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So far David Black has created 105 entries.

Mindful eating of sweets boosts food enjoyment and mood

Posted 10.25.2016 | by AMRA

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Who doesn’t love chocolate? It’s one of the world’s most craved after foods due to its combined taste, pleasant physiologic effects, and past association with pleasant social events and youthful memories. It’s also alleged to have a positive effect on mood. Meier et al. [Appetite] explored chocolate’s ability to induce a pleasant mood and the degree to which mindfulness while eating influences its possible mood effect.

The researchers recruited 258 college students (65% female, 82% Caucasian, average age = 19) and randomly assigned them to one of four experimental conditions: a mindful chocolate condition, a mindful cracker condition, a non-mindful chocolate condition, and a non-mindful cracker condition. Participants were given either five pieces of chocolate candy or five plain water table crackers.

Before eating, participants listened to either an audio recording of mindfulness instructions similar to those used in the MBSR raisin eating meditation, or to brief control instructions telling them to eat one cracker at a time. The participants completed several self-report mood questionnaires both immediately before and after eating the chocolate or crackers. They also completed a food liking scale immediately after eating and rated mindfulness while eating using the Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS).

Participants in the mindfulness conditions scored significantly higher on the TMS, showing that the experimental manipulation effectively induced a mindful state (partial η2=.03). Participants in the mindfulness conditions enjoyed their food significantly more (partial η2=.02) than those in the non-mindful conditions, and those who ate the chocolate enjoyed their food significantly more than those who ate the crackers (partial η2=.08).

Participants in the mindfulness conditions also had significantly larger increases in positive mood after eating than did those in the […]

October 25th, 2016|News|

Present-moment awareness during stress promotes confidence to cope

Posted 10.12.2016 | by AMRA

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Our everyday hassles — traffic jams, minor arguments with coworkers— can add up to significantly affect our overall sense of well-being. It’s possible that mindfulness may increase our resilience to the impact of these daily stressors. It may be that the more one is mindful during negative events, the greater one’s odds of responding wisely to them rather than merely reacting out of habit and emotion.

Donald et al. [Journal of Research in Personality] tested whether increased levels of present-moment awareness—one component of mindfulness—increased the likelihood of acting in accordance with one’s values and one’s sense of efficacy during stressful events. They measured these variables through self-ratings in the participants’ daily diaries.

The authors recruited 143 Australian university students and staff (average age = 34, 76% female, 74% Caucasian) to participate in the study, which was part of a larger study involving a mindfulness-based intervention (the interventional part of the study was not relevant to the results reported here.) Participants of both the intervention and wait-list control groups completed 20 daily diaries over a four-week period in which they selected the most challenging or stressful event of each day to report on.

They then rated six variables: 1) the degree of threat posed by the event, 2) the degree of their present-moment awareness during the event, 3) their confidence in being able to effectively handle the event, 4) the degree to which their response to the event was consistent with their values, 5) the degree to which they relied on distraction to take their mind off the event during the day, and 6) the extent of their negative emotions during the day. The researchers then […]

October 12th, 2016|News|

Workplace mindfulness intervention may lower overall healthcare costs

Posted 09.26.2016 | by AMRA

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Healthcare costs in the United States rose to over 17% of the Gross Domestic Product in 2015. Employers are increasingly turning to workplace-based lifestyle interventions to control employee healthcare costs. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are sometimes offered in workplaces to enhance employee self-care and decrease illness-causing stress. How well do workplace-based MBIs succeed in lowering employee healthcare utilization costs?

Using a quasi-experimental design, Klatt et al. [Complementary Therapies in Medicine] retrospectively analyzed 5-year healthcare utilization and the associated costs for participants in a workplace-based MBI and a workplace-based didactic diet-and-exercise program. The researchers then compared these utilization rates and costs with those of matched controls drawn from a health care database.

