Towards an Objective Measure of Mindfulness: Replicating and Extending the Features of the Breath-Counting Task

Wong, K.F., et al. | Towards an Objective Measure of Mindfulness: Replicating and Extending the Features of the Breath- Counting Task | Mindfulness | (2018)|

The authors of this journal article propose using a standardized objective measure of mindfulness to enable robust comparison of results across laboratories, facilitating the comparison  of  intervention methods. They suggest the breath counting task (BCT) as a potential instrument to make comparable results from across the field.



Despite calls for objective measures of mindfulness to be adopted, such practices have not yet become established. Recently, a BCT was proposed as a reliable and valid candidate for such an instrument. In this study, the researchers show that the psychometric properties of the BCT are reproducible in a sample of 127 Asian undergraduates. Specifically, accuracy on the BCT was associated with everyday lapses and sustained attention, and weakly associated with subjectively measured mindfulness. BCT metrics also showed good test-retest reliability.

Extending the use of the paradigm, the study also found that two different types of task errors—miscounts and resets—were correlated with different aspects of cognition. Miscounts, or errors made without awareness, were associated with attentional lapses, whereas resets, or self-caught errors, were associated with mind-wandering. The BCT may be a suitable candidate for the standardized measurement of mindfulness that could be used in addition to mindfulness questionnaires.

Full article available at Springer 




Effects of mindfulness exercises on symptoms of anxiety and depression

Blanck, P. et al. | Effects of mindfulness exercises as stand-alone intervention on symptoms of anxiety and depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis| Behaviour Research and Therapy | Vol. 102, March 2018, p. 25-35


mindfulMindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are currently well established in psychotherapy with meta-analyses demonstrating their efficacy. In these multifaceted interventions, the concrete performance of mindfulness exercises is typically integrated in a larger therapeutic framework. Thus, it is unclear whether stand-alone mindfulness exercises (SAMs) without such a framework are beneficial, as well.

Therefore, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis regarding the effects of SAMs on symptoms of anxiety and depression. Systematic searching of electronic databases resulted in 18 eligible studies (n = 1150) for meta-analyses.

After exclusion of one outlier SAMs had small to medium effects on anxiety and on depression, when compared with controls. Summary effect estimates decreased, but remained significant when corrected for potential publication bias.

This is the first meta-analysis to show that the mere, regular performance of mindfulness exercises is beneficial, even without being integrated in larger therapeutic frameworks.

View full abstract at Science Direct 

Article available to Rotherham NHS staff on request 

Mindfulness meditation app

New research shows that mindfulness meditation app can reduce the body’s response to biological stress | Psychoneuroendocrinology | Story via ScienceDaily

A new study has found that one component of mindfulness interventions is particularly important for impacting stress biology. Acceptance, or learning how to be open and accepting of the way things are in each moment, is critical for the training’s stress reduction effects. The researchers offer the first scientific evidence that a brief mindfulness meditation mobile app that incorporates acceptance training reduces cortisol and systolic blood pressure in response to stress.


Mindfulness interventions, which train practitioners to monitor their present-moment experience with a lens of acceptance, are known to buffer stress reactivity. Little is known about the active mechanisms driving these effects. We theorize that acceptance is a critical emotion regulation mechanism underlying mindfulness stress reduction effects.


In this three-arm parallel trial, mindfulness components were dismantled into three structurally equivalent 15-lesson smartphone-based interventions: (1) training in both monitoring and acceptance (Monitor + Accept), (2) training in monitoring only (Monitor Only), or (3) active control training (Coping control). 153 stressed adults (mean age = 32 years; 67% female; 53% white, 21.5% black, 21.5% Asian, 4% other race) were randomly assigned to complete one of three interventions. After the intervention, cortisol, blood pressure, and subjective stress reactivity were assessed using a modified Trier Social Stress Test.


As predicted, Monitor + Accept training reduced cortisol and systolic blood pressure reactivity compared to Monitor Only and control trainings. Participants in all three conditions reported moderate levels of subjective stress.


This study provides the first experimental evidence that brief smartphone mindfulness training can impact stress biology, and that acceptance training drives these effects. We discuss implications for basic and applied research in contemplative science, emotion regulation, stress and coping, health, and clinical interventions.

