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  • 14 Feb 2024 9:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Over 40% of U.S. military personnel report post-deployment chronic pain, and up to a third of military veterans are prescribed opioids for long-term pain management. Over a quarter of these veterans go on to engage in some form of opioid misuse, either taking more than their prescribed doses, using opioids to manage negative emotions, or taking non-prescribed drugs.

    Therapists are always looking for ways to manage pain more safely and effectively, and mindfulness training may have a role to play in reducing chronic pain and opioid misuse. 

    Garland et al. [American Journal of Psychiatry] compared the efficacy of Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) and supportive psychotherapy in reducing self-reported pain and opioid misuse in past and present U.S. military personnel prescribed long-term opioids for chronic pain.

    The researchers randomly assigned 230 past and present U.S. military personnel (average age = 58 years; average length of chronic pain = 19 years; 91% veterans; 83% male; 86% white) prescribed long-term opioid treatment for chronic pain to either MORE or supportive psychotherapy. Both treatments were delivered by the same licensed psychologists in 8 weekly two-hour group formats. While 63% of the participants received treatment in person, the onset of the COVID pandemic caused 39% to receive treatment on-line. 

    The MORE curriculum combines elements of mindfulness training, cognitive reappraisal, and savoring of positive experiences, and psychoeducation on chronic pain and opioid misuse. The mindfulness component included breath- and body-focused meditations. In addition to 15 minutes of daily guided home mindfulness, reappraisal and savoring practice, participants were to engage in 3 minutes of mindful awareness prior to taking doses of their medication.

    The supportive therapy control used a non-directive client-centered approach that included discussion of thoughts and emotions around pain, opioid use, and emotional distress, but did not include skills training. 

    Participants were assessed at baseline, post-treatment, and 4-and 6-month follow-up on measures of pain, opioid use and misuse, and a variety of psychological variables. Participants also rated their opioid cravings three times daily throughout the six months of the study.

    The results showed that the MORE group reduced average chronic pain severity, pain-related interference with daily activities, and daily opioid cravings to a significantly greater degree than controls. They also reduced their average daily opioid dosage (by 21%) significantly more than controls (by 4%). Both groups significantly reduced opioid misuse from baseline but did not differ from each other in that regard.

    This trial suggests MORE for patients with chronic pain who are prescribed long-term opioid treatment attenuates self-reported pain outcomes. The study population of predominantly white, middle-aged males may restrict the degree to which these results may generalize to other populations. It is also not clear how switching from an in-person to on-line therapy format midway through the study might have affected the outcomes. 

    People with schizophrenic spectrum disorders (SSDs) often exhibit both positive (hallucinations, delusions) and negative (apathy, social withdrawal, lack of affect) symptoms. Negative symptoms respond poorly to current medications, and there is a need for novel treatments that can help minimize them. 


    Reference:

    Garland, E. L., Nakamura, Y., Bryan, C. J., Hanley, A. W., Parisi, A., Froeliger, B., Marchand, W. R., & Donaldson, G. W. (2024). Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement for Veterans and Military Personnel on Long-Term Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Link to study

  • 29 Jan 2024 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) typically display symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity as well as difficulties in family, social, and academic life. While medication is often the first-line treatment, there is evidence that children with ADHD may also benefit from cognitive behavioral and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). However, studies evaluating the efficacy of MBIs for this demographic often suffer from the limitations of small sample sizes, absence of evidence-based comparators, and insufficient long-term follow-up. 

    Wong et al. [Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics] compared the efficacy of mindfulness-based and cognitive behavioral interventions designed for children with ADHD and their parents in improving children’s attention and well-being while reducing parental stress.

    The researchers randomly assigned 138 Cantonese-speaking parent-child pairs, with children aged between 8 and 12 years (average age = 9 years; 72% male) diagnosed with ADHD, to either a MBI or cognitive behavioral intervention. The MBI comprised 8 weekly 90-minute group sessions modeled after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction but tailored for school age children. Children and parents met in separate concurrently running groups. 

