Spirituality is Associated with Fewer Suicide Attempts

Spirituality is Associated with Fewer Suicide Attempts

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality can engender the perspective that things happen for some reason and serve a greater purpose. This, in turn, deploys our attention toward the potential for a brighter future, which can create a sense of optimism even when one’s situation seems dire.” – David Rosmarin

 

Around 43,000 people take their own lives each year in the US. Someone dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. Worldwide over 800,000 people die by suicide every year. The problem is far worse than these statistics suggest as it has been estimated that for every completed suicide there were 12 unsuccessful attempts. In other words, about a half a million people in the U.S. attempt suicide each year. Yet compared with other life-threatening conditions there has been scant research on how to identify potential suicide attempters, intervene, and reduce suicidality.

 

Depression and other mood disorders are the number-one risk factor for suicide. More than 90% of people who kill themselves have a mental disorder, whether depression, bipolar disorder or some other diagnosis. So, the best way to prevent suicide may be to treat the underlying cause. For many this means treating depression. Spirituality may help to provide meaning and prevent suicide. But there is scant research on the relationship of spirituality and religiosity and suicide.

 

In today’s Research News article “Factors Related to Suicide Attempts: The Roles of Childhood Abuse and Spirituality.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8044867/ ) Tae and Chae recruited patients with anxiety or depressive disorders and had them complete measures of suicide attempts, anxiety, depression, childhood trauma, spiritual well-being, and social support. 25% of the participants indicated that they had attempted suicide.

 

They found that in comparison to non-suicide attempters, the participants who had attempted suicide had significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and emotional and physical neglect and significantly lower levels of spirituality and social support. A hierarchal regression revealed that a high level of emotional abuse and a high level of sexual abuse as well as low spirituality predicted suicide attempts. A mediation analysis revealed that childhood emotional, sexual abuse, and low spirituality were all significant direct predictors of suicide attempts and also significant indirect predictors such that abuse and low spirituality were associated with higher levels of depression which, in turn was associated with suicide attempts.

 

These results are correlational. So, no conclusions concerning causation can be reached. But the associations are clear. Depression, childhood emotional and sexual abuse, and low spirituality are all associated with suicide attempts. It is also clear that in addition to being directly associated with suicide attempts, childhood emotional and sexual abuse, and low spirituality also are associated with higher levels of depression which, in turn, is associated with suicide attempts.

 

Childhood emotional and sexual abuse are clearly risk factors for suicide and should be viewed as red flags in evaluating a patient. But these abuses occurred in the past and cannot be changed. Spirituality on the other hand can change. There are many religious and contemplative practices that can improve spirituality. The present results suggest that this may be helpful and lowering depression and preventing suicide. Future research is needed to investigate this idea, that increasing spirituality can decrease suicide risk.

 

So, spirituality is associated with fewer suicide attempts.

 

I personally think spirituality is a part of each of our beings. It has been the difference in my life and has walked me back from the place where I thought suicide was my only option.” – Kelli Evans

 

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

 

Tae, H., & Chae, J. H. (2021). Factors Related to Suicide Attempts: The Roles of Childhood Abuse and Spirituality. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 565358. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.565358

 

Abstract

Objectives: The purpose of this article was to identify independent factors associated with suicide attempts in patients with depression and/or anxiety.

Background and Aims: This study was conducted in order to examine whether risk and protective psychological factors influence the risk of suicide attempts among outpatients with anxiety and/or depressive disorders. In this regard, explanatory models have been reported to detect high-risk groups for suicide attempt. We also examined whether identified factors serve as mediators on suicide attempts.

Materials and Methods: Patients from 18 to 65 years old from an outpatient clinic at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital were invited to join clinical studies. From September 2010 to November 2017, a total of 737 participants were included in the final sample. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-being Scale (FACIT-Sp-12), and Functional Social Support Questionnaire (FSSQ) were used to assess psychiatric symptoms. An independent samples t-test, a chi-square test, hierarchical multiple regression analyses, and the Baron and Kenny’s procedures were performed in order to analyze data.

