Improve the Psychological Health of Cancer Patients with Mindfulness Taught over the Internet

Improve the Psychological Health of Cancer Patients with Mindfulness Taught over the Internet

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“some of the most difficult elements of the cancer experience are very well-suited to a mindfulness practice.” – Linda Carlson

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving cancer. These symptoms markedly reduce the quality of life of the patients.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to relieve chronic pain. It can also help treat the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbancefear, and anxiety and depression. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient.

 

As an alternative, mindfulness training over the internet have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. In addition, research has indicated that mindfulness training online can be effective for improving the health and well-being of the participants. The research has been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effectiveness of mindfulness training over the internet in treating the psychological symptoms of cancer patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Programs for Patients With Cancer via eHealth and Mobile Health: Systematic Review and Synthesis of Quantitative Research.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7704284/ ) Matis and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the published research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness training over the internet in treating the psychological symptoms of cancer patients. They identified 24 published research studies including at least 4 weeks of mindfulness training delivered over the internet.

 

They report that the published research studies found that mindfulness training delivered over the internet to cancer patients produced significant decreases in stress, anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, and sleep problems, and significant increases in mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and some parameters of general health. In the few studies where long-term follow-up measures were obtained the effects were maintained.

 

These are very promising results that suggest that mindfulness training over the internet is a safe and effective treatment for the psychological issues common in cancer survivors. Mindfulness training, in general, has been shown in a large number of previous studies o be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, and sleep problems, and significant increases in mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and some parameters of general health. So, the present study simply extends these findings to patients with cancer who receive mindfulness training over the internet.

 

These results are important as good mental health, particularly the ability to cope with stress, are predictors of good health outcomes. In addition, the fact that the interventions were provided over the internet allows for cost-effective and convenient delivery to patients. This makes participation and compliance more likely and effective. Hence, internet-based mindfulness training may help relieve the psychological suffering of patients diagnosed with cancer and should be included in their treatment plan.

 

So, improve the psychological health of cancer patients with mindfulness taught over the internet.

 

Both MBCT and eMBCT significantly reduced fear of cancer recurrence and rumination and increased mental health–related quality of life, mindfulness skills, and positive mental health.” – Matthew Stenger

 

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

 

Matis, J., Svetlak, M., Slezackova, A., Svoboda, M., & Šumec, R. (2020). Mindfulness-Based Programs for Patients With Cancer via eHealth and Mobile Health: Systematic Review and Synthesis of Quantitative Research. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(11), e20709. https://doi.org/10.2196/20709

 

Abstract

Background

eHealth mindfulness-based programs (eMBPs) are on the rise in complex oncology and palliative care. However, we are still at the beginning of answering the questions of how effective eMBPs are and for whom, and what kinds of delivery modes are the most efficient.

Objective

This systematic review aims to examine the feasibility and efficacy of eMBPs in improving the mental health and well-being of patients with cancer, to describe intervention characteristics and delivery modes of these programs, and to summarize the results of the included studies in terms of moderators, mediators, and predictors of efficacy, adherence, and attrition.

Methods

In total, 4 databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Scopus, and Web of Knowledge) were searched using relevant search terms (eg, mindfulness, program, eHealth, neoplasm) and their variations. No restrictions were imposed on language or publication type. The results of the efficacy of eMBPs were synthesized through the summarizing effect estimates method.

Results

A total of 29 published papers describing 24 original studies were included in this review. In general, the results indicate that eMBPs have the potential to reduce the levels of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, and pain, and improve the levels of mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and some parameters of general health. The largest median of Cohen d effect sizes were observed in reducing anxiety and depression (within-subject: median −0.38, IQR −0.62 to −0.27; between-group: median −0.42, IQR −0.58 to −0.22) and facilitating posttraumatic growth (within-subject: median 0.42, IQR 0.35 to 0.48; between-group: median 0.32, IQR 0.22 to 0.39). The efficacy of eMBP may be comparable with that of parallel, face-to-face MBPs in some cases. All studies that evaluated the feasibility of eMBPs reported that they are feasible for patients with cancer. Potential moderators, mediators, and predictors of the efficacy, attrition, and adherence of eMBPs are discussed.

Conclusions

Although the effects of the reviewed studies were highly heterogeneous, the review provides evidence that eMBPs are an appropriate way for mindfulness practice to be delivered to patients with cancer. Thus far, existing eMBPs have mostly attempted to convert proven face-to-face mindfulness programs to the eHealth mode. They have not yet fully exploited the potential of eHealth technology.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7704284/

 

Spirituality is Related to Healthy Behaviors and Psychological Well-Being

Spirituality is Related to Healthy Behaviors and Psychological Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Positive beliefs, comfort, and strength gained from religion, meditation, and prayer can contribute to well being. It may even promote healing. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it may help you feel better. It also may prevent some health problems and help you cope better with illness, stress, or death.” – Robert Rich Jr.

