Further Improve Health Care Professionals’ Mental Health with Supplemental Mindfulness Training

Further Improve Health Care Professionals’ Mental Health with Supplemental Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The therapeutic applications of mindfulness are considerable and its impact on clinical practice itself appears to be profound. Indeed, several commentators characterize mindfulness as inciting nothing short of a revolution in the way we conduct our mental lives both within the clinic and without.” – Matias P. Raski

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system.

 

Preventing the negative psychological consequences of stress in healthcare professionals has to be a priority. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Once mindfulness has been established it is not known if additional mindfulness training will produce greater benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Interpersonal Mindfulness Program for Health Care Professionals: a Feasibility Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7447696/ ) Bartels-Velthui and colleagues recruited health care professionals who had already received mindfulness training with either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  The participants in the training group were further treated with an Interpersonal Mindfulness Course. This course was designed for participants who had already received mindfulness training to deepen mindful presence, empathy and compassion with other people. The course met for 9-weekly, 2.5-hour sessions combined with 45 to 60 minutes of daily home practice. All participants were measured before and after training for the feasibility and acceptability of the program, mindfulness, self-compassion, empathy, stress, and quality of life.

 

They found that the program was feasible as all participants completed the program and acceptable as 88% report the program to be highly relevant and would recommend it to others. They found that compared to baseline and the control group the participants who received the additional mindfulness training had significant improvements in self-compassion, empathy and compassion fatigue.

 

These are very interesting findings in that health care professionals who had already received mindfulness training had further increases in self-compassion, empathy and compassion fatigue when provided a program designed to improve mindfulness with other people. It is well known that mindfulness training improves self-compassion, empathy and compassion fatigue. These findings, though, suggests that these improvements can be strengthened with further training. In addition, the improvements were in characteristics that would tend to reduce health care professional burnout. The fact that the program emphasized being mindful of other people suggests that the health care workers would be have more empathy and understanding in treating their patients.

 

So, further improve health care professionals’ mental health with supplemental mindfulness training.

 

mindfulness can result in decreased burnout and improved well-being. Mindfulness is a useful way of cultivating self-kindness and compassion, including by bringing increased awareness to and acceptance of those things that are beyond our control.” – Kate Fitzpatrick

 

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

 

Bartels-Velthuis, A. A., van den Brink, E., Koster, F., & Hoenders, H. (2020). The Interpersonal Mindfulness Program for Health Care Professionals: a Feasibility Study. Mindfulness, 1–10. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01477-5

 

Abstract

Objectives

There are a number of mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) that have demonstrated effectiveness for patients and health care professionals. The Interpersonal Mindfulness Program (IMP) is a relatively new MBP, developed to teach those with prior mindfulness training to deepen their mindful presence, empathy and compassion in the interpersonal domain. The aim of the present study was to examine the feasibility of using the IMP with mental health care workers and assessing its effects on levels of mindfulness, self-compassion, empathy, stress and professional quality of life when compared with the control group participants.

Methods

The IMP training consisted of nine weekly 2.5-h sessions and daily home practice (45–60 min). Twenty-five participants (mean age, 51.4 years) with mindfulness experience participated in the training. Twenty-two individuals in the control group (mean age, 47.5 years) were recruited from those who had followed a mindfulness training before. Feasibility of the IMP was assessed in the training participants in six domains. All study participants completed self-report questionnaires before and after the training.

Results

The IMP training was considered highly acceptable and very useful. The training had a significant positive effect on self-compassion, empathy and compassion fatigue, but no effect on mindfulness, stress and compassion satisfaction. Five participants reported some mild adverse reactions.

Conclusions

The IMP training appears feasible for health care professionals and seems to induce some positive effects. A few mild adverse effects were reported. Further research on the effectiveness and possible mechanisms of change of the IMP training in larger samples is needed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7447696/

 

Mind-Body Skills Training Improves College Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Mind-Body Skills Training Improves College Student Mental Health and Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

By focusing on and controlling our breath, we can change how we think and feel. We can use the breath as a means of changing our emotional state and managing stress.” —Tommy Rosen

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that Mind-body practices have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

There is a lot of pressure on college students to excel. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance. Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. Indeed, these practices have been found to improve psychological health in college students. So, it would be expected that training in mind-body practices would improve the psychological health of college students.