Results: Young age, childhood history of emotional and sexual abuse, depression, and a low level of spirituality were significant independent factors for increased suicide attempts. Depression was reported to mediate the relationship between childhood emotional and sexual abuse, spirituality, and suicide attempts.

Conclusions: Identifying the factors that significantly affect suicidality may be important for establishing effective plans of suicide prevention. Strategic assessments and interventions aimed at decreasing depression and supporting spirituality may be valuable for suicide prevention.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8044867/

 

Psychedelic Drugs Produce Experiences Like Spontaneous “God experiences”.

Psychedelic Drugs Produce Experiences Like Spontaneous “God experiences”.

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I had the craziest experiences during meditation on psychedelics that have been the most convincing in my path to God,” – Gemma

 

Psychedelic substances such as peyote, mescaline, LSD, Bufotoxin, ayahuasca and psilocybin have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. Psychedelics produce effects that are similar to those that are reported in spiritual awakenings and “God experiences”. They report a loss of the personal self, a decentering. They experience what they used to refer to as the self as just a part of an integrated whole. They report feeling interconnected with everything else in a sense of oneness with all things. They experience a feeling of timelessness where time seems to stop and everything is taking place in a single present moment. They experience ineffability, being unable to express in words what they are experiencing and as a result sometimes producing paradoxical statements. And they experience a positive mood, with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

 

It is easy to see why people find these experiences so pleasant and eye opening. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. Even though the effects of psychedelic substances have been experienced and reported on for centuries, only very recently have these effects come under rigorous scientific scrutiny. It is important to investigate whether these experiences are the same or different from spontaneous awakening or “God experiences”.

 

In today’s Research News article “Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0214377 ) Griffiths and colleagues recruited online a group of participants who reported having “encounters with something that someone might call: God (e.g., the God of your understanding), Higher Power, Ultimate Reality, or an Aspect or Emissary of God (e.g., an angel)” and participants who reported “encountering something that occurred after taking a classic hallucinogen (e.g., psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, DMT, etc.). The participants complete an online survey measuring demographics, types of drugs used, their encounter experience, interpretation of their experience, persisting changes resulting from the experience, and mystical experiences. The drug group was further subdivided into psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, and DMT groups.

 

They found that all four drug groups in comparison to the non-drug group reported having significantly more sensory experiences, were more likely to be alone, were more likely to engage in a communication, had greater mystical experiences, but lower vividness. Despite these quantitative differences the groups endorsed remarkably similar characteristics of their experiences. All groups found the experiences to be emotional and having a message, mission, or insight, were similar in mystical experiences, appeared very real, and endorsed the experiences as having the qualities of benevolent, intelligent, sacred, conscious, eternal and all knowing, and existing in some other reality. All groups endorsed that they were changed and these were desirable changes in life satisfaction, purpose, meaning, spiritual awareness in everyday life, attitudes about life and self. In all groups those who described themselves as atheist before the experience no longer identified themselves as atheist after the experience.

 

Although there were some quantitative differences between drug and non-drug groups, the experiences were in general very similar. Psychedelic drugs have their effects by altering the brain. Similarly, contemplative practices that often produce mystical experiences also alter the brain. It remains to be seen if the changes in the nervous systems produced by these experiences are also similar. Nevertheless, the results suggest that spontaneous “God experiences” and experiences as a result of psychedelic drugs are quite similar and maybe representative of similar physiological changes.

 

So, psychedelic drugs produce experiences like spontaneous “God experiences”.

