Improve Somatic Symptom Disorder with Mindfulness

Improve Somatic Symptom Disorder with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Somatic symptom disorder . . . symptoms cannot be explained by general medical conditions and significantly affect one’s functioning.” – S. Actas

 

According to the American Psychological Association “Somatic symptom disorder involves a person having a significant focus on physical symptoms, such as pain, weakness or shortness of breath, that results in major distress and/or problems functioning. The individual has excessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors relating to the physical symptoms.” Somatic Symptom Disorder occurs in about 5% to 7% of the population, effect people of all ages and is more common in women. It is associated with poor health, problems functioning in daily life, including physical disability, problems with relationships, problems at work or unemployment, other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression and personality disorders, increased suicide risk related to depression, and financial problems due to excessive health care visits. Obviously, this produces major suffering in the patients. But little is known of the causes or treatment of Somatic Symptom Disorder.

 

Somatic Symptom Disorder is frequently treated with antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs with limited success. It often co-occurs with anxiety and depression. Since, mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety, depression, and somatization, it makes sense to investigate the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies for the treatment of Somatic Symptom Disorder.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on Psychological Symptoms, Quality of Life, and Symptom Severity in Patients with Somatic Symptom Disorder.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8095256/ ) Zargar and colleagues recruited patients with Somatic Symptom Disorder who were on continuing treatment with the antidepressant drug, venlafaxine, and randomly assigned them to either 8 weeks of once a week treatment for 2 hours of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or no further treatment. They were measured before and after treatment for Somatic Symptom Disorder symptom severity, including anxiety, depression, and stress, health-related quality of life, and patient health.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, the group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had significantly lower levels of Somatic Symptom Disorder symptom severity, including significantly lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress and significant reductions in physical symptoms and increases in physical health. Hence, MBSR treatment significantly improved not only the psychological symptoms but also the physical symptoms of Somatic Symptom Disorder.

 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness training program that includes training and practice in meditation, body scan, and yoga and includes group discussion. The results demonstrate that MBSR is an effective treatment in addition to antidepressant drugs for Somatic Symptom Disorder. But since there wasn’t any follow-up data obtained it is not known how lasting is the symptom relief. It will be interesting in the future to examine if MBSR is effective as a stand-alone treatment and if its effects persist after the cessation of treatment.

 

So, improve Somatic Symptom Disorder with mindfulness.

 

mindfulness-based cognitive therapy that can be useful in the treatment of somatic disorders.” – Recovery Village

 

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

 

Zargar, F., Rahafrouz, L., & Tarrahi, M. J. (2021). Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on Psychological Symptoms, Quality of Life, and Symptom Severity in Patients with Somatic Symptom Disorder. Advanced biomedical research, 10, 9. https://doi.org/10.4103/abr.abr_111_19

 

Abstract

Background:

Patients with somatic symptom disorder (SSD) had a poor quality of life and suffered from depression, anxiety, and stress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a psychological treatment with remarkable effects on several psychological disorders. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of the MBSR program on psychological symptoms, quality of life, and symptom severity in patients with SSD.

Materials and Methods:

The patients with SSD were randomly divided into two groups of receiving venlafaxine alone and venlafaxine with an 8-week MBSR program. Depression, anxiety, and stress with their severities were assessed along with the quality of life, the number of physical symptoms and their severities, as well as SSD severity before and after the intervention. Subsequently, the results were compared between the two groups.

Results:

This study included 37 patients with SSD who referred to Shariati Psychosomatic Clinic, Isfahan, Iran, with a mean age of 37.08 ± 8.26 years. It should be noted that 37.8% of the participants were male. The intervention group obtained significantly lower scores in depression, anxiety, stress, and their severities, compared to the control group. Moreover, the number of physical symptoms, their severity, and the severity of SSD were significantly decreased more in the intervention group rather than the controls.

Conclusion:

The MBSR accompanied by prescribing venlafaxine can significantly reduce the severity of SSD, as well as the number and severity of physical symptoms. Moreover, it can reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and their severity. The MBSR can be used as complementary medicine for the treatment of patients with SSD.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8095256/

 

Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Medical Students with Mindfulness

Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Medical Students with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Medical students are being trained to have 100 things on their mind at all times. It’s harder and harder to focus on one thing explicitly. [Mindfulness] gives you that skill to know that you can focus on everything at once, but when you need to focus on one thing, you can be present with it.” – Chloe Zimmerman

 

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

 

Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. It would be best to provide techniques to combat burnout early in a medical career. Studying medicine can be extremely stressful and many students show distress and express burnout symptoms. The undergraduate medical student level may be an ideal time to intervene.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-based stress reduction for medical students: a narrative review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8105581/ )  Polle and colleagues review and summarize the published research on the effectiveness of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to improve the psychological well-being of undergraduate medical students. MBSR includes training in meditation, body scan, and yoga, and group discussions normally over an 8-week period. They identified 9 published studies.

