Improve Psychological Well-Being and Happiness with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Well-Being and Happiness with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness has been shown to help us be healthier, less affected by stress, more relaxed, more creative, more open to learning, sleep better, improve our relationships with others and feel happier and more satisfied with our lives.” – Action for Happiness

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness practices have significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. They have been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. They also increase happiness levels in practitioners. It is not known how mindfulness improves well-being and happiness, directly or through intermediaries. That is, does mindfulness produce these benefits directly or by altering a variable that in turn affects well-being and happiness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Relationships between Mindfulness, Purpose in Life, Happiness, Anxiety, and Depression: Testing a Mediation Model in a Sample of Women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908241/ ) Crego and colleagues recruited online a transnational sample of adult women and had them complete online measures of mindfulness, purpose in life, behavioral activation, happiness, anxiety, and depression. These data were analyzed with regression analysis and structural equation modelling.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the higher the levels of purpose in life, behavioral activation, and happiness and the lower the levels of anxiety and depression. Similarly, the higher the levels of purpose in life, the higher the levels of mindfulness, behavioral activation, and happiness and the lower the levels of anxiety and depression. Finally, the higher the levels of behavioral activation, the higher the levels of mindfulness, purpose in life, and happiness and the lower the levels of anxiety and depression.

 

To untangle these similar associations, structural equation modelling was performed. It revealed that mindfulness was directly associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety and depression. But mindfulness was also indirectly associated with these variables through positive associations with purpose in life and behavioral activation which in turn were associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety and depression.

 

The findings are correlative, so caution must be exercised in making causal inferences. But previous research has shown that mindfulness training results in significant increases in purpose in life, behavioral activation, and happiness and significant decreases in anxiety and depression. So, the current findings likely represent causal connections between the variables. Hence, mindfulness improves psychological well-being directly and also indirectly by increasing purpose in live and behavioral activation which also improve psychological well-being. Clearly, being mindful leads to happiness.

 

So, improve psychological well-being and happiness with mindfulness.

 

Happiness isn’t about being upbeat all the time. Instead, think of it as a trait—one that helps you to recognize even the tiniest moments of joy, to fully embrace the good stuff in life without pause, and to know that even when things aren’t going well, this hard time, too, shall pass.” Kelle Walsh

 

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

 

Crego, A., Yela, J. R., Gómez-Martínez, M. Á., Riesco-Matías, P., & Petisco-Rodríguez, C. (2021). Relationships between Mindfulness, Purpose in Life, Happiness, Anxiety, and Depression: Testing a Mediation Model in a Sample of Women. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(3), 925. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18030925

 

Abstract

Mindfulness is connected to positive outcomes related to mental health and well-being. However, the psychological mechanisms that account for these relationships are largely unknown. A multiple-step multiple mediator structural equation modeling (SEM) model was tested with mindfulness as the independent variable; purpose in life and behavioral activation as serial mediators; and happiness, anxiety, and depression as outcome measures. Data were obtained from 1267 women. Higher mindfulness was associated with higher levels of happiness and lower anxiety and depression symptoms. The association of mindfulness with the outcome variables could be partially accounted for by purpose in life and behavioral activation. The SEM model explained large proportions of variance in happiness (50%), anxiety (34%), and depression (44%) symptoms. Mindfulness is associated with both a sense of purpose in life and engagement in activities, which are also connected with positive outcomes. Moreover, having purposes in life is linked to higher levels of behavioral activation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908241/

 

Improve Caregivers Psychological and Physiological Health with Meditation

Improve Caregivers Psychological and Physiological Health with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for a loved one? One of the most effective ways to avoid burnout is engaging in a mindfulness practice like meditation.” – Audrey Meinertzhagen

 

There is a tremendous demand for caregiving in the US. It is estimated that over 65 million (29% of the adult population) provides care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged, averaging 20 hours per week spent caring for their loved ones. This caregiving comes at a cost exacting a tremendous toll on caregivers’ health and well-being. Caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poorer self-reported physical health, compromised immune function, and increased mortality. Mindfulness practice for caregivers has been shown to help them cope with the physical and psychological demands of caregiving.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation on Mental Health and Cardiovascular Balance in Caregivers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7828286/ ) Díaz-Rodríguez and colleagues recruited caregivers for dependent family members for at least 2 years. They were assigned to either no treatment or to receive twice weekly, 2-hour, sessions of focused meditation training on the basis of availability for the training sessions. They were measured before and after training for happiness, anxiety, depression, heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, the group that received meditation training were significant higher in happiness and heart rate variability and significantly lower in anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. Hence meditation training improved the mental health and cardiovascular balance of caregivers.