    The control intervention involved 8-week cognitive-behavioral groups for the children and psychoeducational groups for the parents. The cognitive behavioral intervention focused on handling problems, improving self-control, understanding emotions, perspective taking, conversational skills, and managing social problems. The parental psychoeducational group reinforced concepts covered in the cognitive behavioral sessions and included discussion and role playing as well as self-care and relaxation skills.

    Due to COVID-related lockdowns in Hong Kong, about 6% of the child-parent pairs received most of their training remotely via Zoom.

    The primary outcome was children’s selective attention, assessed at baseline, 8 weeks, and 3 and 6 months using the Sky Search subtest of the Test of Everyday Attention. The subtest requires children to circle target spaceships on a sheet filled with distractor items. Secondary outcomes included various aspects of attention, executive function, parent-rated ADHD symptoms and behavioral problems, mindfulness, and well-being, as well as parental stress, rumination, and their own ADHD and well-being.

    Results showed that the MBI group had significantly improved selective memory over baseline at six months (d=0.32), while the cognitive behavioral group had significantly improved selective memory over baseline at post-intervention (d=0.27), 3 months (d=0.45), and 6 months (d=0.27). There were no significant differences in selective memory between the two study groups, however. While there were several significant small-to-moderate within-group improvements on other measures of children’s attention, executive function, and behavioral and ADHD symptoms, there were no significant differences between group on any of these variables.

    There were no within- or between-group improvements for parental well-being, perhaps reflecting the stress of COVID lockdown periods in China.

    The study shows a mindfulness-based and a cognitive-behavioral intervention show the same small-to-moderate improvements in selective attention and behavior in children with ADHD on six-month follow-up, and shows no effect for relative changes in parents of children with ADHD.

    The study is limited by the absence of an inactive control comparator that could rule out regression to the mean, repeat testing, or the passage of time. 


    Reference:

    Wong, S. Y. S., Chan, S. K. C., Yip, B. H. K.,... Bögels, S. M. (2023). The Effects of Mindfulness for Youth (MYmind) versus Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Improving Attention and Reducing Behavioral Problems among Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Their Parents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 

    Link to study

  • 16 Jan 2024 12:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that mindfulness-based interventions not only improve school-aged children’s executive functioning and emotional regulation, but also their academic performance. Voltmer et al. [Scientific Reports] tested the effects of teacher-led meditation breaks on primary school children’s performance on a standardized arithmetic test.

    The researchers randomly assigned nine 3rd and 4th grade classrooms containing a total of 140 students (51% male) in six German elementary schools to either a meditation or active control group. Teachers in the mindfulness group received 15 hours of instruction in mindfulness. They then led up to three 3- to 5-minute Breathing Break Intervention (BBI) sessions for their students per school day. These BBIs were selected from a set of 15 exercises designed to teach breath and body awareness, relaxation and self-calming, present-moment attention, and letting go. Control group students engaged in up to three 3- to 5-minute periods of coloring a mandala with crayons each school day. 

    Students completed standardized arithmetic tests at baseline assessment , 9 weeks into the intervention, and 5 month follow-up. Arithmetic test scores were reported as age-normed T-scores with a mean of 50 and standard deviation of 10.

    Teachers also rated student arithmetic ability on a five-point scale at all three assessments. Parental educational level and children’s working memory (measured using a test of repeating digit span backwards) were used as covariates in predicting intervention effects on arithmetic performance.

    The research was conducted during the second year of the COVID pandemic. The previous school year had been interrupted by COVID-related shutdowns, and school administrators, anxious about student performance, had the 3rd graders take the 2nd grade test and 4th graders take the 3rd grade test at baseline. At week 9 and follow up assessments, however, students took the test appropriate for their grade level. The week 9 and follow up assessment interval was disrupted by further COVID shutdowns, and by shortened school weeks. Teachers during this interval stopped performing the interventions on any regular basis.