 

Religion and spirituality have been promulgated as solutions to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. What evidence is there that these claims are in fact true? The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of religiosity and spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. But there is still a need to investigate the relationships of spirituality with health-related behaviors and psychological well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Relationship Between Spirituality, Health-Related Behavior, and Psychological Well-Being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7457021/ ) Bożek and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete measures of psychological well-being, spirituality, and health-related behaviors. The data were then subjected to a path analysis.

 

The analysis revealed that both spirituality and health-related behaviors were significantly positively directly related to psychological well-being, such that the higher the levels of each the higher the levels of well-being. But, in addition, spirituality indirectly affected psychological well-being by being positively related to health behaviors which, in turn, were positively related to well-being. They also found that these relationships were stronger in students who studied the psychosocial dimension of health and the human mind and spirit.

 

This study was correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. This is inevitable as it is nearly impossible to directly manipulate spirituality. But the results demonstrate that being high in spirituality is associated with psychological well-being in college students. In addition, spirituality is also clearly associated with engaging in behaviors that promote good health and these behaviors appear to also be associated with higher levels of psychological well-being. All of this suggests that spiritual students have better health and are happier.

 

So, spirituality is related to healthy behaviors and psychological well-being.

 

Many of the behaviors associated with wellness are key components of a healthy spiritual life. Examples include volunteerism, social responsibility, optimism, contributing to society, connectedness with others, feeling of belonging/being part of a group, and love of self/reason to care for self.” – Lauren Artess

 

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

 

Bożek, A., Nowak, P. F., & Blukacz, M. (2020). The Relationship Between Spirituality, Health-Related Behavior, and Psychological Well-Being. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 1997. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01997

 

Abstract

Studies suggest a positive association of spirituality and health behaviors with well-being (especially subjective well-being), but still the precise character of such relationships between all these constructs remains unknown. The present study aims to explore the relations between spirituality, health-related behaviors, and psychological well-being in the context of acquired education. A questionnaire survey was conducted among 595 students from six different universities, whose study programs either focused on the human body or the human mind and spirit. Path analysis and linear regression were used to model the relationship between the examined constructs. The results show that both spirituality and health-related behaviors are positively related to psychological well-being, and that the relationship with spirituality is also mediated by health-related behaviors. Only spirituality is associated with the type of acquired education, especially in the group of students whose studies focus on the human mind and spirit. Moreover, spirituality in this group seems to display a stronger relationship with psychological well-being. These findings may contribute to the better understanding of some significant determinants of psychological well-being. They carry important implications for the faculty members responsible for curriculum preparation to account for teaching contents related to the conduct of a healthy lifestyle and to spiritual development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7457021/

 

Post-Traumatic Growth and Religiosity Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Post-Traumatic Growth and Religiosity Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our stress lowers when we give our days ahead to a spiritual presence that will be with us ― one that never leaves. Leaning into one’s faith allows room for building a stronger sense of peace . . . and discover a spiritual awakening and divine love that will overpower any real or imagined quarantine we will experience.” – Shar Burgess

 

Modern living is stressful under the best of conditions. But with the COVID-19 pandemic the levels of stress have been markedly increased. These conditions markedly increase anxiety. This is true for everyone but especially for people with pre-existing conditions that makes them particularly vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has also produced considerable economic stress, with loss of employment and steady income. For the poor this extends to high levels of food insecurity. This not only produces anxiety about the present but also for the future. It is important for people to engage in practices that can help them control their responses to the stress and their levels of anxiety. Spirituality, a sense of inner peace and harmony, and religiosity are known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity with the ability to cope with COVID-19.

 

In today’s Research News article “Finding Meaning in Hell. The Role of Meaning, Religiosity and Spirituality in Posttraumatic Growth During the Coronavirus Crisis in Spain.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1481182_69_Psycho_20201112_arts_A ) Prieto-Ursúa and colleagues recruited adults in Madrid, Spain during the Coronavirus pandemic and had them complete a questionnaire online that measured spirituality, religiosity, purpose in life; including general meaning, and establishment of specific goals, post-traumatic growth; including personal, interpersonal, social, and socio-political growth, and experiences with COVID-19.

 

They found that women had greater post-traumatic growth than men. People who knew someone affected by COVID-19 had significantly higher post-traumatic growth of all forms and religiosity and those who had experienced COVID-19 had even greater growth and religiosity. They also found that general meaning in life was associated with greater post-traumatic growth while having specific goals was not. In addition, they found that religiosity was associated with overall growth while spirituality was associated with personal growth once meaning was controlled for.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that these findings are correlational making conclusions regarding causation problematic. It’s also the case that there is no comparison condition. Of course, having a control group without COVID-19 would be practically impossible. This.is a natural experiment, taking advantage of a current very unusual event. We can learn from it but must be careful not to form strong conclusions.

