Improve Attention, Memory, and Emotions with Meditation

Improve Attention, Memory, and Emotions with Meditation


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


meditating can change the structure and function of the brain through relaxation, which can: Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, Increase focus and learning concentration, Improve memory and attention span, Build stronger immune system and greater physical/psychological resilience, Allow better sleep” – Columbia University


Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Mindfulness also decreases the individual’s tendency to use tried and true solutions to problems and thereby improves cognitive flexibility. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve attention, memory, and emotions. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.There are, however, a large variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which types are best for which benefit.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of Combining Meditation Techniques on Short-Term Memory, Attention, and Affect in Healthy College Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: )  Pragya and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to one of three meditation groups or to a no-treatment control group. Meditation occurred in 3 25-minute sessions per week for 8 weeks and was either a sound meditation (Bee sound), color imagery (green) or the combination of the two. They were measured before and after training for short-term memory and positive and negative emotions. They also completed a continuous performance test to measure selective attention, sustained attention, and impulsivity.


They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group the combined meditation groups had significantly greater short-term memory and positive emotions and significantly lower negative emotions, inattention, and impulsivity. The two types of meditation techniques and their combination had somewhat different magnitudes of effects. Sound meditation had greater improvements of attention and reductions in negative emotions, while the color focused meditation group had greater attentiveness and short-term memory. The combined color and sound meditation group had the greatest improvements.


These results demonstrate as has been previously reported that mindfulness practices produce greater short-term memory and positive emotions and significantly lower negative emotions, inattention, and impulsivity. The contribution of the present study is to demonstrate that different meditation techniques produce similar effects but differ in the magnitudes of those effects. This could help to determine which techniques work best for people with different weaknesses. Regardless, meditation appear to improve cognitive and emotional well-being.


So, improve attention, memory, and emotions with meditation.


A critical part of attention (and working memory capacity) is being able to ignore distraction. There has been growing evidence that meditation training (in particular mindfulness meditation) helps develop attentional control, and that this can start to happen very quickly.” – About memory

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Pragya SU, Mehta ND, Abomoelak B, Uddin P, Veeramachaneni P, Mehta N, Moore S, Jean-Francois M, Garcia S, Pragya SC and Mehta DI (2021) Effects of Combining Meditation Techniques on Short-Term Memory, Attention, and Affect in Healthy College Students. Front. Psychol. 12:607573. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.607573


Meditation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focuses on training attention and awareness to foster psycho-emotional well-being and to develop specific capacities such as calmness, clarity, and concentration. We report a prospective convenience-controlled study in which we analyzed the effect of two components of Preksha Dhyāna – buzzing bee sound meditation (Mahapran dhvani) and color meditation (leśyā dhyāna) on healthy college students. Mahapran and leśya dhyāna are two Preksha Dhyāna practices that are based on sound and green color, respectively. The study population represents a suitable target as college students experience different stress factors during the school year. This study measures the individual and combined effects of two techniques (one focusing on sound and one focusing on color), on short-term memory, attention, and affect, in novice meditators. We used a battery of cognitive, performance, and compared results with baseline and control values. We found improved cognition, especially attention, short-term memory, and affect in terms of positivity and reduced negativity. Overall, the two techniques produced variable benefits and subjects showed improved scores over baseline for short-term memory, cognitive function, and overall wellbeing. Further studies are required to understand underlying mechanisms for the observed differences between the two techniques and to elucidate mechanisms underlying the more pronounced and global benefits observed with the combined techniques. These results underscore a need to examine individual components of meditation practices in order to individualize treatment approaches for attention disorders in young adults.


Change Behavior for the Better with Mindfulness

Change Behavior for the Better with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


mindfulness practice supports and facilitates behavior change through training attention, emotion, and self-awareness.” – Yi-Yuan Tang


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 mindfulness can improve healthy behaviors. The research has been accumulating. So, it is reasonable to stop and summarize what has been learned. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Behavior Change.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: )  Schuman-Olivier and colleagues review and summarize the published research on the ability of mindfulness training to promote healthy behaviors.


They report that the published studies found that mindfulness training reduces cravings and produces improvements in alcohol and substance abuse disorders, binge eating disorder, obesity, improves smoking cessation, reduces emotional eating and eating when not hungry and produces weight reduction. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve self-management of chronic diseases, including hypertension, COPD, and diabetes and results in improvements in quality of life and reductions in anxiety and depression. Mindfulness training also reduces impulsive behavior, risky sexual behavior, aggression, and violent behaviors. It also reduces self-injury, suicidal thinking, and suicidal behavior.