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of a University-Wide Interdisciplinary Mind-Body Skills Program on Student Mental and Emotional Well-Being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7686595/ ) Novak and colleagues recruited college students who were enrolled to take a mind-body skills program and an equivalent group of control college students. The program consisted of 9-weeks of once a week for 2 hours training and discussion of “mindfulness, guided imagery, autogenic training, biofeedback, and breathing techniques, as well as art, music, and movement practices” in groups of 10. The students were instructed to practice daily at home for 20 minutes. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, resilience, depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, mindfulness, interpersonal reactivity, and burnout. Subsets of each group were remeasured one year after the completion of the study. There were no significant differences in these measures between the groups at baseline.

 

They found that in comparison to the baseline and the control group, the students who received mind-body skills training had significant decreases in perceived stress, negative affect, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and burnout and significant increases in positive emotions, resilience, mindfulness, empathic concern, and perspective taking. In addition, the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of perceived stress, negative emotions and depersonalization and the higher the levels of positive emotions, resilience, and perspective taking. Unfortunately, these improvements, except for mindfulness, disappeared by the one year follow up.

 

The present study did not have an active control condition. So, it is possible that confounding factors such as participant expectancy, experimenter bias, attention effects etc. may have been responsible for the results. But in prior controlled research it has been demonstrated that mindfulness training produces decreases in perceived stress, negative emotions, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and burnout and significant increases in positive emotions, resilience, and empathic concern. So, it is likely that the benefits observed in the present study were due to the mind-body skills training.

 

These results then suggest that mind-body skills training produces marked improvements in the psychological health and well-being of college students. But the improvements were not lasting. This may signal the need for better training protocols or periodic booster session to maintain the benefits. Given the great academic stress, pressure, and social stresses of college life, the students were much better off for taking the mind-body skills training program. It was not measured but these benefits would predict increased academic performance and improved well-being in these students.

 

So, mind-body skills training improves college student mental health and well-being.

 

mind/body approaches to healing and wellness are gaining in popularity in the U.S. and research supports their efficacy in treating a number of psychological and physical health issues that are not easily treated by mainstream medicine.” – Doug Guiffrida

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Novak, B. K., Gebhardt, A., Pallerla, H., McDonald, S. B., Haramati, A., & Cotton, S. (2020). Impact of a University-Wide Interdisciplinary Mind-Body Skills Program on Student Mental and Emotional Well-Being. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 9, 2164956120973983. https://doi.org/10.1177/2164956120973983

 

Abstract

Background

Positive effects of mind-body skills programs on participant well-being have been reported in health professions students. The success seen with medical students at this university led to great interest in expanding the mind-body skills program so students in other disciplines could benefit from the program.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of a 9-week mind-body skills program on the mental and emotional well-being of multidisciplinary students compared to controls. We also sought to determine if the program’s effects were sustained at 1-year follow-up.

Methods

A cross-sectional pre-post survey was administered online via SurveyMonkey to participants of a 9-week mind-body skills program and a control group of students from 7 colleges at a public university from 2017–2019. Students were assessed on validated measures of stress, positive/negative affect, resilience, depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, mindfulness, empathy, and burnout. Scores were analyzed between-groups and within-groups using bivariate and multivariate analyses. A 1-year follow-up was completed on a subset of participants and controls.

Results

279 participants and 247 controls completed the pre-survey and post-survey (79% response rate; 71% female, 68% white, mean age = 25 years). Participants showed significant decreases in stress, negative affect, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and burnout, while positive affect, resilience, mindfulness, and empathy increased significantly (P < .05). Only sleep disturbance showed a significant decrease in the control group. Follow-up in a subset of participants showed that only mindfulness remained elevated at 1-year (P < .05), whereas the significant changes in other well-being measures were not sustained.