 

These are excellent results. A higher level of heart rate variability is an indicator of increased parasympathetic and reduced sympathetic nervous system activity. Hence, the relaxation promoting portion of the autonomic nervous system increases while the portion promoting activation and arousal decreases. This is further evidenced by the significant decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. This suggest that a 4-week training in meditation improves caregivers’ psychological and physiological state. The effectiveness of the caregiving was not measured but based upon the improvements observed it would be expected that the quality of caregiving would also be improved. This suggests that meditation training should be recommended for caregivers.

 

So, improve caregivers psychological and physiological health with meditation.

 

Caregiving is a tough job and the stress can seriously affect your physical and mental health. An effective and simple way to combat that is to meditate.” – Daily Caring

 

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

 

Díaz-Rodríguez, L., Vargas-Román, K., Sanchez-Garcia, J. C., Rodríguez-Blanque, R., Cañadas-De la Fuente, G. A., & De La Fuente-Solana, E. I. (2021). Effects of Meditation on Mental Health and Cardiovascular Balance in Caregivers. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 617. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020617

 

Abstract

Background: Caring for a loved one can be rewarding but is also associated with substantial caregiver burden, developing mental outcomes and affecting happiness. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of a four-week, 16-h presential meditation program on physiological and psychological parameters and vagal nerve activity in high-burden caregivers, as compared to a control group. Methods: A non-randomized repeated-measures controlled clinical trial was conducted. Results: According to the ANCOVA results, the global happiness score (F = 297.42, p < 0.001) and the scores for all subscales were significantly higher in the experimental group than in the control group at 5 weeks. Anxiety levels were also significantly reduced in the experimental group (F = 24.92, p < 0.001), systolic (F = 16.23, p < 0.001) and diastolic blood (F = 34.39, p < 0.001) pressures, and the resting heart rate (F = 17.90, p < 0.05). HRV results revealed significant between-group differences in the HRV Index (F = 8.40, p < 0.05), SDNN (F = 13.59, p < 0.05), and RMSSD (F = 10.72, p < 0.05) in the time domain, and HF (F = 4.82 p < 0.05)) in the frequency domain, which were all improved in the experimental group after the meditation program. Conclusions: Meditation can be a useful therapy to enhance the mental health and autonomic nervous system balance of informal caregivers, improving symptoms of physical and mental overload.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7828286/

 

Improve Mental Health and Blood Biomarker Levels with Meditation and Yoga

Improve Mental Health and Blood Biomarker Levels with Meditation and Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The main purpose of meditation is to access, recognize and enhance the positive qualities of mind. The more we can do this, the less we need to rely on external situations for our happiness and the more we can rely on the natural, positive qualities of mind: love, contentment, well-being and peace.” – Trinlay Rinpoche

 

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

 

It is not known exactly how mindfulness training produces these benefits. It is possible that one mechanism is by altering blood bourn hormonal levels. In today’s Research News article “Inner Engineering Practices and Advanced 4-day Isha Yoga Retreat Are Associated with Cannabimimetic Effects with Increased Endocannabinoids and Short-Term and Sustained Improvement in Mental Health: A Prospective Observational Study of Meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293737/ ) Sadhasivam and colleagues recruited healthy adults and had them attend a 4-day intensive training in yoga and meditation. Before and after the training and 1 month later they were measured for mindfulness, happiness, anxiety, depression, and psychological well-being. They also drew blood before and after training and assayed it for the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and the biomarkers of Endocannabinoids, (anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), 1-arachidonoylglycerol (1-AG), docosatetraenoylethanolamide (DEA), and oleoylethanolamide (OLA)).

 

They found that after the training there were significant decreases in anxiety and depression and significant increases in mindfulness, happiness, and psychological well-being. These changes were maintained at the 1-month follow-up. There were also significant increases in all of the blood biomarkers of Endocannabinoids and also brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

 

It should be kept in mind that this was a pilot study that did not have a control, comparison, condition. So, the results might have been due to a number of confounding factors rather than the training itself. But previous controlled research has convincingly demonstrated that mindfulness training increases happiness, and psychological well-being and decreases anxiety and depression. So, these changes were likely due to the training.

 

There were also novel findings in the present study that Endocannabinoids and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were significantly increased by the training. These provide objective measures of the subjective reports of psychological improvements. Endocannabinoids in the blood are associated with positive mood states. BDNF is a neurotrophic factor that is thought to signal neuroplastic changes in the nervous system. Mindfulness training has been previously shown to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain. So, the increases in these biomarkers indicate that the training not only improves the psychological health of the participants but also alters the brain, perhaps making the improvements longer lasting. This suggests a potential mechanism for the ability of meditation and yoga to improve mood, by increasing hormones that improve mood.

 

So, improve mental health and blood biomarker levels with meditation and yoga.