 

They report that the published research found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) produced significant increases in undergraduate medical students mood, mental health, satisfaction with life, and self-compassion and significant reductions in psychological distress, perceived stress, and depression. One study followed up these students 6 years later and found persisting effects of MBSR.

 

The published research paints a clear picture that participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program produces lasting benefits for the psychological health of undergraduate medical students. This is important as stress and burnout is prevalent in the medical professions and intervening early may prevent or ameliorate future problems. Incorporation of MBSR into the undergraduate medical curriculum should be considered.

 

So, improve the psychological well-being of medical students with mindfulness.

 

in medical students, higher empathy, lower anxiety, and fewer depression symptoms have been reported by students after participating in MSBR. In summary, mindfulness meditation may be used to elicit positive emotions, minimize negative affect and rumination, and enable effective emotion regulation.”- Michael Minichiello

 

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

 

Polle, E., & Gair, J. (2021). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for medical students: a narrative review. Canadian medical education journal, 12(2), e74–e80. https://doi.org/10.36834/cmej.68406

 

Abstract

Background

Medical students are at high risk of depression, distress and burnout, which may adversely affect patient safety. There has been growing interest in mindfulness in medical education to improve medical student well-being. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a commonly used, standardized format for teaching mindfulness skills. Previous research has suggested that MBSR may be of particular benefit for medical students. This narrative review aims to further investigate the benefits of MBSR for undergraduate medical students.

Methods

A search of the literature was performed using MedLine, Embase, ERIC, PSYCInfo, and CINAHL to identify relevant studies. A total of 102 papers were identified with this search. After review and application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, nine papers were included in the study.

Results

MBSR training for medical students was associated with increased measures of psychological well-being and self-compassion, as well as improvements in stress, psychological distress and mood. Evidence for effect on empathy was mixed, and the single paper measuring burnout showed no effect. Two studies identified qualitative themes which provided context for the quantitative results.

Conclusions

MBSR benefits medical student well-being and decreases medical student psychological distress and depression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8105581/

 

Improve Health and Healthy Behaviors with Yoga and Pilates

Improve Health and Healthy Behaviors with Yoga and Pilates

 

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.” – Rachael Link

 

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, healthy behaviors, 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 yoga and Pilates on health and healthy behaviors.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Impacts of Pilates and Yoga on Health-Promoting Behaviors and Subjective Health Status.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8038747/ )  Lim and colleagues recruited adults aged 30-49 years who did not have experience with yoga or Pilates and randomly assigned them to receive either no treatment or a 50 minute, 3 times per week for 8 weeks program of either yoga or Pilates. They were measured before and after training for health behaviors and health status.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control group both the yoga and Pilates groups had significant improvements in health status and health related behaviors including eating healthy, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, being responsible for their own health, maintaining healthy social relationships, managing stress, and emphasizing spiritual growth. But in all cases Pilates was significantly superior to yoga.

 

Both Pilates and yoga are exercises. So, the results demonstrate that engaging in exercises results in improvements in health and health behaviors. Further they demonstrate that Pilates produce superior results. “Pilates focuses more on core control and posture development. In contrast, yoga focuses more on static stretching and flexibility.” These differences in the programs may be responsible for Pilates superior effects on health behaviors.

 

The results, however do not show that yoga and Pilates are superior to other exercises such as aerobic training. Hence, it is not clear whether components specific to yoga and Pilates are important for health or if any exercise would produce comparable results.In addition, the control condition was no treatment. This leaves open the possibility that the participants expectation about the effectiveness of exercise were responsible for the results rather than the exercises themselves. It remains for future studies to address these issues.

 

Nevertheless, promoting health related behaviors are important for the health and well-being of the individual. Both yoga and Pilates were effective in doing this. So, participation in these exercises should be encouraged.

 

So, improve health and healthy behaviors with yoga and Pilates.

