Increase Relaxation with Focused Meditation while Increasing Activation with Open Monitoring Meditation

Increase Relaxation with Focused Meditation while Increasing Activation with Open Monitoring Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness meditation consists of focused attention meditation (FAM) and open monitoring meditation (OMM), both of which reduce activation of the default mode network (DMN) and mind-wandering.” – Masahiro Fujino

 

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

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, often the breath. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin. Whether these different meditation types produce different effects has not been extensively studied.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential Effects of Focused Attention and Open Monitoring Meditation on Autonomic Cardiac Modulation and Cortisol Secretion.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8320390/ ) Ooishi and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditation novices and had them engage in 30 minutes of either focused attention meditation, focusing on the breath, or open monitoring meditation in randomized order separated by 2 hours. They were measured before and after each meditation for heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and salivary cortisol.

 

They found that focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation both reduced respiration rates but produced different physiological responses. Analysis of the heart rate variability data revealed changes in the autonomic nervous system’s components of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These analyses suggested that focused attention meditation produced an increase in parasympathetic activation but not sympathetic activation while open monitoring meditation produced an increase in sympathetic activation but not parasympathetic activation and reduced salivary cortisol levels.

 

These findings suggest that focused attention meditation is associated with physiological relaxation while open monitoring meditation is associated with physiological activation. This fits with the findings that focused attention meditation produces greater reductions in anxiety compared to open monitoring meditation. But it needs to be kept in mind that the study employed brief, one-time meditations by meditation naïve participants. It is possible that focused attention meditation is simpler and produces less stress in naive participants while open monitoring meditation is more difficult to learn requiring greater effort and stress. It is clear that this work needs to be replicated with longer term meditation practice.

 

So, increase relaxation with focused meditation while increasing activation with open monitoring meditation.

 

Focused attention meditation improves focus.  . . an increased consciousness of bodily sensations. The open-monitoring meditation . .  increases our ability to resolve conflicts.  Open Monitoring meditation increases creativity by improving divergent and convergent thinking.” – Daily Meditation

 

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

 

Ooishi, Y., Fujino, M., Inoue, V., Nomura, M., & Kitagawa, N. (2021). Differential Effects of Focused Attention and Open Monitoring Meditation on Autonomic Cardiac Modulation and Cortisol Secretion. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, 675899. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.675899

 

Abstract

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been used widely as a useful tool for the alleviation of various stress-related symptoms. However, the effects of MBIs on stress-related physiological activity have not yet been ascertained. MBIs primarily consist of focused-attention (FA) and open-monitoring (OM) meditation. Since differing effects of FA and OM meditation on brain activities and cognitive tasks have been mentioned, we hypothesized that FA and OM meditation have also differing effects on stress-related physiological activity. In this study, we examined the effects of FA and OM meditation on autonomic cardiac modulation and cortisol secretion. Forty-one healthy adults (aged 20–46 years) who were meditation novices experienced 30-min FA and OM meditation tasks by listening to instructions. During resting- and meditation-states, electrocardiogram transducers were attached to participants to measure the R-R interval, which were used to evaluate heart rate (HR) and perform heart rate variability (HRV) analyses. Saliva samples were obtained from participants pre- and post-meditation to measure salivary cortisol levels. Results showed that FA meditation induced a decrease in HR and an increase in the root mean square of successive differences (rMSDD). In contrast, OM meditation induced an increase in the standard deviation of the normal-to-normal interval (SDNN) to rMSSD ratio (SDNN/rMSSD) and a decrease in salivary cortisol levels. These results suggest that FA meditation elevates physiological relaxation, whereas OM meditation elevates physiological arousal and reduces stress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8320390/

 

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/

 

Focused Meditation has Superior Effectiveness for Emotional Disorders

Focused Meditation has Superior Effectiveness for Emotional Disorders

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

               

“meditation can help you relax and reduce stress. It can also help you disengage from stressful or anxious thoughts, and better control your mood.” – Healthline

 

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

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, often the breath. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin.  Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) employs both focused and open monitoring meditation and also Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). During therapy the patient is trained to investigate and alter aberrant thought patterns. It is important to understand which form of meditation training works best for which conditions.