    About 40% of the BBI group students continued sporadically taking breathing breaks on their own while engaging in distance learning from home, but rarely more than once a week.

    The results showed the BBI group had considerably higher arithmetic T-scores than controls prior to intervention (50 vs. 42). After nine weeks of intervention, both study groups’ performances dropped, but the BBI group had a steeper drop so that their T-scores were now only marginally higher than controls (41 vs. 39).

    At 5 months, the BBI group showed a steeper increase in scores so that their T-scores were again substantially higher than controls (49 vs. 41). Teacher-rated arithmetic ability did not differ between groups.

    Breathing Break Interventions are an age-appropriate way to introduce mindfulness to grade schoolers. The researchers attributed the BBI group’s steeper improvement in arithmetic scores from baseline to 9 weeks to the intervention, but this interpretation does not account for the BBI group’s initially higher pre-intervention scores. At five months both groups essentially returned to their pre-intervention baselines.

    Given the shifting use of grade-appropriate tests and COVID-related complications, the results are difficult to interpret and may reflect a null effect between groups.


    Reference:

    Voltmer, K., Hondrich, F., & von Salisch, M. (2023). Daily breath-based mindfulness exercises in a randomized controlled trial improve primary school children’s performance in arithmetic. Scientific Reports.

    Link to study

  • 22 Dec 2023 8:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The incidence of psychological symptoms in adolescents and young adults has risen significantly over the past decade, placing increased stress on university counseling resources. Mindfulness-based interventions may be less staff and time intensive than many traditional mental health interventions. Further, they might achieve positive outcomes at lower cost.

    Wagner et al. [BMJ Open] evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a Mindfulness Skills for Students (MSS) program added to mental health services-as-usual to a control group that had access solely to mental health services-as-usual alone.

    The researchers randomly assigned 616 British university students (mean age = 23 years; 63% female) with an expressed interest in the MSS program to either the MSS program with access to mental health services-as-usual when needed, or a control group with access to treatment-as-usual when needed. The control group was guaranteed slots in the following year’s MSS program. 

    The MSS program consisted of 8 weekly 75-90 minute group sessions, each incorporating two periods of meditation, as well as opportunities for reflection and inquiry. Students were encouraged to dedicate 8-25 minutes of daily home practice. Mental health services-as-usual involved access to university individual and group counseling services, along with counseling service workshops. The MSS program was offered during the winter and spring semesters, with results reported separately for these cohorts.

    Participants underwent assessments using self-report questionnaires measuring psychological distress and well-being at time of recruitment, post-intervention, during exam week, and at 12 month follow-up. The psychological distress questionnaire formed the basis for computing quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), a standard metric for evaluating quality of life in cost-effectiveness studies.

    The cost of the MSS program was determined by calculating the staff time cost per participant. Meanwhile, the cost of treatment-as-usual was calculated based on the staff cost for delivering services at the university counseling center per participant, derived from counseling center records. A small percentage of the participants (<18%) used counselling center resources, and there was no difference in usage between the study groups. 

    The results indicated that MSS groups had lower levels of distress than the control group at all three outcomes assessments. These differences were statistically significant at all three times for the winter cohort, and at post-intervention and exam time for the spring cohort. Well-being scores were significantly higher for MSS group than controls at all assessment  times.

    A cost-benefit analysis revealed that the MSS group achieved significantly better mental health outcomes at significantly higher cost than controls. On average, the cost for each MSS participant was $84.96 USD, whereas for those in the control group, it was $24.66 USD.

    Using the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates of willingness to pay for an increase of one quality-adjusted life year, the MSS program was deemed by the authors to be cost-effective. 

    The study shows that the Mindfulness Skills for Students program significantly decreases psychological distress and improves well-being in university students in a cost-effective manner compared to treatment-as-usual.

