Posted in field study, longitudinal, mindfulness meditation

Boosting out-of-class meditation practice

Galla, Brian M., et al. “Mindfulness, meet self-regulation: Boosting out-of-class meditation practice with brief action plans.” Motivation Science, vol. 2, no. 4, 2016, pp. 220,


Abstract. Mindfulness training programs require the completion of daily out-of-class meditation practices, often referred to as “homework,” and individuals who adhere to these requirements have better outcomes. Nevertheless, many people fall short of the recommended amount of meditation practice. Two field studies tested whether the formation of action plans—strategic plans for when and where to meditate—would support out-of-class meditation practice.

Study 1 was a 3-month longitudinal study of adolescents who participated in a 5-day meditation retreat. Immediately before and after, and then 3 months later, adolescents answered questions about emotional well-being. Immediately after the retreat, adolescents also answered questions about their commitment to continue meditating, and action plans for when and where to meditate. Three months later, they reported on their meditation frequency. S

tudy 2 was a between-subjects experiment in which adults enrolled in an 8-week mindfulness program were randomly assigned to an action plan condition or a control condition. Personal commitment to practice meditation was assessed at baseline, out-of-class meditation frequency was assessed weekly, and emotional well-being was assessed at the beginning and end of the 8-week program.

In both studies, individuals who formed strategic plans for when and where to meditate meditated more frequently, but only if they also had a strong personal commitment to do so. Further, out-of-class meditation days mediated the association between action plans and emotional well-being among participants with strong personal commitment. Collectively, these results suggest that although mindfulness is about nonreactive awareness of the present, its practice is enhanced by planning ahead.

Posted in eating disorder, mindfulness meditation, randomized controlled study, Uncategorized

Mindfulness and binge eating disorder

Randomized controlled trial of a 12-month computerized mindfulness-based intervention for obese patients with binge eating disorder: The MindOb study protocol. Full text. 


Mindfulness-based interventions for healthy behaviors such as exercise and dietary modifications have aroused growing interest. This study aims to test the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention for the reduction of impulsive eating and the improvement of motivation to exercise among obese individuals.


One-hundred and twenty obese outpatients, aged 18 to 65 years, diagnosed with a binge eating disorder, will be randomly assigned to one of the three following groups: mindfulness practice, sham meditation, or treatment as usual control. The tested intervention consists of a 1-year computerized mindfulness-based program. Mindfulness sessions are audio recordings that the patients are asked to listen to, 10 min every day. Self-reported questionnaires measuring impulsive eating, motivation to exercise, physical activity level, mood, and mindfulness skills are filled in at baseline, 1, 6, and 12 months. Physical activity, calories consumption, and biomarkers are measured with more objective measurement tools at baseline, 6 months and 12 months.


Mindfulness, as both a de-automation element and as a moderator of motivation to exercise, can lead to the reduction of impulsive eating and also to an increase in levels of physical activity. These effects could cause weight loss in obese patients suffering from binge eating disorder.

Posted in brain research, mindfulness meditation, pain, research

Meditation-induced pain relief

Zeidan, F., et al. (2015). Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35(46), 15307-15325. Full text.

Significance Statement. Recent findings have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation significantly reduces pain. Given that the “gold standard” for evaluating the efficacy of behavioral interventions is based on appropriate placebo comparisons, it is imperative that we establish whether there is an effect supporting meditation-related pain relief above and beyond the effects of placebo.

Here, we provide novel evidence demonstrating that mindfulness meditation produces greater pain relief and employs distinct neural mechanisms than … sham mindfulness meditation [placebo]. Specifically, mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief activated higher order brain regions, including the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices. In contrast, placebo analgesia was associated with decreased pain-related brain activation.

These findings demonstrate that mindfulness meditation reduces pain through unique mechanisms and may foster greater acceptance of meditation as an adjunct pain therapy.

Posted in mindfulness meditation, modified constant comparison approach, qualitative interviews

Cultivating equanimity in men

Lomas, T., Edginton, T., Cartwright, T., & Ridge, D. (2015). Cultivating equanimity through mindfulness meditation: A mixed methods enquiry into the development of decentering capabilities in men. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(3), 88-106. doi:10.5502/ijw.v5i3.7. Full text.