 

The more you practice invoking states of well-being, the more available they are. Use the following practice to teach your mind and body to experience joy in the moment. As you invite happiness into your life in this way, you will have more access to a joyful life.” – Yoga Journal

 

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

 

Sadhasivam, S., Alankar, S., Maturi, R., Vishnubhotla, R. V., Mudigonda, M., Pawale, D., Narayanan, S., Hariri, S., Ram, C., Chang, T., Renschler, J., Eckert, G., & Subramaniam, B. (2020). Inner Engineering Practices and Advanced 4-day Isha Yoga Retreat Are Associated with Cannabimimetic Effects with Increased Endocannabinoids and Short-Term and Sustained Improvement in Mental Health: A Prospective Observational Study of Meditators. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 8438272. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/8438272

 

Abstract

Background

Anxiety and depression are common in the modern world, and there is growing demand for alternative therapies such as meditation. Meditation can decrease perceived stress and increase general well-being, although the physiological mechanism is not well-characterized. Endocannabinoids (eCBs), lipid mediators associated with enhanced mood and reduced anxiety/depression, have not been previously studied as biomarkers of meditation effects. Our aim was to assess biomarkers (eCBs and brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF]) and psychological parameters after a meditation retreat.

Methods

This was an observational pilot study of adults before and after the 4-day Isha Yoga Bhava Spandana Program retreat. Participants completed online surveys (before and after retreat, and 1 month later) to assess anxiety, depression, focus, well-being, and happiness through validated psychological scales. Voluntary blood sampling for biomarker studies was done before and within a day after the retreat. The biomarkers anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), 1-arachidonoylglycerol (1-AG), docosatetraenoylethanolamide (DEA), oleoylethanolamide (OLA), and BDNF were evaluated. Primary outcomes were changes in psychological scales, as well as changes in eCBs and BDNF.

Results

Depression and anxiety scores decreased while focus, happiness, and positive well-being scores increased immediately after retreat from their baseline values (P < 0.001). All improvements were sustained 1 month after BSP. All major eCBs including anandamide, 2-AG, 1-AG, DEA, and BDNF increased after meditation by > 70% (P < 0.001). Increases of ≥20% in anandamide, 2-AG, 1-AG, and total AG levels after meditation from the baseline had weak correlations with changes in happiness and well-being.

Conclusions

A short meditation experience improved focus, happiness, and positive well-being and reduced depression and anxiety in participants for at least 1 month. Participants had increased blood eCBs and BDNF, suggesting a role for these biomarkers in the underlying mechanism of meditation. Meditation is a simple, organic, and effective way to improve well-being and reduce depression and anxiety.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293737/

 

Nature-Based and Mind-Body Practices Produce Cost-Effective Improvements in Life Satisfaction and Happiness

Nature-Based and Mind-Body Practices Produce Cost-Effective Improvements in Life Satisfaction and Happiness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

our emotional connections with nature are predictive of our attitudes and the choices we make about living sustainable lifestyles. But in addition, the study also found a unique connection between nature and happiness itself.” – Marilyn Price-Mitchell

 

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.

 

A variety of forms of mindfulness training including mind-body practices have been shown to increase psychological well-being and happiness. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood and Tai Chi practice has also been found to increase happiness. The evidence has been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned

 

In today’s Research News article “Nature-Based Interventions and Mind-Body Interventions: Saving Public Health Costs Whilst Increasing Life Satisfaction and Happiness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660642/ ) Pretty and Barton analyze four databases (Green Light Trust (n = 32), Trust Links Growing Together (n = 328), Ecominds green care interventions (n = 154), and a tai chi programme (n = 128) on the effects of nature-based and mind-body interventions on satisfaction with life and happiness. These interventions included woodland therapy, therapeutic horticulture, ecotherapy/green care, and tai chi.They then compared the costs of these programs to the costs of public health and other services to produce comparable changes in life satisfaction and happiness. They also looked at the cost savings produced by nature-based and mind-body interventions in preventing the use of other medical and psychological services.

 

They report that the analysis demonstrated that all nature-based and Tai Chi interventions produced large and significant improvements in satisfaction with life and happiness and these improvements were still present 2 years later. They report that the magnitude of these changes is substantially greater than those produced by major life events such as marriage, birth of a child, etc. They find that the economic impact of these programs is substantial and estimated savings of between £6000–£14,000 per person per year.

 

These findings are remarkable and suggest that nature-based and Tai Chi interventions are highly effective in improving life satisfaction and happiness. These improvements are not only psychological but also economic saving money by reducing the need for medical and other services. These programs then produce great value for the money. It is recommended that such programs should be incorporated into standard public health services.

 

So, nature-based and mind-body practices produce cost-effective improvements in life satisfaction and happiness.