Conclusion

Participation in a 9-week mind-body skills program led to significant improvement in indicators of well-being in multidisciplinary students. A pilot 1-year follow-up suggests that effects are only sustained for mindfulness, but not other parameters. Future programming should focus on implementing mind-body skills booster sessions to help sustain the well-being benefits.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7686595/

 

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health in Spite of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health in Spite of the Covid-19 Pandemic

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Practicing mindfulness is an easy, free and natural way to boost your anxiety coping skills. Not only that, but it also helps our ability to manage emotions, and with some aspects of our physical health. If the coronavirus lockdowns has left you with some extra time, make this crisis into an opportunity for you to start (or strengthen) a healthy habit – mindfulness practice.” – Paul Green

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. 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. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the mental and physical health of the population. It has created intense stress both for frontline workers but also for people simply isolating at home. Mindfulness is known to decrease the psychological and physical responses to stress. So, mindfulness training may be helpful in coping with the mental and physical challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In today’s Research News article “Positive Impact of Mindfulness Meditation on Mental Health of Female Teachers during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Italy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559290/ ) Matiz and colleagues recruited female school teachers in Italy and provided them with a mindfulness training program that was scheduled for 8 weekly 2-hour meetings with 30 minutes of daily home practice. But, the lockdown in Italy from Covid-19 occurred a few weeks into the program. So, the last few weeks of mindfulness training was provided online. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, empathy, personality, interoceptive awareness, psychological well-being, anxiety, depression, teacher burnout, and evaluation of the mindfulness training course. They separated the teachers into high and low resilience groups based upon their personality resilience score.

 

They found that from baseline to follow-up both groups increased in mindfulness and the personality factors of cooperativeness and self-transcendence, but the high resilience group had significantly greater increases. Both groups increased in psychological well-being but the low resilience group had a significantly greater increase in the positive relations with others subscale. Both groups decreased in anxiety and depression but the low resilience group had significantly greater decreases. Both groups had significant improvements in empathy, interoceptive awareness, and teacher burnout.

 

This is an interesting natural experiment with the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown intervening in the middle of an otherwise simple study of mindfulness training effects on school teachers’ mental health. Obviously, there is no control condition. So, the before and after training results are confounded by the lockdown. As a result, no clear conclusions can be reached. But, the Covid-19 lockdown had to have been very upsetting to the teachers. So, a decrease in their mental well-being would be expected. In prior studies it has been well established that mindfulness training lowers anxiety depression, and burnout and increases well-being, interoceptive awareness and empathy. Indeed, in the present study after the mindfulness course the teachers’ mental well-being was improved. So, mindfulness training appears to improve the mental health of the teachers in spite of the inferred negative effect of the pandemic lockdown. In addition, these effects appear to be modulated by the teachers’ levels of resilience.

 

So, mindfulness improves mental health in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Fear leaves people feeling helpless and exhausted, seeing that “we’re in it together” helps ease the emotional burden we feel and encourages more agency—the sense that we can do something constructive to fight the pandemic.” – Jill Suttie

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Matiz, A., Fabbro, F., Paschetto, A., Cantone, D., Paolone, A. R., & Crescentini, C. (2020). Positive Impact of Mindfulness Meditation on Mental Health of Female Teachers during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Italy. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(18), 6450. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186450

 

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent public health measures were shown to impact negatively on people’s mental health. In particular, women were reported to be at higher risk than men of developing symptoms of stress/anxiety/depression, and resilience was considered a key factor for positive mental health outcomes. In the present study, a sample of Italian female teachers (n = 66, age: 51.5 ± 7.9 years) was assessed with self-report instruments one month before and one month after the start of the Covid-19 lockdown: mindfulness skills, empathy, personality profiles, interoceptive awareness, psychological well-being, emotional distress and burnout levels were measured. Meanwhile, they received an 8-week Mindfulness-Oriented Meditation (MOM) course, through two group meetings and six individual video-lessons. Based on baseline personality profiles, analyses of variance were performed in a low-resilience (LR, n = 32) and a high-resilience (HR, n = 26) group. The LR and HR groups differed at baseline in most of the self-report measures. Pre–post MOM significant improvements were found in both groups in anxiety, depression, affective empathy, emotional exhaustion, psychological well-being, interoceptive awareness, character traits and mindfulness levels. Improvements in depression and psychological well-being were higher in the LR vs. HR group. We conclude that mindfulness-based training can effectively mitigate the psychological negative consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak, helping in particular to restore well-being in the most vulnerable individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559290/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Levels of Empathy