    The study is limited by relying on students with an interest in mindfulness and the absence of another short-term treatment as a comparator.


    Reference:

    Wagner, A. P., Galante, J., Dufour, G., Barton, G., Stochl, J., Vainre, M., & Jones, P. B. (2023). Cost-effectiveness of providing university students with a mindfulness-based intervention to reduce psychological distress: Economic evaluation of a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open, 13(11), e071724. 

    Link to study

  • 14 Dec 2023 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At any given time, 8% of adults experience chronic low back pain. Some studies indicate that mindfulness meditation can alleviate the pain and disability associated with this condition. However, the precise mechanism behind this benefit is not clear. Does it involve engaging the body’s endogenous opioid system, teaching individuals to become psychologically non-reactive, or operating through a placebo effect?

    Khatib et al. [Neuropsychopharmacology] tested the effects of mindfulness meditation versus sham mindfulness meditation, both with and without the opioid antagonist Naloxone, on evoked chronic low back pain.

    The researchers randomly assigned 71 patients (average age = 46 years; 51% female; 87% Caucasian) experiencing chronic low back pain persisting for at least 3 months to either mindfulness or sham mindfulness meditation groups. Both groups participated in four 20-minute meditation training sessions.

    The mindfulness training focused on accepting thoughts and feelings, recognizing their transient nature, and returning attention to the breath. In contrast, sham meditation training emphasized breathing slowly and deeply in a meditative posture without additional instructions.

    Participants met with researchers seven times. The first session was a pre-intervention assessment. During sessions 1, 6, and 7, the researchers induced pain in participants using a straight leg raise procedure. Participants lay supine while the researchers raised one of their legs to a 90-degree angle while keeping the knee straight. Participants alerted researchers when their pain rose by 2 points on a 10-point scale. Researchers continued to raise their legs up to 6 times until a 2-point increase in pain was induced. Patients then rated post-leg raise pain on a 10-point scale.  

    Participants practiced mindfulness or sham mindfulness meditation during sessions 2-5 and completed questionnaires of pain severity, catastrophizing, and disability before and after each session. During sessions 6 and 7, pain was evoked by straight leg raises after seven minutes of rest.

    Participants then received either intravenous Naloxone (which blocks the endogenous opioid system) or saline (a placebo). Participants then meditated or sham meditated for 7 minutes before once again reporting evoked pain both before and after leg raises. 

    The results indicated that both mindfulness and sham meditation significantly reduced evoked pain following both Naloxone and saline administration. However, the mindfulness group reported significantly lower evoked pain after rest, Naloxone, and saline compared to the sham meditation group (partial η2= .09).

    Sixty percent of the mindfulness group reported practicing non-reactive attention during meditation, while 20% of the sham mindfulness group did. Practicing non-reactive attention during meditation was associated with lower evoked pain in the mindfulness group (r = -.35) but not in the sham group (r = .04).

    The study shows that both mindfulness and sham meditation effectively decrease evoked pain in chronic low back pain patients. However, mindfulness meditation outperformed sham meditation in this aspect.

    The finding that Naloxone fails to block this effect suggests that meditation does not rely on endogenous opioids to achieve pain reduction. This does not rule out contributions from non-opioid systems like the dopaminergic, glutaminergic, or endocannabinoid systems. The correlation between non-reactive attention and pain reduction suggests that mindfulness meditation’s pain-reduction effect is due, at least partially, to non-reactive reappraisal processes.


    Reference:

    Khatib, L., Dean, J. G., Oliva, V., Riegner, G., Gonzalez, N. E., Birenbaum, J., Cruanes, G. F., Miller, J., Patterson, M., Kim, H.-C., Chakravarthy, K., & Zeidan, F. (2023). The role of endogenous opioids in mindfulness and sham mindfulness-meditation for the direct alleviation of evoked chronic low back pain: A randomized clinical trial. Neuropsychopharmacology. 