 

If you want to further your happiness and success, then having a mind-body-spirit connection is vital. “– Health and Happiness

 

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

 

Pretty, J., & Barton, J. (2020). Nature-Based Interventions and Mind-Body Interventions: Saving Public Health Costs Whilst Increasing Life Satisfaction and Happiness. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(21), 7769. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217769

 

Abstract

A number of countries have begun to adopt prevention pays policies and practices to reduce pressure on health and social care systems. Most affluent countries have seen substantial increases in the incidence and costs of non-communicable diseases. The interest in social models for health has led to the growth in use of social prescribing and psychological therapies. At the same time, there has been growth in application of a variety of nature-based and mind–body interventions (NBIs and MBIs) aimed at improving health and longevity. We assess four NBI/MBI programmes (woodland therapy, therapeutic horticulture, ecotherapy/green care, and tai chi) on life satisfaction/happiness and costs of use of public services. These interventions produce rises in life satisfaction/happiness of 1.00 pts to 7.29 (n = 644; p < 0.001) (for courses or participation >50 h). These increases are greater than many positive life events (e.g., marriage or a new child); few countries or cities see +1 pt increases over a decade. The net present economic benefits per person from reduced public service use are £830–£31,520 (after 1 year) and £6450–£11,980 (after 10 years). We conclude that NBIs and MBIs can play a role in helping to reduce the costs on health systems, while increasing the well-being of participants.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660642/

 

Change the Brain for Greater Happiness with Meditation

Change the Brain for Greater Happiness with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation. . . appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” – Alice Walton

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. It also increases happiness levels in practitioners. One way that meditation practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing greater happiness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Rajyoga meditation induces grey matter volume changes in regions that process reward and happiness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7528075/ ) Babu and colleagues recruited participants who practiced Rajyoga meditation and a group of non-meditators matched for age, gender, and handedness. Rajyoga meditation is an eyes-open focused meditation practice focusing on a point of light. They completed a measure of happiness and had their brains scanned with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that the Rajyoga meditators were significantly happier than the non-meditators and that the greater the number of hours of practice the greater the levels of happiness. The MRI scans revealed that the Rajyoga meditators had significantly great gray matter volume in the superior frontal gyrus, inferior orbitofrontal cortex, and precuneus. They also found that the greater the gray matter volume in the superior frontal gyrus, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex the greater the levels of reported happiness.

 

The results of the present study need to be interpreted with caution as the groups were determined by whether they engaged in meditation or not. It is possible that people who choose to meditate are significantly different and have significantly different brains than those who do not. Nevertheless, the results suggest that Rajyoga meditators are happier and have greater amounts of brain matter in specific regions of the brain than non-meditators and that these changes are correlated with happiness. The brain areas with greater volume in the meditators are thought to process information regarding rewards and happiness. So, it is hypothesized that the meditation alters these brain regions that results in greater happiness.

 

So, change the brain for greater happiness with meditation.

 

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

 

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

 

Babu, M., Kadavigere, R., Koteshwara, P., Sathian, B., & Rai, K. S. (2020). Rajyoga meditation induces grey matter volume changes in regions that process reward and happiness. Scientific reports, 10(1), 16177. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73221-x

 

Abstract

Studies provide evidence that practicing meditation enhances neural plasticity in reward processing areas of brain. No studies till date, provide evidence of such changes in Rajyoga meditation (RM) practitioners. The present study aimed to identify grey matter volume (GMV) changes in reward processing areas of brain and its association with happiness scores in RM practitioners compared to non-meditators. Structural MRI of selected participants matched for age, gender and handedness (n = 40/group) were analyzed using voxel-based morphometric method and Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ) scores were correlated. Significant increase in OHQ happiness scores were observed in RM practitioners compared to non-meditators. Whereas, a trend towards significance was observed in more experienced RM practitioners, on correlating OHQ scores with hours of meditation experience. Additionally, in RM practitioners, higher GMV were observed in reward processing centers—right superior frontal gyrus, left inferior orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and bilateral precuneus. Multiple regression analysis showed significant association between OHQ scores of RM practitioners and reward processing regions right superior frontal gyrus, left middle OFC, right insula and left anterior cingulate cortex. Further, with increasing hours of RM practice, a significant positive association was observed in bilateral ventral pallidum. These findings indicate that RM practice enhances GMV in reward processing regions associated with happiness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7528075/

 

Improve Physiological Adaptation to High Altitude with Yoga and Meditation

Improve Physiological Adaptation to High Altitude with Yoga and Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Pranayama techniques allow for maximizing your lung capacity, which becomes critical at high altitudes.” – D.. M. Kumar

