The effects of four days of intensive mindfulness meditation training on resilience to stress

The interest in mindfulness meditation interventions has surged due to their beneficial effects in fostering resilience and reducing stress in both clinical and non-clinical populations | Psychology, Health & Medicine

However, the relaxation benefits that may occur while practicing mindfulness meditation and long-term benefits of these interventions remain unclear.

Participants in both the Templestay program and Control groups showed significant increases in their scores on CAMS and RQT after completing the program. During the 3-month follow-up, a significant interaction effect of the intervention method and time was revealed for the individuals’ CAMS and RQT scores.

Our findings support the hypothesis that while relaxation practices may have certain stress reduction effects, the effects are predominantly mediated by the mindfulness meditation practice. Furthermore, the long-term benefits of increased resilience observed in the Templestay program group suggest that the practice may be a possible treatment strategy in clinical populations, such as patients with depression and anxiety.

Full reference: Jeong Hwang, W. et al. (2017) The effects of four days of intensive mindfulness meditation training (Templestay program) on resilience to stress: a randomized controlled trial. Psychology, Health & Medicine. Published online: 29 August 2017

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Coping with the stress in the cardiac intensive care unit: Can mindfulness be the answer?

Mothers of infants with complex congenital heart disease are exposed to increased stress which has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. The coping mechanisms these mothers use critically effect the familial illness adaptation and most likely infant outcomes | Journal of Pediatric Nursing

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Currently no data-based strategies have been developed for mothers to facilitate their coping, and proactively promote their adaptation in the critical care settings. A potential strategy is mindfulness which is currently used in other clinical settings with stress-reduction effects.

Highlights:

  • Mothers use emotion-regulatory coping mechanisms during the CICU stay.
  • Both active and passive strategies are used by mothers to cope with the stress.
  • Mindfulness is an acceptable and feasible approach to reduce mothers’ stress.
  • Early, tailored interventions can potentially provide long-term stress relief.

Full reference: Golfenshtein, N. et al. (2017) Coping with the stress in the cardiac intensive care unit: Can mindfulness be the answer? Journal of Pediatric Nursing. Published online: August 11, 2017

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Women with Overweight or Obesity

The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and cardiometabolic effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in women with overweight or obesity | Obesity

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Image source: lazydoll – Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Eighty-six women with BMI less than 25 kg/m2 were randomized to 8 weeks of MBSR or health education and followed for 16 weeks. The primary outcome was the Toronto Mindfulness Scale. Secondary outcomes included the Perceived Stress Scale-10, fasting glucose, and blood pressure.

Compared to health education, the MBSR group demonstrated significantly improved mindfulness at 8 weeks (mean change from baseline, 4.5 vs. −1.0; P = 0.03) and significantly decreased perceived stress at 16 weeks (−3.6 vs. −1.3, P = 0.01). In the MBSR group, there were significant reductions in fasting glucose at 8 weeks (−8.9 mg/dL, P = 0.02) and at 16 weeks (−9.3 mg/dL, P = 0.02) compared to baseline. Fasting glucose did not significantly improve in the health education group. There were no significant changes in blood pressure, weight, or insulin resistance in the MBSR group.

In women with overweight or obesity, MBSR significantly reduces stress and may have beneficial effects on glucose. Future studies demonstrating long-term cardiometabolic benefits of MBSR will be key for establishing MBSR as an effective tool in the management of obesity.

Full reference: Raja-Khan, N. et al. (2017) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Women with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Obesity. 
Vol. 25 (no, 8) pp.1349–1359.

Meditation Program and Healthcare Providers’ Interoceptive Awareness, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout

Research suggests that meditation can relieve stress, cultivate self-regulation skills, improve ability to focus, and modify risk for compassion fatigue (CF) and burnout in healthcare providers | Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing

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This pilot study examined a novel 6-week technology-assisted meditation program, coherently grounded in the system of yoga therapy that required minimal time. Five 10- to 12-minute meditations were offered via smartphone apps supported by biweekly e-mails. Hospice and palliative professionals at a Midwestern US healthcare network participated in the program (n = 36). Each meditation integrated attention, synchronized breath, gentle movements and a meditation focus. Weekly e-mails introduced a new meditation and reminded participants how and why to practice.