    Link to study

  • 21 Nov 2023 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can enhance attention and emotional regulation in certain practitioners, but can they also foster ethical behavior? Studies examining the effects of MBIs on helping behavior, cheating, generosity, compassion, or willingness to inflict harm have produced mixed results. Some studies show MBIs can facilitate prosocial behavior, while others suggest MBIs may make people more self-focused.

    Feruglio et al. [Mindfulness] conducted a randomized, controlled study to discover whether a MBI could reduce lying for financial gain in a card game.

    The researchers randomly assigned 69 Italian university students (average age = 26; 80% female) who had expressed an interest in participating in a MBI to either a MBI or waitlist control. The MBI was an on-line 8-week course modeled after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction curriculum, delivered in 8 weekly 2-hour sessions via participants’ personal computers.

    Each session included 30-minute guided meditations incorporating elements of breath-focused, body scan, and open-monitoring meditation. Participants were also instructed to engage in daily home meditation practice using a guided audio recording.

    Participants were assessed before and after intervention using the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA) and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). They were also evaluated pre- and post-intervention on their willingness to lie while playing 48 hands of a computer-administered zero-sum card game against an ostensible live opponent, which was actually a computer algorithm.

    Players were informed of the monetary value of each hand in the card game. The computer opponent initially chose a card, either the Ace of Hearts or Ace of Spades, which was concealed from the opponent player so it could not see the card’s face value. The Ace of Hearts always won. Participants, however, could see the card faces and choose to lie or tell the truth to the opponent about which card the opponents had selected and whether they had won. Players earned money for each hand they claimed to have won. 

    The results showed that the MBI group had significantly increased scores on the MAIA Self-Regulation (partial η2 = 0.33), Attention Regulation (partial η2 = 0.21), Body Listening (partial η2 = 0.14) and FFMQ Non-Reactive (partial η2 = 0.10) subscales more than the control group. Additionally, the MBI group showed decreased frequency of lying in the card game (d = 0.41), while the control group did not (d = 0.16).

    More meditative practice minutes during the course was linked with less lying, but only among those MBI participants who scored at least one standard deviation above the mean on the MAIA Attention Regulation subscale.

    The study demonstrates that a MBI can reduce deceit for minimal financial gain in a simulated card game. This decreased deceit is correlated with improved interoceptive awareness. Further, this reduction in deceit appears to be partly dependent on more minutes of meditation practice.

    Study limitations include enrolling participants already interested in a MBI, the absence of an active control group, and the lack of a post-assessment to determine whether participants believed they were playing against a live opponent rather than a computer simulation during the card game.


    Reference:

    Feruglio, S., Panasiti, M. S., Crescentini, C., Aglioti, S. M., & Ponsi, G. (2023). Training the Moral Self: An 8-Week Mindfulness Meditation Program Leads to Reduced Dishonest Behavior and Increased Regulation of Interoceptive Awareness. Mindfulness.

    Link to study

  • 15 Nov 2023 9:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    Inadequate maternal diet and high stress during pregnancy are risk factors for poorer cognitive and social development in early childhood. In a study previously highlighted in the September 2023 issue of the Mindfulness Research Monthly, Crovetto et al. investigated the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or a Mediterranean diet on toddlers whose mothers received treatment during pregnancy.

    As a secondary outcome of that trial, Nakaki et al. [American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology] newly examined fetal MRI and infant neurobehavioral outcomes from a subsample of participants in the original study. 

    The original study recruited 1,221 pregnant women from Barcelona who were assessed as being at risk for delivering low birthweight infants. The expectant mothers were randomly assigned to one of three study groups: usual treatment, usual treatment plus MBSR, or usual treatment plus a Mediterranean diet. MBSR consisted of eight 2.5 hour weekly group sessions, a full-day retreat, and home practice. It followed a MBSR syllabus that included a specialized focus on maternal yoga and mothers’ relationships with their fetuses.

