Mindfulness practices as part of Weight Watchers program

Smith, Deborah. “Exploring the effects of introducing short, manageable mindfulness practises to adults seeking to lose weight in a UK Weight Watchers meeting.”  Proceedings. Dissertation projects, MA in Positive Psychology, Buckinghamshire New University, UK. pp. 43-58.

From the Abstract: Mindfulness and mindful eating are becoming recognised as effective methods in helping people to achieve a healthy weight.  Previous studies have involved relatively lengthy introductions to the practises, sometimes expecting participants to practise the mindfulness meditations for forty-five minutes per day. 

However this study examines participants’ experiences using brief introductions to mindful eating, breathing meditation and loving kindness meditation.  Integrated within a regular weekly Weight Watchers meeting, over a six week period, a fifteen minute introduction was given; a ten minute explanation and five minutes practise.  Two, five or ten minute meditations were suggested for home practise. 

Seven people out of the twenty-five participants were chosen to participate in the focus group used for feedback on the experience.  The interview explored the participants’ experiences of the practises and thematic analysis was used to identify themes within the participants’ accounts.  

The main conclusions from this study are that overweight people seeking to lose weight experience multiple benefits from the brief introductions and mindfulness practises; i.e., reduced stress, increased self-compassion and a more positive relationship with food was developed.  Participants reported an ease of engagement and unanimously wanted to continue practicing mindfulness as part of their on-going weight loss programme and possibly beyond.

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Research on spirituality and meditative practices

Kristeller, Jean L., and Kevin D. Jordan. “Spirituality and Meditative Practice: Research Opportunities and Challenges.” Psychological Studies, 20 Mar 2017,  doi:10.1007/s12646-017-0391-0.

Abstract. Meditative practices have a long history in India and have influenced contemporary meditative programs elsewhere in the world. Over the last several decades, the use of meditation as a therapeutic tool has been investigated in regard to physical, emotional and behavioral effects with impressive results. In parallel to this has been a growing interest in research on spirituality, spiritual growth, and therapeutic modalities that incorporate the spiritual dimension of the person.

Ironically, very little research has explored the interface between these two constructs, despite how closely linked they are traditionally. This paper addresses the range of ways in which spirituality and spiritual development might be fruitfully investigated in the context of meditative practice, bringing further understanding to both psychological constructs.

Furthermore, the widely recognized significance of both meditative and spiritual experiences suggests that cross-cultural research may be particularly valuable at identifying factors that engage the universal human capacity of spirituality, and the particular potential for meditative practice in doing so.

Neurobiology of wisdom

mindfulness in schools

From Mindful Schools website. As the scope of science expands, concepts that were previously confined to the humanities are receiving scientific attention. One recent example of this trend is the scientific exploration of wisdom. Traditionally, discussions of wisdom have been confined to disciplines such as philosophy. Philosophy is, after all, literally the ‘love of wisdom.’

A few years ago, two psychiatrists from University of California San Diego published an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry titled, “Neurobiology of Wisdom.” They suggest that “wisdom is a unique psychological construct, not just a collection of desirable traits with a convenient unifying label.” The authors defined wisdom as six key components and discuss the neurobiological characteristics underlying each.

What is striking how these six components of wisdom dovetail with outcomes relevant to mindfulness practice. . . . more

Barriers to meditation among cancer family caregivers

Williams, A. L., Van Ness, P., Dixon, J., & McCorkle, R. (2012). Barriers to meditation by gender and age among cancer family caregivers. Nursing research, 61(1), 22.

From the Abstract. Despite solid basic science research supporting meditation’s physiologic benefits, meditation remains a marginalized practice for many Westerners; observational and descriptive studies indicate a spectrum of barriers to meditation practice.