 

The benefits of various yoga techniques have been professed to improve body flexibility, performance, stress reduction, attainment of inner peace, and self-realization.” – Manoj Sharma

 

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

 

Lim, E. J., & Hyun, E. J. (2021). The Impacts of Pilates and Yoga on Health-Promoting Behaviors and Subjective Health Status. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(7), 3802. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073802

 

Abstract

This study investigates whether Pilates and yoga lead people to adopt generally health-promoting lifestyle elements and feel better about their physical and mental fitness. To this end, we designed an 8 week exercise program of Pilates and yoga reviewed by veteran practitioners and conducted an experimental study through which we collected the data from 90 volunteered adult subjects between ages 30 and 49 (mean age = 35.47), equally represented by women and men without previous experience with Pilates or yoga. In the 8 week long experiment, we assigned the subjects to three groups, where subjects in the two exercise groups regularly took part in either Pilates or yoga classes, and the control group participated in neither exercise classes. All participants completed two surveys, the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile (HPLP II) and the Health Self-Rating Scale (HSRS), before and after their assigned program. In our analysis of pre- and post-treatment differences across the three groups, we ran ANOVA, ANCOVA, and Sheffé test, implemented using SPSS PASW Statistics 18.00. Our results indicate that Pilates and yoga groups exhibited a higher engagement in health-promoting behaviors than the control group after the program. Subjective health status, measured with HSRS, also improved significantly among Pilates and yoga participants compared to those in the control group after the program. The supplementary analysis finds no significant gender-based difference in these impacts. Overall, our results confirm that Pilates and yoga help recruit health-promoting behaviors in participants and engender positive beliefs about their subjective health status, thereby setting a positive reinforcement cycle in motion. By providing clear evidence that the promotion of Pilates or yoga can serve as an effective intervention strategy that helps individuals change behaviors adverse to their health, this study offers practical implications for healthcare professionals and public health officials alike.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8038747/

 

Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Caregivers with Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Caregivers with Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Being more aware of our present moment experience also helps with self-care, something that caregivers often overlook. With a mindfulness practice you can notice sooner when you feel tired, or are having an emotional experience, and make sure you stop and look after yourself.” – Naomi Stoll

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “The Short- and Long-term Causal Relationships Between Self-compassion, Trait Mindfulness, Caregiver Stress, and Depressive Symptoms in Family Caregivers of Patients with Lung Cancer.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096886/)  Hsieh and colleagues recruited family caregivers of patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.  To investigate longitudinal changes, they were administered questionnaires initially and 2, 5, and 8 months later. They were measured for mindfulness, depression, perceived stress, and self-compassion.

 

They found that over time depressed caregivers had significant declines in their depression levels. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of depression and perceived stress, and the higher the levels of self-compassion and the higher the levels of depression the lower the levels of self-compassion and the higher the levels of perceived stress. Further they found that over the 4 measurements self-compassion at time 1 was associated with higher mindfulness at time 2 which was associated with lower perceived stress at time 3 which was associated with lower depression at time 4.

 

It has been well established that mindfulness is associated with greater self-compassion and lower stress and depression. The present study found that depression tends to decrease over time associated with self-compassion and mindfulness. In particular self-compassion appears to be important for lowering caregiver depression levels over time and it does so by being associated with higher mindfulness which is associated with lower stress levels which, in turn, are associated with lower depression.

 

The present study is correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But, in combination with prior manipulative research it can be suggested that training in self-compassion and mindfulness should be very beneficial for caregivers of lung cancer patients lowering their stress and depression.

 

So, improve the psychological well-being of caregivers with self-compassion and mindfulness.

 

The big open secret is that the key to reducing caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue lies in what can be construed to some as the seemingly counterintuitive wisdom of mindfulness.“ – Audrey Meinertzhagen

 

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

 

Hsieh, C. C., Lin, Z. Z., Ho, C. C., Yu, C. J., Chen, H. J., Chen, Y. W., & Hsiao, F. H. (2021). The Short- and Long-term Causal Relationships Between Self-compassion, Trait Mindfulness, Caregiver Stress, and Depressive Symptoms in Family Caregivers of Patients with Lung Cancer. Mindfulness, 1–10. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01642-4

 

Abstract

Objectives

Using a prospective longitudinal design, this paper examines a serial mediation model of the associations between self-compassion, trait mindfulness, caregiver stress, and depressive symptoms among the family caregivers of patients with lung cancer.

Methods

A four-wave design was used, with initial assessment (T1) and three follow-ups, at the 2nd month (T2), the 5th month (T3), and the 8th month (T4). A total of 123 family caregivers completed the baseline measurements, including caregiver stress, self-compassion, trait mindfulness, and depressive symptoms. Data were analyzed by serial mediation models to determine the causal ordering of these variables.