The authors go on to produce and discuss a model of how mindfulness training may be improving troubling behaviors. They speculate that mindfulness training produces a general improvement in self-regulation which results in improved control of behavior. This self-regulation is produced by improvements in attention and cognitive control, emotion regulation, and self-related processes, as well as motivation and learning ability. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness training improves behaviors that can lead to or exacerbate illness. It’s actually amazing that such simple practices can have such profound and widespread effects in promoting health and well-being and treating diseases.


So, change behavior for the better with mindfulness.


On your path to create change invite compassion and embrace and accept where you are. Only from a place of compassion will your efforts move into fruition. What is the next compassionate step you can make towards this change today?” – Carley Hauck


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Schuman-Olivier, Z., Trombka, M., Lovas, D. A., Brewer, J. A., Vago, D. R., Gawande, R., Dunne, J. P., Lazar, S. W., Loucks, E. B., & Fulwiler, C. (2020). Mindfulness and Behavior Change. Harvard review of psychiatry, 28(6), 371–394.



Initiating and maintaining behavior change is key to the prevention and treatment of most preventable chronic medical and psychiatric illnesses. The cultivation of mindfulness, involving acceptance and nonjudgment of present-moment experience, often results in transformative health behavior change. Neural systems involved in motivation and learning have an important role to play. A theoretical model of mindfulness that integrates these mechanisms with the cognitive, emotional, and self-related processes commonly described, while applying an integrated model to health behavior change, is needed. This integrative review (1) defines mindfulness and describes the mindfulness-based intervention movement, (2) synthesizes the neuroscience of mindfulness and integrates motivation and learning mechanisms within a mindful self-regulation model for understanding the complex effects of mindfulness on behavior change, and (3) synthesizes current clinical research evaluating the effects of mindfulness-based interventions targeting health behaviors relevant to psychiatric care. The review provides insight into the limitations of current research and proposes potential mechanisms to be tested in future research and targeted in clinical practice to enhance the impact of mindfulness on behavior change.


A growing evidence base supports the benefits of mindfulness for behavior change. A mindful self-regulation model based on an integration of neuroscientific findings describes the complex and synergistic effects of attention/cognitive control, emotion regulation, and self-related processes, as well as motivation and learning mechanisms that may provide a unique pathway toward sustainable behavior change. While evidence supports the impact of mindfulness on behavior change for key health behaviors related to psychiatric practice, more high-quality research is needed, especially with objective measures, larger samples, replication studies, active controls, and formal monitoring of adverse events.474 The field will also benefit from additional research on the impact of integrating compassion practices and from a focus on trauma-sensitive adaptations for diverse populations.


Meditation Practice Does Not Change the Brain or Impulsivity

Meditation Practice Does Not Change the Brain or Impulsivity


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Impulsivity is a characteristic of human behavior that can be both beneficial and detrimental to our everyday lives. For example, the ability to act on impulse may allow us to seize a valuable opportunity, or to make a disastrous decision that we then live to regret.” – Catharine Winstanley


Impulsivity “is a tendency to act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences.” It can lead to taking unnecessary risks with at times disastrous consequences. It can also lead to inappropriate aggressive behavior also potentially leading to disastrous consequences including disciplinary problems and even criminal prosecution. There are some indications that mindfulness can help to reduce impulsivity. But there is a need for more study of this potential benefit of mindfulness.


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 psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. The types of neural changes produced by meditation practice that might underlie changes in impulsivity have not been investigated.


In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Impulsivity and its Neurobiological Correlates in Healthy Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Korponay and colleagues recruited long-term meditators with at least 3 years of experience and meditation naïve adults. They were measured for mindfulness, impulsivity and behavioral inhibition with a go-no-go task. In addition, their brains were scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and their spontaneous eye blinks recorded. Then the meditation naïve participants were randomly assigned to receive either an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, an 8-week health education program, or a wait-list control condition. After treatment they underwent the same measurements.


They found that after the interventions the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group had significantly higher levels of mindfulness but there were no significant changes in impulsivity or behavioral inhibition and no significant differences in brain volumes or connectivity, or in eye blink rates. Hence, short-term mindfulness training did improve mindfulness but did not produce changes in the brain or in impulsivity.