 

Majority of survey respondents attributed lasting positive changes in their psychological health—including life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning—even decades after initially experiencing ‘God’ or ‘ultimate reality,’ whether that experience was spontaneous or associated with the consumption of psychedelic substances. – Vanessa McMains

 

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

 

Griffiths RR, Hurwitz ES, Davis AK, Johnson MW, Jesse R (2019) Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0214377. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214377

 

Abstract

Naturally occurring and psychedelic drug–occasioned experiences interpreted as personal encounters with God are well described but have not been systematically compared. In this study, five groups of individuals participated in an online survey with detailed questions characterizing the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes attributed to their single most memorable God encounter experience (n = 809 Non-Drug, 1184 psilocybin, 1251 lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 435 ayahuasca, and 606 N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)). Analyses of differences in experiences were adjusted statistically for demographic differences between groups. The Non-Drug Group was most likely to choose “God” as the best descriptor of that which was encountered while the psychedelic groups were most likely to choose “Ultimate Reality.” Although there were some other differences between non-drug and the combined psychedelic group, as well as between the four psychedelic groups, the similarities among these groups were most striking. Most participants reported vivid memories of the encounter experience, which frequently involved communication with something having the attributes of being conscious, benevolent, intelligent, sacred, eternal, and all-knowing. The encounter experience fulfilled a priori criteria for being a complete mystical experience in approximately half of the participants. More than two-thirds of those who identified as atheist before the experience no longer identified as atheist afterwards. These experiences were rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant lifetime experiences, with moderate to strong persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning attributed to these experiences. Among the four groups of psychedelic users, the psilocybin and LSD groups were most similar and the ayahuasca group tended to have the highest rates of endorsing positive features and enduring consequences of the experience. Future exploration of predisposing factors and phenomenological and neural correlates of such experiences may provide new insights into religious and spiritual beliefs that have been integral to shaping human culture since time immemorial.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0214377

 

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

 

Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Quantum Entanglement

Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Quantum Entanglement

 

“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” – Niels Bohr

 

The idea of Quantum Entanglement has shaken the world of physics contradicting classical physics including relativity. It is a very complex notion that is difficult to express outside of complex mathematical expressions. But in its essence, it suggests that matter is entangled with other matter with the states of particular particles linked to the states of other particles even over large distances. So, when a photon (quantum of light) changes its state, an entangled photon simultaneously changes its state even far away.

 

Quantum entanglement is a label for the observed physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance.” – Wikipedia,

 

This is not just a theoretical notion. As strange as it may seem there has accumulated evidence that Quantum Entanglement occurs ubiquitously in nature. Its implications are profound and revolutionize our views of the nature of the universe including notions of space and time themselves. Without belaboring the immensely complex physics and mathematics underlying the notion, the idea of Quantum Entanglement fits amazingly well with eastern spiritual thoughts, including the notions of mindfulness and enlightenment.

 

Everything is interconnected. This is a notion fundamental to eastern spiritual teachings. The Buddha referred to this as interdependent co-arising. The teaching was that everything arises in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions; nothing exists as a singular, independent entity. Indeed, it is evident to anyone who wishes to look closely at anything that it is connected to everything else. In other words, everything that happens is entangled with everything else and nothing can be viewed solely alone without reference to other things.

 

The paper that this may be printed on is in one way or another connected to everything else in the universe. The paper was manufactured from tree pulp. For the tree to have grown and produce this pulp there was sunlight, soil, water, and seeds provided by prior trees. The harvesting of the trees required lumbering and transportation of the trees to a mill. The manufacturing requires machinery that was invented by people who were trained based upon the accumulated knowledge of generations. After manufacture it was transported by truck requiring trained drivers, fuels, roads etc. all of which required a myriad of other components and actions. The actual atoms of which it is composed were created billions of years ago in the explosions of stars called supernovas. These, in turn stretch back to the Big Bang itself, where all matter and energy emerged at once. Perhaps by now you get the idea that the piece of paper is connected to everything else on the universe.

 

The notion of Quantum Entanglement indicates that all particles created at the same time are entangled and the state of any one of them is affected by all the others no matter where they are. Since, all particles emerged with the Big Bang, then all of them are entangled. This notion then is the science of physics way of expressing that everything is interconnected even on the quantum level of subatomic particles. This includes us. We are all entangled both on the fundamental quantum level and also on the perceived physical level. Each of us is connected to everyone else and to everything else in the universe. It’s all one.