Results

Nearly one-quarter of the family caregivers suffered from clinically significant depressive symptoms and the severity of their depression remained unchanged throughout the 8-month follow-up period. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal path analyses revealed that the relationship between self-compassion and depressive symptoms was mediated sequentially by trait mindfulness and caregiver stress. The subscale analysis indicated that the association of higher compassionate action with fewer depressive symptoms was through chain-mediating effects of higher mindful awareness and lower caregiver stress.

Conclusions

Family caregivers who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to have more mindfulness; greater mindfulness leads to lower levels of perceived caregiving stress which, in turn, links to fewer symptoms of depression. Both self-compassion and mindfulness could be regarded as protective factors for caregivers to reduce caregiving stress and depression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096886/

 

Mindfulness Improves Physical and Mental Well-Being

Mindfulness Improves Physical and Mental Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“scientists have found that practicing mindfulness is associated with changes in the structure and function of the brain as well as changes in our body’s response to stress, suggesting that this practice has important impacts on our physical and emotional health.” –  University of Minnesota

 

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

 

Research on mindfulness effects on mental and physical health has exploded over the last few decades. So, it makes sense to pause and examine what has been learned. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-based interventions: an overall review” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8083197/ )  Zhang and colleagues reviewed and summarized the randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses of the effects of mindfulness-based practices on mental and physical health.

 

They report that the published research studies and meta-analyses found that mindfulness-based practices produced significant improvements in mental health including anxiety, depression, anger, prosocial behavior, loneliness, physiological and psychological indicators of stress, insomnia, eating disorders, addictions, psychoses, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism. They also report that mindfulness-based practices produced significant improvements in physical health including pain, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), aggression, and violence.

 

In addition, mindfulness-based practices produced safe, cost-effective improvements in professional and healthcare settings, in schools, and in the workplace. Further they report that mindfulness-based practices produced significant changes in the structure and activity of the nervous system, improvements in immune functioning and physiological markers of stress.

 

The review of the published research has provided a compelling case for the utilization of mindfulness-based practices for a myriad of psychological and physical problems in humans of all ages with and without disease. The range and depth of effects are unprecedented making a strong case for the routine training in mindfulness for the improvement of their well-being.

 

So, mindfulness improves physical and mental well-being.

 

engaging in mindfulness meditation cultivates our ability to both focus and broaden our attention, which is a practical way to elicit psychological well-being.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

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

 

Zhang, D., Lee, E., Mak, E., Ho, C. Y., & Wong, S. (2021). Mindfulness-based interventions: an overall review. British medical bulletin, ldab005. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldab005

 

Abstract

Introduction

This is an overall review on mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs).

Sources of data

We identified studies in PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, AMED, Web of Science and Google Scholar using keywords including ‘mindfulness’, ‘meditation’, and ‘review’, ‘meta-analysis’ or their variations.

Areas of agreement

MBIs are effective for improving many biopsychosocial conditions, including depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, addiction, psychosis, pain, hypertension, weight control, cancer-related symptoms and prosocial behaviours. It is found to be beneficial in the healthcare settings, in schools and workplace but further research is warranted to look into its efficacy on different problems. MBIs are relatively safe, but ethical aspects should be considered. Mechanisms are suggested in both empirical and neurophysiological findings. Cost-effectiveness is found in treating some health conditions.

Areas of controversy

Inconclusive or only preliminary evidence on the effects of MBIs on PTSD, ADHD, ASD, eating disorders, loneliness and physical symptoms of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and respiratory conditions. Furthermore, some beneficial effects are not confirmed in subgroup populations. Cost-effectiveness is yet to confirm for many health conditions and populations.

Growing points

Many mindfulness systematic reviews and meta-analyses indicate low quality of included studies, hence high-quality studies with adequate sample size and longer follow-up period are needed.

Areas timely for developing research

More research is needed on online mindfulness trainings and interventions to improve biopsychosocial health during the COVID-19 pandemic; Deeper understanding of the mechanisms of MBIs integrating both empirical and neurophysiological findings; Long-term compliance and effects of MBIs; and development of mindfulness plus (mindfulness+) or personalized mindfulness programs to elevate the effectiveness for different purposes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8083197/

Spirituality Improves Well-Being During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Spirituality Improves Well-Being During the Covid-19 Pandemic

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

It is now clear that meeting spiritual needs and supporting religious and spiritual coping can be a major contributor, not only to patient experience, but also to medical outcomes and cost savings,” – The Beryl Institute

 

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 for frontline workers but also for people simply isolating at home.

 

Religion and spirituality have been promulgated as solutions to the challenges of life. 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. Perhaps, then, spirituality can be helpful in relieving stress and improve coping with the mental and physical challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meaning-Based Coping and Spirituality During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Mediating Effects on Subjective Well-Being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.646572/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1616048_69_Psycho_20210504_arts_A )   Arslan and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete measures of perceived coronavirus risk, stress because of coronavirus, subjective well-being, spiritual well-being, and meaning based coping.