In comparing long-term meditators to meditation naïve participants, they found that the long-term meditators had lower attentional impulsivity, suggesting better attentional control, but higher motor and non-planning impulsivity. The long-term meditators had less striatal gray matter, greater cortico-striatal-thalamic functional connectivity, and lower spontaneous eye-blink rates.


The null findings regarding brain structural changes following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training are curious as prior research has consistently demonstrated that this training produces significant changes in the brain. Only in comparing long-term meditators to meditation naïve participants were significant differences detected. This suggests that the brain difference may have been not been due to the effects of the meditation itself, but rather to brain differences in people who are drawn to long-term meditation practice compared to people who are not drawn.


The present results suggest that neither long-term or short-term mindfulness practice changes impulsivity. Previous research found that mindfulness training reduced impulsivity in individuals who had difficulties with impulse control, prisoners, patients with borderline personality disorder, and out-of-control teenagers. It would appear that mindfulness training is effective in reducing impulsivity in people with low levels of impulse control but not in normal populations. Hence, mindfulness training is helpful for improving impulse control only where it is low to begin with.


It seems the longer you do meditation, the better your brain will be at self-regulation. You don’t have to consume as much energy at rest and you can more easily get yourself into a more relaxed state.” – Bin He


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Korponay, C., Dentico, D., Kral, T., Ly, M., Kruis, A., Davis, K., … Davidson, R. J. (2019). The Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Impulsivity and its Neurobiological Correlates in Healthy Adults. Scientific reports, 9(1), 11963. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-47662-y



Interest has grown in using mindfulness meditation to treat conditions featuring excessive impulsivity. However, while prior studies find that mindfulness practice can improve attention, it remains unclear whether it improves other cognitive faculties whose deficiency can contribute to impulsivity. Here, an eight-week mindfulness intervention did not reduce impulsivity on the go/no-go task or Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), nor produce changes in neural correlates of impulsivity (i.e. frontostriatal gray matter, functional connectivity, and dopamine levels) compared to active or wait-list control groups. Separately, long-term meditators (LTMs) did not perform differently than meditation-naïve participants (MNPs) on the go/no-go task. However, LTMs self-reported lower attentional impulsivity, but higher motor and non-planning impulsivity on the BIS-11 than MNPs. LTMs had less striatal gray matter, greater cortico-striatal-thalamic functional connectivity, and lower spontaneous eye-blink rate (a physiological dopamine indicator) than MNPs. LTM total lifetime practice hours (TLPH) did not significantly relate to impulsivity or neurobiological metrics. Findings suggest that neither short- nor long-term mindfulness practice may be effective for redressing impulsive behavior derived from inhibitory motor control or planning capacity deficits in healthy adults. Given the absence of TLPH relationships to impulsivity or neurobiological metrics, differences between LTMs and MNPs may be attributable to pre-existing differences.


Improve Prisoners’ Self-Directedness with Yoga

Improve Prisoners’ Self-Directedness with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Yoga has changed my life in a lot of ways. I’m so glad I’m doing this, for the confidence-building and the physical aspects. I have mad anxiety—I’d give my life for a Xanax right now—but I don’t need it as much with yoga.” – Keri (Prisoner)


Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.


Contemplative practices are well suited to the prison environment. Mindfulness training teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners. Yoga practice, because of its mindfulness plus physical exercise characteristics, would seem to be ideal for the needs of an incarcerated population. Indeed, it has been shown to be beneficial for prisoners.


In today’s Research News article “Imprisoning Yoga: Yoga Practice May Increase the Character Maturity of Male Prison Inmates.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Kerekes and colleagues recruited male adult prisoners and randomly assigned them to 10 weeks, once a week, for 90 minutes of either yoga training or physical activity. They were measured before and after training for temperament (novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence, and persistence) and character self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendence).


They found that both groups showed significant improvements in novelty seeking, harm avoidance, and self-directedness. The prisoners that practiced yoga had a significantly greater improvement in self-directedness than the physical exercise group. Hence it appears that engaging in exercise in general reduces novelty seeking and harm avoidance and increases self-directedness, but yoga practice produces greater improvements in self-directedness.


Engaging in exercise appears to be beneficial for male prisoners. Novelty seeking tends to drive impulsiveness that is a problem for prisoners. Thus, reducing novelty seeking should improve their behavior. Exercise also appears to increase the prisoner’s ability to control their behavior by increasing self-directedness. Yoga is a disciplined practice. So, it is no surprise that it would produce greater self-discipline in the practitioner. This should assist the prisoner in having greater control of their behavior, which should, in turn, improve their ability to function effectively in prison and in society when they are released.