 

The notion of Quantum Entanglement indicates that the linkage of particles can occur simultaneously over very large distances, distance large enough that any effect of one particle on the other would have to move at faster than the speed of light. This suggests that their entanglement is in the now. Time is irrelevant. Just as consciousness exists only in the now where there is no time. This suggests the interesting possibility that consciousness itself is an entangled phenomenon.

 

Consciousness has been termed as an observerless observer; a phenomenon where causes have no further effects. Something registers what is going on but is not itself changed by it and doesn’t affect anything else. It’s an end point on a chain of causation. This is much like the effect of a change in a particle producing instantaneous changes in another without further consequence. Perhaps, then, consciousness itself results from Quantum Entanglement.

 

Consciousness itself may be also entangled at the quantum level. It’s long been an understanding in quantum mechanics that the act of observing something fundamentally changes it. As a result, it is impossible to determine more than one aspect of a particle at a time. The act of observing one aspect changes the others. This gets even deeper on the quantum level where the classic double slit experiment demonstrated that observations actually change the behavior of particles. Indeed, observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position. In other words, we ourselves produce the results of measurements.” – Pascual Jordan

 

These strange phenomena at the quantum level appear to defy our understanding of the universe just as the existence of awareness and consciousness appear to defy understanding. This suggests that they may occur for similar reasons. The fabric of the universe may well be entangled with consciousness.

 

 

Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence?” – Philip Ball

 

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

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/

 

Increase Psychological Flexibility and Thereby Relieve Anxiety and Depression with Psychedelic Drugs

Increase Psychological Flexibility and Thereby Relieve Anxiety and Depression with Psychedelic Drugs

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“psilocybin may be effective in the much wider population of patients who suffer from major depression than previously appreciated. The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,” – Alan Davis

 

Psychedelic substances have been used almost since the beginning of recorded history to alter consciousness and produce spiritually meaningful experiences. People find these experiences very pleasant and eye opening. They often report that the experiences changed them forever. But only very recently have these effects of psychedelic substances come under rigorous scientific scrutiny.

 

When studied in the laboratory under double blind conditions psychedelic substances have been shown to “reliably occasion deeply personally meaningful and often spiritually significant experiences (e.g. mystical-type experiences).” Psychedelic substances have also been shown to improve clinical depression. The case seems clear, but it’s important to look at the mechanism by which psychedelic substances improve depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychological flexibility mediates the relations between acute psychedelic effects and subjective decreases in depression and anxiety.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7451132/ )  Davis and colleagues recruited adults who have had an experience with a single psychedelic drug. LSD was used by 42% of the respondents and psilocybin was used by 38%. The respondents completed a questionnaire measuring the drug used, when and how much; mystical experiences, acute insight, anxiety, depression, stress, and psychological flexibility.

 

They found that the greater the level of mystical experiences the greater the levels of acute insights and psychological flexibility. They also found that the greater the level of levels of acute insights and psychological flexibility the greater the decrease in anxiety and depression. A path analysis revealed that the effects of mystical experiences and acute insights on anxiety and depression were indirect by way of psychological flexibility. They increased psychological flexibility which reduced anxiety and depression.

 

These are interesting results but caution must be exercised in reaching conclusions as there was no control condition and the results are completely correlational and based upon subjective recall by the individuals. In addition, the participants volunteered by responding to recruitment materials and those who respond are likely those that benefited from the psychedelic experiences.

 

Regardless, the results replicate previous findings that psychedelic drugs increase mystical experiences and acute insights and these are associated with improved mental health. But the results suggest that these effects are completely mediated by increased psychological flexibility. In other words, mystical experiences and acute insights increase flexibility which improves anxiety and depression. “Psychological flexibility is described as an essential set of processes that help people manage stressors and engage in adaptive behaviors that promote values-driven action.”  Hence, this flexibility allows the individual to adaptively respond to events in the environment rather than internalizing them producing anxiety and depression. Psychedelic drugs appear to enhance this flexibility and thereby improve mental health.