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Levels of Empathy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness is a practice of self–empathy. This kind of self-awareness allows us to develop empathic connections to others. As we experience the landscape of our inner life with more detail and richness, our ability to understand the inner lives of others expands.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

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

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism.  It is not clear, however, exactly how meditation training improves empathy. Is it due to increased mindfulness or perhaps to a better ability to recognize the emotions being experienced by others. In today’s Research News article “Higher trait mindfulness is associated with empathy but not with emotion recognition abilities.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7481693/ ) Vilaverde and colleagues explored the relationships between mindfulness, empathy, and emotion recognition. They recruited healthy adults with no meditation experience and had them complete measures of mindfulness, empathy, attentional ability, and emotion recognition. Emotion recognition both from pictures of faces expression and voice recordings were measured.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the overall levels of empathy and the cognitive empathy subscale. Interestingly, mindfulness was not associated with emotion recognition. These results are a bit confusing as cognitive empathy involves the ability to recognize the emotions of others, yet there was no significant relationship between this ability and the ability to recognize emotions from facial expressions of vocal cues. Since, the measures were self-reports it is possible that the mindful participants believed that they were able to recognize others’ emotions, while they were, in fact, not able to. It is also possible that the ability to recognize emotions in pictures of faces and in voice recordings is not the same as recognizing them in an individual physically present, where multiple cues are available. Regardless, the results replicate previous findings that being mindful is associated with greater empathy.

 

So, mindfulness is associated with higher levels of empathy.

 

Through compassion we can develop empathy, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking both.” – Mindfulness Works

 

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

 

Vilaverde, R. F., Correia, A. I., & Lima, C. F. (2020). Higher trait mindfulness is associated with empathy but not with emotion recognition abilities. Royal Society open science, 7(8), 192077. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.192077

 

Abstract

Mindfulness involves an intentional and non-judgemental attention or awareness of present-moment experiences. It can be cultivated by meditation practice or present as an inherent disposition or trait. Higher trait mindfulness has been associated with improved emotional skills, but evidence comes primarily from studies on emotion regulation. It remains unclear whether improvements extend to other aspects of emotional processing, namely the ability to recognize emotions in others. In the current study, 107 participants (Mage = 25.48 years) completed a measure of trait mindfulness, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, and two emotion recognition tasks. These tasks required participants to categorize emotions in facial expressions and in speech prosody (modulations of the tone of voice). They also completed an empathy questionnaire and attention tasks. We found that higher trait mindfulness was associated positively with cognitive empathy, but not with the ability to recognize emotions. In fact, Bayesian analyses provided substantial evidence for the null hypothesis, both for emotion recognition in faces and in speech. Moreover, no associations were observed between mindfulness and attention performance. These findings suggest that the positive effects of trait mindfulness on emotional processing do not extend to emotion recognition abilities.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7481693/

 

Increase Empathy with Mindfulness

Increase Empathy with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

as we pay attention to our breath, our body, our lives, in this simple and gentle way, a natural consequence is the opening of the heart.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism. “empathy seems to play a key role in forgiveness and compassion toward oneself and others, allowing the maintenance, reconciliation and repair of social relationships.” So, promoting empathy is important for not only for the individual’s well-being but also for the individual’s relationships with others.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01915/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1401267_69_Psycho_20200811_arts_A) de la Fuente-Anuncibay and colleagues recruited university students and had them complete measures of mindfulness practice, empathy, and mindfulness, including describing, observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting subscales. The data were examined with regression analysis and mediation analysis.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of empathy. This was true for overall mindfulness and the describing and observing facets of mindfulness. In examining the effect of mindfulness practice on empathy they found that there was no direct effect of practice on empathy but rather practice was associated with higher levels of mindfulness which was in turn associated with higher levels of empathy. Again, this was true for overall mindfulness and the describing and observing facets of mindfulness. Gender was not found to moderate these associations.