So, improve prisoners’ self-directedness with yoga.


“[Prisoners] said that it’s improved their mental health and self-awareness. It’s allowed them to better handle the daily difficulties of life in prison. It’s taught them to “respond, not react.” It’s bolstered their relationships with other inmates and with their families outside the prison walls. It’s introduced them to mindfulness. It’s strengthened them mentally and physically. It’s given them a sense of inner peace. Yoga has radically changed these men’s lives for the better.” – Taylor O’Sullivan


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Kerekes, N., Brändström, S., & Nilsson, T. (2019). Imprisoning Yoga: Yoga Practice May Increase the Character Maturity of Male Prison Inmates. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 406. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00406



Background: A specific personality profile, characterized by low character maturity (low scores on the self-directedness and cooperativeness character dimensions) and high scores on the novelty seeking temperament dimension of the temperament and character inventory (TCI), has been associated with aggressive antisocial behavior in male prison inmates. It has also been shown that yoga practiced in Swedish correctional facilities has positive effects on the inmates’ well-being and on risk factors associated with criminal recidivism (e.g., antisocial behavior). In this study, we aimed to investigate whether the positive effect of yoga practice on inmates’ behaviors could be extended to include eventual changes in their personality profile.

Methods: Male prison inmates (N = 111) in Sweden participated in a randomized controlled 10-week long yoga intervention trial. Participants were randomly assigned to either a yoga group (one class a week; n = 57) or a control group (free of choice weekly physical activity; n = 54). All the inmates completed the TCI questionnaire before and after the intervention period as part of an assessment battery.

Results: After the 10-week-long intervention period male inmates scored significantly lower on the novelty seeking and the harm avoidance and significantly higher on the self-directedness dimensions of the TCI. There was a significant medium strong interaction effect between time and group belonging for the self-directedness dimension of character favoring the yoga group.

Conclusion: A 10-week-long yoga practice intervention among male inmates in Swedish correctional facilities increased the inmates’ character maturity, improving such abilities as their capability to take responsibility, feel more purposeful, and being more self-acceptant—features that previously were found to be associated with decreased aggressive antisocial behavior.


Protect the Brain from Age-Related Atrophy with Tai Chi

Protect the Brain from Age-Related Atrophy with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Tai Chi . . improves brain health and can be an effective solution for simple, age-related decline in brain function.” – FAI Education


The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging and to increase brain matter in the elderly.


In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Liu and colleagues recruited older (60 to 70 years of age) adults who had been practicing Tai Chi for at least 10 years and control participants who were matched to the Tai Chi group on age, physical activity and gender. They were measured for mindfulness, depression, impulsivity, and personality. They also underwent brain scanning with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The participants also completed a computerized risk-taking task which had both positive or negative outcomes. They completed emotion ratings after each outcome.


They found that the experienced Tai Chi practitioners had significantly greater emotional stability and took less risks than the control group. Additionally, the Tai Chi group had significantly stronger emotional reactions to both good and bad outcomes in the risk-taking task. The brain scans revealed that the Tai Chi group had significantly greater grey matter in the areas of the brain known as the hippocampus and the thalamus. They also found that the greater the grey matter in the thalamus the greater the levels of mindfulness and emotional stability while the greater the grey matter in the hippocampus the greater the levels of emotional stability and lower levels of neuroticism and risk taking.


These are interesting results but the study is correlational and cross sectional. So, care must be exercised in interpretation of causation. But the fact that the control group was equally physically active as the Tai Chi group is a strength that suggests that the results were due to Tai Chi practice per se and not just to the physical activity produced by Tai Chi practice. The results suggest that Tai Chi practice may help to protect the brain, particularly the thalamus and hippocampus, from age-related degeneration as has been previously reported, and this protection may be associated with greater emotional stability and lower risk taking.


The findings of less risk taking of the elderly Tai Chi participants may be an important observation. The elderly may be vulnerable to injury and falls that can produce serious injuries in this group. One reason that Tai Chi may produce fewer falls in the elderly is that they are being more careful and taking fewer risks. The elderly are also financially vulnerable and may benefit from less financial risk taking in protecting their available resources.