    The Mediterranean diet intervention involved monthly 30-minute assessments and 1-hour group sessions conducted by trained nutritionists. Participants received monthly supplies of extra virgin olive oil and walnuts, along with weekly suggested shopping lists, detailed meal plans, and menus. The usual care group received pregnancy care following current institutional protocols. 

    A randomly selected subset of 692 infants from the original trial underwent assessment using the Neonatal Neurobehavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) at 1-3 months of age. The NBAS provides measures of infant sensory, motor, arousal, and autonomic nervous system development. Additionally, a smaller subset of 90 mothers underwent MRI scanning at 35-39 weeks into their pregnancies to assess brain development of their unborn fetus. 

    The results showed that fetuses of mothers who participated in the Mediterranean Diet intervention had significantly larger total brain volumes, corpus callosa, and right frontal lobes compared to fetuses of mothers in the usual treatment group. Fetuses of mothers who received MBSR had significantly larger left anterior cingulate gyri than fetuses in the usual treatment group. There were no significant differences in fetal brain development between MBSR and Diet groups.

    Mediterranean Diet infants scored higher on NBAS measures of autonomic stability, attentiveness to external stimuli, and range of arousal compared to infants in the usual treatment group, while MBSR infants scored higher on arousal regulation. 

    The study reveals that maternal Mediterranean Diet and MBSR interventions during pregnancy each both yield observable structural and behavioral effects on fetal and infant development phases.

    The limitations of this analysis include the evaluation of only a small subset of the original study participants, and the possibility that findings applicable to a higher-risk population of expectant mothers may not hold in the broader population.


    Reference:

    Nakaki, A., Crovetto, F., Urru, A., Piella, G., … Gratacos, E. (2023). Effects of Mediterranean Diet or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on fetal and neonatal brain development A secondary analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial (IMPACT BCN). American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 

    Link to study

  • 24 Oct 2023 3:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Respiration rate, which denotes the number of times we breathe each minute, holds promise as a potential biomarker for subjective well-being. Respiration rate tends to increase during periods of stress, anxiety, or pain, while it tends to decrease during periods of calm and relaxation. Rates are potentially modifiable: the more meditation hours long-term meditators have cumulatively, the slower their baseline respiration rates. Perhaps it is respiration rate that improves subjective well-being in meditators.

    Kral et al. [Scientific Reports] tested the effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on the respiration rates and well-being of people who were naïve to meditation. They also conducted a cross-sectional analysis to test for a possible association between respiration rate and well-being in more experienced meditators not involved in the MBSR trial.

    The researchers randomized 203 meditation-naïve adults (average age = 42 years; 61% female; 90% Caucasian) to MBSR, a Health Enhancement Program (HEP), or a waitlist control. This secondary analysis is part of a larger study of MBSR and asthma. Out of the 203 participants, 70 had been diagnosed with asthma. Participants with asthma were assigned to either MBSR or HEP, while those without asthma were assigned to MBSR, HEP, or the waitlist control. 

    The MBSR intervention followed standard protocol. HEP matched MBSR in terms of the length and frequency of group sessions and homework. HEP sessions did not teach mindfulness but instead focused on nutrition, music therapy, balance and agility, and aerobic exercise. Participants completed assessments at pre-randomization, post-intervention, and 6-month follow-up, which included baseline respiration rate and self-report measures of physical and subjective well-being and distress. Respiration rates were measured using an abdominally-placed pneumatic belt while participants underwent fMRI scans (fMRI data were not reported in this article). 

    The researchers also recruited a cohort of 42 long-term meditators (mean age = 44 years; 62% male; 88% Caucasian) with a minimum of 5 years of daily meditation practice and at least 5 weeks of meditation retreat experience. Long-term meditators were not assigned to interventions and were evaluated once.