A sample of 170 faculty and staff members from a large Midwestern university was recruited and randomly assigned to either a MBI or the diet-and-exercise (DE) intervention. The participants were selected, in part, on the basis of their high C-reactive protein levels (3.0-10.0 mg/ml), which are a known risk factor in cardiovascular disease. The MBI was an 8-week program modeled after MBSR, but truncated to fit a lunch hour schedule. The weekly workplace-based group meetings lasted 1 hour, recommended home practice was 20 minutes per day, yoga consisted of standing and chair yoga, and a 2-hour retreat replaced the usual “all day” session. The DE intervention consisted of a series of 8, 1-hour-long, group didactic sessions focusing on nutrition, diet, and exercise along with associated home readings.

After the experiment was concluded, an additional cohort of 258 “controls” was selected from the university health plan database by matching the study participants as closely as possible on age, gender, relative health risk, and prior healthcare utilization. […]

September 26th, 2016|News|

Mindfulness practice impacts medical students’ compassionate behaviors

Posted 09.19.2016 | by AMRA

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Physician compassion is a key element in good doctor-patient relationships. Nevertheless, nearly 50% of doctors and patients feel that medical care is often insufficiently compassionate. Between 20-70% of physicians suffer from compassion fatigue, a state of emotional exhaustion and diminished empathy brought on by the unceasing demands of patient care. As a consequence, medical educators are interested in finding ways to enhance compassion in medical students who are in training to become future physicians.

Fernando et al. [Mindfulness] tested whether a set of audio-guided mindfulness exercises could increase medical students’ compassionate behaviors, and whether the exercises had differential effects depending on the students’ self-compassion levels.

The researchers recruited 83 medical students (54% female, average age=21) for what they were told was a study of “emotional and clinical decision making.” The students completed a self-report measure of self-compassion, a personality disposition that involves self-kindness, recognition of one’s common humanity, and mindful awareness.

The students were then randomly assigned to listen to 10-minute audio recordings of either experiential mindfulness exercises or a speech on civic service. The mindfulness recording included an explanation of mindfulness and exercises involving mindfulness of the breath and of emotions. The students completed the Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) after hearing the recordings.

Participants were then presented with a series of hypothetical clinical scenarios involving interactions with “difficult” patients. Participants rated how much they liked, wanted to help, and felt caring towards the patients, and their degree of subjective closeness to them. They also decided how much consultation time to allot to each of the patients. After being told the study was finished, the research assistant requested participants to help with an unrelated administrative task. […]

September 19th, 2016|News|

Lesbian and bisexual women benefit from mindful eating program

Posted 08.23.2016 | by AMRA

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Studies show that older lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be overweight than their heterosexual peers, but there is a dearth of reported interventions specific to this population. Ingraham et al. [Women’s Health Issues] investigated whether mindful eating programs specifically designed for older lesbian and bisexual women can improve their physical and emotional health. The researchers also compared the outcomes of these programs with traditional diet-and-exercise programs that were also tailored for this population.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded five different interventions at five separate locations to gain information about the how to best reduce overweight status. Two of the sites adopted slightly different mindful eating approaches, while three sites opted for variations on traditional diet-and-exercise approaches. Each site designed its own program curriculum based on the concerns and beliefs of the organizations hosting the programs at each site. All five sites recruited lesbian and bisexual participants 40 years of age or older with a BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2. Assignment to groups was based on proximity to sites and was not randomized.

The two different mindful eating interventions were both 12-week group programs employing aspects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction along with the Health At Every Size program’s emphasis on acceptance of body size and shape, and the Intuitive Eating program’s emphasis on attending to hunger and satiety cues. The three traditional diet-and-exercise programs met 12-16 times in weekly support groups and employed techniques such as food logs, recipe handouts, gym memberships, pedometers and personal trainers. There were a total of 160 participants in the mindful eating groups, and 106 in the diet-and-exercise groups.

All participants completed assessments immediately before […]

August 23rd, 2016|News|

Mindfulness and social cooperation in economic decision making

Posted 08.11.2016 | by AMRA

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Cooperating with others sometimes requires that we set irrelevant negative emotions aside in order to stay focused on achieving common goals. Can mindfulness meditation improve cooperation with others by strengthening our resistance to being distracted by negative emotions? If so, how is the brain involved in this process?