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise, in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety, and at high altitude. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects. High altitude taxes the physiology and particularly the respiratory system. Since yoga practice can improve respiratory function, it would be expected that yoga practice would improve the physiological adaptations needed to function at high altitude.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of mindfulness meditation protocol in subjects with various psychometric characteristics at high altitude.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218243/) Bhanushali and colleagues recruited adults with no prior Kriya Yoga experience and provided them with an intensive 4-day 15 hours per day practice of Kriya Yoga at high altitude (11,500 ft.). The practice consisted of a combination of meditation and yoga. They were measured before and after training for body size, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, cholesterol, triglycerides, psychometric constitution (prakriti), attention, memory, verbal fluency, executive functioning, and information processing speed, anxiety, mental well-being, and happiness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline, after the Kriya Yoga practice there were significant increases in oxygen saturation, blood glucose, mental well-being and happiness and significant decreases in anxiety, blood triglycerides and very low-density lipoprotein. Hence, after training there were improvements in physical and psychological well-being.

 

These results must be interpreted cautiously as there wasn’t a control comparison condition. So, the results could be due to acclimatization over the 4 days at high altitude and not to the Kriya Yoga practice. Also, without a control condition, participant expectancy effects (placebo), experimenter bias, attentional effects etc. may be responsible for the results. In addition, there was no comparison to other exercises. So, the effects may be due to exercise and not specifically to Kriya Yoga.

 

Taking this into consideration, the results demonstrate that intensive yoga practice can be conducted at high altitude and shows potential for improving physical and psychological acclimatization to high altitude.

 

So, improve physiological adaptation to high altitude with yoga and meditation.

 

BREATHE — the universal mantra of yoga. This can be a bit harder than normal at thousands feet above sea level. There’s 20 percent less oxygen (or more!) in the air at these elevations. You may experience headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and sleep disturbance (and sleep is oh-so-important). If you’re feeling like you’re suffering from a bad hangover or the flu, chances are your body is struggling to adapt to the change in altitude.”.- Vicki Kahn

 

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

 

Bhanushali, D., Tyagi, R., Limaye Rishi Nityapragya, N., & Anand, A. (2020). Effect of mindfulness meditation protocol in subjects with various psychometric characteristics at high altitude. Brain and behavior, 10(5), e01604. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1604

 

Abstract

Introduction

Incidence of high altitude‐related sickness is increasing due to more number of people visiting the areas of high altitude which may result in life‐threatening conditions including acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), and High‐altitude pulmonary hypertension (HAPH). We hypothesized that an advanced yoga regimen may be beneficial in dealing with the physiology of acclimatization.

Methods

Anthropometric, Biochemical, and Psychological assessments were carried out in 48 participants before and after the advance meditation program (AMP) in the experimental group. Individuals with an age range of 20–65 years with no comorbidities were included in the study. Participants were exposed to AMP for 4 days. All assessments were carried out at the baseline and after the course. Prakriti was constituted for all participants using a standard questionnaire. The study was carried out after obtaining the written informed consent as per the guidelines outlined by the Institute Ethics Committee.

Results

Po2 and glucose levels were found significantly reduced along with changes in the Happiness index, anxiety, and mental well‐being. However, participants with lowered Po2, after 4 days of mindfulness intervention, showed a positive outcome measured by the established scales of anxiety, happiness, and information processing. Psychometric or Prakriti wise analysis revealed that subject with “Pitta” constitution exposed to high altitude and advance meditation showed changes in more parameters than “Vatta” or “Kapha” Constitution.

Conclusions

Advance meditation in the high altitude zone confers biochemical and neuro‐cognitive benefits. Molecular studies may require to understand the role of hypoxic condition in improving the disease state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218243/

 

Improve a Biological Marker of Aging, Telomeres, with Meditation

Improve a Biological Marker of Aging, Telomeres, with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While we might expect our bodies and brains to follow a shared trajectory of development and degeneration over time, by actively practicing strategies such as meditation, we might actually preserve and protect our physical body and brain structure to extend our golden years and shine even more brightly in old age.” – Sonima Wellness

 

One of the most exciting findings in molecular biology in recent years was the discovery of the telomere. This is a component of the DNA molecule that is attached to the ends of the strands. Recent genetic research has suggested that the telomere and its regulation is the biological mechanism that produces aging. As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis, this is what produces aging. As we get older the new cells produced are more and more likely to be defective. The shortening of the telomere occurs each time the cell is replaced. So, slowly as we age it gets shorter and shorter.

 

Fortunately, there is a mechanism to protect the telomere. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. It also promotes cell survival and enhances stress-resistance.  Research suggests that processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process by protecting the telomere.  One activity that seems to increase telomerase activity and protect telomere length is mindfulness practice. Hence, engaging in mindfulness practices may protect the telomere and thereby slow the aging process.