    The results for the long-term meditators showed a significant association between slower respiration rates and lower distress and greater well-being scores. The meditation-naïve MBSR group showed significantly lowered respiration rates compared to waitlist controls, but this difference was no longer significant at six months. The MBSR group had decreased distress symptoms at post-intervention compared to both HEP and control groups, but scores on well-being showed no group differences after the intervention.

    The study suggests that slower respiration rates are associated with greater subjective well-being in long-term meditators. MBSR can lower respiration rates and reduce distress in meditation-naïve participants, but slowed respiration rates do not persist over time, and there is no significant improvement in well-being beyond some stress and anxiety reduction.

    The study has limitations, including the differential enrollment and assignment to groups of asthmatic and non-asthmatic samples, as well as by its reliance on a single measure of respiration rate captured only in a controlled laboratory setting. Additionally, the measure of subjective well-being used in this study may not be sensitive to short-term interventions but may primarily reflect long-term shifts in other factors such as relationships and achievements.


    Reference:

    Kral, T. R. A., Weng, H. Y., Mitra, V., Imhoff-Smith, T. P., Azemi, E., Goldman, R. I., Rosenkranz, M. A., Wu, S., Chen, A., & Davidson, R. J. (2023). Slower respiration rate is associated with higher self-reported well-being after wellness training. Scientific Reports, 13(1), 15953. 

    Link to study

  • 11 Oct 2023 11:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    A child’s ability to self-regulate emotions and attention is the foundation for later social and emotional development. Programs that foster these abilities can have beneficial effects on later academic, work, family, social, and civic functioning. Many primary schools already employ social-emotional learning curricula around the globe, but could those curricula be improved by adding a mindfulness-based component?  

    Haines et al. [Mindfulness] conducted a randomized controlled study to test the effects of a Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum (MBKC) on early childhood social-emotional, executive, and academic functioning.

    The researchers randomly assigned 16 pre-school and 4 kindergarten classrooms, comprising 245 children(mean age = 4 years; 77% lower income; 54% male; 42% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 13% Black, 12% Asian, 8% mixed ethnicity), to a classroom curriculum-as-usual or the classroom curriculum with the addition of MBKC. Fourteen of the 16 classrooms (including all of the control classrooms) already had established social-emotional learning programs as part of  their regular curricula. 

    The 12-week MBKC program consisted of 24 lessons, each lasting 15-20 minutes, and these lessons taught by the children’s regular classroom teachers, each of whom received 26 hours of training. The MBKC lessons incorporated children’s literature, music, and movement, and they were organized into 8 thematic categories: mindful bodies, inside emotions, emotional expression, emotional caretaking, self-calming, gratitude, caring for others, and caring for the world. The overarching  focus of the program was on teaching non-judgmental acceptance, present-moment awareness, and kindness. 

    To assess the impact of the intervention, students were evaluated 6 weeks before the program's initiation and 4 weeks after its completion. The assessments included a set of social and cognitive tasks, which were scored by blinded raters. Additionally, self-assessments, teacher evaluations, and parent ratings were used to measure social-emotional, academic, and developmental competencies.

    The results showed that the MBKC group outperformed controls on a generosity task in which they could keep stickers for themselves or dole them out to various others, including a sick child (partial η2 = .02).

    According to teacher reports, the MBKC group was rated as more prosocial (.07) and empathic (.08) and as showing greater social emotional intelligence (.08), cognitive development (.19), physical development (.41), language ability (.10), math ability (.20), and literacy (.43). According to parent reports, the MBKC group showed higher levels of cognitive empathy (.05) and social-emotional functioning (.02).

    On many of the measures, children who initially performed poorly on pre-intervention measures benefitted the least from MBKC, while those who initially performed the best on the baseline showed the greatest improvements. For example, when it came to a task measuring the ability to remain undistracted by extraneous cues (known as the Flanker task), children who initially scored the lowest on the pretest benefitted more from the routine curriculum, while those who initially scored the highest on the pretest benefitted more from MBKC (.07).