 

Speculatively, these results suggest that trauma is associated with higher levels of growth especially in women. Trauma appears to increase religiosity and religiosity appear to promote growth. It is possible that religion provides a refuge to help with coping with the trauma, Spirituality, on the other hand, appears to be associated with greater meaning in life and this in turn is associated with greater personal growth.

 

The findings suggest that trauma can promote personal, interpersonal, social, and socio-political growth. They also show that having meaning in life is important for that growth. In the face of a pandemic, rather than withdrawing, people strengthen. This attests to the resilience of the human spirit.

 

So, post-traumatic growth and religiosity increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“Sometimes when we experience grief, we feel shocked, anxious, fearful, sad, powerless, angry, or helpless. What we need to remember is that all these feelings and many others are normal. Being able to acknowledge where we are emotionally and spiritually can be empowering.” – Together

 

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

 

Prieto-Ursúa M and Jódar R (2020) Finding Meaning in Hell. The Role of Meaning, Religiosity and Spirituality in Posttraumatic Growth During the Coronavirus Crisis in Spain. Front. Psychol. 11:567836. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836

 

ABSTRACT

Coronavirus has blighted our world, hitting some countries harder than others. Morbidity and mortality rates make Madrid one of the worst affected places so far in the wake of the coronavirus. The aim of this study was to analyze the presence of post-traumatic growth during the coronavirus crisis and to understand the contribution of meaning, religiosity, and spirituality to such growth; 1,492 people completed the questionnaire; N = 1,091 residents in Madrid were selected for the study. We assessed the personal experience of COVID-19, the Spirituality, Religiosity, Meaning trough Purpose in Life-10 test, and Posttraumatic Growth (Community Post-Traumatic Growth Scale). Results showed significant differences for all measures of growth, with higher values in women. Sex and direct impact of COVID-19 accounted for 4.4% of the variance of growth. The different dimensions of meaning contribute differently to growth. Only religiosity was associated with total growth when meaning was included in the model. This same pattern of results is obtained in models predicting interpersonal and social growth. However, in predicting personal growth, it is spirituality that predicts this type of growth once meaning has been previously controlled for, while religiosity fails to reach a statistically significant level. Our results reflect the interest in maintaining the distinction between spirituality and religiosity, their different roles in traumatic growth and the different dimensions on which each has an effect. Finally, it confirms the importance of meaning in post-traumatic growth, especially the dimension of life goals and purposes.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1481182_69_Psycho_20201112_arts_A

 

Reduce Performance Anxiety in Student Vocalists with Mindfulness

Reduce Performance Anxiety in Student Vocalists with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness can really help you to stop worrying. While you can’t remove each and every stressor from your daily life, there are definitely steps you can try to feel more at ease with your performances.” – Petra Raspel

 

It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. This includes the anxiety that occurs with artistic performance. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well and the anxiety is overwhelming, interfering with the ability to perform. Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders.

 

A therapeutic technique that contains mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes. It is not known whether ACT may be effective in reducing artistic performance anxiety.

 

In today’s Research News article “Examining a Group Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Intervention for Music Performance Anxiety in Student Vocalists.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7272702/ ) Clarke and colleagues recruited student vocalists who demonstrated performance anxiety and provided them with a six session group program of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Before and after ACT and 3 months later they were measured for music performance anxiety psychological flexibility, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and well-being.

 

They found that after therapy there were significant reductions in music performance anxiety and psychological inflexibility and significant increases in psychological flexibility and well-being that were maintained 3 months later. Hence, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) produced a significant improvement in the psychological well-being of student vocalists who suffered from music performance anxiety. Although not measured, these results would suggest that their vocal performances would improve.

 

This was a small pilot study without a control, comparison, condition. So, great caution must be exercised in interpreting the results. The study though makes a convincing case that a larger randomized control trial should be conducted. Mindfulness training has been shown in prior research to reduce anxiety in clinical and non-clinical populations. So, the reductions in music performance anxiety observed in the present study were not surprising and probably due to the mindfulness training delivered in ACT.

 

So, reduce performance anxiety in student vocalists with mindfulness.

 

Qualitative results showed benefits of daily mindfulness exercises on breathing, micro-muscular awareness, vocal tone, text communication and problem solving.”Petra Raspel

 

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

 

Clarke, L. K., Osborne, M. S., & Baranoff, J. A. (2020). Examining a Group Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Intervention for Music Performance Anxiety in Student Vocalists. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 1127. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01127

 

Abstract

Music performance anxiety (MPA) is a distressing and persistent anxious apprehension related to musical performance. The experience of MPA forces many musicians to give up performing or develop maladaptive coping mechanisms (e.g., avoidance or substance use), which can impact their career and wellbeing. High levels of MPA in students and vocalists are reported in the literature. Vocalists present a unique challenge for clinicians in that vocal and breathing mechanisms, required for performance, are negatively impacted when anxious. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has demonstrated efficacy for the treatment of a range of psychological problems including social anxiety disorder (of which MPA may be indicated as a subtype). This study sought to investigate whether group-based ACT may be a feasible and effective intervention for MPA in Australian student vocalists and aimed to design an intervention that could be adopted by music education providers. Potential participants (N = 31) completed an online survey including demographic questions and outcome measures. Six vocal students (four females; two males; aged M = 20.33 years) with elevated MPA scores participated in the ACT for MPA group program and 3-month follow-up. Group sessions were 2 h each week for six consecutive weeks. Participants were followed up 3 months post-intervention via online survey. There was a significant increase in psychological flexibility and significant decreases in MPA and psychological inflexibility. Gains were maintained at 3-month follow-up. The current study offers preliminary evidence for the feasibility and effectiveness of a group-based ACT protocol for musicians with performance anxiety which may be incorporated into tertiary performance training curricula.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7272702/

 

A Healthy Lifestyle is Promoted by Mindfulness

A Healthy Lifestyle is Promoted by Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Let’s say you find yourself eating a bag of chips in front of the TV — your evening pattern. Being mindful can help you break free from the autopilot trance and take a moment to make a different choice. You could trade the chips for carrots, or decide to skip TV and take a walk around the block instead.” – WebMD

 

We tend to think that illness is produced by physical causes, disease, injury, viruses, bacteria, etc. But many health problems are behavioral problems or have their origins in maladaptive behavior. This is evident in car accident injuries that are frequently due to behaviors, such as texting while driving, driving too fast or aggressively, or driving drunk. Other problematic behaviors are cigarette smoking, alcoholism, drug use, or unprotected sex. Problems can also be produced by lack of appropriate behavior such as sedentary lifestyle, not eating a healthy diet, not getting sufficient sleep or rest, or failing to take medications according to the physician’s orders. Additionally, behavioral issues can be subtle contributors to disease such as denying a problem and failing to see a physician timely or not washing hands. In fact, many modern health issues, costing the individual or society billions of dollars each year, and reducing longevity, are largely preventable. Hence, promoting healthy behaviors and eliminating unhealthy ones has the potential to markedly improve health.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to promote health and improve illness. It is well established that if patterns and habits of healthy behaviors can be promoted, ill health can be prevented. There is, however, little research on the effects of mindfulness practice on promotion healthy behaviors.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468720/) Soriano-Ayala and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control group or to receive 7 weekly 2-hour sessions of mindfulness training. Mindfulness training involved breath and body scan meditations, and training on letting thoughts flow. Before and after training they completed measures of lifestyle choices, including alcohol consumption, cannabis consumption, tobacco use, eating habits, and rest habits. They were also measured for eating consumption patterns and eating responses to negative emotions.

 

They found that in comparison to the wait-list control group, the group that received mindfulness training had significant improvements in healthy lifestyles, including eating a balanced diet, rest habits, and alcohol consumption. It is, however, not possible to determine from the current study how lasting these changes may be. The authors did not state how long they waited before the post-test. So, it is not clear that there was sufficient time for the mindfulness training to register an alteration of the lifestyle behaviors.   In addition, the control condition was a passive wait-list control. This leave open the possibility of confound variables like placebo, attentional, or experimenter bias effects being responsible for the observed differences. Nevertheless, these improved lifestyle behaviors would predict better future health and better college performance for the students after mindfulness training.

 

So, promote a healthy lifestyle with mindfulness.

 

While meditation can help you manage stress, sleep well and feel better, it shouldn’t replace lifestyle changes like eating healthiermanaging your weight, and getting regular physical activity. It’s also not a substitute for medication or medical treatment your doctor may have prescribed.” – Heart.org

 

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

 

Encarnación Soriano-Ayala, Alberto Amutio, Clemente Franco, Israel Mañas. Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle through Mindfulness in University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2020 Aug; 12(8): 2450. Published online 2020 Aug 14. doi: 10.3390/nu12082450

 

Abstract

The present study explored the effects of a second-generation mindfulness-based intervention known as flow meditation (Meditación-Fluir) in the improvement of healthy life behaviors. A sample of university students (n = 51) in Spain were randomly assigned to a seven-week mindfulness treatment or a waiting list control group. Results showed that compared to the control group, individuals in the mindfulness group demonstrated significant improvements across all outcome measures including healthy eating habits (balanced diet, intake rate, snacking between meals, decrease in consumption by negative emotional states, increased consumption by negative emotional states, amount of consumption, meal times, consumption of low-fat products), tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis consumption, and resting habits. There were differences between males and females in some of these variables and a better effect of the treatment was evident in the females of the experimental group when compared to the males. The flow meditation program shows promise for fostering a healthy lifestyle, thus decreasing behaviors related to maladaptive eating, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis consumption as well as negative rest habits in university students. This mindfulness program could significantly contribute to the treatment of eating disorders and addictions, wherein negative emotional states and impulsivity are central features of the condition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468720/

 

Meditation Alters a Variety of Biological Mechanisms and Improves Mental Disorders

Meditation Alters a Variety of Biological Mechanisms and Improves Mental Disorders

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation-which come in many variations-has long been acknowledged as a tool to master the mind and cope with stress. Science is increasingly validating those claims, especially for depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” – Mental Health America

 

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. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. It is useful to review and summarize what has been discovered regarding the mechanisms by which meditation practice improves mental disorders.

 

In today’s Research News article “Biological mechanism study of meditation and its application in mental disorders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359050/) Shen and colleagues review and summarize the published scientific research studies on the mechanisms by which meditation practice improves mental disorders.

 

They report that the published research has found complex and widespread changes in the nervous system occur as a result of meditation. In the central nervous system these are relatively long lasting changes in the amount and connectivity of the brain tissue, termed neuroplastic changes, and these may underlie the beneficial changes in the meditators. In addition, meditation appears to alter the peripheral nervous system, in particular, the autonomic nervous system. Meditation increases parasympathetic activity that underlies vegetative functions and relaxation. This may be one mechanism by which meditation improves stress responses.

 

They further report that the published research found that meditation improves the functions of the immune and inflammatory systems. These effects also improve stress responses and fighting off disease. Hence, the effects of meditation on these biological process may underlie meditations ability to improve health. Since inflammatory responses often accompany mental illnesses, this may also be a mechanism by which meditation improved mental disease.

 

On a genetic, microbiological, level meditation has been found to alter the expression of genes that promote health. This may be the underlying reason that meditation improves the immune and inflammatory systems. Also, on the genetic level the research has found that meditation promotes the preservation of telomeres. These are the ends of the chromosomes that shorten throughout the lifetime and are thought to perhaps underlie cellular aging. This mechanism may underlie meditation’s ability to slow the aging process.

 

Meditation has been found through systematic controlled research to improve a wide array of mental illnesses. These include depression, including major depressive disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Schizophrenia. In addition, meditation has been found to aid in recovery from substance abuse disorders and to help prevent relapse.

 

It is clear from the published scientific research that meditation alters a wide array of physiological processes and improves and improves an equally wide array of mental illnesses. It will be important in the future to link the two to begin to understand what physiological changes underlie which improvements in mental illness. Regardless it is clear that meditation has many beneficial effects that promote physical and mental well-being.

 

So, practice meditation to alter a variety of biological mechanisms and improve mental disorders.

 

Mindfulness exercises are valuable and useful for anyone, but most especially for people who are struggling with mental illness or addictions. “ – Sarah Levin

 

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

 

Shen, H., Chen, M., & Cui, D. (2020). Biological mechanism study of meditation and its application in mental disorders. General psychiatry, 33(4), e100214. https://doi.org/10.1136/gpsych-2020-100214

 

Abstract

In recent years, research on meditation as an important alternative therapy has developed rapidly and been widely applied in clinical medicine. Mechanism studies of meditation have also developed progressively, showing that meditation has great impact on brain structure and function, and epigenetic and telomere regulation. In line with this, the application of meditation has gradually been expanded to mental illness, most often applied for major depressive disorders and substance-related and addictive disorders. The focus of this paper is to illustrate the biological mechanisms of meditation and its application in mental disorders.

Conclusions

Over the past two decades, meditation has been used in a great variety of fields to relieve stress, regulate emotions and promote physical and mental health. In recent years, the application of meditation in the psychiatric field has gradually received attention. It has become an adjunctive and alternative therapy for depression, PTSD and ADHD and has been carried out for the acute and remission stages of treatment for severe schizophrenia. Additionally, it can ameliorate emotional distress, craving and withdrawal symptoms in substance addiction. However, the current researchers adopt different meditation methods and diverse training durations, which leads to the inability to systematically evaluate which type of meditation is more beneficial to which populations or diseases, and to completely elucidate the biological mechanism of meditation. In the future, further targets for selective meditation subtypes along with prescribed training time, and randomised controlled studies with sufficient samples are required to determine the efficacy of meditation on the one hand, and simultaneously study the mechanisms behind meditation on the mind–body interaction, which can better display the positive function of meditation as an ancient physical and mental healing method in promoting human health.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359050/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Physical and Mental Health

Spirituality is Associated with Better Physical and Mental Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. . . Spirituality also incorporates healthy practices for the mind and body, which positively influences mental health and emotional wellbeing.” – Luna Greestein

 

Religion and spirituality have been promulgated as solutions to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. What evidence is there that these claims are in fact true? The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of religiosity and spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “Private religion/spirituality, self-rated health, and mental health among US South Asians.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297387/), Kent and colleagues recruited U.S. adults over 40 years of age of south Asian descent. They completed questionnaires on their health, daily spiritual experiences, gratitude, anxiety, anger, religious service attendance, religious affiliation, yoga practice, belief in God, closeness to God, positive religious coping, and divine hope. They were separated into a theistic group who believed in god and a non-theistic group who did not.

 

They found that in the total sample that the health of the participants was positively related to yoga practice, daily spiritual experiences and gratitude. Emotional functioning was positively related to gratitude and daily spiritual experiences. In addition, anxiety and anger were negatively associated with gratitude and daily spiritual experiences.

 

In the theistic subsample there were significant positive relationships between health and closeness to god and positive religious coping. There were significant positive relationships between emotional functioning and daily spiritual experiences, closeness to god and positive religious coping and negative relationships with negative religious coping. Anxiety and anger were related to negative religious coping and religious/spiritual struggles.

 

The results make it clear that religion and spirituality are associated with better physical and mental health. It should be noted that these results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. It is equally likely that spirituality promotes mental and physical health, that people with better mental and physical health tend to be more religious and spirituality, or that a third factor is related to both. These results also have limited generalizability as they were obtained from a community sample of people in the U.S. of south Asian descent. They may not apply to other ethnic or religious groups.

 

Nevertheless, the results present a positive picture of religion and spirituality and its relationships to physical and mental health. Positive religious coping to stress involves the belief that god is guiding the individual for good reasons and this type of coping is associated with better mental health. On the other hand, negative religious coping to stress which involves belief that god is, for some reason, punishing the individual, has negative emotional consequences. So, religion and spirituality are double edged swords depending on how the individual interprets and employs them.

 

So, spirituality is associated with better physical and mental health.

 

positive associations have been found between some styles of religion/spirituality and general wellbeing, marital satisfaction and general psychological functioning.” – Deborah Cornah

 

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

 

Kent, B. V., Stroope, S., Kanaya, A. M., Zhang, Y., Kandula, N. R., & Shields, A. E. (2020). Private religion/spirituality, self-rated health, and mental health among US South Asians. Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation, 29(2), 495–504. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-019-02321-7

 

Abstract

Purpose:

Connections between private religion/spirituality and health have not been assessed among U.S. South Asians. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between private religion/spirituality and self-rated and mental health in a community-based sample of U.S. South Asians.

Methods:

Data from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study (collected 2010–2013 and 2015–2018) and the attendant Study on Stress, Spirituality, and Health (n=881) were analyzed using OLS regression. Self-rated health measured overall self-assessed health. Emotional functioning was measured using the Mental Health Inventory-3 index (MHI-3) and Spielberger scales assessed trait anxiety and trait anger. Private religion/spirituality measures included prayer, yoga, belief in God, gratitude, theistic and non-theistic spiritual experiences, closeness to God, positive and negative religious coping, divine hope, and religious/spiritual struggles.

Results:

Yoga, gratitude, non-theistic spiritual experiences, closeness to God, and positive coping were positively associated with self-rated health. Gratitude, non-theistic and theistic spiritual experiences, closeness to God, and positive coping were associated with better emotional functioning; negative coping was associated with poor emotional functioning. Gratitude and non-theistic spiritual experiences were associated with less anxiety; negative coping and religious/spiritual struggles were associated with greater anxiety. Non-theistic spiritual experiences and gratitude were associated with less anger; negative coping and religious/spiritual struggles were associated with greater anger.

Conclusion:

Private religion/spirituality are associated with self-rated and mental health. Opportunities may exist for public health and religious care professionals to leverage existing religion/spirituality for well-being among U.S. South Asians.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297387/

 

Mindfulness Improves Physical Health

Mindfulness Improves Physical Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness benefits our bodies, not just our minds.” – Jill Suttie

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as Mindfulness Training, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.

 

The evidence has been accumulating. So, it is reasonable to step back and summarize what has been learned and examine possible mechanism by which mindfulness may improve physical health. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training and Physical Health: Mechanisms and Outcomes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613793/), Creswell and colleagues review and summarize the published controlled research studies on mindfulness effects on physical health.

 

They report that the published randomized controlled trials found that mindfulness training produced significant improvements in chronic pain management, including low back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia. They also report that mindfulness training produced significant improvements in stress related health conditions, including psoriasis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), irritable bowel syndrome, type 2 diabetes, HIV progression, inflammatory responses, and even colds. Hence, mindfulness training appears to significantly improve the physical health of the individual.

 

They postulate that mindfulness training improves health primarily through improving the physiological, psychological, and behavioral responses to stress. They postulate that it affects the physiological stress responses by modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal hormonal responses to stress.  They further postulate that it affects the psychological stress responses by improving the monitoring and acceptance of stress. Finally, they postulate that mindfulness training improves health behaviors including reduced smoking, and improved diet, sleep, and activity all of which promote health.

 

The review indicates that there is substantial evidence that mindfulness training is good for health and improves a wide range of physiological, psychological, and behavioral responses that contribute to good health. It appears that reactions to stress may be central to these benefits. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness improves health.

 

So, mindfulness improves physical health.

 

If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can: help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, , improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.” – Harvard Health

 

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

 

Creswell, J. D., Lindsay, E. K., Villalba, D. K., & Chin, B. (2019). Mindfulness Training and Physical Health: Mechanisms and Outcomes. Psychosomatic medicine, 81(3), 224–232. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000675

 

Abstract

Objective:

There has been substantial research and public interest in mindfulness interventions, biological pathways, and health over the past two decades. This article reviews recent developments in understanding relationships between mindfulness interventions and physical health.

Methods:

A selective review was conducted with the goal of synthesizing conceptual and empirical relationships between mindfulness interventions and physical health outcomes.

Results:

Initial randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in this area suggest that mindfulness interventions can improve pain management outcomes among chronic pain populations, and there is preliminary evidence for mindfulness interventions improving specific stress-related disease outcomes in some patient populations (i.e., clinical colds, psoriasis, IBS, PTSD, diabetes, HIV). We offer a stress buffering framework for the observed beneficial effects of mindfulness interventions and summarize supporting biobehavioral and neuroimaging studies that provide plausible mechanistic pathways linking mindfulness interventions with positive physical health outcomes.

Conclusion:

We conclude with new opportunities for research and clinical implementations to consider in the next two decades.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613793/

 

Improve Psychological Health in the COVID-19 pandemic with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Health in the COVID-19 pandemic with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Amid ever-changing information around the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety. . . Another way to cope with anxiety is to practice mindfulness.” – Cynthia Weiss

 

Modern living is stressful under the best of conditions. But with the COVID-19 pandemic the levels of stress have been markedly increased. These conditions markedly increase anxiety. This is true for everyone but especially for healthcare workers and people caring for patients with COVID-19 and for people with pre-existing conditions that makes them particularly vulnerable. But it is also true for healthy individuals who worry about infection for themselves or loved ones.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also produced considerable economic stress, with loss of employment and steady income. For the poor this extends to high levels of food insecurity. This not only produces anxiety about the present but also for the future. It is important for people to engage in practices that can help them control their responses to the stress and their levels of anxiety. Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress, reduce anxiety levels, and improve mood.

 

In today’s Research News article “The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287297/), Behan discusses the uses of mindfulness practices for helping individuals cope with the stress and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It is asserted that the pandemic produces psychological issues for individuals and also for those tasked with caring for them and that these issues can be ameliorated with mindfulness practice.

 

For the individual mindfulness practice can be helpful in coping with the anxiety about infection or the future, depression, loneliness, and reduction in quality of life resulting from isolation, physical and psychological manifestations of stress produced by financial and employment concerns or family or relationship difficulties, the strong emotions and general distress produced, the frustration resulting from feelings of helplessness, and the worry and rumination about the present situation and the future or the health of loved ones. Mindfulness practice can even strengthen the immune system to better fight off the infection.

 

For first responders and healthcare workers the pandemic produces a number of difficult issues that may be helped by mindfulness practice. Being mindful or engaging in mindfulness practices can be helpful in coping with the physical and psychological manifestations of stress produced by long hours of working with very sick people with a highly infectious disease, the depression resulting from separation from family and loved ones, the post-traumatic stress disorder that can be produced by repeated exposure to suffering and death, and burnout that can result from the overwhelming quantity and seriousness of the symptoms. In addition mindfulness can help build empathy, compassion, patience, and flexibility that are so important for the treatment of the patients, resilience to withstand the stresses, and the ability to effectively cope with the strong emotions produced.

 

Mindfulness practices have a wide variety of benefits that can be very helpful to the individual and those charged with caring for them in coping with the varied effects of the pandemic. So, improve psychological health in the COVID-19 pandemic by being mindful and engaging in mindfulness practices.

 

There is so much uncertainty about what is to come, and we have less opportunity for social support than in other crises.  Some are already ill, others know someone who is, and many are caring for those who have COVID-19.  In these circumstances, it can be easy to feel frightened and overwhelmed.  Having a regular mindfulness practice can be helpful.” – John Schorling

 

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

 

Behan C. (2020). The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19. Irish journal of psychological medicine, 1–3. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2020.38

 

Abstract

Meditation and mindfulness are practices that can support healthcare professionals, patients, carers and the general public during times of crisis such as the current global pandemic caused by COVID-19. While there are many forms of meditation and mindfulness, of particular interest to healthcare professionals are those with an evidence base such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Systematic reviews of such practices have shown improvements in measures of anxiety, depression and pain scores. Structural and functional brain changes have been demonstrated in the brains of people with a long-term traditional meditation practice, and in people who have completed a MBSR programme. Mindfulness and meditation practices translate well to different populations across the lifespan and range of ability. Introducing a mindfulness and meditation practice during this pandemic has the potential to complement treatment and is a low-cost beneficial method of providing support with anxiety for all.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287297/

 

Yoga Practitioners have Better Physical and Psychological Health

Yoga Practitioners have Better Physical and Psychological Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Multiple studies have confirmed the many mental and physical benefits of yoga. Incorporating it into your routine can help enhance your health, increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.” – Rachel Link

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. It is both an exercise and a mind-body practice that stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. One way to look at the benefits of yoga practice is to look at the mental and physical health of yoga practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Yoga practice in the UK: a cross-sectional survey of motivation, health benefits and behaviours.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044896/ ), Cartwright and colleagues performed an online survey of yoga practitioners in the UK. They were asked to answer questions regarding yoga practice, meditation practice, body size, health, well-being, psychological health, smoking, diet, alcohol intake, fruit/vegetable intake, exercise apart from yoga, satisfaction with life, perceived stress, yoga impacts on health, and yoga related injuries.

 

They found that in comparison to the norms for the UK the yoga practitioners were higher in overall health, fruit/vegetable intake, exercise apart from yoga, happiness, and satisfaction with life, and lower in body size, smoking, alcohol intake, and perceived stress. The yoga practitioners believed that yoga practice improved their physical and mental health, stress levels, strength, flexibility, and sleep. Correlation analysis revealed that the higher the frequency of yoga practice the higher the levels of well-being, satisfaction with life, and happiness and the lower the levels of perceived stress.

 

These are interesting results but it should be kept in mind that the findings may represent differences in the people who chose to engage in a yoga practice rather than due to yoga practice itself. Regardless, the survey revealed that yoga practitioners are generally physically and psychologically healthy, engage in healthier behaviors, and believe that yoga practice is responsible for these benefits. Previous controlled studies have revealed that yoga practice improves the physical and psychological health of the participants. So, it is reasonable to conclude that the survey results are due, at least in part, to the beneficial effects of yoga practice.

 

So, improve physical and psychological health with yoga practice.

 

“On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. And on a psychological level, yoga can help you cultivate mindfulness as you shift your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.” – Linda Schlamadinger McGrath

 

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

 

Cartwright, T., Mason, H., Porter, A., & Pilkington, K. (2020). Yoga practice in the UK: a cross-sectional survey of motivation, health benefits and behaviours. BMJ open, 10(1), e031848. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031848

 

Abstract

Objectives

Despite the popularity of yoga and evidence of its positive effects on physical and mental health, little is known about yoga practice in the UK. This study investigated the characteristics of people who practise yoga, reasons for initiating and maintaining practice, and perceived impact of yoga on health and well-being.

Design, setting and participants

A cross-sectional online anonymous survey distributed through UK-based yoga organisations, studios and events, through email invites and flyers. 2434 yoga practitioners completed the survey, including 903 yoga teachers: 87% were women, 91% white and 71% degree educated; mean age was 48.7 years.

Main outcome measures

Perceived impact of yoga on health conditions, health outcomes and injuries. Relationships between yoga practice and measures of health, lifestyle, stress and well-being.

Results

In comparison with national population norms, participants reported significantly higher well-being but also higher anxiety; lower perceived stress, body mass index and incidence of obesity, and higher rates of positive health behaviours. 47% reported changing their motivations to practise yoga, with general wellness and fitness key to initial uptake, and stress management and spirituality important to current practice. 16% of participants reported starting yoga to manage a physical or mental health condition. Respondents reported the value of yoga for a wide range of health conditions, most notably for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions. 20.7% reported at least one yoga-related injury over their lifetime. Controlling for demographic factors, frequency of yoga practice accounted for small but significant variance in health-related regression models (p<0.001).

Conclusion

The findings of this first detailed UK survey were consistent with surveys in other Western countries. Yoga was perceived to have a positive impact on physical and mental health conditions and was linked to positive health behaviours. Further investigation of yoga’s role in self-care could inform health-related challenges faced by many countries.

Strengths and limitations of this study:

  • This is the first comprehensive survey to assess the practice and perceived impact of yoga on health, lifestyle-related behaviours and well-being in the UK.
  • The survey design captures the significant number of practitioners who take up yoga to manage a physical or mental health condition, and identifies health conditions for which yoga is rated as most helpful in self-management.
  • Despite the large sample, it was self-selected and unlikely to be representative of all yoga practitioners.
  • The results relied on retrospective and self-report data which may be subject to memory bias and social desirability.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044896/