 

So, increase psychological flexibility and thereby relieve anxiety and depression with psychedelic drugs.

 

The idea behind psychedelic therapy is that the receptive state that the drug confers opens the door to fresh ideas about how to think about the past and future, which the therapist can reinforce.” – Paul Tullis

 

 

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

 

Davis, A. K., Barrett, F. S., & Griffiths, R. R. (2020). Psychological flexibility mediates the relations between acute psychedelic effects and subjective decreases in depression and anxiety. Journal of contextual behavioral science, 15, 39–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcbs.2019.11.004

 

Abstract

Prior research has shown that acute subjective psychedelic effects are associated with both spontaneous and intended changes in depression and anxiety. Psychedelics are also theorized to produce increases in psychological flexibility, which could explain decreases in depression and anxiety following a psychedelic experience. Therefore, the present cross-sectional survey study sought to examine whether psychological flexibility mediated the relationship between acute psychedelic experiences and spontaneous or intended changes in depression and anxiety among a large international sample of people who reported having used a psychedelic (n=985; male=71.6%; Caucasian/white=84.1%; Mage=32.2, SD=12.6). A regression analysis showed that acute effects (i.e., mystical and insightful effects) were significantly associated with decreases in depression/anxiety following a psychedelic experience. A path analysis revealed that, while controlling for age and sex, increases in psychological flexibility fully mediated the effect of mystical and insightful experiences on decreases in depression and anxiety following a psychedelic experience. This suggests that psychological flexibility may be an important mediator of the therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs. Future prospective experimental studies should examine the effect of psychedelic drug administration on psychological flexibility in order to gain a better understanding of the psychological processes that predict therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

Highlights

  • Acute psychedelic effects are related to changes in depression/anxiety
  • Changes in psychological flexibility fully mediate this relationship
  • Psychological flexibility should be examined in clinical trials with psychedelics

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7451132/

 

Spirituality Improves Posttraumatic Growth with Mothers of Children with Cancer

Spirituality Improves Posttraumatic Growth with Mothers of Children with Cancer

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality can play a critical role in the way traumas are understood, how they are managed, and how they are ultimately resolved.” – Kenneth Pargamen

 

Modern living is stressful under the best of conditions. But dealing with the trauma of having a child with cancer the levels of stress and anxiety are markedly increased. It is important for people to engage in practices that can help them control their responses to the stress and their levels of anxiety. Spirituality, a sense of inner peace and harmony, and religiosity are known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. It is not known if spirituality affects the symptoms or posttraumatic growth produced by the trauma of having a child with cancer.

 

In today’s Research News article “Posttraumatic Growth and Spirituality in Mothers of Children with Pediatric Cancer.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999482/ ) Czyżowska and colleagues recruited mothers of children (average age of 6.4 years) who were in the hospital being treated for cancer. They completed measures of post-traumatic growth, including changes in self-perception, changes in relationships with others, appreciation of life, and spiritual changes; and spirituality including religious attitudes, ethical sensitivity, and harmony.

 

They found that the higher the levels of spirituality, including ethical sensitivity, and harmony, the higher the levels of post-traumatic growth including relationships with others, and spiritual changes. The highest levels of post-traumatic growth that the mothers had were in in appreciation of life. In addition, the mothers with the greatest changes in post-traumatic growth had significantly higher levels of spirituality.

 

These results suggest that mothers of children with pediatric cancer demonstrate post-traumatic growth, especially in appreciation of life. In addition, they found that this post-traumatic growth was associated with spirituality. It is interesting that religious attitudes were not associated with growth. Hence, having inner peace and harmony (spirituality) and not religiosity is associated with growth. This raises the possibility that treating mothers’ spirituality may assist them in coping with pediatric cancer. Being better able to cope with the stresses should allow the mothers to better work with their children, promoting their health and well-being.

