Mindfulness doesn’t have to be time-consuming according to new research findings

A Canadian study published in the Journal of Further and Higher Education shows that undergraduates who participated in a three-minute breathing activity at the start of classes reported feeling less distracted and more positive. The researchers have argued that their findings demonstrate that mindfulness training can benefit learners without it being laborious (via Times Higher Education).

university-105709_1920The latest research delivered the intervention to 59 third-year undergraduate students on a child psychopathology course over the duration of a semester. A control group  of 29 similar students on a developmental disabilities module. Based on the results of an end-of-term survey, students in the intervention group said that they were significantly less likely to be distracted in class than those in the control group. They were also more likely to report positive emotions such as enthusiasm.

Mindfulness practices have become a common component of daily life in many settings and may serve to bolster resiliency, particularly among university students. This study expanded on our previous work to compare the effects of receiving or not receiving a brief daily mindfulness-based practice in large-scale university courses. Data were collected from 88 participants enrolled in two third-year psychology courses at a university in Southwestern Ontario, Canada at the beginning and the end of the semester. The scripted ‘Three-Minute Breathing Space’ mindfulness intervention took less than 5 minutes of class time each day in one course, while the course not receiving the intervention served as a control group. By the end of the semester, the intervention group reported experiencing greater enhancements in positive emotionality, and fewer episodes of mind wandering and distractibility than those in the control group. In contrast, there was no detectable effect on mindfulness or negative emotionality in either group. Those receiving the intervention also reported enjoying the practice, and more than half had used the practice outside the course. Results of this study, and others, suggest that brief mindfulness practices taught in university courses may play a role in promoting mental wellness among students. Future work should consider how this brief practice may be applied more broadly and what other resources might be made available to students.

The full piece Mindfulness exercises ‘help students stay focused in class’ can be read at Times Higher Education 
Full reference:

Miller, C. J.,  Borsatto, J., & Al-Salom, P. | 2018|   Testing a quick mindfulness intervention in the university classroom| Journal of Further and Higher Education|ePub|  https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2017.1409345

The article is available to Rotherham NHS staff to request here 



Being in nature helps to support mindfulness practices

New research suggests mindfulness training can be improved if it is carried out in natural settings. The study published in the Consciousness and Cognition journal, demonstrate  how a natural environment can support mindfulness practices, as it less ‘effortful’ than traditional training which favour an exercise-based approach. 
Mindfulness courses conventionally use effortful, focused meditation to train attention. In contrast, natural settings can effortlessly support state mindfulness and restore depleted attention resources, which could facilitate meditation.
The researchers erformed two studies that compared conventional training with restoration skills training (ReST) that taught low-effort open monitoring meditation in a garden over five weeks. Assessments before and after meditation on multiple occasions showed that ReST meditation increasingly enhanced attention performance. Conventional meditation enhanced attention initially but increasingly incurred effort, reflected in performance decrements toward the course end.

With both courses, attentional improvements generalized in the first weeks of training. Against established accounts, the generalized improvements thus occurred before any effort was incurred by the conventional exercises. We propose that restoration rather than attention training can account for early attentional improvements with meditation. ReST holds promise as an undemanding introduction to mindfulness and as a method to enhance restoration in nature contacts.

Full reference: Lyemus, et al. |Building mindfulness bottom-up: Meditation in natural settings supports open monitoring and attention restoration |Consciousness and Cognition| Vol. 59 | March 2018| P. 40-56 | doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2018.01.008
The full article is available to request for Rotherham NHS staff here 

The relationship between mindfulness and coping strategies

A new diary study explores the association between mindfulness and psychological coping strategies in students. It examines the potential link between practising mindfulness and the usage of adaptive (constructive) coping strategies and conversely maladaptive coping strategies, those that may increase stress. 


Despite research demonstrating the relationship between trait mindfulness and averaged use of adaptive (and maladaptive) coping strategies, little work has examined the potential association between mindfulness and flexibility in coping.