Kirk et al. [Neuroimage] studied the effects of mindfulness meditation vs. relaxation training on the decision making and brain functioning of volunteers playing a cooperative economic decision making game.

The researchers randomly assigned 51 healthy adult participants (82% Caucasian, 53% female, average age = 32) who volunteered to participate in a stress reduction program to either an 8-week mindfulness training based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), or an 8-week stress reduction program utilizing progressive muscle relaxation, exercise, stretching, and group discussion of stress-reduction topics.

The participants played the computer-based Ultimatum Game before and after training while their brain function was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They also completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) before and after training.

The Ultimatum Game asks participants to consider offers to split $20 between themselves and another player. For example, the computer screen informs participants that someone named “Tom” is offering to split $20 with them 50/50, so that they each would receive $10. Participants then either accept or reject the offer. In reality, the offers weren’t from real people but were computer generated. The offers ranged from equal (50/50) splits to vastly unequal (19/1) splits.

While it makes economic sense to accept all offers since rejecting any offer means getting nothing, participants tend to reject offers that are inequitable and seem unfair. Past research shows that the tendency to reject […]

August 11th, 2016|News|

Breast cancer survivors find pain and pill relief with MBCT

Posted 07.25.2016 | by AMRA

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Up to one-in-five breast cancer survivors experience persistent moderate-to-severe pain five years after treatment. Pain may result from surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy-induced tissue and nerve damage. Since pain can be both exacerbated and modulated by psychological factors, breast cancer survivors with persistent pain may potentially benefit from psychosocial interventions to lessen pain and improve quality of life.

Johannsen et al. [Journal of Clinical Oncology] conducted a randomized, controlled trial to test the efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on reducing pain and improving quality of life in breast cancer survivors who reported persistent pain.

One hundred and twenty-nine Danish breast cancer survivors (average age = 57) who were at least 3 months post-surgery and had continuing pain ratings ≥ 3 on a 0-10 numerical rating scale were randomly assigned to either MBCT or a wait-list control. Self-report measures of pain, quality of life, and psychological distress were completed at baseline, after intervention, and at 3- and 6-month follow-up.

The MBCT protocol was the standard 8-week protocol used in treating recurrent depression, but modified to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors: session lengths were cut to 2 hours each, meditations were shortened to ≤ 30 minutes each, the yoga was “gentler,” and the all-day session was omitted.

MBCT participants showed significantly greater reductions than controls in pain intensity (Cohen’s d = .61) on a 0-10 numerical rating scale. Average pain intensity ratings decreased from 5.5 at baseline to 4.0 post-intervention, then dropped further to 3.6 at 3-month follow-up. In contrast, wait-list control pain intensity remained essentially unchanged (5.3 at baseline, 5.3 at post-intervention, 5.0 at 3-month follow-up).

MBCT participants improved significantly more on quality of life (d […]

July 25th, 2016|News|

Intensive meditation practice reveals itself in the breath

Posted 07.19.2016 | by AMRA

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Many forms of meditation include an aspect of increased attention to and focus on the breath. This raises the question of whether breath-focused meditations change the way people breathe over time. This question is of interest because rapid, irregular breathing is associated with stress and anxiety, while slow, deep breathing is often prescribed to overcome negative emotional states. It’s possible that slowed respiration rates may account for some of the emotional well-being associated with long-term meditation practice.

Weilgosz et al. [Scientific Reports] measured the respiration rates of long-term meditators (LTMs) and meditation-naive controls on three separate occasions over the course of a little over one year. The authors examined whether greater amounts of long-term practice were associated with greater decreases in respiration rate, and whether an intensive day of meditation practice acutely changed respiration rate.

