Mindfulness meditation and the perception of beauty

Langer, Alvaro I., Carlos Schmidt, and Edwin Kroghet. „Mindfulness Meditation and the Perception of Beauty: Implications for an Ecological Well-Being.” In: Perception of Beauty, Martha Peaslee Levine, ed., InTechOpen, 2017, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.69529. Full access to this chapter.

Abstract. Meditation is a first-person method for contemplating ourselves and the world, with more than 2500 years of history, rooted in the philosophical and contemplative traditions of the east. The present chapter aims to explore this worldview in order to demonstrate its relevance to our capacity for the appreciation of beauty. To this end, the aesthetic experience, the contemplative experience and their relationship with the practice of mindfulness are analysed.

We suggest that the contemplative meditative experience bestows a state of consciousness and acceptance of life which places the practitioner in a progressive encounter with a self-concept that begins to detach from a static sense of the self and from the categories that define it, so that it may be experienced as an ongoing mental event, removed from cultural ideals of beauty or positivity.

The result of this de-identification from the static self is a greater degree of psychological flexibility and a more genuine way of seeing the world, leading to a new perception of the self that is connected to an experience of freedom, and contributes to one’s own well-being, as well as to that of others and of the environment.

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Fibromyalgia

Adler-Neal, Adrienne L., and Fadel Zeidan. “Mindfulness Meditation for Fibromyalgia: Mechanistic and Clinical Considerations.” Current Rheumatology Reports, vol. 19, no. 9, 2017, pp. 59. Full text.

Summary. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread pain and a spectrum of psychological comorbidities, rendering treatment difficult and often a financial burden. Fibromyalgia is a complicated chronic pain condition that requires a multimodal therapeutic approach to optimize treatment efficacy. Thus, it has been postulated that mind-body techniques may prove fruitful in treating fibromyalgia.

Mindfulness meditation, a behavioral technique premised on non-reactive sensory awareness, attenuates pain and improves mental health outcomes. However, the impact of mindfulness meditation on fibromyalgia-related outcomes has not been comprehensively characterized.

The present review delineates the existing evidence supporting the effectiveness and hypothesized mechanisms of mindfulness meditation in treating fibromyalgia-related outcomes.

Emotion regulation and mental habit in mindful eating

Fisher, Naomi R., et al. “Dispositional mindfulness and reward motivated eating: The role of emotion regulation and mental habit.” Appetite, published online 21 Jul 2017.

From the Abstract.  Evidence regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) for eating disorders, weight management and food craving is emerging and further studies are required to understand the underlying mechanisms of MBIs in these domains.

The current study was designed to establish the role of specific mechanisms underlying the putative relationship between mindfulness and reward motivated eating. We predicted that mindfulness would be negatively related to features of reward motivated eating and that this association would be mediated by emotion regulation and habitual negative self-thinking.

A cross-sectional survey measuring uncontrolled and emotional eating, mindfulness, emotion regulation and habitual negative self-thinking was completed by female and male meditators and non-meditators (N = 632). Lower levels of dispositional mindfulness were associated with difficulties in emotion regulation, habitual negative self-thinking and both emotional and uncontrolled eating.

Difficulties in emotion regulation significantly mediated the mindfulness-uncontrolled eating relationship. Habitual negative self-thinking significantly mediated the mindfulness-emotional eating relationship. Participants with meditation experience reported greater levels of dispositional mindfulness, fewer difficulties with emotion regulation and habitual negative self-thinking and reduced uncontrolled eating tendencies, compared to non-meditators.

The findings suggest that MBIs designed to change reward motivated eating and weight control should focus on emotion regulation and mental habits as underlying mechanisms.

Decreasing stress and implicit racism

Fitzgerald, Carey J., and Adam K. Lueke. “Mindfulness increases analytical thought and decreases just world beliefs.” Current Research in Social Psychology, 2017. Published online. Full text.

Excerpts. growing body of research has found that engaging in mindfulness may alter thought processes in a range of different manners, such as increasing psychological well-being, decreasing stress, decreasing implicit racism, and many other positive psychological effects. The present study investigated whether engaging in mindfulness meditation would influence analytical thought processes.

The results from this study are consistent with previous mindfulness studies that have also found cognitive improvements when participants enter a mindfulness state. This study adds to the growing body of literature another positive effect of mindfulness that had not yet been studied – analytical perspectives and beliefs in a just world. This experiment, much like the previous mindfulness experiments, illustrates the importance of implementing mindfulness on a larger scale. This technique improves memory, self-control, implicit biases, and rational thinking.

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, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/mot0000045.

 

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.

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. 

Background

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.

Methods

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.