mindfulness

Improve Attention in Older Individuals with Exercise and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“engaging in mindfulness meditation training improves the maintenance of goal-directed visuospatial attention and may be a useful strategy for counteracting cognitive decline associated with aging.” – Peter Malinowski

 

One of the primary effects of mindfulness training is an improvement in the ability to pay attention to the task at hand and ignore interfering stimuli. This is an important consequence of mindfulness training and produces improvements in thinking, reasoning, and creativity. The importance of heightened attentional ability to the individual’s ability to navigate the demands of complex modern life cannot be overstated. It helps in school, at work, in relationships, or simply driving a car. As important as attention is, it’s surprising that little is known about the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves attention

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves attention by altering the brain. It appears That mindfulness training increases the size, connectivity, and activity of areas of the brain that are involved in paying attention. A common method to study the activity of the nervous system is to measure the electrical signal at the scalp above brain regions. Changes in this activity are measurable with mindfulness training.

 

One method to observe attentional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to specific stimuli. These are called event-related, or evoked, potentials or ERPs. The signal following a stimulus changes over time. The fluctuations of the signal after specific periods of time are thought to measure different aspects of the nervous system’s processing of the stimulus. The N2 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a negative going electrical response occurring between a 1 to 3 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The N2 component is thought to reflect cognitive control. The P3 response is a positive going electrical response occurring between a 3 to 6 tenths of a second following the target. The P3 component is thought to reflect attentional processing.

 

In today’s Research News article “Behavioral and ERP Correlates of Long-Term Physical and Mental Training on a Demanding Switch Task.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7940199/ ) Burgos and colleagues recruited healthy adults aged 44-65 years. They were separated into groups of participants who practiced for at least 5 years either Tai Chi, Meditation, aerobic exercise, meditation and exercise, or were sedentary. The participants performed a visuospatial task switch test that required the participants to respond to the position of a dot on a screen with the same or opposite hand or to switch back and forth between the two after 2 trials. This measures executive attention. As they were performing the task the electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and the evoked potentials to the dot recorded.

 

They found that on the visuospatial task switch test the Tai Chi and Meditation plus exercise groups performed best, the aerobic exercise group intermediate, and the sedentary group worst. Performance was measured by the reaction times on the switch trials and also on the proportionate change in reaction times on switch trials. In the evoked potentials in the frontal and parietal cortical areas, the groups that had mental plus physical training (Tai Chi and Meditation plus exercise groups) had significantly larger N2 responses on switch trials than the meditation or exercise alone groups. They also found that the larger the N2 response the better the performance on the switch task.

 

These are interesting results. But the groups were composed of people who chose to engage in these differing activities and the groups may be composed of people who differ in other ways other than the chosen activity. It would be best in future research if random assignment and training were used. Nevertheless, the results suggest that executive attention is best in people who practice mental and physical exercises. These are superior to either alone and particularly superior to being sedentary.  It was not studied here, but the better performance in attentional ability would predict better overall performance in life and resistance to the mental decline with aging.

 

Both the performance on the task and the N2 responses reflect better executive control of attention. This means that the participants who performed both mindfulness and physical exercise improved their ability to control attention. Mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and meditation are known to alter the brain and improve attention. But the reason why exercise supplements these benefits is unknown. It is possible that exercise isn’t responsible for improvement but that sedentariness is responsible for deterioration and exercise acts to prevent this deterioration. Nevertheless, the results are clear mindfulness plus physical activity alters the brain in such a way as to improve the individual’s ability to control attention.

 

So, improve attention in older individuals with exercise and mindfulness.

 

mindfulness may be a way to improve our cognitive control as we age by teaching us to improve our ability to focus our attention on a particular task.” – Holy Tiret

 

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

 

Burgos, P. I., Cruz, G., Hawkes, T., Rojas-Sepúlveda, I., & Woollacott, M. (2021). Behavioral and ERP Correlates of Long-Term Physical and Mental Training on a Demanding Switch Task. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 569025. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.569025

 

Abstract

Physical and mental training are associated with positive effects on executive functions throughout the lifespan. However, evidence of the benefits of combined physical and mental regimes over a sedentary lifestyle remain sparse. The goal of this study was to investigate potential mechanisms, from a source-resolved event-related-potential perspective, that could explain how practicing long-term physical and mental exercise can benefit neural processing during the execution of an attention switching task. Fifty-three healthy community volunteers who self-reported long-term practice of Tai Chi (n = 10), meditation + exercise (n = 16), simple aerobics (n = 15), or a sedentary lifestyle (n = 12), aged 47.8 ± 14.6 (SD) were included in this analysis. All participants undertook high-density electroencephalography recording during a switch paradigm. Our results indicate that people who practice physical and mental exercise perform better in a task-switching paradigm. Our analysis revealed an additive effect of the combined practice of physical and mental exercise over physical exercise only. In addition, we confirmed the participation of frontal, parietal and cingulate areas as generators of event-related-potential components (N2-like and P3-like) commonly associated to the performance of switch tasks. Particularly, the N2-like component of the parietal and frontal domains showed significantly greater amplitudes in the exercise and mental training groups compared with aerobics and sedentary groups. Furthermore, we showed better performance associated with greater N2-like amplitudes. Our multivariate analysis revealed that activity type was the most relevant factor to explain the difference between groups, with an important influence of age, and body mass index, and with small effects of educational years, cardiovascular capacity, and sex. These results suggest that chronic combined physical and mental training may confer significant benefits to executive function in normally aging adults, probably through more efficient early attentional processing. Future experimental studies are needed to confirm our results and understand the mechanisms on parieto-frontal networks that contribute to the cognitive improvement associated with practicing combined mental and aerobic exercise, while carefully controlling confounding factors, such as age and body mass index.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7940199/

 

 

Increase the Energy Metabolism of the Brain with Meditation

Increase the Energy Metabolism of the Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

As a form of mental training, meditation improves core physical and psychological assets, including energy, motivation, and strength. Studies on the neurophysiological concomitants of meditation have proved that commitment to daily practice can bring promising changes for the mind and the body.” –  Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with reducing the physical and psychological reactions to stress. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. 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 “Short-term meditation training influences brain energy metabolism: A pilot study on 31 P MR spectroscopy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7821578/ ) Gizewski and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditation naïve yoga students and provided them with 7 weeks of twice a week 45-minute training in Raja yoga meditation. This focused meditation training emphasizes the cessation of thinking and includes meditation and breathing exercises. They were measured before and after training for meditative depth, health history, lifestyle, anxiety, depression, and angst. Before and after training they also underwent brain scanning with structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and for brain energy metabolism (31P-MRS).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline after Raja yoga meditation training there were significant increases overall mental health and decreases in anxiety and dysthymia. There were also significant increases in brain energy metabolism particularly in the right hemisphere in the occipital and temporal lobes and the basal ganglia.

 

This study did not contain a comparison, control, condition which opens the results up to some alternative interpretations. But ignoring these possible contaminants, the study suggests that 7 weeks of meditation training can alter the brain. This has been demonstrated with numerous studies of changes in the structure, connectivity, and electrical activity of the brain produced by mindfulness training. The present study adds to this understanding by demonstrating the focused meditation training increases the energy metabolism in the brain particularly in the posterior cerebral cortex and the motor control areas. Meditation training is thought to be relaxing and the technique used here is one that emphasizes reduction in mental activity. But the present study suggests that the brain can get very active. This suggests that there is considerable mental activity going on during meditation.

 

So, increase the energy metabolism of the brain with meditation.

 

Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. Yet meditating has a spiritual purpose, too. “True, it will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self,” –  Burke Lennihan,

 

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

 

Gizewski, E. R., Steiger, R., Waibel, M., Pereverzyev, S., Sommer, P., Siedentopf, C., Grams, A. E., Lenhart, L., & Singewald, N. (2021). Short-term meditation training influences brain energy metabolism: A pilot study on 31 P MR spectroscopy. Brain and behavior, 11(1), e01914. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1914

 

Abstract

Background

Meditation is increasingly attracting interest among neuroimaging researchers for its relevance as a cognitive enhancement technique and several cross‐sectional studies have indicated cerebral changes. This longitudinal study applied a distinct and standardized meditative technique with a group of volunteers in a short‐term training program to analyze brain metabolic changes.

Methods

The effect of 7 weeks of meditation exercises (focused attention meditation, FAM) was assessed on 27 healthy volunteers. Changes in cerebral energy metabolism were investigated using 31P‐MR spectroscopy. Metabolite ratios were compared before (T1) and after training (T2). Additional questionnaire assessments were included.

Results

The participants performed FAM daily. Depression and anxiety scores revealed a lower level of state anxiety at T2 compared to T1. From T1 to T2, energy metabolism ratios showed the following differences: PCr/ATP increased right occipitally; Pi/ATP decreased bilaterally in the basal ganglia and temporal lobe on the right; PCr/Pi increased in occipital lobe bilaterally, in the basal ganglia and in the temporal lobe on the right side. The pH decreased temporal on the left side and frontal in the right side. The observed changes in the temporal areas and basal ganglia may be interpreted as a higher energetic state, whereas the frontal and occipital areas showed changes that may be related to a down‐regulation in ATP turnover, energy state, and oxidative capacity.

Conclusions

The results of the current study indicate for the first time in a longitudinal study that even short‐term training in FAM may have considerable effects on brain energy state with different local energy management in specific brain regions. Especially higher energetic state in basal ganglia may represent altered function in their central role in complex cerebral distributed networks including frontal and temporal areas. Further studies including different forms of relaxation techniques should be performed for more specific and reliable insights.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7821578/

 

Improve Physical and Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness Meditation-Based Interventions

Improve Physical and Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness Meditation-Based Interventions

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation is related to improved mental health across a variety of disorders, including different anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and chronic pain symptom reduction.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

Over the last few decades, a vast amount of research has been published on the benefits of mindfulness practices on the mental and physical health of the practitioners. Many reviews, summarizations, and meta-analyses have been performed of these studies. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what these meta-analyses have found.

 

In today’s Research News article “The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/Goldberg-the-empirical-status.pdf ) Goldberg and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of previous meta-analyses of published randomized controlled studies on benefits of sustained meditation practices on mental and physical well-being. They identified 44 published meta-analyses, representing 336 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 30,483 participants.

 

They report that the meta-analyses of published randomized controlled trials found that sustained mindfulness meditation practices in comparison to passive, no treatment, controls had a very wide range of beneficial effects across a wide range of participants from children to the elderly, over a variety of programs from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to mobile health, over a variety of psychological issues from anxiety to psychoses, and over a wide range of diseases from chronic pain to cancer. These effects were present immediately post treatment and at later follow-ups (an average of 7 months after treatment).

 

Comparison of these mindfulness meditation practices to active control conditions such as attentional controls to evidence-based treatments, resulted in reduced effect sizes and many were non-significant. Mindfulness meditation practices had significantly superior effects than active controls for adults, children, employees, and health care professionals/trainees but not for students. They were superior for psychiatric disorders, substance use, smoking, and depression but not for physical health conditions, pain, weight/eating-related conditions, cancer, or anxiety. They were superior for stress, and psychiatric symptoms but not for sleep, physical health symptoms, objective measures, or physiological measures.

 

These findings are essentially summaries of summaries and are based upon a wide variety of different researchers, methodologies, cultures, and time frames. Yet, the results are fairly consistent. In comparison to doing nothing, passive controls, mindfulness meditation practices are very beneficial for a wide range of physical and psychological issues over a wide range of ages. But these practices when compared to other types of treatments, are less effective and at times not superior. Nevertheless, this meta-analysis of meta-analyses paints a clear picture of the wide-ranging efficacy of mindfulness meditation practices for the relief of physical and psychological issues. These results verify the unprecedented depth and breadth of benefits of mindfulness meditation practices.

 

So, improve physical and mental well-being with mindfulness meditation-based interventions.

 

Practicing mindfulness exercises can have many possible benefits, including: reduced stress, anxiety and depression, less negative thinking and distraction, and improved mood,” -Mayo Clinic

 

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

 

Goldberg, S. B., Riordan, K., Sun, S., & Davidson, R. J. (2021). The empirical status of mindfulness-based interventions: A systematic review of 44 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. Perspectives on Psychological Science 1–23, DOI: 10.1177/1745691620968771

 

Abstract

In response to questions regarding the scientific basis for mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), we evaluated their empirical status by systematically reviewing meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched six databases for effect sizes based on ≥4 trials that did not combine passive and active controls. Heterogeneity, moderators, tests of publication bias, risk of bias, and adverse effects were also extracted. Representative effect sizes based on the largest number of studies were identified across a wide range of populations, problems, interventions, comparisons, and outcomes (PICOS). A total of 160 effect sizes were reported in 44 meta-analyses (k=336 RCTs, N=30,483 participants). MBIs showed superiority to passive controls across most PICOS (ds=0.10-0.89). Effects were typically smaller and less often statistically significant when compared to active controls. MBIs were similar or superior to specific active controls and evidence-based treatments. Heterogeneity was typically moderate. Few consistent moderators were found. Results were generally robust to publication bias, although other important sources of bias were identified. Reporting of adverse effects was inconsistent. Statistical power may be lacking in meta-analyses, particularly for comparisons with active controls. As MBIs show promise across some PICOS, future RCTs and meta-analyses should build upon identified strengths and limitations of this literature.

https://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/Goldberg-the-empirical-status.pdf

 

Improve Treatment Resistant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Compassion-Focused Therapy

Improve Treatment Resistant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Compassion-Focused Therapy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A big part of learning to live with OCD is to incorporate self-compassion. Instead of avoiding your anxiety, self-compassion invites you to look at it with understanding and gentle curiosity. This approach allows you to see your pain exactly how it is without self-judgment or self-criticism.” – Nancy Larsen

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferers have repetitive anxiety producing intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that result in repetitive behaviors to reduce the anxiety (compulsions). In a typical example of OCD, the individual is concerned about germs and is unable to control the anxiety that these thoughts produce. Their solution is to engage in ritualized behaviors, such as repetitive cleaning or hand washing that for a short time relieves the anxiety. The obsessions and compulsions can become so frequent that they become a dominant theme in their lives. Hence OCD drastically reduces the quality of life and happiness of the sufferer and those around them. About 2% of the population, 3.3 million people in the U.S., are affected at some time in their life.

 

Fortunately, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be treated and many respond to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). But some do not. Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating OCD. One understudied meditation technique is Compassion -Focused Therapy. It is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. On the face of it learning self-compassion would seem to be useful in dealing with OCD. But there is little empirical evidence.

 

In today’s Research News article “Compassion-Focused Group Therapy for Treatment-Resistant OCD: Initial Evaluation Using a Multiple Baseline Design.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7835278/ ) Petrocchi and colleagues recruited patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) who had received 6-months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and still have significant residual OCD symptoms. They received 8 weekly 2-hour sessions of Compassion-Focused Therapy after varying periods of baseline (Multiple Baseline Research Design). The treatment consisted of training in meditation and visualization practices during sessions and at home. It is designed to replace self-criticism with self-compassion. Before and after training and 1 month later they were measured for OCD symptom severity, OCD symptom presence and distress, depression, fear of guilt, self-criticizing, self-attacking, self-reassuring, and self-compassion.

 

They found that the patients all had large improvements in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms that were maintained at the 1-month follow-up. They also found significant improvements in fear of guilt, self-criticism, and self-reassurance. In additions, there were less reliable improvements in depression and common humanity. Hence, Compassion-Focused Therapy improved the symptom of OCD in patients who didn’t respond to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

 

These are important preliminary findings that must be followed up with a large randomized controlled trial. But these results suggest that Compassion-Focused Therapy may be effective in treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms in patients who do not respond to the gold standard treatment of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The results may suggest that CBT should incorporate Compassion-Focused training when being employed to treat OCD. This should be explored in future studies.

 

So, improve treatment resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder with compassion-focused therapy.

 

people with OCD may feel better if they remind themselves that it is normal to worry, and that it is not their fault if their OCD symptoms get worse.” –  Jessica Caporuscio

 

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

 

Petrocchi, N., Cosentino, T., Pellegrini, V., Femia, G., D’Innocenzo, A., & Mancini, F. (2021). Compassion-Focused Group Therapy for Treatment-Resistant OCD: Initial Evaluation Using a Multiple Baseline Design. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 594277. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.594277

 

Abstract

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental health disorder that can easily become a treatment-resistant condition. Although effective therapies exist, only about half of the patients seem to benefit from them when we consider treatment refusal, dropout rates, and residual symptoms. Thus, providing effective augmentation to standard therapies could improve existing treatments. Group compassion-focused interventions have shown promise for reducing depression, anxiety, and avoidance related to various clinical problems, but this approach has never been evaluated for OCD individuals. However, cultivating compassion for self and others seems crucial for OCD patients, given the accumulating research suggesting that fear of guilt, along with isolation and self-criticism, can strongly contribute to the development and maintenance of OCD. The primary aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the acceptability, tolerability, and effectiveness of an 8-week group compassion-focused intervention for reducing OCD symptoms, depression, fear of guilt and self-criticism, and increasing common humanity and compassionate self-reassuring skills in treatment-resistant OCD patients. Using a multiple baseline experimental design, the intervention was evaluated in a sample of OCD patients (N = 8) who had completed at least 6 months of CBT treatment for OCD, but who continued to suffer from significant symptoms. Participants were randomized to different baseline assessment lengths; they then received 8 weekly, 120-min group sessions of compassion-focused therapy for OCD (CFT-OCD), and then were tested again at post-treatment and at 1 month follow up. Despite the adverse external circumstances (post-treatment and follow-up data collection were carried out, respectively, at the beginning and in the middle of the Italian lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic), by the end of treatment, all participants demonstrated reliable decreases in OCD symptoms, and these improvements were maintained at 4-week follow-up for seven of eight participants. The intervention was also associated with improvements in fear of guilt, self-criticism, and self-reassurance, but less consistent improvements in depression and common humanity. Participants reported high levels of acceptability of and satisfaction with the intervention. Results suggest that the intervention may be beneficial as either a stand-alone treatment or as an augmentation to other treatments.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7835278/

 

Have Better Sex with Mindfulness

Have Better Sex with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful sex involves being able to observe and describe what’s happening inside your body and mind without sorting experiences into “bad” and “good” or trying to change your feelings. When we are able to do that, we can “turn off the autopilot.” – Gina Silverstein

 

Sex is a very important aspect of life. Problems with sex are very common and have negative consequences for relationships. While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common, it is a topic that many people are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Women suffer from sexual dysfunction more than men with 43% of women and 31% of men reporting some degree of difficulty. Hence, sex has major impacts on people’s lives and relationships. Greater research attention to sexual activity and sexual satisfaction and the well-being of the individual is warranted.

 

Mindfulness trainings have been shown to improve a variety of psychological issues including emotion regulationstress responsestraumafear and worryanxiety, and depression, and self-esteem. Mindfulness training has also been found to improve relationships and to be useful in treating sexual problems. But there is little empirical research on the relationship of mindfulness with sexuality in normal, non-clinical, individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness in Sexual Activity, Sexual Satisfaction and Erotic Fantasies in a Non-Clinical Sample.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908537/ )  Sánchez-Sánchez and colleagues recruited online adults who were meditation naïve or who practiced meditation for at least 5 months. They completed measures online of mindfulness, body awareness, sexual satisfaction, sexual activity, and sexual fantasies.

 

They found that the meditation practitioners were significantly higher in emotion regulation, family, academics, relationships, sociability, attention, health, sexuality, and leisure and significantly lower in perceived stress. They were also significantly higher in mindfulness, body awareness, sexual satisfaction, sexual activity, and sexual fantasies. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and the amount of mindfulness practice, the higher the levels of body awareness sexual satisfaction and sexual activity. Also, they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of body dissociation.

 

It should be kept in mind that there was no random assignment and so the groups may be quite different, People who meditate may be systematically different from those who don’t in many ways including the variables measured in this study. But previous research including randomized studies demonstrated that mindfulness produced higher levels of emotion regulation, family, academics, relationships, sociability, attention, health, and sexuality, and lower levels of stress. So, the present findings likely also represent causal connections.

 

These findings suggest that mindfulness is associated with better psychological and physical health and well-being. They also suggest that mindfulness is associated with better sexual function in terms of sexual activity, satisfaction with sex, and relationship quality and even a better sexual fantasy life. Sex is such an important aspect of life that many of the other psychological and physical benefits of mindfulness may emanate from the improved sex life of the individuals. Much more research is needed.

 

So, have better sex with mindfulness.

 

Think of mindful sex as an invitation, as an opportunity to explore the mystery of sex. The reward is deeper intimacy, more meaningful connections, and (fingers crossed) greater physical pleasure.” – Kayti Christian

 

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

 

Sánchez-Sánchez, L. C., Rodríguez, M., García-Montes, J. M., Petisco-Rodríguez, C., & Fernández-García, R. (2021). Mindfulness in Sexual Activity, Sexual Satisfaction and Erotic Fantasies in a Non-Clinical Sample. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(3), 1161. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031161

 

Abstract

The goal of this study is to better understand the relation between the practice of Mindfulness and the sexual activity, sexual satisfaction and erotic fantasies of Spanish-speaking participants. This research focuses on the comparison between people who practice Mindfulness versus naïve people, and explores the practice of Mindfulness and its relation with the following variables about sexuality: body awareness and bodily dissociation, personal sexual satisfaction, partner and relationship-related satisfaction, desire, subjective sexual arousal, genital arousal, orgasm, pain, attitudes towards sexual fantasies and types of sexual fantasies. The sample consisted of 106 selected adults, 32 men and 74 women, who completed six measures on an online survey platform: (a) Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), (b) Scale of Body Connection (SBC), (c) New Sexual Satisfaction Scale (NSSS), (d) Scale of Sexual Activity in Women (SSA-W) and Men (SSA-M), (e) Hurlbert Index of Sexual Fantasy (HISF), (f) Wilson’s Sex Fantasy Questionnaire. In the MAAS, Body Awareness subscale (SBC), NSSS, SSA-W and SSA-M, HISF and intimate fantasies subscale (Wilson’s questionnaire), people in the Mindfulness condition showed higher scores and these differences were statistically significant. These results may have relevant implications in the sexuality of clinical and non-clinical samples.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908537/

 

Decrease Defensiveness and Increase Psychological Health with Meditation

Decrease Defensiveness and Increase Psychological Health with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. . . People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns, and even increased pain tolerance.” – Matthew Thorpe

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented.

 

Meditation practice has been shown to improve physical and psychological health and longevity. But people use defense mechanisms to cope with demanding emotional situations, including stress. It is not known if this defensiveness may interfere with the ability of meditation practice to improve the psychological health of the practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Defensive Functioning Moderates the Effects of Nondirective Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7876444/ )  Hersoug and colleagues recruited adult working professionals and had them attend a 2-hour seminar on stress management. Afterward they were assigned to either a no-treatment control condition or to receive 5 2-hour sessions over 8 weeks of open monitoring meditation training. They were measured before and after training and 1 and 4 months later for defense mechanisms, neuroticism, general health, insomnia, and musculoskeletal pain.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, the group that received open monitoring meditation training had significant improvements in sleep, muscle pain, neuroticism, and general health. These improvements were maintained during the follow-up period. They also found that the levels of defense mechanisms moderated these improvements such that the greater the level of defensiveness, the smaller the impact of meditation training on the physical and psychological health of the participants.

 

The findings suggest that open monitoring meditation training is beneficial for the psychological and physical health of working professionals. This replicates previous findings that mindfulness training improves sleep, personality, health, and pain. The current study adds that these effects are negatively impacted by the level of defense mechanisms of the participants. In other words, using defense mechanisms when confronted by stress rather than seeing it for what it is interferes with the ability of open monitoring meditation to improve psychological functioning and health. This makes sense as open monitoring meditation practice is designed to improve the individual’s ability to see things as they are. Using defense mechanisms interferes with seeing things as they are.

 

So, decrease defensiveness and increase psychological health with meditation.

 

mindfulness meditation . . .  practices focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity and concentration.” – Daphne Davis

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Hersoug, A. G., Wærsted, M., & Lau, B. (2021). Defensive Functioning Moderates the Effects of Nondirective Meditation. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 629784. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.629784

 

Abstract

We have recently found that nondirective meditation facilitates stress reduction. This supplementary study investigated whether defensive functioning would moderate these beneficial effects. We explored the occurrence of defense mechanisms and the impact of defensive functioning on the outcome of companies’ stress management programs regarding worries nervousness, mental distress, sleep problems, and muscle pain. The sample was a population of active, working professionals recruited from Norwegian companies (n = 105). The intervention group obtained significant benefits on all outcome measures, but there were no effects in the control group. We analyzed defensive functioning with the self-report questionnaire, Life Style Index, at four time points. The healthy adults who participated had a low level of defense scores at the outset. There was a significant reduction in the level of defenses in both groups over the study period, 6 months. Defensive functioning significantly moderated the change of the outcome measures from baseline to follow-up in the intervention group, but not in the control group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7876444/

 

Mindfulness-Based Therapies Benefits are Greatly Affected by Social Factors in Therapy

Mindfulness-Based Therapies Benefits are Greatly Affected by Social Factors in Therapy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Designed to deliberately focus a person’s attention on the present experience in a way that is non-judgmental, mindfulness-based interventions, whether offered individually or in a group setting, may offer benefit to people seeking therapy for any number of concerns.” – Manuel A. Manotas

 

Psychotherapy is an interpersonal transaction. Its effectiveness in treating the ills of the client is to some extent dependent upon the chemistry between the therapist and the client, termed the therapeutic alliance. Research has demonstrated that there is a positive relationship with moderate effect sizes between treatment outcomes and the depth of the therapeutic alliance.

 

There are also other factors that may be important for successful therapy. The client’s engagement in the process as well as the therapists interpersonal skills may also be important ingredients in producing successful therapeutic outcomes. There are also important social factors present particularly when the therapy is provided in groups. In addition, formal and informal practice effects are involved. There is little known, however, of the role of these components of therapy on the effectiveness of treatment for mental health issues such as depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Contribution of Common and Specific Therapeutic Factors to Mindfulness-Based Intervention Outcomes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874060/ )  Canby and colleagues recruited patients diagnosed with mild to severe depression and randomly assigned them to receive once a week for 8 weeks, 3 hour sessions of either focused meditation, open monitoring meditation or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which contains both focused and open monitoring meditation practices. Before and after the 8-weeks of practice and 3 months later they were measured for empathy, therapeutic alliance, formal and informal mindfulness practices, depression, anxiety, stress, mindfulness, and group therapeutic factors in group therapy: instillation of hope, secure emotional expression, awareness of relational impact, and social learning. Finally, they received structured interviews exploring mindfulness practices and impact of treatment.

 

They found that the over treatment and follow-up the groups had significantly increased mindfulness and significantly decreased anxiety, depression and stress. They found that the higher the ratings of the instructors. the ratings of the groups and the amounts of formal meditation practice the greater the changes. In general, the instructor and group factors had stronger relationships to the psychological improvements than the amount of formal meditation and the amount of informal meditation practice had no relationship with the improvements. The analysis of the structured interviews indicated that the participants found the instructor and group factors including bonding, instilling hope, and expressing feelings were important to their improvements.

 

These results are interesting replicate previous findings of mindfulness-based therapies produce improvements in anxiety, depression, and stress. The results suggest that mindfulness-based therapies have complex effects and changes in mindfulness may be less important than the social environment produced by the instructor and the group. These social factors may account for a large proportion of the benefits to the participants. These results are important as they suggest that empathizing the social interactions involved in therapy may improve the impact of the therapy on the patients’ psychological well-being.

 

So, mindfulness-based therapies benefits are greatly affected by social factors in therapy.

 

Mindfulness’ strength is in helping us to see more clearly, by giving us the room to not be so quickly reactive. And over time the event does not have to jump to emotional distress, like a grasshopper leaping over a stream.” – Barry Boyce

 

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

 

Canby, N. K., Eichel, K., Lindahl, J., Chau, S., Cordova, J., & Britton, W. B. (2021). The Contribution of Common and Specific Therapeutic Factors to Mindfulness-Based Intervention Outcomes. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 603394. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.603394

 

Abstract

While Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have been shown to be effective for a range of patient populations and outcomes, a question remains as to the role of common therapeutic factors, as opposed to the specific effects of mindfulness practice, in contributing to patient improvements. This project used a mixed-method design to investigate the contribution of specific (mindfulness practice-related) and common (instructor and group related) therapeutic factors to client improvements within an MBI. Participants with mild-severe depression (N = 104; 73% female, M age = 40.28) participated in an 8-week MBI. Specific therapeutic factors (formal out-of-class meditation minutes and informal mindfulness practice frequency) and social common factors (instructor and group ratings) were entered into multilevel growth curve models to predict changes in depression, anxiety, stress, and mindfulness at six timepoints from baseline to 3-month follow-up. Qualitative interviews with participants provided rich descriptions of how instructor and group related factors played a role in therapeutic trajectories. Findings indicated that instructor ratings predicted changes in depression and stress, group ratings predicted changes in stress and self-reported mindfulness, and formal meditation predicted changes in anxiety and stress, while informal mindfulness practice did not predict client improvements. Social common factors were stronger predictors of improvements in depression, stress, and self-reported mindfulness than specific mindfulness practice-related factors. Qualitative data supported the importance of relationships with instructor and group members, involving bonding, expressing feelings, and instilling hope. Our findings dispel the myth that MBI outcomes are exclusively the result of mindfulness meditation practice, and suggest that social common factors may account for much of the effects of these interventions. Further research on meditation should take into consideration the effects of social context and other common therapeutic factors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874060/