    The study demonstrates that MBKC has the potential to enhance generosity, empathy, and social-emotional functioning in young children, particularly in those who already possess baseline social-emotional and cognitive competencies.

    The study suffers some limitations. Ratings provided by teachers and parents who were not blinded to the study group yielded results that were more pronounced than those provided by objective measures that were scored by blind raters. Also, the significant improvements in teacher ratings for children’s physical, language, and math competencies were unexpected.


    Reference:

    Haines, B. A., Hong, P. Y., Immel, K. R., & Lishner, D. A. (2023). The Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum for Preschoolers: An Applied Multi-Site Randomized Control Trial. Mindfulness. 

    Link to study

  • 26 Sep 2023 9:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    Contemplative practices such as mindfulness, lovingkindness, and self-compassion may have different effects on humans, and these differences may become obscured when they are combined in interventions. Certain practices may prove more effective than others in remedying specific types of mental and physical health problems.

    Petzold et al. [Scientific Reports] compared the immediate mental effects of using two different types of contemplative practice apps: a mindfulness meditation app and a social-emotional app. 

    The researchers randomly assigned 212 German-speaking Berlin residents (average age = 44 years; 73% Female) to use either a mindfulness meditation app or a social-emotional Affect Dyad app. Participants in both conditions participated in 2.5-hour orientation webinars and proceeded to 10 weeks of app use. Participants used the apps six days a week, and on the seventh day of each week participated in 2-hour on-line group coaching sessions.

    The mindfulness app contained 12-minute guided breath-focused, sensory, and open monitoring meditations. Mindfulness coaching sessions emphasized bodily and sensory awareness, dealing with difficult emotions, and cultivating an attitude of dignity and respect towards oneself. 

    The Affect Dyad app paired participants with another participant to discuss two recent events—one that elicited difficult emotions and one that elicited gratitude—and describe how those emotions affected their bodies. Participants spoke for 6 minutes while their partner listened without interruption, and then switched roles.

    Affect Dyad coaching sessions emphasized social connectedness, non-judgmental listening, bodily awareness, dealing with difficult emotions, and cultivating care and gratitude.

    Participants rated their thoughts and affect prior to and after daily app sessions. Thoughts were rated for temporality (about past, present, or future), social orientation (about self or other) and emotional valence (positive or negative). Affect was rated for emotional valence and intensity. The data enabled researchers to compare immediate changes in thought and affect resulting from app use and analyze group differences in these changes. These were immediate mental changes due to engaging with the app and not long-term results from engaging in these interventions over a period of 10 weeks. There were no significant between- or within-group long-term changes in thought and affect.

    The results showed that mindfulness meditation app group significantly reduced future-oriented, negative, and other-oriented thoughts while increasing positive affect and affect intensity.

    In contrast, the Affect Dyad app group significantly reduced future-oriented thoughts, increased past-oriented and other-oriented thoughts, and raised positive affect and affect intensity.

    Self-oriented thoughts increased for both groups but did so significantly more for the Affect Dyad group compared to the mindfulness group. 

    The researchers interpreted these results as showing that mindfulness meditation app reduces thinking and improves mood through “calming the mind,” whereas the Affect Dyad app increases past-, self-, and other-directed thoughts and improves mood through enhancing social connection and caring. While both apps showed substantial immediate short-term effects, it is unclear whether they yield meaningful long-term effects.

    Smartphone apps are becoming an increasingly important way people engage with contemplative practices—meditation apps now have 185 million users—and this study’s combining of daily app practice with weekly on-line coaching seems one promising way to scale-up engagement with these practices.


    Reference:

    Petzold, P., Silveira, S., Godara, M., Matthaeus, H., & Singer, T. (2023). A randomized trial on differential changes in thought and affect after mindfulness versus dyadic practice indicates phenomenological fingerprints of app-based interventions. Scientific Reports. 

    Link to study

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