A cross-sectional survey study was conducted of 150 family caregivers to adults with cancer visiting an outpatient chemotherapy center in Connecticut, United States. The primary outcome was the Determinants of Meditation Practice Inventory. Explanatory variables included demographic characteristics, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale, Big Five Inventory, and Caregiver Reactions Assessment. Participants included 98 women and 52 men. Age range was 18–84 years (M = 52.3 years).

The highest frequency of barriers for both genders related to misconceptions about meditation.

Medical imaging evidence supports meditation in the treatment of depression

Annells, S., Kho, K., & Bridge, P. (2015). Meditate don’t medicate: How medical imaging evidence supports the role of meditation in the treatment of depression. Radiography. Published prior to inclusion in an issue.

Depression is a debilitating psychiatric disorder that affects a large proportion of the population. The current treatment for depression involves anti-depressant medication which is associated with side effects and a heightened risk of relapse.

Method. A systematic literature review was performed to determine the value of medical imaging studies in measuring the impact of meditation on depression.

Results. Medical imaging studies have successfully demonstrated that meditation may counteract or prevent the physiological cause of depression by decreasing amygdala activity and increasing grey matter volume and activity of the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and other brain regions associated with attention and emotional self-regulation.

Recent advances in functional imaging have enabled visualisation of neural plasticity within the brain. This has shown that for meditators, practice-induced alterations could be due to micro-anatomical processes that may represent an increased functional capacity within the brain regions activated. These changes within brain physiology in association with the skills gained during meditation such as self-regulation, mental processing of negative information and relaxation techniques could potentially lead to a permanent cure for depression and thus prevent relapse.

Conclusions. The results of this review suggest that medical imaging has a valuable role to play in evidencing the physiological changes within the brain caused by meditation that counteract those that cause depression. These studies indicate that meditation is a viable alternative to medication for clinical treatment of patients with depression. More rigorous longitudinal imaging studies are proposed to enhance understanding of the neural pathways and mechanisms of meditation.

Anxiety in chronic pain patients

Kim, R. O. D. (2015). Observing The Effects Of Mindfulness-Based Meditation On Anxiety And Depression In Chronic Pain Patients. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 5(4), 143-147. Full text.

Background: People whose chronic pain limits their independence are especially likely to become anxious and depressed. Mindfulness training has shown promise for stress-related disorders.

Methods: Chronic pain patients who complained of anxiety and depression and who scored higher than moderate in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) as well as moderate in Quality of Life Scale (QOLS) were observed for eight weeks, three days a week for an hour of Mindfulness Meditation training with an hour daily home Mindfulness Meditation practice. Pain was evaluated on study entry and completion, and patients were given the Patients’ Global Impression of Change (PGIC) to score at the end of the training program.

Results: Forty-seven (47) patients completed the Mindfulness Meditation Training program. Over the year-long observation, patients demonstrated noticeable improvement in depression, anxiety, pain, and global impression of change.

Conclusions: Chronic pain patients who suffer with anxiety and depression may benefit from incorporating Mindfulness Meditation into their treatment plans.

iPad-assisted meditation during chemotherapy infusion

Millegan, J., Manschot, B., Dispenzieri, M., Marks, B., Edwards, A., Raulston, V., … & Narro, M. (2015). Leveraging iPads to introduce meditation and reduce distress among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: a promising approach. Supportive Care in Cancer, 1-2. Abstract only.

Distress is common among cancer patients. Regular meditation practice has the potential to mitigate this distress and improve quality of life for this population. Introducing meditation to cancer patients can be particularly challenging given the demands on patients’ time from treatment and normal life events. This internal process improvement study examined the potential benefit of utilizing iPads during chemotherapy sessions to introduce meditation and reduce distress.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy infusion were offered iPads with various meditation videos and audio files during the session. Levels of distress were measured using the distress thermometer at the beginning of chemotherapy and at the conclusion of chemotherapy.

Seventy-three patients accepted the meditation iPads during the chemotherapy session. Among those who accepted the iPads, average distress dropped 46 % by the end of the session.