 

In today’s Research News article “The contributions of focused attention and open monitoring in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for affective disturbances: A 3-armed randomized dismantling trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802967/ ) Cullen and colleagues recruited adults with mild-moderate depression and anxiety and randomly assigned them to an 8-week program of one of three meditation types; focused meditation, open monitoring meditation, or their combination as occurs in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). They were measured before training and weekly over the 8-week program and 12 weeks later for depression, stress, and anxiety.

 

They found that all three meditation programs produced significant improvements in depression, stress, and anxiety at the end of training and 12 weeks later. But Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and focused meditation produced significantly greater reductions in anxiety at the 12-week follow-up than open monitoring meditation. During training statistically significant improvements in depression, stress, and anxiety occurred first for focused meditation, followed by MBCT, and last by open monitoring meditation.

 

These are interesting results that again demonstrate the efficacy of meditation training in improving depression, stress, and anxiety. They also found that the training in both focused and open monitoring meditation as occurs in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) did not produce superior results to the individual meditation types. Finally, they show the focused meditation may be superior to open monitoring meditation in relieving depression, stress, and anxiety. The participants who practiced focused meditation improved faster and at follow up had lower levels of anxiety than those who practiced open monitoring meditation.

 

The reason for the differences in the effectiveness of the different meditation types is unknown. But focused meditation may be simpler and easier to learn and practice than open monitoring meditation. Also, open monitoring meditation by having the practitioner open up awareness to everything that’s being experienced may allow for anxiety, stress, and depression to more easily arise during the session. Future research should investigate these possibilities.

 

So, focused meditation has superior effectiveness for emotional disorders.

 

Within just a week or two of regular meditation, you should see a noticeable change in your mood and stress level. “People will start to feel some inner peace and inner poise, even in the midst of their busy lives,” – 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

 

Cullen, B., Eichel, K., Lindahl, J. R., Rahrig, H., Kini, N., Flahive, J., & Britton, W. B. (2021). The contributions of focused attention and open monitoring in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for affective disturbances: A 3-armed randomized dismantling trial. PloS one, 16(1), e0244838. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244838

 

Abstract

Objective

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) includes a combination of focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM) meditation practices. The aim of this study was to assess both short- and long-term between- and within-group differences in affective disturbance among FA, OM and their combination (MBCT) in the context of a randomized controlled trial.

Method

One hundred and four participants with mild to severe depression and anxiety were randomized into one of three 8-week interventions: MBCT (n = 32), FA (n = 36) and OM (n = 36). Outcome measures included the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS), and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS). Mixed effects regression models were used to assess differential treatment effects during treatment, post-treatment (8 weeks) and long-term (20 weeks). The Reliable Change Index (RCI) was used to translate statistical findings into clinically meaningful improvements or deteriorations.

Results

All treatments demonstrated medium to large improvements (ds = 0.42–1.65) for almost all outcomes. While all treatments were largely comparable in their effects at post-treatment (week 8), the treatments showed meaningful differences in rapidity of response and pattern of deteriorations. FA showed the fastest rate of improvement and the fewest deteriorations on stress, anxiety and depression during treatment, but a loss of treatment-related gains and lasting deteriorations in depression at week 20. OM showed the slowest rate of improvement and lost treatment-related gains for anxiety, resulting in higher anxiety in OM at week 20 than MBCT (d = 0.40) and FA (d = 0.36), though these differences did not reach statistical significance after correcting for multiple comparisons (p’s = .06). MBCT and OM showed deteriorations in stress, anxiety and depression at multiple timepoints during treatment, with lasting deteriorations in stress and depression. MBCT showed the most favorable pattern for long-term treatment of depression.

Conclusions

FA, OM and MBCT show different patterns of response for different dimensions of affective disturbance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802967/

 

Support Creativity with Mindfulness

Support Creativity with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness practices enhance three essential skills necessary for creative problem solving. First, mindfulness switches on divergent thinking. In other words, meditation opens your mind to new ideas. Second, mindfulness practice improves attention and makes it easier to register the novelty and usefulness of ideas. And finally, mindfulness nurtures courage and resilience in the face of skepticism and setbacks, which is important because failure and setbacks are inextricably linked with any innovation process.” – Danny Penman

 

Creative solutions are unusual but appropriate and useful solutions to a problem. Problem solving most frequently involves logic and reasoning, sometimes along with mathematics. If logic and reason fail, then fanciful and out-of-the box thinking may be needed. In this case mind wandering, taking the thought process away from the failed logical strategy, is superior, often producing a solution in a flash, an “aha” moment. In this case focused attention prevents the individual from seeing an unusual or creative solution. While the mind wandering off topic increases the discursive thinking that is required for obtaining the insightful solution.

 

Mindfulness is the ability to focus on what is transpiring in the present moment. It involves a greater emphasis on attention to the immediate stimulus environment. Mindful people generally have better attentional abilities and have fewer intrusive thoughts and less spontaneous mind wandering. This would predict that mindfulness, which increases focused attention, would interfere with creativity. It is possible, however, that mindful attention might promote a purposeful, intentional, deliberate mind wandering that may actually increase creativity.

 

Additionally, creative solutions often occur after an incubation period where the individual gets away from the problem for a while. This tends to break up repetitive and routine thinking that may interfere with finding a creative solution. Mindfulness practices may provide incubation periods that help to spur creative thought. Indeed, mindfulness has been found to increase creativity.

 

The research has been accumulating and it makes sense to pause and take a look at what has been learned. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Creativity: Implications for Thinking and Learning.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7395604/) Henriksen and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a thematic analysis of the published research studies on the effects of mindfulness on creativity.

 

They report that the published research found that the practice of mindfulness meditation increases creativity and that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of creativity. They also report that open monitoring meditation appears to be better at promoting divergent thinking (creativity) while focused meditation appears to be better at promoting convergent (logical) thinking. Both divergent and convergent thinking can lead to creative solutions to problems although divergent thinking produces more unusual solutions.

 

The research also found that mind wandering and mindfulness were not necessarily in opposition in promoting creativity. Deliberate purposeful mind wandering is supported by mindfulness and promotes creativity, whereas spontaneous mind wandering is suppressed by mindfulness and it interferes with creativity. Hence, the literature supports the conclusion that mindfulness promotes creativity.

 

So, support creativity with mindfulness.

 

“The kind of mindfulness that brings us into the default mode is the bridge between incubation and illumination. It can be the silence that allows us to find our true voice.” – Michael Formica

 

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

 

Henriksen, D., Richardson, C., & Shack, K. (2020). Mindfulness and Creativity: Implications for Thinking and Learning. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 100689. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2020.100689

 

Abstract

Mindfulness and creativity have both come to the forefront of interest in educational settings—but a better understanding of their relationship and the implications for education is needed. This article reviews the literature on the intersection of these topics in order to understand where and how these two related but distinctive areas of research connect, and how this pertains to the complexity of educational settings. Our goal is to understand findings from the literature and consider what the implications are for educational practice and research, with an eye to how mindfulness can be supportive to learners’ creativity. This thematic review and qualitative analysis of extant literature identifies four themes that speak to the connection between mindfulness and creativity and its complexity. There is solid evidence to show a generally beneficial and supportive relationship, in that practicing mindfulness can support creativity—but many factors affect this and there are a range of considerations for practice. This article reflects on the key findings of scholarly work on the mindfulness-creativity relationship with interpretative discussion and implications for educational research and practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7395604/

 

People Select Mindfulness Training Techniques Based Upon Their Personal Characteristics

People Select Mindfulness Training Techniques Based Upon Their Personal Characteristics

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation is a simple strategy that can help obtain better health and a happier life. It takes time to master, as does any other skill. If a person sticks with it and is willing to experiment with the different methods, they are more likely to discover a meditation style that suits them.” – Medical News Today

 

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

 

Four types of meditation are the most commonly used practices for research purposes. In body scan meditation, the individual focuses on the feelings and sensations of specific parts of the body, systematically moving attention from one area to another. Loving kindness meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. On the other hand, in open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these stimuli and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

There is little understanding as to why an individual chooses one meditation technique over another. In today’s Research News article “Predicting Individual Preferences in Mindfulness Techniques Using Personality Traits.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01163/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1365539_69_Psycho_20200630_arts_A),  Tang and Braver examine the characteristics of individuals who choose either body scan meditationloving kindness meditationfocused attention meditation, or open monitoring meditation.

 

They recruited adults online who did not practice mindfulness or yoga and presented them with 5 daily recorded sessions. In the first 45-minute session the participants completed measures of mindfulness, big 5 personality traits, self-compassion, interpersonal reactivity, perceived stress, sensory processing sensitivity, and attentional control and absorption. They were also provided an introduction to meditation techniques with descriptions of all 4 techniques. On subsequent days they were directed by recorded instructions to practice for 15-20 minutes either body scan meditationloving kindness meditationfocused attention meditation, or open monitoring meditation. The order of the 4 practices was randomized for each participant. After each session they were asked questions regarding their content to ensure that they performed the practices. After completing all sessions, the participants were asked to rank them according to their preferences.