So, protect the brain from age-related atrophy with Tai Chi.


regular practice of Tai Chi could play an important role in promoting both brain and muscle health in older adults. Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise worth exploring at any age.” – Marilyn Wei


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog

They are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Liu S, Li L, Liu Z and Guo X (2019) Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders. Front. Psychol. 10:91. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091


Brain adverse structural changes, especially the atrophy of gray matter, are inevitable in aging. Fortunately, the human brain is plastic throughout its entire life. The current cross-section study aimed to investigate whether long-term Tai Chi exercise could slow gray matter atrophy and explore the possible links among gray matter volume (GMV), long-term Tai Chi experience and emotional stability in a sequential risk-taking task by using voxel-based morphometry. Elders with long-term Tai Chi experience and controls, who were matched to Tai Chi group in age, gender, physical activity level, participated in the study. A T1-weighted multiplanar reconstruction sequence was acquired for each participant. Behaviorally, the Tai Chi group showed higher meditation level, stronger emotional stability and less risk-taking tendency in the sequential risk-taking compared to the control group. Moreover, the results revealed that the GMV of the thalamus and hippocampus were larger in the Tai Chi group compared with the control group. Notably, the GMV of the thalamus was positively correlated with both meditation level and emotional stability. The current study suggested the protective role of long-term Tai Chi exercise at slowing gray matter atrophy, improving the emotional stability and achieving successful aging for elders.


Settle Down Out-of-Control Teens with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“In the last few years, mindfulness has emerged as a way of treating children and adolescents with conditions ranging from ADHD to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression and stress. And the benefits are proving to be tremendous.” – Juliann Garey


The last component of the nervous system to develop is the higher cortical areas that underlying behavioral inhibition; the ability to hold back responses. As a result, the adolescent brain is fully developed to produce behavior and react to the environment, but is defective in the ability to withhold or restrain behaviors when inappropriate. So, adolescents are often impulsive, take unnecessary risks, and can be inappropriately aggressive, leading to disciplinary problems.


This late development of higher level control of behavior is responsible for some troubling statistics. Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population, but they account for 30% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males. Regarding youth violence and aggression, 46% of males, and 26% of females reported they had been in physical fights, one million U.S. students took guns to school and six thousand were kicked out of school for packing weapons, the annual death toll from school shootings has more than doubled, the youth homicide rate increased by 168 percent, and juvenile arrest for possession of weapons, aggravated assault, robbery, and murder have risen more than 50 percent.


It is important for society to control violent and aggressive behavior and late adolescence and young adulthood are periods when the likelihood is high. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce violence and aggression in adults. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate whether mindfulness training may be effective in helping to control the aggressive tendencies of youth. In today’s Research News article “Effect of a Mindfulness Training Program on the Impulsivity and Aggression Levels of Adolescents with Behavioral Problems in the Classroom.” See:

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Franco and colleagues recruited 12-19 year old youths who had multiple incidents of misbehavior in school. The students were randomly assigned to either receive 20-weeks of 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week, of open monitoring meditation, or to a wait list control condition. Before and after training the youths were measured for aggression and impulsivity with self-report psychometric scales.


They found that the meditation group, but not the control group, had significant reductions in overall impulsivity (14%), including significant reductions in cognitive (19%), motor (13%), and non-planned (10%) impulsivity and also significant reductions in physical (14%) and verbal (24%) aggression, and hostility (19%) and anger (16%). All of these effects had large significant effect sizes. Hence, meditation training produced marked reduction in impulsivity and aggression in these troubled adolescents.


These are impressive results and suggest that meditation may be very effective in helping adolescents control their impulsivity and aggression. Gaining control over their behavior may allow them to engage in their education without distraction. Meditation may have this impact as a result of its ability to improve emotion regulation, providing the youths with the ability to cope with emotions in a more positive and adaptive way. It may also act by decreasing rumination and worry and thereby reduce the effects of past issues and worries about the future to intrude on present behavior. Regardless of the explanation, the results are exciting and suggest that meditation practice should be tried for troubled youth in other settings.


So, settle down out-of-control teens with mindfulness.