 

So, spirituality improves posttraumatic growth with mothers of children with cancer.

 

positive religious coping, religious openness, readiness to face existential questions, religious participation, and intrinsic religiousness are typically associated with posttraumatic growth.” – Annick Shaw

 

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

 

Czyżowska, N., Raszka, M., Kalus, A., & Czyżowska, D. (2021). Posttraumatic Growth and Spirituality in Mothers of Children with Pediatric Cancer. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(6), 2890. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18062890

 

Abstract

A child’s cancer, as a life-threatening illness, is classified as a traumatic event both for the child him-/herself and for his/her relatives. Struggling with a traumatic experience can bring positive consequences for an individual, which is referred to as posttraumatic growth. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between posttraumatic growth and spirituality understood as a personal resource in mothers of children with pediatric cancer. In total, 55 mothers whose children were in the phase of treatment and who had been staying with them in the hospital filled in a Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, Self-description Questionnaire of Spirituality, and the author’s short questionnaire on demographic variables and information on the child and his/her disease. A high level of posttraumatic development, especially in the area of life appreciation, was observed in the examined mothers. Spirituality was positively related to the emergence of positive change, in two particular components, ethical sensitivity and harmony. It seems that taking into account the area of spirituality when planning interventions and providing support in this group could foster coping with the situation and emergence of posttraumatic growth.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999482/

 

The Well-Being and Quality of Life in Cancer Patients are Related to Spirituality

The Well-Being and Quality of Life in Cancer Patients are Related to Spirituality

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Many patients with cancer rely on spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to help them cope with their disease. This is called spiritual coping.” – National Cancer Institute

 

A cancer diagnosis has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a surviving cancer is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer.

 

Religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they survive cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality may be useful for cancer patients to cope with their illness and the psychological difficulties resulting from the disease. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality on the well-being and quality of life of cancer patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Association between spiritual well-being, quality of life, anxiety and depression in patients with gynecological cancer in China.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7793354/) Chen and colleagues recruited women with primary gynecological cancer and had them complete measures of quality of life with cancer, global health, spiritual well-being, anxiety, and depression.

 

They found that the higher the levels of spiritual well-being the higher the levels of global health and quality of life and the lower the levels of depression and anxiety. Multiple regression analysis revealed that religion, depression, anxiety and quality of life were the strongest predictors of spiritual well-being.

 

These findings are correlational and as a result causation cannot be determined. Regardless, the results clearly show that spiritual well-being is significantly related to better health and quality of life and lower psychological problems in women with primary gynecological cancer. These findings are similar to those seen with other forms of cancer that spirituality is associated with the patient’s quality of life and well-being. This raises the possibility that promoting spirituality in cancer patients may improve their physical and psychological well-being. It remains for future research to explore this possibility.

 

So, the well-being and quality of life in cancer patients are related to spirituality.

 

Consistent associations between spirituality, spiritual well-being, and health outcomes found in published studies highlight the importance of providing spiritual care to enhance cancer patients’ spiritual well-being and address their spiritual needs.” – Yi-Hui Lee

 

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

 

Chen, J., You, H., Liu, Y., Kong, Q., Lei, A., & Guo, X. (2021). Association between spiritual well-being, quality of life, anxiety and depression in patients with gynaecological cancer in China. Medicine, 100(1), e24264. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000024264

 