Among various conceptualizations, coping flexibility can be operationalized in terms of within-situational coping variability, referring to the extent of use of different strategies to varying degrees in a given situation, and within-strategy temporal variability, which refers to the extent of use of a particular coping strategy across different situations over time.

Using a diary study approach, the  study examined the association between trait mindfulness and the two forms of coping variability. 192 undergraduates from a Singaporean university were recruited and administered questionnaires and diary logs, in which they reported on use of seven different coping strategies in response to six stressors sampled over a period of 3 weeks.

Consistent with hypotheses, factor analysis differentiated within-situational coping variability, within-strategy temporal variability, and averaged use of adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies as distinct constructs. Higher trait mindfulness was associated with lower ruminative self-criticism and greater use of adaptive coping. Importantly, trait mindfulness predicted higher within-situational coping variability, over and above personality traits as well as the average use of adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies.

Overall, the study lends support to the idea that mindfulness facilitates adaptive coping in the context of daily life and provides preliminary evidence for the association between mindfulness and greater coping flexibility.

Full reference: Keng, S. L. et al |Association between Trait Mindfulness and Variability of Coping Strategies: a Diary Study |Mindfulness | 2018| doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0885-4

The article is available for Rotherham NHS staff to request 

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)|https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0880-1

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 



A head start with mindfulness

Don’t dismiss the meditation technique as a fad: its well documented benefits for those in demanding careers make a strong case for teaching it at university, says Craig Hassed | Times Higher Education


Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, but its potential importance to higher education has not yet been broadly recognised. It can be described as a form of meditation and a way of living. It is a mental discipline that involves not only sharpening present-moment attention but also cultivating the attitude with which we pay attention: one of curiosity, acceptance, openness and compassion.

Mindfulness is easily marginalised by hard-nosed academic disciplines, and its mischaracterisation as a mere relaxation exercise means that its utility is commonly overlooked in the training of professionals such as doctors, lawyers and chief executives. Yet mounting evidence since the turn of the millennium is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The tidal wave began with studies into the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in preventing the recurrence of depression. Subsequently, many further applications have been documented, including combating addictions, chronic pain and infertility.

Indeed, some see mindfulness as a panacea. The reality, though, is probably more complex. Like physical exercise, cultivating awareness is a basic human need, but not everyone will be ready to learn about it or want to do it. Mindfulness demands application and perseverance and is sometimes uncomfortable.

As well as improving their attention, mindfulness has many other benefits for future professionals. For example, a 2004 Australian study tracked the mental health of medical interns throughout their first year of working life. It found that 75 per cent had burnout by the eighth month, and 73 per cent had a diagnosable mental illness (mostly depression and/or anxiety) at least once. Furthermore, a British Medical Journal study in 2008 found that a doctor with depression makes more than six times as many medication and prescribing errors as a doctor without. Considering that medical errors are the third most common cause of death in the US, this points to a major deficiency in our training of professionals destined for demanding jobs. It can’t just be about transferring technical skills and knowledge; enhancing practitioners’ mental health and preventing errors should be seen as aligned objectives.

Read the full news story here

Six mindfulness techniques for physicians

What goes through your mind in the moment before you walk into the room to see your next patient? A flurry of thoughts about all the patients you’ve already seen and the mountain of admin tasks you need to finish later today? | Medical News Today


But what if you paused – for just 3 seconds – as you touch the door handle, took a breath to be present, and let go of all that has gone before and all that is ahead of you?

Everyone has time to do this, Ronald M. Epstein, M.D. – a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester in New York, a family and palliative care physician, and author of Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity – told Medical News Today.

He uses the “doorknob” example in the many international lectures he gives each year on mindfulness, but readily admits that he is as skeptical as the next doctor.

“I don’t like this touchy feely stuff. I am not a new age kind of person. I am very skeptical,” Dr. Epstein explained. “Some people say ‘I can’t stop my thoughts.’ Well, it’s not about stopping your thoughts – it’s about paying attention to them,” he noted.

For Dr. Epstein, mindfulness is a powerful tool for medical professionals in dealing with personal stress, being more compassionate, and reducing clinical errors.

Read the full news story here