 

In today’s Research News article “Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7067861/), and Mendioroz colleagues recruited long-term meditators (greater than 10 years of experience) and non-meditators matched for gender, ethnic group, and age. They were measured for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, resilience, happiness, self-compassion, experiential avoidance, and quality of life. They also provided blood samples that were assayed for telomere length and DNA methylation.

 

They found that the long-term meditators were significantly higher in for mindfulness, resilience, happiness, self-compassion, and quality of life and significantly lower in for anxiety, depression, and experiential avoidance.

 

They also found that the meditators had significantly longer telomeres than the matched controls. Interestingly, while in the controls the greater the age of the participant the shorter the telomeres, in the long-term meditators, telomere length was the same regardless of age. In addition, they found that in the long-term meditators, telomere length was significantly associated with DNA methylation at specific regions but not for the matched controls.

 

This study found, as have others, that long-term meditation practice is associated with longer telomeres. The fact, that the telomere length was not associated with age in the meditators suggests that meditation practice may protect the individual from age-related erosion of telomeres. The results further suggest that meditation may do so through specific methylation of DNA. Stress has been shown to results in shortening the telomeres. Hence, a potential mechanism whereby meditation may protect telomeres may be by reducing the physiological and psychological responses to stress.

 

It is suspected, but not proven, that telomere length is related to health and well-being. The findings that the long-term meditators had significantly better mental health tends to support this notion. There is evidence that meditation practice increases longevity. It can be speculated that meditation practice may do so by affecting molecular genetic mechanisms that prevent the degradation of the telomeres with age.

 

So, improve a biological marker of aging, telomeres, with meditation.

 

Meditation also helps to protect our telomeres, the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. Telomeres are longest when we’re young and naturally shorten as we age. Shorter telomeres are associated with stress and higher risk for many diseases including cancer, and depend on the telomerase enzyme to enable them to rebuild and repair.”- Paula Watkins

 

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

 

Mendioroz, M., Puebla-Guedea, M., Montero-Marín, J., Urdánoz-Casado, A., Blanco-Luquin, I., Roldán, M., Labarga, A., & García-Campayo, J. (2020). Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners. Scientific reports, 10(1), 4564. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61241-6

 

Abstract

Mindfulness and meditation techniques have proven successful for the reduction of stress and improvement in general health. In addition, meditation is linked to longevity and longer telomere length, a proposed biomarker of human aging. Interestingly, DNA methylation changes have been described at specific subtelomeric regions in long-term meditators compared to controls. However, the molecular basis underlying these beneficial effects of meditation on human health still remains unclear. Here we show that DNA methylation levels, measured by the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip (Illumina) array, at specific subtelomeric regions containing GPR31 and SERPINB9 genes were associated with telomere length in long-term meditators with a strong statistical trend when correcting for multiple testing. Notably, age showed no association with telomere length in the group of long-term meditators. These results may suggest that long-term meditation could be related to epigenetic mechanisms, in particular gene-specific DNA methylation changes at distinct subtelomeric regions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7067861/

 

Being Mindfully Non-Judgmental is Associated with Greater Happiness

Being Mindfully Non-Judgmental is Associated with Greater Happiness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Start taking notice of these everyday moments, and bask in their glow for a beat or two. The more easily you can identify even the simplest of joys in life, the more of them you’ll discover, everywhere.” – Kelle Walsh

 

Meditation leads to concentration, concentration leads to understanding, and understanding leads to happiness” – This wonderful quote from the modern day sage Thich Nhat Hahn is a beautiful pithy description of the benefits of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness allows us to view our experience and not judge it, not put labels on it, not make assumptions about it, not relate it to past experiences, and not project it into the future. Rather mindfulness lets us experience everything around and within us exactly as it is arising and falling away from moment to moment.

 

A variety of forms of mindfulness training have been shown to increase psychological well-being and happiness. So, it would be expected that yoga practice would similarly increase these positive states. It is not known, however, if the relationship of mindfulness with happiness moderated by the personality of the individual.

 

In today’s Research News article “Personality and nonjudging make you happier: Contribution of the Five-Factor Model, mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to subjective well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6999907/), Ortet and colleagues recruited two samples, college students and healthy adults from the community. A subsample of the community participants received a once a week for 6-weeks, 2-hour, training in mindfulness and metacognition including knowing how to differentiate between the story attached to experience and the actual present moment one. The participants completed the Subjective Happiness Questionnaire, the Big Five Personality inventory measuring five broad domains of personality: emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and the five facets of mindfulness including observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, particularly the nonjudging facet, the higher the levels of subjective well-being, and all of the 5 of the personality traits of extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability. They found that the personality factors that were most strongly associated with subjective well-being were emotional stability and extraversion. When personality factors were taken into account only the mindfulness facet of nonjudging was still positively associated with happiness.