 

They found that the higher the levels of spiritual well-being the lower the levels of stress because of coronavirus and the higher the levels of subjective well-being and meaning based coping. They also found that the higher the levels of stress because of coronavirus the lower the levels of subjective well-being, spiritual well-being, and meaning based coping. Structural Equation modelling revealed that perceived coronavirus risk was associated with higher levels of stress because of coronavirus which was, in turn, associated with lower levels of subjective well- being, not directly, but indirectly through associations with lower levels of spiritual well-being, and meaning based coping.

 

These results are correlational so no causal conclusions can be reached. But it is clear that the students’ perceptions of their personal risk of being infected was associated with feeling stressed and this was associated with lower levels of feelings of well-being. This is all very reasonable. This stress, however, appears to affect well-be being by being associated with lower spirituality and lower coping with the stress by finding meaning in life.

 

The pandemic and the associated stress are beyond the control of the students. But engaging in spirituality and searching for meaning are not. So, these findings suggest that the students, and by extension, everyone else, may be able to deal more effectively with the pandemic by engaging in spiritual practices to help find meaning in life. More research is needed to examine this hypothesis.

 

So, spirituality improves well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic

 

COVID-19 has generated a crisis of spiritual distress in healthcare settings that must prioritize urgent clinical symptom and infection control. That said, many patients are suffering greatly from spiritual distress as well: existential distress, struggles with uncertainty, despair, hopelessness, isolation, feelings of abandonment by God or others, grief, and the need for reconciliation.” – George Washington University

 

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

 

Arslan G and Yıldırım M (2021) Meaning-Based Coping and Spirituality During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Mediating Effects on Subjective Well-Being. Front. Psychol. 12:646572. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.646572

 

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected the Turkish population. During the pandemic, people with high coronavirus stress are at risk of experiencing poor subjective well-being. There is no research investigating the role of meaning-based coping and spirituality in explaining the link between coronavirus stress and subjective well-being. This study examined the mediating roles of meaning-based coping and spiritual well-being in the link between coronavirus stress and subjective well-being in young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sample included 427 young adults (71% female), ranging in age between 18 and 48 years (M = 21.06; SD = 2.62). Turkish young adults completed an online survey, including measures of coronavirus stress, subjective well-being, meaning-based coping, and spiritual well-being. The results indicate that greater meaning-based coping and spiritual well-being mediated decreases in the adverse impacts of coronavirus stress on subjective well-being. These results suggest that the importance of a combination of meaning-based coping and spirituality processes mitigate the adverse effects of stress on well-being during the coronavirus pandemic. Interventions focusing on meaning-based coping and spirituality in those experiencing high coronavirus stress are urgently needed to improve the mental health and well-being of young adults.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.646572/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1616048_69_Psycho_20210504_arts_A

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being and Emotion Regulation with a Mindfulness Smartphone App

Improve Psychological Well-Being and Emotion Regulation with a Mindfulness Smartphone App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

We know that the effect of this pandemic on people’s mental health is huge. . . Through the app . . You are led through a multi-sensory process of imagining yourself in a particular situation. . . Those techniques can in fact help people to reduce depression, reduce anxiety, and improve their mood,” – Judith Gordon

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. But 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 with smartphone apps has 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 via smartphone apps can be effective for improving the health and well-being of the participants.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Self-Compassion and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Mobile Intervention (Serene) for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress: Promoting Adaptive Emotional Regulation and Wisdom.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648087/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1616048_69_Psycho_20210504_arts_A ) Al-Refae and colleagues recruited adults and assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to receive a 4-week program of mindfulness, self-compassion, and cognitive restructuring training delivered by a smartphone app (Serene). They were measured before and after training for depression, stress, anxiety, self-compassion, wisdom, psychological well-being, and subjective well-being.

 

They found that in comparison to the wait-list group, after the 4-weeks of training the participants that received the mindfulness training had significant decreases in depression, anxiety, perceived stress self-judgement, isolation, and overidentification and significant increases in self-compassion, common humanity, mindfulness, and emotion regulation. In other words, the participants had improvements in psychological health and well-being.

 

Previous research has established that mindfulness training decreases depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and self-judgement and increases self-compassion, and emotion regulation. The contribution of the present study was demonstrating that mindfulness training with a smartphone app was also capable of producing these same benefits. This improves the scalability and convenience of training and reduces the cost, expanding the number of people who can benefit from mindfulness training.