Full reference: Emily K. Lindsay et al. | Acceptance lowers stress reactivity: Dismantling mindfulness training in a randomized controlled trial. | Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2018; Vol 87 p63 – 73

Full story at ScienceDaily

School-based mindfulness programs

Perhaps teenagers are too cynical to benefit from mindfulness, say authors of latest school trial


In the UK, more and more children are learning mindfulness at school. The Mindfulness in Schools project claims that over 4000 of our teachers are now trained in the practice. However, some experts are concerned that the roll-out of mindfulness has raced ahead of the evidence base, which paints a mixed picture.

A research team led by Catherine Johnson at Flinders University has now reported in Behaviour Research and Therapy the results of their latest school trial, which included new features in the mindfulness intervention, such as parental involvement and better designed homework materials, intended to maximise the programme’s effectiveness. However, once again the mindfulness programme led to no observable benefits.

Full story via The British Psychological Society

Link to Journal abstract: Johnson, C et al.  A randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program for early adolescents: Do we have the recipe right yet?  Behaviour Research and Therapy | Volume 99, December 2017 |  Pages 37-46

How Is Stress Reduced by a Workplace Mindfulness Intervention?

Mindfulness-based interventions are effective as curative and preventative approaches to psychological health. However, the mechanisms by which outcomes are secured from such interventions when delivered in the workplace, and to a stressed workforce, are not well understood | Mindfulness

Image source: ringo.coco – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The aim of the present study was to elicit and analyse accounts from past participants of a workplace mindfulness intervention in order to generate a preliminary model of how positive benefits appear to be secured.

In-depth, semi-structured interviews were completed with 21 employees of a higher education institution who had completed an eight-week intervention based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, adapted for the workplace. Interviews invited participants to recount their experiences of the intervention and its impact, if any, on their work life. Aspects of the interview data that pertained to intervention experience and positive benefits were analysed using a version of grounded theory, leading to the generation of a provisional model of how positive change occurred.

The model suggests that discrete, temporal experiences build on each other to generate multiple, positive benefits. As anticipated in mindfulness-based interventions, enhanced attentional capacity was important, but our provisional model also suggests that resonance, self-care, detection of stress markers, perceiving choice, recovering self-agency and upward spiralling may be central mechanisms that lead to positive outcomes. Understanding mechanisms of change may help support participant engagement and trust in work-based mindfulness programmes, and enhance participants’ ability to apply mindfulness in their work life.

Full reference: Hugh-Jones, S. et al. (2017) How Is Stress Reduced by a Workplace Mindfulness Intervention? A Qualitative Study Conceptualising Experiences of Change. Mindfulness. Published Online: 2 September 2017

The Role of Practitioner Resilience and Mindfulness in Effective Practice

A growing body of literature attests to the existence of therapist effects with little explanation of this phenomenon. This study therefore investigated the role of resilience and mindfulness as factors related to practitioner wellbeing and associated effective practice | Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research


Data comprised practitioners (n = 37) and their patient outcome data (n = 4980) conducted within a stepped care model of service delivery. Analyses employed benchmarking and multilevel modeling to identify more and less effective practitioners via yoking of therapist factors and nested patient outcomes. A therapist effect of 6.7 % was identified based on patient depression (PHQ-9) outcome scores.

More effective practitioners compared to less effective practitioners displayed significantly higher levels of mindfulness as well as resilience and mindfulness combined. Implications for policy, research and practice are discussed.

Full reference: Pereira, J-A et al. (2017) The Role of Practitioner Resilience and Mindfulness in Effective Practice: A Practice-Based Feasibility Study. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. Vol. 44 (Issue 5) pp. 691–704

New psychological therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy

The current goal of treatment in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) focuses primarily on symptom management and attempts to improve quality of life | Revista Española de Enfermedades Digestivas


Several treatments are at the disposal of physicians; lifestyle and dietary management, pharmacological treatments and psychological interventions are the most used and recommended. Psychological treatments have been proposed as viable alternatives or compliments to existing care models. Most forms of psychological therapies studied have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms and in improving the psychological component of anxiety/depression and health-related quality of life.

According to current NICE/NHS guidelines, physicians should consider referral for psychological treatment in patients who do not respond to pharmacotherapy for a period of 12 months and develop a continuing symptom profile (described as refractory irritable bowel syndrome).

A review of mind/body approaches to irritable bowel syndrome has therefore suggested that alternate strategies targeting mechanisms other than thought content change might be helpful, specifically mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches. In this article we review these new psychological treatment approaches in an attempt to raise awareness of alternative treatments to gastroenterologists that treat this clinical syndrome.

Full reference: Sánchez, B.S. et al. (2017) New psychological therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Revista Española de Enfermedades Digestivas. Vol. 109 (No. 9) pp. 648-657