 

These results are correlational and as such caution must be exercised in concluding causation. Nevertheless, previous studies have shown that mindfulness training results in increase in empathy. So, the present results probably represent causal relationships. These results then suggest that mindfulness produces greater empathy and that mindfulness is enhanced by mindfulness practice. It is interesting that these relationships are similar for both men and women as there is a societal belief that women are more empathetic. These findings demonstrate that mindfulness improves empathy regardless of gender.

 

It is interesting that the relationship of mindfulness with empathy was true not only for overall mindfulness but also for the describing and observing facets of mindfulness. These facets represent that individual’s ability to observe and describe their internal state. Mindful individuals are more aware of how they are feeling. This suggests that awareness of one’s own feelings helps to better understand the feelings of others which is the essence of empathy.

 

So, increase empathy with mindfulness.

 

“By learning to bring our thoughts and feelings into the present and allowing them to be as they are, we become more mindful of ourselves. That enhanced mindfulness of ourselves makes it easier to read-across to the experiences of others. Just a small amount of mindfulness training can make it easier to read people’s inner states. Mindful people tend to experience more compassion and more empathy, because they have more control over their thinking.” – Mindfulness Works

 

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

 

de la Fuente-Anuncibay R, González-Barbadillo Á, Ortega-Sánchez D and Pizarro-Ruiz JP (2020) Mindfulness and Empathy: Mediating Factors and Gender Differences in a Spanish Sample. Front. Psychol. 11:1915. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01915

 

Numerous research studies link mindfulness training to improved empathy. However, few studies focus on the mediating factors of empathy. This work has three objectives: (a) to analyze the possible mediation of mindfulness as a feature in this relation, (b) to analyze the mindfulness factors that mediate in the increase of empathy and (c) to analyze the moderating role of gender. The sample was composed of 246 Spanish-speaking university students (M = 24.08 years, SD = 8.43). The instruments used were the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ). For data analysis, the indirect effect was calculated using 10000 bootstrap samples for the bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals (BCI). The improvement of empathy is mediated by the changes in mindfulness trait (B = 0.233, p < 0.001), disappearing in the presence of this mediator, the direct effect of mindfulness practice on empathy (B = 0.161, p = 0.394). We did not find a differential functioning of this mediation according to gender. Observing and describing are the FFMQ factors that mediate significantly between mindfulness practice and empathy.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01915/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1401267_69_Psycho_20200811_arts_A

 

Brief Guided Meditations Improve Empathy

Brief Guided Meditations Improve Empathy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Empathy is the understanding and sharing of someone else’s feelings. It’s not to be confused with compassion, which is a feeling of concern for others that we feel we need to act on. Empathy goes that step further; by putting yourself in the place of someone else, you are appreciating how they feel, even if they’re experiencing something you’ve never encountered.” – Mindfulness Works

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism.

 

It is not clear, however, exactly how meditation training improves empathy. Is it due to increased mindfulness or perhaps by the suggestion embedded in the measurements to be mindful of others. In today’s Research News article “How does brief guided mindfulness meditation enhance empathic concern in novice meditators?: A pilot test of the suggestion hypothesis vs. the mindfulness hypothesis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352088/) Miyahara and colleagues performed 2 studies of the effects of meditation on empathy.

 

In study 1 they recruited meditation naïve college students and randomly assigned them to listen to and practice brief (8 minute) recorded guided meditations of either breath following and body scan or compassion meditation. They were measured before and after the meditation for mindfulness, compassionate love, helping intention and empathy. They found that both meditations significantly increased all of the measures with no significant differences between meditation types. Study 2 was very similar to study 1 except there we no recorded guided meditations. They found that there were no significant changes in any of the measures from the first to the second measurement.