Abstract

The physical and psychological condition of patients with gynaecological cancer has received much attention, but there is little research on spirituality in palliative care. This study aimed to investigate spiritual well-being and its association with quality of life, anxiety and depression in patients with gynaecological cancer. A cross-sectional study was conducted in China in 2019 with 705 patients diagnosed with primary gynaecological cancer. European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer quality of life instruments (EORTC QLQ-SWB32 and EORTC QLQ-C30) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were used to measure spiritual well-being, quality of life, anxiety and depression. Univariate and multiple linear regression analyses were performed to examine associations between spiritual well-being, quality of life, anxiety and depression. Functioning scales and global health status were positively correlated with spiritual well-being (P < .05). Anxiety and depression were negatively correlated with spiritual well-being (P < .05). Depression (−0.362, P < .001) was the strongest predictor of Existential score. Anxiety (−0.522, P < .001) was the only predictor of Relationship with self. Depression (−0.350, P < .001) and Global health (0.099, P = .011) were the strongest predictors of Relationship with others. Religion (−0.204, P < .001) and Depression (−0.196, P < .001) were the strongest predictors of Relationship with someone or something greater. Global health (0.337, P < .001) and Depression (−0.144, P < .001) were the strongest predictors of Global-SWB. Well spiritual well-being is associated with lower anxiety and depression, and better quality of life. Health providers should provide more spiritual care for non-religious patients and combine spiritual care with psychological counselling to help patients with gynaecological cancer, especially those who have low quality of life or severe symptoms, or experience anxiety or depression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7793354/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Reduced Emotional Distress in Lung Cancer Survivors

Spirituality is Associated with Reduced Emotional Distress in Lung Cancer Survivors

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“However you define spirituality, studies show that it can play an important role in coping with the recovery and healing process from cancer treatment and its after effects.” – LungCancer.org

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotional distress and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.

 

Religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they’re diagnosed with cancer or when living with cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality may be a useful tool for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness and the consequent emotional distress. Thus, it makes sense to study the relationships of spirituality with the mental health of cancer survivors.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spirituality and Emotional Distress Among Lung Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6859202/ ) Gudenkauf and colleagues recruited adult patients with lung cancer and had them complete questionnaires measuring spirituality, emotional distress, and quality of life. within 1 year of their diagnosis and 1 year later.

 

They found that the lung cancer survivors, not surprisingly, were generally high in emotional distress. But those survivors who were high in spirituality, including the meaning, peace, and faith dimensions, were high in quality of life and low in emotional distress. In addition, those survivors who were high in distress at the first measurement, if they were also high in spirituality meaning, were more likely to have low emotional distress 1 year later.

 

It should be kept in mind that the present study was observational and as a result causation cannot be determined. But it appears that in these lung cancer survivors, spirituality is associated with better quality of life and lower emotional distress and that spirituality tends to predict lower emotional distress a year later. Hence, spirituality appears to help survivors cope with their emotional reactions to their diagnosis. Future studies should investigate whether promoting spirituality in these survivors may improve their emotions and quality of life.

 

So, spirituality is associated with reduced emotional distress in lung cancer survivors.

 

While having a spiritual or religious foundation can’t change your diagnosis or the effectiveness of treatment, some patients find their beliefs help them find meaning and cope. “It may not impact your prognosis, but it can help improve your overall outlook during treatment,” – Tiffany Meyer

 

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

 

Gudenkauf, L. M., Clark, M. M., Novotny, P. J., Piderman, K. M., Ehlers, S. L., Patten, C. A., Nes, L. S., Ruddy, K. J., Sloan, J. A., & Yang, P. (2019). Spirituality and Emotional Distress Among Lung Cancer Survivors. Clinical lung cancer, 20(6), e661–e666. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cllc.2019.06.015

 

Abstract

Background:

Emerging research is highlighting the importance of spirituality in cancer survivorship as well as the importance of early distress screening. The purpose of this study was to prospectively examine the relationships among spirituality, emotional distress, and sociodemographic variables during the early period of lung cancer survivorship.

Patients and Methods:

864 lung cancer survivors completed the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy – Spiritual Well-Being (FACIT-Sp), and the Short-Form-8 (SF-8) for emotional distress within the first year following lung cancer diagnosis, and 474 of these survivors completed the survey again one year later.

Results:

At baseline, spirituality was associated with lower prevalence of emotional distress, being married, fewer years of cigarette smoking, and better ECOG performance status. Additionally, high baseline spirituality was associated with lower rates of high emotional distress at one-year follow-up.