The participants used the meditations a mean of 17.18(SD, 8.69) times. Paired t tests found significant presurvey to postsurvey improvements for CF/burnout (P < .05) and interoceptive awareness (P < .001). Participation significantly heightened perceived ability and propensity to direct attention to bodily sensations, increased awareness of physical sensations’ connections to emotions, and increased active body listening. The technology-assisted yoga therapy meditation program successfully motivated providers to meditate. The program required minimal time yet seemed to reduce CF/burnout and improve emotional awareness and self-regulation by heightening attention to present-moment bodily sensations.

Full reference: Heeter, C. et al. (2017) Effects of a Technology-Assisted Meditation Program on Healthcare Providers’ Interoceptive Awareness, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout. Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing. Volume 19 (Issue 4) pp. 314–322

Mindfulness-based stress reduction in middle-aged and older adults with memory complaints

Study suggests that Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is feasible and well received among older individuals with cognitive complaints.

Objectives: In a rapidly aging world population, an increasingly large group faces age-related decline in cognitive functioning. Cognitive complaints of older adults are often related to worries and concerns associated with age-related functional decline. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can successfully target stress, worry and ruminative thinking, but the applicability of this method in middle-aged and older adults with memory complaints is unclear.

Method: Patients of a university hospital memory clinic (n = 13), aged 45–85 years, with memory complaints but no diagnosis of cognitive disorder, participated in a standard 8-week MBSR program, consisting of weekly group meetings and a one-day silent retreat. After completion, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted. Questionnaires (administered before, one week after and five weeks after the intervention) assessed quality of life, psychological distress (stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms), mindfulness, self-compassion, and subjective memory functioning. Neurocognitive functioning was assessed online, before and after the intervention.

Results: The qualitative analysis showed positive effects of the training (e.g. increased serenity), many participants worrying less about memory complaints. The self-reported measures were in line with the results of the qualitative analysis.

Conclusion: This exploratory mixed-methods study suggests that MBSR is feasible and well received among older individuals with cognitive complaints.

Full reference:  Lotte Berk et al. | Mindfulness-based stress reduction in middle-aged and older adults with memory complaints: a mixed-methods study  | Aging & Mental Health |  Published online: 19 Jul 2017

 

Mindfulness and meditation dampen down inflammation genes

Meditation and tai chi don’t just calm the mind – they seem to affect our DNA too | New Scientist

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There’s evidence that such “mind-body practices” dampen the activity of genes associated with inflammation – essentially reversing molecular damage caused by stress.

Mind-body practices such as mindfulness meditation are widely claimed to protect against stress-related diseases from arthritis to dementia. But although there’s plenty of evidence that they can relieve stress, the scientific case for physical health benefits has not yet been proven.

Recent advances mean it’s now easier to study patterns of gene activity inside cells, and there has been growing interest in using this approach to investigate how nurturing inner peace might influence the immune system and disease risk.

Digital Mindfulness Applications

There has been a rapid increase of interactive apps designed for health and well-being. Yet, little research has been published on developing frameworks for design and evaluation of digital mindfulness facilitating technologies | Journal of Medical Internet Research

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Background: Many existing digital mindfulness applications are purely software based. There is room for further exploration and assessment of designs that make more use of physical qualities of artifacts.

Objective: The study aimed to develop and test a new physical digital mindfulness prototype designed for stress reduction.

Methods: In this case study, we designed, developed, and evaluated HU, a physical digital mindfulness prototype designed for stress reduction. In the first phase, we used vapor and light to support mindful breathing and invited 25 participants through snowball sampling to test HU. In the second phase, we added sonification. We deployed a package of probes such as photos, diaries, and cards to collect data from users who explored HU in their homes. Thereafter, we evaluated our installation using both self-assessed stress levels and heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) measures in a pilot study, in order to measure stress resilience effects. After the experiment, we performed a semistructured interview to reflect on HU and investigate the design of digital mindfulness apps for stress reduction.

Conclusions: Our evaluation of HU indicated that HU could facilitate relaxed breathing and stress reduction. There was a difference in outcome between the physiological measures of stress and the subjective reports of stress, as well as a large intervariability among study participants. Our conclusion is that the use of stress reduction tools should be customized and that the design work of mindfulness technology for stress reduction is a complex process, which requires cooperation of designers, HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) experts and clinicians.

Full reference: Zhu, B. et al. (2017) Designing, Prototyping and Evaluating Digital Mindfulness Applications: A Case Study of Mindful Breathing for Stress Reduction.
Journal of Medical Internet Research. 19(6):e197