 

These results demonstrate that brief mindfulness meditations, regardless of whether they are breath and body meditations or compassion meditation produce increases in empathy and prosocial intentions in college students. The effects were not due to repeated measures. Hence, the suggestions for empathy and prosocial intentions embedded in the measurement instruments were not responsible for the changes, thus eliminating this alternative explanation for the effects. These results, then, suggest that it is improvements in mindfulness that result from brief meditation that are responsible for increased empathy.

 

So, brief guided meditations improve empathy.

 

Mindfulness and empathy are linked through their shared relationship with stress. While mindfulness decreases stress, stress weakens empathy.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

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

 

Miyahara, M., Wilson, R., Pocock, T., Kano, T., & Fukuhara, H. (2020). How does brief guided mindfulness meditation enhance empathic concern in novice meditators?: A pilot test of the suggestion hypothesis vs. the mindfulness hypothesis. Current Psychology (New Brunswick, N.j.), 1–12. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-00881-3

 

Abstract

Despite the widespread popularity of mindfulness meditation for its various benefits, the mechanism underlying the meditation process has rarely been explored. Here, we present two preliminary studies designed to test alternative hypotheses: whether the effect of brief guided mindfulness meditation on empathic concern arises from verbal suggestion (suggestion hypothesis) or as a byproduct of an induced mindfulness state (mindfulness hypothesis). Study 1 was a pilot randomized control trial of sitting (breath-and-body) meditation vs. compassion meditation that provided preliminary support for the mindfulness hypothesis. Study 2 was set up to rule out the possibility that the meditation effects observed in Study 1 were the effects of repeated measures. An inactive control group of participants underwent the repeated measures of empathic concern with no meditation in between. The pre-post comparison demonstrated no significant changes in the measures. Thus, the results of two studies supported the mindfulness hypothesis. Limitations of the present study and future research directions are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352088/

 

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

 

Meditation Reduces the Brain’s Empathetic Response

Meditation Reduces the Brain’s Empathetic Response

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So, meditation reduces the brain’s empathetic response.

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

 

Improve Empathy and Self-Compassion in College Students with Mindfulness

Improve Empathy and Self-Compassion in College Students with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

When we are mindful of our suffering and respond with kindness, remembering that suffering is part of the shared human condition, we are able to cope with life’s struggles with greater ease.” – Kristin Neff

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance. It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress and resilience in the face of stress. Additionally, there is a widespread problem that many people don’t seem to like themselves. The antidote to self-dislike is self-compassion. Self-compassion is “treating oneself with kindness and understanding when facing suffering, seeing one’s failures as part of the human condition, and having a balanced awareness of painful thoughts and emotions” – Kristin Neff.  Mindfulness has been found to improve self-compassion. But there has been little systematic research of the effectiveness of mindfulness practice in developing empathy and self-compassion in college students.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Mindfulness on Empathy and Self-Compassion: An Adapted MBCT Program on Filipino College Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7139462/), Centeno and colleagues recruited 2 groups of senior college students majoring in psychology who enrolled in a 4-week counseling class either with or without a mindfulness component. They were measured before and after the classes for mindfulness, self-compassion, and empathy, including the perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress subscales.

 

They found in comparison to baseline that the group that received the mindfulness training had significantly higher levels of mindfulness, including the describing, observing, acting with awareness, nonjudging and nonreacting subscales, empathetic concern, and perspective taking while the control group did not. Self-compassion was improved in both groups with the mindfulness group having a much larger improvement.

 

The results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness training is beneficial for college students increasing mindfulness, self-compassion, and empathy. Although the study did not investigate this, the improvements in the student’s mental health should help them in dealing with the stresses of college and improve their academic performance.

 

So, improve empathy and self-compassion in college students with mindfulness.

