Improve Emotion Regulation and Well-Being During Covid-19 with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“A mindfulness practice can help us connect with awareness and let things come and go without our attention getting stuck on it. It can also help us make better choices. Between the emotion and the action, there is a choice, so this can help you to respond rather than to react.” – Anne Dutton
Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the mental and physical health of the population. It has created intense stress both for frontline workers but also for people simply isolating at home. So, there is a need to find ways to improve psychological well-being during the pandemic.
Mindfulness is known to decrease the psychological and physical responses to stress. So, mindfulness training may be helpful in coping with the mental and physical challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. But exposure to others during a pandemic is very dangerous. So, providing mindfulness training online is a preferred method. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a well-established and heavily used mindfulness training technique that employs meditation, body scan, yoga, group discussion and homework. It has been successfully implemented online. But it’s efficacy during a Covid-19 lockdown is not well established.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Increases Mental Wellbeing and Emotion Regulation During the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Synchronous Online Intervention Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.720965/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A ) Sanilevici and colleagues during the first wave Covid-19 lockdown recruited adult participants who enrolled in an online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and a control group who expressed interest in the online program but who were unable to participate. MBSR was administered in 8 weekly, 2.5 hour online meetings along with 30 minutes of daily home practice. The groups were measured before and after MBSR and 1 month later for mindfulness, anxiety, perceived stress, emotion regulation, intolerance of uncertainty, and loneliness.
At baseline they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of anxiety, perceived stress, intolerance of uncertainty, and loneliness and the higher the levels of emotion regulation. They also found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, the group that completed the online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course had significantly lower levels of anxiety and perceived stress and significantly higher levels of emotion regulation. Finally, they found that MBSR lowered anxiety and perceived stress directly and also indirectly by increasing emotion regulation which in turn lowered anxiety and perceived stress. These benefits were still significant one month after the completion of MBSR.
Previous research by others has established that mindfulness training reduces anxiety and perceived stress and improves emotion regulation. The present findings suggest that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course can be successfully implemented online, improving the psychological well-being of individuals during an extremely stressful time. They further demonstrate that MBSR improved psychological well-being directly and through improving emotion regulation. These findings are important as during a pandemic it is not feasible to provide mindfulness-based therapy in person. So, the findings that mindfulness training can be implemented successfully online improving the psychological well-being of individuals in the real world provides a means to help individuals cope with the pandemic and the lockdown.
So, improve emotion regulation and well-being during Covid-19 with mindfulness.
“Mindfulness practice . . . can bring about an understanding and acceptance of transient and ever-changing nature of all our experiences, whether mental (thoughts, emotions, body sensations) or physical (events, things, relationships). This experiential understanding of all phenomena as being “impermanent” might prove to be an important mechanism for promoting positive adaptation to a highly unpredictable and constantly changing landscape of COVID-19 pandemic.” – Elena Antonova
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Sanilevici M, Reuveni O, Lev-Ari S, Golland Y and Levit-Binnun N (2021) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Increases Mental Wellbeing and Emotion Regulation During the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Synchronous Online Intervention Study. Front. Psychol. 12:720965. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.720965
The COVID-19 pandemic imposed extreme living conditions of social distancing, which triggered negative mental health problems and created challenges in seeking mental health support. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been found to enhance wellbeing and mental health by reducing stress and anxiety and improving emotion regulation. Preliminary evidence suggests that online, synchronous MBIs may produce beneficial effects similar to face-to-face programs. However, the effectiveness of such online-MBIs to support mental health in highly stressful times, such as a global pandemic, requires further study. To this end, we investigated the effect of an online 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program on aspects of mental health during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants (N=92) who expressed interest in discounted online-MBSR programs were recruited for the study. The division into experimental and control groups was based on actual enrollment to the courses. Those who enrolled in a program were assigned to the experimental condition and those who decided not to enroll served as controls. Participants were assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 1-month post-intervention for levels of mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, emotion regulation, and intolerance of uncertainty. Differences between the groups were tested using the general linear mixed effects model (GLMM) and Individual Growth Curve Models (IGCM) in intent to treat analysis. The findings indicated that, relative to the control group, MBSR improved mindfulness abilities (p <0.001), decreased anxiety (p <0.001), and stress (p <0.001) and increased emotion regulation (p <0.001). These effects were found to persist 1 month after the end of the program, despite the increased governmental public-health restrictions due to COVID-19 at that time. The ability to tolerate uncertainty, a central characteristic of the pandemic, was not found to be affected by the program. A mediation analysis revealed that the effect of the intervention on mental health improvement was partially mediated by the improvement in emotion regulation. Overall, the findings provide positive evidence for the feasibility of an online-MBSR program to support the mental health of individuals from the general population through the mediation of emotion regulation in challenging times, such as a global pandemic.