 

So, improve psychological well-being and emotion regulation with a mindfulness smartphone app.

 

The Serene app features support videos that introduce users to meditation and other safe activities. . . It offers more than 250 activities and provides link to . . . mental-health support services, including crisis centers. This app is for all ages and is meant to help track your emotions and mood swings.” – Fontaine Glenn

 

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

 

Al-Refae M, Al-Refae A, Munroe M, Sardella NA and Ferrari M (2021) A Self-Compassion and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Mobile Intervention (Serene) for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress: Promoting Adaptive Emotional Regulation and Wisdom. Front. Psychol. 12:648087. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648087

 

Introduction: Many individuals and families are currently experiencing a high level of COVID-19-related stress and are struggling to find helpful coping mechanisms. Mindfulness-based interventions are becoming an increasingly popular treatment for individuals experiencing depression and chronic levels of stress. The app (Serene) draws from scholarly evidence on the efficacy of mindfulness meditations and builds on the pre-existing apps by incorporating techniques that are used in some therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to a 4-week mindfulness and self-compassion-based cognitive smartphone intervention (Serene) or a wait-list control group. They were instructed to engage in self-compassion and mindfulness practices and a cognitive restructuring task. They also completed measures that evaluated their levels of depression, stress, anxiety, self-compassion, wisdom, psychological well-being, and subjective well-being. The intervention group was also instructed to track their weekly engagement with the app. Standardized effect sizes for between-group differences were calculated using Cohen’s d for complete case analyses.

Results: Complete case analyses from baseline to the end of this randomized controlled trial demonstrated significant moderate between-group differences for depressive symptoms (d = −0.43) and decisiveness (d = 0.34). Moderate between-group differences were also found for self-compassion (d = 0.6) such that significant improvements in self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness and decreases in self-judgement, isolation, and overidentification were observed. A small between-group difference was found for emotional regulation (d = 0.28). Moreover, a significant moderate within-group decrease in stress (d = −0.52) and anxiety symptoms (d = −0.47) was also observed in the intervention group.

Conclusions: Serene is an effective intervention that promotes increased levels of self-compassion and emotional regulation. Engaging with Serene may help reduce depressive symptoms through mindfulness, self-compassion, and cognitive restructuring which help reduce overidentification with one’s negative emotions. As individuals rebalance their thinking through cognitive restructuring, they can identify the varying stressors in their life, develop action plans and engage in adaptive coping strategies to address them. Serene may promote greater self-understanding which may provide one with a more balanced perspective on their current upsetting situations to positively transform their challenges during the pandemic.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648087/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1616048_69_Psycho_20210504_arts_A

 

Reduce Stress and Anxiety about Covid-19 with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress and Anxiety about Covid-19 with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Even as states move forward with re-opening, the psychological consequences of coronavirus will be long-lasting. Mindfulness can be cultivated by anyone as one way to improve mental health amidst the uncertainty.” – Julie Dunn

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the mental and physical health of the population. It has created intense stress both for frontline workers but also for people simply isolating at home. Mindfulness is known to decrease the psychological and physical responses to stress. So, mindfulness training may be helpful in coping with the mental and physical challenges resulting from the stress produced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In today’s Research News article “Trait mindfulness is negatively associated with distress related to COVID-19.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8062409/ ) Dillard and colleagues in their first study conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, recruited healthy college students who had never been diagnosed with Covid-19 and had them complete measures of mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, worry about coronavirus, and their anticipated negative reactions to Covid-19 infection.

 

They found that the higher the levels of students’ mindfulness the lower the levels of perceived stress, anxiety, worry about coronavirus, and anticipated negative reactions to Covid-19 infection. These relationships were still significant even after accounting for the general health of the students.

 

In their second study conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, they recruited healthy community adults aged between 25 and 73 years. They had them complete the same measures as in study 1, along with additional measures of depression and coping strategies. Similar to study 1, they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of perceived stress, anxiety, worry about coronavirus, and anticipated negative reactions to Covid-19 infection and additionally, depression levels. These relationships were still significant even after accounting for the general health of the adults. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the greater the use of positive coping strategies and the lower the use of negative coping strategies. Such as substance abuse and denial.

 

In many ways the present results replicate previous findings that mindfulness is associated with lower the levels of perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and worry and greater use of positive coping strategies, and better mental health during Covid-19. The present study finds these relationships between mindfulness and mental health specifically linked to Covid-19. They also suggest that mindfulness may produce better coping and this may be responsible for the better mental health.

 

The studies, however, were correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that mindfulness training may be helpful in producing better coping mechanisms to the stress of the pandemic, reducing the resultant mental health problems of both college students and older adults.

 

So, reduce stress and anxiety about Covid-19 with mindfulness.

 

With COVID-19 front and center of nearly every aspect of life . . . under the surface, many people are grieving the loss of their former lives. “It’s not just the kind of grief you feel when a loved one dies—it’s grief created by so much uncertainty. We liked the way things were.” – Yale Medicine

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Dillard, A. J., & Meier, B. P. (2021). Trait mindfulness is negatively associated with distress related to COVID-19. Personality and individual differences, 179, 110955. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2021.110955

 

Abstract

Research suggests that mindfulness is associated with psychological health including a healthier response to stressors.

Objective

This research tested associations between trait mindfulness and mental health factors related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Methods

Two studies (Study 1 N = 248 college students; Study 2 N = 300 U.S adults) assessed trait mindfulness, perceived stress and anxiety, worry about the coronavirus, and anticipated negative affect of a coronavirus diagnosis. Additionally, Study 2 assessed depressive symptoms and coping with the coronavirus.

Results

In both studies, findings indicated that individuals higher in trait mindfulness reported less stress and anxiety. Higher mindfulness in both studies was also associated with less worry about the virus and anticipating less negative affect if one gets the virus. In Study 2, trait mindfulness was negatively related to depression, and numerous associations between mindfulness and coping emerged, showing higher trait mindfulness was associated with healthier strategies in coping with coronavirus.

Conclusions

These data are consistent with research that has revealed that those who think and act more mindfully are less stressed and anxious. By revealing these associations with mindfulness in the context of a real-world, novel stressor, this research makes an important contribution to the literature.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8062409/

 

Worldview and Existential Search are Related to Stress Responding

Worldview and Existential Search are Related to Stress Responding

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Faith is one way many people cope with difficult events to promote mental well-being. However, faith can be a complicated part of a person’s identity.” – Jamie Aten

 

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.

 

An individual’s worldview is inversely related to existential search and strong existential search is an indicator of an insecure worldview. An insecure worldview may influence the relationship of religion and spirituality with stress responding.  Hence, there is a need to investigate the relationships of worldview, religion, spirituality with stress responding.

 

In today’s Research News article “Worldview Under Stress: Preliminary Findings on Cardiovascular and Cortisol Stress Responses Predicted by Secularity, Religiosity, Spirituality, and Existential Search.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068247/ )  Schnell and colleagues recruited college students and selected students who professed being religious, spiritual, atheist, or agnostic. They completed measures of atheism. spirituality, religiosity, existential search, anxiety, depression, blood pressure, heart rate, and salivary cortisol. They were measured for their responses to social stress by giving a speech in front of two researchers with video cameras.

 

They found that religious participants had significantly better responses to social stress as measured by systolic blood pressure and heart rates while atheists had significantly worse responding. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of existential search the higher the levels of stress responses. Spiritual students had significantly higher levels of existential search.

 

The results of this study suggest that people with different worldviews (religious, spiritual, atheist, or agnostic) have different responses to stress with religious students the best and atheists the worst. The results also suggest that the differences may be due to differences in existential search. A sample question from the measure of existential search is “As far as my worldview is concerned, I am in constant development.” This suggests that having a settled worldview reduces stress responding. Spirituality is characterized by high existential search suggesting that these individuals see themselves as in a process of continual development and this appears to be the reason for their stress responses. Atheism is thought to be a settled world view. But the individual has no higher power to look to for help when stressed. This may be why they have the highest levels of stress responding; it’s all up to themselves.

 

These results are interesting but do not reveal causation as the kinds of individuals drawn to the different worldviews may also be the kinds of individuals who differ in stress responding. This is a question that is impossible to resolve as worldview cannot be manipulated to establish causation. Nevertheless, individuals who differ in worldview, differ in stress responding, perhaps underlying the different relationships of religiosity and spirituality with health and well-being.

 

So, worldview and existential search are related to stress responding.