 

These results are correlational and as such must be interpreted with caution. The fact that the individuals’ personality characteristic accounted for most of the mindfulness – happiness relationship underscores problems with causation. The third factor of personality was primarily responsible for the mindfulness – happiness relationship. But previous studies have demonstrated with manipulative studies that mindfulness causes an increase in happiness. So, the results of the present study likely result from a causal connection between the mindfulness facet of nonjudging and happiness.

 

The findings suggest that there are three factors that are particularly important for happiness. Being outgoing is associated with happiness indicating the importance of being engaged socially in being happy. Being emotionally stable is also associated with happiness indicating the importance of having consistent patterns of behavior for being happy. Finally, not judging inner experience but rather simply accepting it as it is, is associated with happiness. This suggests that stopping looking at inner experience as good or bad, deserved or undeserved, or painful or not is important for individual happiness. Allowing inner experience to simply occur with acceptance helps to promote happiness.

 

So, being mindfully non-judgmental is associated with greater happiness.

 

we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment, and we’re least happy when the mind is wandering.” – Melli Obrien

 

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

 

Ortet, G., Pinazo, D., Walker, D., Gallego, S., Mezquita, L., & Ibáñez, M. I. (2020). Personality and nonjudging make you happier: Contribution of the Five-Factor Model, mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to subjective well-being. PloS one, 15(2), e0228655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228655

 

Abstract

Mindful individuals are able to acknowledge mind wandering and live in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. Previous studies have found that both mind wandering and mindfulness are associated with subjective well-being. However, the main predictor of happiness is personality; more specifically, happier people are emotionally stable and extraverted. The present study aimed to explore the contribution of the five factors of personality, dispositional mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to happiness. A sample of 372 university students was assessed with the NEO-Five Factor Inventory, and another sample of 217 community adults answered the Big Five Personality Trait Short Questionnaire. Both samples, 589 participants in all, completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Subjective Happiness Scale. Furthermore, 55 participants from the general population sample took a 6-week training course in meditation and developing mindfulness. The regression analyses showed that emotional stability and extraversion traits were the strongest predictors of subjective well-being. Nonetheless, the nonjudging facet, which is nonevaluative/acceptance awareness of thoughts and feelings, still remained a significant predictor of happiness when personality was accounted for. Finally, mindfulness training did not increase subjective well-being. Being nonjudgmental of one’s inner thoughts, feelings and sensations contributes to happiness even when personality is taken into account. Accordingly, it seems reasonable that mindfulness training that intends to improve subjective well-being should focus on noticing thoughts without judging them.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6999907/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Taking a few minutes to meditate every day with the goal of becoming more mindful, or focused on and accepting of the present, is a great way to relieve stress. But it’s even more powerful than you think. Mindfulness meditation helps ease mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.” – Amy Marturana Winderl

 

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

 

There is a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditationyogamindful movementscontemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. In addition, there are many sub-forms of each; e.g. meditation can be practiced in focused, open monitoring, or compassion techniques. The relative effectiveness of these techniques in promoting psychological adjustment and mental health needs to be further explored.

 

In today’s Research News article “Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6445895/), Montero-Marin and colleagues recruited both male and female adults (aged 18-74 years) online and had them complete measures of religious beliefs, amounts of meditation and prayer practice, happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and emotional overproduction.

 

They found that the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of focused meditation and the longer the sessions the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions and the lower the levels of depression, negative emotions and emotional overproduction. Similarly, the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of open monitoring meditation the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions and the lower the levels of depression, negative emotions and emotional overproduction. Finally, the greater the amounts of lifetime practice of compassion meditation the greater the levels of happiness and positive emotions. Age was not a significant factor. There were no similar relationships with the amounts of prayer or religious beliefs.

 

The findings are correlational and as such no conclusions regarding causation can be reached. But the findings suggest that meditation practice is associated with the practitioners’ psychological well-being. It is interesting that religious beliefs were not associated with well-being and that there were no significant relationships found between prayer practice and measures of well-being. Prior research suggests that spirituality rather then religiosity is associated with positive well-being. The present study, however, did not include measures of spirituality. It would be expected that the degree to which religious beliefs and prayer were spiritual practices rather than religious recitals would be important in determining the relationships of beliefs and practice with well-being.

 

Although there are different patterns of significant relationships between the different meditation techniques and measures of well-being, there were no direct statistical comparisons conducted. So, no conclusions can be reached regarding the differential effectiveness of the different meditation techniques. In general, it would appear that meditation practice, including focused, open monitoring, and compassion types is related to greater well-being regardless of age, gender, or health status.

 

So, improve psychological well-being with meditation.