The study recruited 31 long-term meditators (average age = 51; 55% female) with 3 or more years of mindfulness meditation experience, a daily meditation practice lasting at least 30 minutes, and a history of 3 or more intensive meditation retreats. The LTMs were recruited from meditation centers across the United States and had an average of 4,658 hours of intensive retreat experience (range = 258 to 29,710 hours). The LTMs were contrasted with a group of meditation-naive controls of roughly similar age and gender (average age = 48; 68% female) recruited from the local Madison, Wisconsin area.

Participants had their respiration rates measured in a laboratory on three separate occasions spaced approximately 4.5 months apart. Their breathing was assessed while they were at rest, but there were no instructions to meditate during these assessment sessions. Prior to two of the […]

July 19th, 2016|News|

Long-term controlled trial of mindfulness for cancer survivors shows promise

Posted 06.24.2016 | by AMRA

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Every year nearly 250,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Diagnosis and treatment can be frightening and arduous, and the interval following active treatment is often fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. Prior studies show that breast cancer survivors can benefit from psychological interventions, but little is known about which interventions yield the best outcomes.

Carlson et al. [Psycho-Oncology] conducted a randomized, controlled trial comparing two evidence-supported programs, Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) and supportive expressive group therapy (SET), in reducing stress and improving the quality of life of distressed breast cancer survivors.

The researchers randomly assigned 271 distressed Canadian breast cancer survivors (average age = 55 years) to either MBCR or SET. MBCR is an 8-week group mindfulness-based intervention modeled after Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. SET is a 12-week group treatment developed at Stanford University that aims to mobilize social support, facilitate emotional openness and expressiveness, and strengthen coping skills.

All participating survivors had been diagnosed with Stage I-III breast cancer, completed surgical, chemotherapy, and/or radiation treatment, and scored ≥ 4 on a 10-point distress scale. Participants completed self-report measures of mood, stress, quality-of-life, perceived social support, spiritual well-being and post-traumatic growth before treatment, immediately after treatment, and at 6 month and 12 month follow-up.

Dropout rates during treatment were relatively high (MBCR=32%, SET=28%), with additional attrition (MBCR=28%, SET=23%) prior to post-treatment and follow-up assessments. The results included data from all the participants who enrolled in the trial.

Both groups improved on all of the mood subscales, but the improvement was significantly greater for MBCR participants, especially on measures of fatigue, anxiety, and confusion (average Cohen’s d = 0.37). Both groups also significantly improved on most of […]

June 24th, 2016|News|

Emotional reactivity lessens with mindfulness, brain study shows

Posted 06.17.2016 | by AMRA

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One advantage of being mindful is that it allows one to respond to situations with equanimity rather than reacting emotionally in a “knee-jerk” fashion. How does mindfulness help us to do this? According to one theory, mindfulness helps to extinguish our negative emotional reactions. It does this by increasing our exposure to the stimuli that provoke these reactions while helping us to maintain an open, nonjudgmental stance.

Uusberg et al. [Biological Psychology] tested this theory using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the effects of repeatedly viewing negative and neutral images under both mindful and control conditions. They hypothesized that repeated viewing of emotionally-charged images while maintaining mindful awareness would cause a greater reduction in emotional reactions to the images than viewing them without mindfulness.

The researchers recruited 37 meditation-naive volunteers (84% female, average age=27). The participants were shown a series of 30 neutral and 30 negative images while an EEG recorded their late positive potentials (LPPs) in response to those images. LPPs are electrical brain waves that occur 260-1500 milliseconds after viewing a stimulus. They reflect ongoing emotional processing, with larger LPPs reflecting greater degrees of emotional processing. The mean difference in LPP amplitude between negative and neutral images served as a measure of emotional reactivity.

The negative stimuli featured images such as car accidents and brutal attacks, while the neutral stimuli were images of everyday scenes and objects such as hairdryers. Participants viewed subsets of these neutral and negative images under three different conditions: an “attentiveness” condition in which they focused on the visual details of the images; an open-monitoring “mindfulness” condition in which they viewed the images while also attending nonjudgmentally to thoughts, […]

June 17th, 2016|News|