Abstract: Mindfulness meditation is thought to help practitioners become more tolerant of dysphoric emotions by enabling them to cultivate decentring skills. Such skills may be especially useful for male meditators, as men are thought to have particular difficulties regulating their emotions, partly due to masculinity norms related to emotional toughness. However, few studies of mindfulness have focussed specifically on men to explore the intersection between wellbeing and masculinity.

Uniquely, we sought to examine the development of decentring capabilities in a non-clinical sample of male meditators using a longitudinal mixed-methods design. Thirty meditators were recruited in London, UK. Participants completed an emotional Stroop task – at two points, a year apart – to assess changes in emotional reactivity linked to meditation. Participants also undertook qualitative interviews at both time points, analysed using a modified constant comparison approach.

Together, the two datasets converged to suggest that men did develop decentring skills through meditation, leading to greater equanimity in the presence of negative qualia. In addition to offering insights into the mechanisms underpinning the impact of mindfulness on wellbeing, the study provides a gendered dimension to the analysis of wellbeing strategies like meditation, a dimension which has hitherto been conspicuously absent from recent literature in fields such as positive psychology.

Posted in Buddhist meditation, mindfulness meditation

Spiritual roots of mindfulness meditation

Hyland, T. (2015). The Limits of Mindfulness: Emerging Issues for Education. British Journal of Educational Studies, (ahead-of-print), 1-21.

Abstract. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are being actively implemented in a wide range of fields – psychology, mind/body health care and education at all levels – and there is growing evidence of their effectiveness in aiding present-moment focus, fostering emotional stability, and enhancing general mind/body well-being.

However, as often happens with popular innovations, the burgeoning interest in and appeal of mindfulness practice has led to a reductionism and commodification – popularly labelled ‘McMindfulness’ – of the underpinning principles and ethical foundations of such practice which threatens to subvert and militate against the achievement of the original aims of MBIs in general and their educational function in particular.

It is argued here that mindfulness practice needs to be organically connected to its spiritual roots if the educational benefits of such practice are to be fully realised.

Posted in brain research, literature review, mindfulness meditation, research, review

Neural mechanisms remain unclear (review)

Tang, Y. Y., Hölzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16, 213–225. doi:10.1038/nrn3916. Abstract (including 180 references). Full text at lead author’s website.

Research over the past two decades broadly supports the claim that mindfulness meditation — practiced widely for the reduction of stress and promotion of health — exerts beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and cognitive performance. Recent neuroimaging studies have begun to uncover the brain areas and networks that mediate these positive effects.

However, the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear, and it is apparent that more methodologically rigorous studies are required if we are to gain a full understanding of the neuronal and molecular bases of the changes in the brain that accompany mindfulness meditation.

Posted in mindfulness, mindfulness meditation, mindfulness training, research

Mechanism of mindfulness and compassion

crutchesLim, D., Condon, P., & DeSteno, D. (2015). Mindfulness and Compassion: An Examination of Mechanism and Scalability. PLOS ONE. Published online February 17, 2015. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118221. Full text.

Abstract. Emerging evidence suggests that meditation engenders prosocial behaviors meant to benefit others. However, the robustness, underlying mechanisms, and potential scalability of such effects remain open to question. The current experiment employed an ecologically valid situation that exposed participants to a person in visible pain. [Comment: The final sample consisted of 56 individuals, 30 female, 26 male; mean age = 19.4 years.]

Following three-week, mobile-app based training courses in mindfulness meditation or cognitive skills (i.e., an active control condition), participants arrived at a lab individually to complete purported measures of cognitive ability. Upon entering a public waiting area outside the lab that contained three chairs, participants seated themselves in the last remaining unoccupied chair; confederates occupied the other two. As the participant sat and waited, a third confederate using crutches and a large walking boot entered the waiting area while displaying discomfort.

Compassionate responding was assessed by whether participants gave up their seat to allow the uncomfortable confederate to sit, thereby relieving her pain. Participants’ levels of empathic accuracy was also assessed. As predicted, participants assigned to the mindfulness meditation condition gave up their seats more frequently than did those assigned to the active control group. In addition, empathic accuracy was not increased by mindfulness practice, suggesting that mindfulness-enhanced compassionate behavior does not stem from associated increases in the ability to decode the emotional experiences of others.