 

the three features of self-compassion are kindness toward oneself, a sense of common humanity with others, and mindfulness— . . . each of these components buffer people against negative reactions to undesired events, like failure, humiliation, and rejection—all situations that are pretty common during the first year of college.” – Bianca Lorenz

 

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

 

Centeno R. (2020). Effect of Mindfulness on Empathy and Self-Compassion: An Adapted MBCT Program on Filipino College Students. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 10(3), 61. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs10030061

 

Abstract

Attending college is meaningful for many young adults. This period is marked by physical, emotional, and psychological changes that can have both positive and negative effects on college students. The last two decades have seen an alarming increase in the number of college students who suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression, suicide, anxiety, and alcohol abuse. It is recommended that actions to support the students’ wellbeing must be creative and evidence-based. Research suggests that a mindfulness-based intervention may be an effective strategy to address mental health conditions among college students. This study was done to examine the efficacy of an adapted mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) program that was implemented in a classroom setting in the Philippines and to explore how mindfulness practice can affect empathy and self-compassion on senior Filipino college students aged 19–22 years old. Two classes were used to compare the effects of mindfulness intervention. One class underwent the adapted MBCT program while the other class underwent the same kind of class without mindfulness interventions. Self-report measures of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, Perspective Taking subscale and Empathic Concern subscale of Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and Self-compassion scale—short form were administered before undergoing the adapted MBCT and after the program. After going through the adapted MBCT, college students’ mindfulness significantly improved. Empathy and self-compassion also significantly improved after undergoing the program. This corroborates previous studies done on mindfulness and its efficacy with adolescents and suggests how practicing mindfulness can improve empathy and self-compassion with Filipino college students. It provides a promising groundwork for the emerging interest and research in Asia, particularly in the Philippines, on how the practice of mindfulness can help with the mental health of college students.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7139462/

 

Improve Well-Being in Nurses with Mindfulness

Improve Well-Being in Nurses with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“For nurses, many of them went into the field because of their ability to connect with people and make a difference in their lives. Mindfulness is a path to help us reconnect with what brings meaning to the profession. It brings humanity back to healthcare.” – Susan Bauer-Wu

 

Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Hence, burnout contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to reduce burnout and improve well-being in nurses.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness to promote nurses’ well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6716566/), Penque recruited Registered Nurses (RNs). They participated in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 1-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants were also encouraged to perform daily practice at home. They were measured before and after training and 3 months later for mindfulness, self-compassion, serenity, interpersonal reactivity, work satisfaction, and burnout.

 

She found that following the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program there were significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion including  self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness, serenity, and interpersonal reactivity including perspective taking, and empathetic concern. There were also significant decreases in burnout, isolation, overidentification, self-judgment, and personal distress. She also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the higher the levels of self-compassion and serenity.

 

The results must be interpreted with caution as there wasn’t a control, comparison, group. So, potential confounds such as placebo effects, experimenter bias, Hawthorne effects, etc. were present. Other, better controlled studies, however, have demonstrated that mindfulness training increases self-compassion and reduces burnout. So, it is likely that these same benefits of mindfulness training occurred here irrespective of confounding conditions.

 

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is a complex of meditation, yoga, and body scan practices. It is not possible to determine which components or combination of components were responsible for the benefits. Regardless, the results suggest that MBSR training is a safe and effective program to improve the well-being of nurses and reduce burnout. This can not only improve the psychological health of the nurses but also improve the retention of these valuable and important healthcare workers.

 

So, improve well-being in nurses with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness can positively affect how nurses feel and cope with the pressures of their work, thereby resulting in better self-care and improved patient outcomes.” – Nursing Times

 

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

 

Penque S. (2019). Mindfulness to promote nurses’ well-being. Nursing management, 50(5), 38–44. doi:10.1097/01.NUMA.0000557621.42684.c4

 

This article examines the effects of MBSR on job-relevant factors, including mindfulness, self-compassion, empathy, serenity, work satisfaction, incidental overtime, and job burnout. Nursing is a high-stress profession that may be taking a toll on our nurses. Mindfulness-based programs can help nurses develop skills to manage clinical stress and improve their health; increase overall attention, empathy, and presence with patients and families; and experience work satisfaction, serenity, decreased incidental overtime, and reduced job burnout.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6716566/