“It is suggested here that there is a difference between knowing about emotions and knowing your own emotions as they are experienced. In addition to learning about emotions, there is a distinct advantage in learning how to notice what’s happening in the present moment. Attending to and identifying emotions can mitigate the emotional reaction and increase emotional balance and clarity.” –  Tina Barseghian


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Franco C, Amutio A, López-González L, Oriol X and Martínez-Taboada C (2016) Effect of a Mindfulness Training Program on the Impulsivity and Aggression Levels of Adolescents with Behavioral Problems in the Classroom. Front. Psychol. 7:1385. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01385


Objective: The aim of the present study was to analyze the effects of a mindfulness training psycho-educative program on impulsivity and aggression levels in a sample of high school students.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial with pre-test–post-test measurements was applied to an experimental group and a control group (waiting list). The Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS-11) Patton et al. (1995) and the Aggression Questionnaire (Buss and Perry, 1992) were used.

Results: Statistical analyses showed a significant decrease in the levels of impulsivity and aggressiveness in the experimental group compared with the control group. These results have important implications for improving the level of academic engagement and self-efficacy of students and for reducing school failure.

Conclusion: This is one of the first studies showing the effectiveness of mindfulness training at reducing impulsive and aggressive behaviors in the classroom. The efficacy of mindfulness-based programs is emphasized.


Be Less Impulsive with Mindfulness

“The antithetical nature of mindfulness and automatic or impulsive behaviors provides theoretical promise for the efficacy of mindfulness skills in the treatment of impulse control disorders.” – Kelcey J. Stratton


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very serious mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6% of the U.S. population. It involves unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. In addition, 30 to 90 % of BPD cases are associated with high rates of early traumatic experiences including sexual, physical and emotional abuse. BPD is associated with high rates of co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Needless to say it is widespread and debilitating.


Many of these symptoms occur in other mental illnesses. Impulsivity, however, distinguishes BPD from other disorders. In addition, it is the reason that the disorder is dangerous to the individuals as it can propel them, on the spur of the moment, to overreact to anger, take drugs, harm themselves, and even terminate their lives. BPD has not responded well to a variety of therapies with the exception of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DPT). It is significant that a difference between DBT and other therapies is that it emphasizes mindfulness. This suggests that mindfulness training may be essential in treating Borderline Personality Disorder and impulsivity. Indeed, BPD sufferers who are high in mindfulness tend to be low in impulsivity. It would make sense, then, that the mindfulness training occurring in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DPT) may be an effective treatment for the dangerous symptom of impulsivity.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of mindfulness training on different components of impulsivity in borderline personality disorder: results from a pilot randomized study”

Soler and colleagues randomly assigned Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients to receive 10-weeks of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DPT) which was modified to include only Mindfulness Training (MT) or Interpersonal Effectiveness Training (IE). IE is designed to teach patients how to act more effectively in interpersonal interactions. They found that only the Mindfulness Training group showed a significant improvement in three self-reported aspects of impulsivity, motor impulsiveness (acting without forethought); attentional impulsiveness (the tendency to make quick, non-reflexive decisions), and non-planning impulsiveness (failure to prepare for future events). They also measured impulsivity with a series of laboratory tests designed to measure various aspects of impulsivity. They found that the Mindfulness Training group showed improvements in delaying gratification and in time perception.


These results are interesting. They suggest that the Mindfulness Training component of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DPT) may be effective in treating the impulsivity characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) by improving the patients’ ability to delay gratification. Improved time perception may be responsible for better ability to delay gratification. It is important to note that impulsivity usually involves an inability to wait to get what is wanted. So, improved ability to delay gratification would be antithetical to impulsiveness. This may be the underlying mechanism by which mindfulness reduces impulsivity.


As mentioned BPD is a difficult disorder to treat and potentially dangerous to the self and others. It appears that the distinctive feature of BPD, impulsivity, is improved by DBT and that it is the mindfulness training that is responsible. This is particularly important as impulsivity is primarily responsible for the dangerous behaviors of BPD sufferers. It also appears that the mindfulness training acts to reduce impulsivity by improving time perception and the ability to delay gratification.


Impulsivity produces actions reflexively without awareness. Mindfulness training by improving the individual’s awareness of the immediate situation would tend to counteract impulsive action. So, mindfulness training may be essential to DBT’s ability to reduce impulsiveness by making the individual more aware of what they are doing. One cannot be mindful and impulsive at the same time.


So, be less impulsive with mindfulness.


“Decreased impulsivity has significant and wide implications for those suffering from it. This includes less general psychiatric morbidity, improved substance use outcomes, and general improvement in decision making skills, affecting every area of a person’s life in meaningful ways.” – Gisli Kristofersson


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies