Improve Self-Compassion with Residential Mindfulness Programs Conducted Either Inside or Outdoors

Improve Self-Compassion with Residential Mindfulness Programs Conducted Either Inside or Outdoors

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The power of nature to bring us immediately to the present must be primally wired into us.” – Christopher Willard

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if it occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly lift the spirits. But there is little systematic research regarding these effects. It’s possible that being in nature might increase mindfulness’ ability to improve mental and physical well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Short Mindfulness Retreat for Students to Reduce Stress and Promote Self-Compassion: Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial Exploring Both an Indoor and a Natural Outdoor Retreat Setting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/9/7/910/htm ) Djernis and colleagues recruited moderately to highly stressed university students and randomly assigned them to a 5-day residential program of either mindfulness training indoors, outdoors, or a no treatment control. The mindfulness training was based upon Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) including meditation, yoga, body scan, and group discussion. The outdoor mindfulness training occurred in the university’s therapy garden. They were measured before and after the 5-days of training and 3 months later for self-compassion, perceived stress, mindfulness, connectedness to nature, and breath counting.

 

They found that mindfulness was significantly increased in the mindfulness training groups while self-compassion was significantly increased only in the mindfulness training groups at follow up. The outdoor mindfulness group only had a significant increase in connectedness to nature compared to the control group. They did not find a significant effect of group on perceived stress.

 

These results were somewhat disappointing, but the groups were small (17-21 participants) and many trends and non-significant differences were present. This suggests that a larger randomized controlled trial should be implemented. Indeed, increases in self-compassion and decreases in perceived stress have been routinely observed in previous research studies. Nevertheless, they did find that a residential mindfulness program increases self-compassion in stressed college students. Many previous studies have and that moving the training outside improves the participants feeling of connection to nature.

 

So, improve self-compassion with residential mindfulness programs conducted either inside or outdoors.

 

People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several 100 years—from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers,. Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.” – David Strayer

 

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

 

Djernis, D.; O’Toole, M.S.; Fjorback, L.O.; Svenningsen, H.; Mehlsen, M.Y.; Stigsdotter, U.K.; Dahlgaard, J. A Short Mindfulness Retreat for Students to Reduce Stress and Promote Self-Compassion: Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial Exploring Both an Indoor and a Natural Outdoor Retreat Setting. Healthcare 2021, 9, 910. https:// doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9070910

 

Abstract

Here, we developed and examined a new way of disseminating mindfulness in nature to people without meditation experience, based on the finding that mindfulness conducted in natural settings may have added benefits. We evaluated a 5-day residential programme aiming to reduce stress and improve mental health outcomes. We compared an indoor and an outdoor version of the programme to a control group in a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT). Sixty Danish university students experiencing moderate to high levels of stress were randomised into a residential mindfulness programme indoors (n = 20), in nature (n = 22), or a control group (n = 18). Participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale and the Self-Compassion Scale (primary outcomes) along with additional secondary outcome measures at the start and end of the program and 3 months after. Stress was decreased with small to medium effect sizes post-intervention, although not statistically significant. Self-compassion increased post-intervention, but effect sizes were small and not significant. At follow-up, changes in stress were not significant, however self-compassion increased for both interventions with medium-sized effects. For the intervention groups, medium- to large-sized positive effects on trait mindfulness after a behavioural task were found post-intervention, and small- to medium-sized effects in self-reported mindfulness were seen at follow-up. Connectedness to Nature was the only outcome measure with an incremental effect in nature, exceeding the control with a medium-sized effect at follow-up. All participants in the nature arm completed the intervention, and so did 97% of the participants in all three arms. Overall, the results encourage the conduct of a larger-scale RCT, but only after adjusting some elements of the programme to better fit and take advantage of the potential benefits of the natural environment.

https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/9/7/910/htm

 

Supportive Environments Promote the Development of Mindfulness in Adolescents.

Supportive Environments Promote the Development of Mindfulness in Adolescents.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness processes and practices can help young people develop emotional resilience, self-awareness and regulation skills that assist them in taking greater responsibility for their behaviors. – Karen Pace

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But what is absorbed depends on the environment. Supportive environments can promote positive development while trouble with peers can interfere. Peer victimization is traumatic for the adolescent and can leave in its wake symptoms which can haunt the victims for the years. It is unclear, however, how the environment including supportive environments and the presence of peer victimization might affect the development of mindfulness in adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Naturalistic development of trait mindfulness: A longitudinal examination of victimization and supportive relationships in early adolescence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8104379/ )  Warren and colleagues surveyed 4th and 7th grade adolescents. They completed measures of mindfulness, peer victimization, peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and self-regulation. They then looked at the social environment in the 4th grade and how it was related to the development of mindfulness in the 7th grade.

 

The found that the higher the levels of peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and self-regulation and the lower the levels of peer victimization both in 4th and 7th grades the higher the levels of mindfulness at grade 7. With students with high connectedness with adults at home, peer victimization was associated with a smaller development of mindfulness. The students who had flourishing relationships in the 4th grade (high peer belonging and connectedness with adults at home and low peer victimization) had the greatest increases in mindfulness by the 7th grade.

 

These results suggest that conditions in the 4th grade are associated with mindfulness in the 7th grate, with feelings of belonging with other adolescents promoting the development of mindfulness and victimization by peers interfering with mindfulness development. How connected the youths feel to adults also tends to promote the development of mindfulness except when victimization is present, then the promotion is weaker. Hence, mindfulness develops best in supportive environments.

 

So, supportive environments promote the development of mindfulness in adolescents.

 

Adolescents’ with high levels of dispositional mindfulness may lead to lower level of psychological distress including depression, anxiety, and stress.” Ying Ma

 

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

 

Warren, M. T., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Gill, R., Gadermann, A. M., & Oberle, E. (2021). Naturalistic development of trait mindfulness: A longitudinal examination of victimization and supportive relationships in early adolescence. PloS one, 16(5), e0250960. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250960

 

Abstract

Scholars have only just begun to examine elements of young adolescents’ social ecologies that explain naturalistic variation in trait mindfulness and its development over time. We argue that trait mindfulness develops as a function of chronically encountered ecologies that are likely to foster or thwart the repeated enactment of mindful states over time. Using data from 4,593 fourth and seventh grade students (50% female; MageG4 = 9.02; 71% English first language) from 32 public school districts in British Columbia (BC), Canada, we examined links from peer belonging, connectedness with adults at home, and peer victimization to mindfulness over time. Variable-centered analyses indicated that young adolescents with lower victimization in fourth grade reported higher mindfulness in seventh grade, and that cross-sectionally within seventh grade victimization, peer belonging, and connectedness with adults at home were each associated with mindfulness. Contrary to our hypothesis, connectedness with adults at home moderated the longitudinal association between victimization and mindfulness such that the negative association was stronger among young adolescents with high (vs. low) levels of connectedness with adults at home. Person-centered analysis of the fourth graders’ data confirmed our variable-centered findings, yielding four latent classes of social ecology whose mindfulness levels in seventh grade largely tracked with their victimization levels (from highest to lowest mindfulness): (1) flourishing relationships, (2) unvictimized but weak relationships with adults, (3) moderately victimized but strong relationships, and (4) victimized but strong relationships. Overall, our findings contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that trait mindfulness may develop as a function of ecologically normative experiences in young adolescents’ everyday lives.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8104379/