 

 

While I could point to lots of research outlining the impressive benefits of meditation, I think it always works best if people do the experiment for themselves. Spend just a little time practising every day and see what a difference it makes in your life.” – Black Dog Institute

 

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

 

Montero-Marin, J., Perez-Yus, M. C., Cebolla, A., Soler, J., Demarzo, M., & Garcia-Campayo, J. (2019). Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 630. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630

 

Abstract

There has been increased interest in the relationships between religiosity, meditation practice and well-being, but there is lack of understanding as to how specific religious components and distinct meditation practices could influence different positive and negative psychological adjustment outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the explanatory power of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), and compassion meditation (CM) on psychological adjustment, taking into consideration a number of practice-related variables such as session length, frequency of practice and lifetime practice. Psychological adjustment was assessed by means of happiness, positive affect, depression, negative affect, and emotional overproduction. A cross-sectional design was used, with a final sample comprising 210 Spanish participants who completed an online assessment protocol. Hierarchical regressions were performed, including age, sex and psychotropic medication use in the first step as possible confounders, with the addition of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, FA, OM, and CM in the second step. FA session length was related to all psychological adjustment outcomes: happiness (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.25, p = 0.001), positive affect (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.18, p = 0.014), depression (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.004; β = -0.27, p < 0.001), negative affect (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = -0.27, p < 0.001) and emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.013; β = -0.23, p = 0.001). CM session length was related to positive affect (β = 0.18, p = 0.011). CM practice frequency was associated with happiness (ΔR2 = 0.06, p = 0.038; β = 0.16, p = 0.041). Lifetime practice of FA was related to happiness (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = 0.21, p = 0.030) and OM to emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.037; β = -0.19, p = 0.047). Religious beliefs and prayer seemed to be less relevant than meditation practices such as FA, OM, and CM in explaining psychological adjustment. The distinct meditation practices might be differentially related to distinct psychological adjustment outcomes through different practice-related variables. However, research into other forms of institutional religiosity integrating social aspects of religion is required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6445895/

 

Secret of Happiness

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Nunchi

 

I read a wonderful article in the New York Times by Euny Hong entitled “The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/opinion/sunday/nunchi.html). It emphasizes the impact of the Korean word “nunchi” on their world view and their way of life. “Nunchi” is literally translated as “eye measure.” It suggests that every situation should be seen as a whole and the individual’s actions should be appropriate for the entire human context.

 

The fact is that most human behavior is affected mainly by a few aspects of the situation that the individual deems particularly salient and important. These might be people who are particularly important, or special friends or family, or enemies. Although this to some extent makes sense, it results in relegating everything and everyone else to the background. The totality of the situation is lost.

 

To students of mindfulness, it should be apparent that “nunchi” is the same as present moment awareness. It is being totally conscious of what is going on in the immediate environment. It is also non-judgmental, perceiving everything just as it is. But it is more in that the interrelationships of all things, what the Buddha called “interdependent co-arising” has to be seen, “eye measured.” It involves seeing the total picture as a gestalt, with not only the immediate components but also how they all interrelate.

 

There’s a Korean saying that “half of social life is nunchi.” This implies that seeing the entire social context in total in the present moment is extremely important to successfully navigating the social situation. When apprising a room full of people, the practice of “nunchi” would dictate taking in the whole scene and feeling the mood of the entire room, be it celebratory, somber, gleeful, sad, angry, etc.. Each individual in the room is then seen within the context. If there’s an angry sense to the room, the behavior of each person is seen against that backdrop. If one individual is neutral, they will actually be viewed as positive, as neutral is in the positive direction from angry. This better allows the individual to react and interact with the person with greater understanding and a more accurate interpretation of the behavior, which, in turn, allows for more calibrated and effective responses. Others tend to like better and interact more with people who practice “nunchi.”

 

In the process of “eye measuring” there is little opportunity for talking. So, “nunchi” usually involves more listening and less talking. It’s been said that we learn nothing new when we’re speaking. So, by practicing “nunchi” and listening more we have the opportunity to learn and be better positioned for future interactions. People respond very positively when they feel that they are being heard. Listening is a rare yet extremely valuable skill that is promoted by the practice of “nunchi.”

 

“Nunchi” allows for better identification of what can be controlled and what can’t. Seeing things and people as they are and as a whole should make it clear what kinds of impacts our behavior can have and what are the likely consequences of those behaviors. In other words, being completely in the present moment strengthens the ability to intervene for the good.

 

The Korean’s clearly understand the importance of present moment awareness and by making it an important word in the language, “nunchi”, make it front and center in their minds. They have long recognized it importance for effective interactions. The mindfulness revolution in the western world is simply helping us catch up.

 

So, practice “nunchi”, being mindful and aware, and be happier.

 

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