Conclusion:

These findings suggest that spirituality may serve as a protective factor for emotional distress among lung cancer survivors. Further research is warranted to explore the role of spirituality in promoting distress management among lung cancer survivors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6859202/

 

Spirituality Activates the Brain Networks Underlying Other-Than-Self Attention

Spirituality Activates the Brain Networks Underlying Other-Than-Self Attention

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Understanding the neural bases of spiritual experiences may help us better understand their roles in resilience and recovery from mental health and addictive disorders.” – Ephrat Livni

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred.” It has been shown to have a myriad of benefits including recovery from addiction.  In addition, spirituality alters the nervous system. It has been demonstrated that spirituality is associated with changes in the size, activity, and connectivity of the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain. So, spirituality and changes in neural systems co-occur. We may be better able to control addiction if we develop a more nuanced understanding of the changes in the brain that occur with spirituality.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spiritual experiences are related to engagement of a ventral frontotemporal functional brain network: Implications for prevention and treatment of behavioral and substance addictions.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044576/ ) McClintock and colleagues recruited healthy adult, age 18 to 27 years, participants and scanned their brains with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) while they were being guided toward images of either neutral, stressful, or spiritual imagery. Before and after testing they completed a measure of spirituality.

 

They found that during spiritual but not neutral or stressful imagery there was a significant increase in the activity of brain structures that constitute a ventral frontotemporal network, including middle and inferior frontal cortices, superior, middle and inferior temporal cortices, insula and frontal opercula, striatum, thalamus, brainstem, and cerebellum. The greater the increase in spirituality reported over the testing, the greater the increase in the activity of the ventral frontotemporal network. Hence, the more the imagery increased their spiritual feelings, the greater the response of the brain. They also found that there was a significant decrease in activity in areas of the brain that are components of the default mode network, including the middle and posterior cingulate and parietal cortex.

 

These findings suggest that the ventral frontotemporal network is activated during spiritual imagery while components of the default mode network are deactivated. The ventral frontotemporal network has been associated with attentional processing while the default mode network has been associated with self-referential thinking and mind wandering. It can be speculated that during spiritual imagery attention is focused away from the self. Regardless, the findings suggest that specific parts of the brain are involved in processing spiritual imagery.

 

So, spirituality activates the brain networks underlying other-than-self attention.

 

it’s essential to examine how people experience spirituality in order to fully understand how their brains work.” – Lynne Blumberg

 

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

 

McClintock, C. H., Worhunsky, P. D., Xu, J., Balodis, I. M., Sinha, R., Miller, L., & Potenza, M. N. (2019). Spiritual experiences are related to engagement of a ventral frontotemporal functional brain network: Implications for prevention and treatment of behavioral and substance addictions. Journal of behavioral addictions, 8(4), 678–691. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.8.2019.71

 

Abstract

Background and aims

Spirituality is an important component of 12-step programs for behavioral and substance addictions and has been linked to recovery processes. Understanding the neural correlates of spiritual experiences may help to promote efforts to enhance recovery processes in behavioral addictions. We recently used general linear model (GLM) analyses of functional magnetic resonance imaging data to examine neural correlates of spiritual experiences, with findings implicating cortical and subcortical brain regions. Although informative, the GLM-based approach does not provide insight into brain circuits that may underlie spiritual experiences.

Methods

Spatial independent component analysis (sICA) was used to identify functional brain networks specifically linked to spiritual (vs. stressful or neutral-relaxing) conditions using a previously validated guided imagery task in 27 young adults.

Results

Using sICA, engagement of a ventral frontotemporal network was identified that was engaged at the onset and conclusion of the spiritual condition in a manner distinct from engagement during the stress or neutral-relaxing conditions. Degree of engagement correlated with subjective reports of spirituality in the scanner (r = .71, p < .001) and an out-of-the-magnet measure of spirituality (r = .48, p < .018).

Discussion and conclusion

The current findings suggest a distributed functional neural network associated with spiritual experiences and provide a foundation for investigating brain mechanisms underlying the role of spirituality in recovery from behavioral addictions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044576/