 

Research has shown that religion and spirituality can help people cope with the effects of everyday stress. One study found that everyday spiritual experiences helped older adults better cope with negative feelings and enhanced positive feelings.” – Elizabeth Scott

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Schnell, T., Fuchs, D., & Hefti, R. (2020). Worldview Under Stress: Preliminary Findings on Cardiovascular and Cortisol Stress Responses Predicted by Secularity, Religiosity, Spirituality, and Existential Search. Journal of religion and health, 59(6), 2969–2989. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-020-01008-5

 

Abstract

This study reports preliminary findings on the hypothesis that worldview can predict cardiovascular and cortisol responses to social stress. Based on theory and previous findings, we assumed that worldview security would provide a basis for stress resilience. Accordingly, religious and atheist individuals were expected to show higher stress resilience than spiritual and agnostic participants. Likewise, dimensional measures of religiosity and atheism were hypothesized to predict decreased, and existential search—indicating worldview insecurity—was hypothesized to predict increased physiological stress responses. Subjects included 50 university students who completed online questionnaires and took part in a standardized social stress test (Trier Social Stress Test). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP), heart rate (HR), and salivary cortisol (SC) were assessed at baseline, immediately after stress testing, and during a forty-minute recovery period. Worldview comparisons revealed lower cardiovascular stress responses among religious than among atheist and spiritual participants and particularly high baseline SC among spiritual participants. Across the entire sample, existential search showed substantial positive correlations with SBP, HR, and SC stress parameters. The findings suggest that worldview security might partly explain the health benefits often associated with religion.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7677289/

 

Improve Prisoner’s Physical and Psychological Well-Being with Mindfulness

Improve Prisoner’s Physical and Psychological Well-Being with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“inmates participating in a 20-24 week meditation program showed a reduction in trouble sleeping, improved anger management capabilities, and lower levels of stress and anxiety.” – Mindfulness Strategies

 

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 and to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Pragmatic Study of the Impact of a Brief Mindfulness Intervention on Prisoners and Staff in a Category B Prison and Men Subject to Community-Based Probation Supervision.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7780272/ )  Davies and colleagues in the first of 2 studies recruited prisoners and staff and provided them with 8 2-hours sessions of mindfulness training. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, provocation of anger, burnout, anxiety, depression, impulse control, and heart rate variability. They also measured prisoners and staff who refused participation in the mindfulness training.

 

They found that staff had significantly lower stress levels and heart rate variability than prisoners. In comparison to baseline both the prisoners and the staff had significant increases in mindfulness and heart rate variability and decreases in perceived stress. In the second study they recruited individuals on probation and allocated them to receive either mindfulness training or no intervention. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness. They did not find any significant changes in mindfulness after the intervention.

 

The studies were designed based upon pragmatic conditions in the prison and with probation and as a result were not randomized. In addition, there were high attrition rates; 48% of the prison participants and 57% of the community participants did not complete the study. This raises the possibility that the observed effects of mindfulness training were due to the experimental contaminant of experimental mortality, where participants who did not respond to the treatment dropped out leaving only those who thought they were improving in the study.

 

But prior better controlled research has demonstrated that mindfulness training improves the well-being of prisoners. So, the improvements in mindfulness and stress levels observed in the present study were probably due to the training. The increase in heart rate variability observed after training is an indicator of physiological relaxation. So, the mindfulness training in the prison reduced subjective stress and a physiological indicator of stress.

 

So, improve prisoner’s physical and psychological well-being with mindfulness.

 

I’ve known inmates who have, as a result of their meditation practice, move from being violent streetfighters to gentle protectors of weaker prisoners. I’ve seen inmates develop an extraordinary amount of patience with exceedingly trying circumstances. I’ve seen seemingly macho men show a tender concern for others. In short, I’ve seen people who have committed some of the most serious crimes possible — people that some might describe as “animals” or “beyond hope” — becoming better people.” – Bodhipaksa

 

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

 

Davies, J., Ugwudike, P., Young, H., Hurrell, C., & Raynor, P. (2021). A Pragmatic Study of the Impact of a Brief Mindfulness Intervention on Prisoners and Staff in a Category B Prison and Men Subject to Community-Based Probation Supervision. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 65(1), 136–156. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X20944664

 

Abstract

Objectives:

This article presents two studies assessing the impact of mindfulness in prison (prisoners and staff) and non-custodial settings.

Method:

Study 1—prisoners (n = 17) and staff (n = 15) in a UK prison completed a mindfulness program; 16 individuals acted as a single time point comparison. Data were collected using self-report, computer based and physiological measurement. Study 2—men under community probation supervision were allocated to mindfulness (completed, n = 28) or TAU (n = 27). Data were collected using self-report mindfulness measures.

Results:

Study 1—statistically significant (increases in mindfulness skills (η2p = .234 to η2p = .388), cognitive control (η2p = .28), and heart rate variability (SDNN; η2p = .41) along with significant decreases in stress (η2p = .398) were found. In study 2, the mindfulness group showed non-significant improvements in mindfulness skills.

Conclusion:

The findings suggest brief mindfulness interventions could make an important contribution to offender rehabilitation and custodial staff wellbeing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7780272/