 

They found that all of the meditation techniques were about equally distributed in the preferences of the participants. There were no significant predictors of preferences for focused attention meditation or body scan meditation, but there were significant predictors of preferences for loving kindness meditation and open monitoring meditation. Female participants and participants who were high in empathy were significantly more likely to prefer loving kindness meditation. Participants who were high in the mindfulness facets of non-judging and non-reacting were significantly more likely to prefer open monitoring meditation.

 

These results make sense. Empathetic people, particularly women, are more sensitive to the feelings of others and so they would find meditating on those feelings, loving kindness meditation, more attractive. Open monitoring meditation. involves simply observing whatever is transpiring without judgement and reaction. So, it makes sense that people who were high in in the mindfulness facets of non-judging and non-reacting would find this form of meditation more attractive.

 

So, people select mindfulness training techniques based upon their personal characteristics.

 

“In the end, the best meditation technique and the one that will help you gain the most positive benefits is one you can stick to.” – Elizabeth Scott

 

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

 

Tang R and Braver TS (2020) Predicting Individual Preferences in Mindfulness Techniques Using Personality Traits. Front. Psychol. 11:1163. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01163

 

The growing popularity of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) has prompted exciting scientific research investigating their beneficial effects on well-being and health. Most mindfulness programs are provided as multi-faceted packages encompassing a set of different mindfulness techniques, each with distinct focus and mechanisms. However, this approach overlooks potential individual differences, which may arise in response to practicing various mindfulness techniques. The present study investigated preferences for four prototypical mindfulness techniques [focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), loving-kindness (LK), and body scan (BS)] and identified factors that may contribute to individual differences in these preferences. Participants without prior mindfulness experiences were exposed to each technique through audio-guided instructions and were asked to rank their preferences at the end of all practices. Results indicated that preferences for loving-kindness were predicted by empathy, and that females tended to prefer loving-kindness more than males. Conversely, preferences for open monitoring were predicted by nonreactivity and nonjudgment of present moment experiences. Additionally, higher state mindfulness was detected for individuals’ preferred technique relative to other alternatives. These findings suggest that individuals tend to prefer techniques compatible with their personalities, as the predictor variables encompass trait capacities specifically relevant to practicing these techniques. Together, our results suggest the possibility that assessing individual difference and then tailoring MBIs to individual needs could be a useful way to improve intervention effectiveness and subsequent outcomes.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01163/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1365539_69_Psycho_20200630_arts_A

 

Different Meditation Practices Have Specific Electrencepholographic Signatures

Different Meditation Practices Have Specific Electrencepholographic Signatures

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the most general and consistently observed EEG correlate of meditation is an increase in the power of lower frequencies between 4 and 10 Hz corresponding to the theta band (4-8 Hz) and the lower end of the alpha band (8-10 Hz).” – Aaron Nitzkin

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation the individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

One way to observe the effects of meditation techniques is to measure the effects of each technique on the brain’s activity. This can be done by recording the electroencephalogram (EEG). The brain produces rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. It is usually separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 13-30 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 30-100 cycles per second band.

 

In today’s Research News article “Common and distinct lateralised patterns of neural coupling during focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198563/), Yordanova and colleagues recruited Buddhist monk, nuns, and novices who practiced focused, open monitoring, and loving kindness meditation. Their electroencephalogram (EEG) was taken during 3-minute periods of rest, focused, open monitoring, and loving kindness meditations.

 

They found that during all meditation conditions there was an increase in the synchronization of Delta activity throughout the brain, in Theta activity in the left hemisphere, and slow and fast Alpha activity in the right hemisphere. Hence, all three types of meditations produce common changes in the electrical activity of the brain. In addition, they also identified specific patterns of brain activity that differentiated the three meditation types. In particular, Beta activity synchronization was greatest in the right hemisphere during focused meditation and in the left hemisphere during open monitoring meditation, while during loving kindness meditation there were reduction in fast Alpha activity in the left hemisphere.

 

These are complex but interesting results that indicate that various meditation techniques have common changes in brain activity. That shouldn’t be surprising as these different meditation techniques produce very similar physical and mental changes in the practitioner. On the other hand, there were detected different patterns of activity for each meditation type. This again should not be surprising as there are differences in the effects of the meditation types. So, the electrical activity of the brain during these techniques correlates with their similarities and differences in their effects.

 

So, different meditation practices have similar and specific electrencepholographic signatures.

 

Connectivity measures between EEG channels are also currently being studied to measure meditation. Some connectivity evidences are the synchronisation of anterior and posterior channels or alpha phase synchronicity.” – David Ibañez

 

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

 

Juliana Yordanova, Vasil Kolev, Federica Mauro, Valentina Nicolardi, Luca Simione, Lucia Calabrese, Peter Malinowski, Antonino Raffone. Common and distinct lateralised patterns of neural coupling during focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation. Sci Rep. 2020; 10: 7430. Published online 2020 May 4. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-64324-6

 

Abstract

Meditation has been integrated into different therapeutic interventions. To inform the evidence-based selection of specific meditation types it is crucial to understand the neural processes associated with different meditation practices. Here we explore commonalities and differences in electroencephalographic oscillatory spatial synchronisation patterns across three important meditation types. Highly experienced meditators engaged in focused attention, open monitoring, and loving kindness meditation. Improving on previous research, our approach avoids comparisons between groups that limited previous findings, while ensuring that the meditation states are reliably established. Employing a novel measure of neural coupling – the imaginary part of EEG coherence – the study revealed that all meditation conditions displayed a common connectivity pattern that is characterised by increased connectivity of (a) broadly distributed delta networks, (b) left-hemispheric theta networks with a local integrating posterior focus, and (c) right-hemispheric alpha networks, with a local integrating parieto-occipital focus. Furthermore, each meditation state also expressed specific synchronisation patterns differentially recruiting left- or right-lateralised beta networks. These observations provide evidence that in addition to global patterns, frequency-specific inter-hemispheric asymmetry is one major feature of meditation, and that mental processes specific to each meditation type are also supported by lateralised networks from fast-frequency bands.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198563/

 

Different Meditation Types Produce Different Effects on Attention, Compassion, and Theory of Mind

Different Meditation Types Produce Different Effects on Attention, Compassion, and Theory of Mind

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The mental procedures used by various traditions and schools of meditation are fairly dissimilar. And recent scientific research has verified that these different ways of meditating activate different areas in our brain.” – Trancendental Meditation

 

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

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation the individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential benefits of mental training types for attention, compassion, and theory of mind.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891878/), Trautwein and colleagues recruited healthy adults and assigned them to one of three conditions; presence, affect, and perspective training. Each condition consisted of a 3-day retreat followed by once a week 2-hour training session for 13 weeks along with daily home practice. The presence training focused on attention to the present moment and contained focused breath meditation, walking meditation, and body scan practices. The affect training focused on developing an “accepting, kind, and compassionate stance towards oneself and others” and contained loving kindness meditation, forgiveness meditation, and affect dyad practices. The perspective training focused on the central role that thoughts play in our lives and contained meditation of observing thoughts coming and going and perspective dyads. They were measured before and after training with a cued flanker task measuring executive control and attentional reorienting and a Theory of Mind and Social Cognition task measuring social cognitive and affective functions including compassion. Theory of mind refers to the ability to observe self-awareness in self and others.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the other modules, the presence training significantly improved executive control and attentional reorienting. They also found that the affect and perspective training produced significant improvements in the socio-emotional dimension of compassion. Finally, they found that perspective training produced significantly higher scores on Theory of Mind (understanding beliefs, desires, and needs of others). Hence the three different forms of mindfulness training affected different abilities.

 

The findings suggest that training on present moment awareness affects attentional abilities but not socio-emotional and theory of mind abilities. On the other hand, affect training affects socio-emotional abilities including compassion but not attention or theory of mind abilities. Finally, the results suggest that perspective training affects socio-emotional and theory of mind abilities but not attentional abilities. These findings suggest that different mindfulness training programs should be employed to target specific problem areas for the participant. They also suggest that incorporating components from presence, affect, and perspective training may produce a training package that enhances abilities in all domains.

 

So, different meditation types produce different effects on attention, compassion, and theory of mind.

 

“Meditation is a simple strategy that can help obtain better health and a happier life. It takes time to master, as does any other skill. If a person sticks with it and is willing to experiment with the different methods, they are more likely to discover a meditation style that suits them.” – Zawn Villines

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Trautwein, F. M., Kanske, P., Böckler, A., & Singer, T. (2020). Differential benefits of mental training types for attention, compassion, and theory of mind. Cognition, 194, 104039. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104039

 

Abstract

Mindfulness- and, more generally, meditation-based interventions increasingly gain popularity, effectively promoting cognitive, affective, and social capacities. It is unclear, however, if different types of practice have the same or specific effects on mental functioning. Here we tested three consecutive three-month training modules aimed at cultivating either attention, socio-affective qualities (such as compassion), or socio-cognitive skills (such as theory of mind), in three training cohorts and a retest control cohort (N = 332). While attentional performance improved most consistently after attention training, compassion increased most after socio-affective training and theory of mind partially improved after socio-cognitive training. These results show that specific mental training practices are needed to induce plasticity in different domains of mental functioning, providing a foundation for evidence-based development of more targeted interventions adapted to the needs of different education, labor, and health settings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891878/

 

Meditation Comes in Seven Different Varieties

Meditation Comes in Seven Different Varieties

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Experienced meditators agree: a daily meditation practice can have significant benefits for mental and physical health. But one thing they probably won’t agree on? The most effective types of meditation. That’s simply because it’s different for everyone. After all, there are literally hundreds of meditation techniques encompassing practices from different traditions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, and religions.” Headspace

 

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

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. Transcendental meditation is a silent mantra-based focused meditation in which a word or phrase is repeated over and over again. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation the individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

But there are a number of techniques that do not fall into these categories and even within these categories there are a number of large variations. In today’s Research News article “What Is Meditation? Proposing an Empirically Derived Classification System.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/), Matko and colleagues attempt to develop a more comprehensive system of classification. They found 309 different techniques but reduced them down to the 20 most popular ones. They recruited 100 meditators with at least 2 years of experience and asked them to rate how similar each technique was to every other technique.

 

They applied multidimensional scaling to the data which uncovered two dimensions that adequately described all of the 20 techniques. The analysis revealed a dimension of the amount of activation involved and a dimension of the amount of body orientation involved. All 20 techniques were classified within these two dimensions. Visual inspection of where the various techniques fell on the two dimensions produces 7 different clusters labelled as “(1) Body-centered meditation, (2) mindful observation, (3) contemplation, (4) mantra meditation, (5) visual concentration, (6) affect-centered meditation, and (7) meditation with movement.”

 

Within the high activation and low body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “Mantra Meditation” including singing sutras/mantras/invocations, repeating syllables and meditation with sounds. Within the low activation and low body orientation quadrant there were three clusters identified, labelled “affect-centered meditation” including cultivating compassion and opening up to blessings; “visual orientations” including visualizations and concentrating on an object; and “contemplation” including contemplating on a question and contradictions or paradoxes.

 

Within the high activation and high body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “meditation with movement” including “meditation with movement, manipulating the breath, and walking and observing senses. Within the low activation and high body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “mindful observation” including observing thoughts, lying meditation, and sitting in silence. Finally, they identified a cluster with high body but straddling the activation dimension, labelled “body centered meditation” including concentrating on a energy centers or channeling, body scan, abdominal breath, nostril breath, and observing the body.

 

This 7-category classification system is interesting and based upon the ratings of experienced meditators. So, there is reason to believe that there is a degree of validity. In addition, the system is able to encompass 20 different popular meditation techniques. It remains for future research to investigate whether this classification system is useful in better understanding the effects of meditation or the underlying brain systems.

 

Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which practice is right for you? “It’s what feels comfortable and what you feel encouraged to practice,” – Mira Dessy

 

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

 

Matko, K., & Sedlmeier, P. (2019). What Is Meditation? Proposing an Empirically Derived Classification System. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2276. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02276

 

Abstract

Meditation is an umbrella term, which subsumes a huge number of diverse practices. It is still unclear how these practices can be classified in a reasonable way. Earlier proposals have struggled to do justice to the diversity of meditation techniques. To help in solving this issue, we used a novel bottom-up procedure to develop a comprehensive classification system for meditation techniques. In previous studies, we reduced 309 initially identified techniques to the 20 most popular ones. In the present study, 100 experienced meditators were asked to rate the similarity of the selected 20 techniques. Using multidimensional scaling, we found two orthogonal dimensions along which meditation techniques could be classified: activation and amount of body orientation. These dimensions emphasize the role of embodied cognition in meditation. Within these two dimensions, seven main clusters emerged: mindful observation, body-centered meditation, visual concentration, contemplation, affect-centered meditation, mantra meditation, and meditation with movement. We conclude there is no “meditation” as such, but there are rather different groups of techniques that might exert diverse effects. These groups call into question the common division into “focused attention” and “open-monitoring” practices. We propose a new embodied classification system and encourage researchers to evaluate this classification system through comparative studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/

 

Improve Brain Processing of Errors with Mindfulness

Improve Brain Processing of Errors with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation physically impacts the extraordinarily complex organ between our ears. Recent scientific evidence confirms that 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. As a result, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies. Mindfulness training produces changes in the brain’s electrical activity. This can be measured by recording the electroencephalogram (EEG). The brain produces rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp.

 

One method to indirectly observe information 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 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. Error related negativity is a negative going change in the EEG that occurs about a tenth of a second after committing an error in a lab task. This is followed 2 to 4 tenths of a second after error commission by a positive going change in the EEG called the error positivity. Using these parameters in the EEG, the ability of mindfulness meditation training to affect error monitoring can be investigated.

 

In today’s Research News article “On Variation in Mindfulness Training: A Multimodal Study of Brief Open Monitoring Meditation on Error Monitoring.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770246/), Lin and colleagues recruited meditation naïve, healthy, right handed, female undergraduate students and randomly assigned them to a meditation or control group. Meditation consisted in a recorded 20 minute guided open monitoring meditation while the control condition consisted of an 18 minute TED talk. After they performed an arrow flanker task where the participant had to respond to an arrow stimulus and ignore irrelevant but distracting material. During the task the electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and the brain’s electrical responses to the arrow flanker task stimuli recorded (event-related potentials, ERP).

 

The groups did not differ in mindfulness or accuracy or reaction times in the flanker task. With the event-related potentials (ERP) they found that on trials where there was an error committed the meditation group had a significantly larger error positivity response. Surprisingly, and contrary to expectations, there were no group differences in error related negativity in the ERP.

 

The results suggest that brief open monitoring meditation in meditation naïve young women does not affect their ability to attend to a task and ignore distractions, but it does alter the electrical response of the brain to attentional errors committed. Error positivity has been linked to awareness of the errors and cognitive adjustments resulting from the errors. Hence, brief open monitoring meditation appears to improve awareness of error commission and perhaps future adjustments.

 

It should be noted that a one-time 20-minute guided meditation may not be sufficient to produce major changes in neural processing. Indeed, meditation practice has been found to improve attentional ability. So, there is a need to investigate error monitoring and detection and the brain’s responses after longer-term meditation practice in both men and women of a wider range of ages.

 

So, improve brain processing of errors with mindfulness.

 

“brain imaging techniques are revealing that this ancient practice can profoundly change the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other – and therefore how we think – permanently.” – Tom Ireland

 

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

 

Lin, Y., Eckerle, W. D., Peng, L. W., & Moser, J. S. (2019). On Variation in Mindfulness Training: A Multimodal Study of Brief Open Monitoring Meditation on Error Monitoring. Brain sciences, 9(9), 226. doi:10.3390/brainsci9090226

 

Abstract

A nascent line of research aimed at elucidating the neurocognitive mechanisms of mindfulness has consistently identified a relationship between mindfulness and error monitoring. However, the exact nature of this relationship is unclear, with studies reporting divergent outcomes. The current study sought to clarify the ambiguity by addressing issues related to construct heterogeneity and technical variation in mindfulness training. Specifically, we examined the effects of a brief open monitoring (OM) meditation on neural (error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe)) and behavioral indices of error monitoring in one of the largest novice non-meditating samples to date (N = 212). Results revealed that the OM meditation enhanced Pe amplitude relative to active controls but did not modulate the ERN or behavioral performance. Moreover, exploratory analyses yielded no relationships between trait mindfulness and the ERN or Pe across either group. Broadly, our findings suggest that technical variation in scope and object of awareness during mindfulness training may differentially modulate the ERN and Pe. Conceptual and methodological implications pertaining to the operationalization of mindfulness and its training are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770246/