Integrity in mindfulness-based research

Crane, R.S. & Hecht, F.M. “Intervention Integrity in Mindfulness-Based Research.” Mindfulness (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0886-3. Full Text.

From the Abstract. Assessing program or intervention fidelity/integrity is an important methodological consideration in clinical and educational research. These critical variables influence the degree to which outcomes can be attributed to the program and the success of the transition from research to practice and back again.

Research in the Mindfulness-Based Program (MBP) field has been expanding rapidly over the last 20 years, but little attention has been given to how to assess intervention integrity within research and practice settings. The proliferation of different program forms, inconsistency in adhering to published curriculum guides, and variability of training levels and competency of trial teachers all pose grave risks to the sustainable development of the science of MBPs going forward.

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Employees’ mental health and MBSR (review)

Janssen, M., et al. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review. PloS one13(1), e0191332. Full text.

From the Abstract. The purpose of this exploratory study was to obtain greater insight into the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on the mental health of employees.

Based on our analysis, the strongest outcomes were reduced levels of emotional exhaustion (a dimension of burnout), stress, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, and occupational stress. Improvements were found in terms of mindfulness, personal accomplishment (a dimension of burnout), (occupational) self-compassion, quality of sleep, and relaxation.

Well-being of parents of children with autism and related disabilities

Jones, L., et al. (2018). A mindfulness parent well-being course: Evaluation of outcomes for parents of children with autism and related disabilities recruited through special schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education33(1), 16-30.

Abstract. Parents of children with intellectual disabilities and/or autism have been shown to experience higher levels of distress than other parents. Despite such data having been available for several decades, the evidence base for psychological interventions to support parental well-being is small. Recent data suggest that both mindfulness and acceptance processes are associated with decreased psychological distress for parents of children with intellectual disability and/or autism. In addition, some controlled evaluations of mindfulness-based interventions for these parents have resulted in positive outcomes for mothers in particular.

In the present study 18 mothers and 3 fathers were recruited via special schools who then attended a Mindfulness Based Well-Being for Parents (MBW-P) group over eight weeks. Parents completed questionnaire measures before and at the end of the course. Statistical analysis showed significant reported increases in mindfulness and self-compassion, and reduced general stress. Parents also reported reductions in anxiety and depression, although these changes were not statistically significant.

No significant reductions in their child’s behaviour problems or increases in the child’s prosocial behaviour were found. Parents also reported high levels of satisfaction with the course. These preliminary data suggest that further research studies testing the effectiveness of the MBW-P course are warranted.

A critical evaluation and prescriptive agenda for research on mindfulness and meditation

Van Dam, Nicholas T., et al. “Mind the hype: A critical evaluation and prescriptive agenda for research on mindfulness and meditation.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2017. Full text online.

Abstract. During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and “key to building more resilient soldiers.” Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting it have not gone without criticism. Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed.

Addressing such concerns, the present article discusses the difficulties of defining mindfulness, delineates the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices, and explicates crucial methodological issues for interpreting results from investigations of mindfulness. For doing so, the authors draw on their diverse areas of expertise to review the present state of mindfulness research, comprehensively summarizing what we do and do not know, while providing a prescriptive agenda for contemplative science, with a particular focus on assessment, mindfulness training, possible adverse effects, and intersection with brain imaging.

Our goals are to inform interested scientists, the news media, and the public, to minimize harm, curb poor research practices, and staunch the flow of misinformation about the benefits, costs, and future prospects of mindfulness meditation.

Significant reductions in rumination and loneliness

Thamboo, P. A. (2016). The Effects of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Feelings of Loneliness and Ruminative Thinking. MA thesis, The College at Brockport: State University of New York. Full text

From the Abstract: Loneliness is a very distressing experience provoked by perceived deficiencies in interpersonal social contact. In recent years, considerable attention has been oriented towards the transformative changes associated with the practice of mindfulness. Thus, many mindfulness based interventions have emerged and demonstrated efficacy for ameliorating various forms of psychological distress. However, few studies have examined whether the therapeutic benefits are applicable for alleviating loneliness.

Prior research has suggested that the mechanisms of change underlying mindfulness may occur via reductions in rumination, which has been implicated in prolonged feelings of loneliness. The present study concerns the effects of a randomized controlled trial … a mindfulness-based group intervention on self-reported changes in mindfulness, rumination, and loneliness.

Participants (N=82) were randomly assigned to either a treatment or wait-list control group, all of which were assessed at two time periods, pre-intervention and post-intervention. The results revealed that participants in the treatment groups reported significant increases in mindfulness in addition to reductions in rumination and loneliness from pre- to post-intervention in comparison to those in the wait-list control groups. The effect of the intervention on loneliness remained significant even after statistically controlling for self-reported depressive symptoms.

Eating mindfully without caloric cost

Arch, Joanna J., et al. “Enjoying food without caloric cost: The impact of brief mindfulness on laboratory eating outcomes.” Behaviour Research and Therapy (2016). Abstract.

Highlights

  • We assessed the sensory and behavioral benefits of tasting food mindfully.
  • Across two lab studies, brief mindfulness enhanced enjoyment of tasting food.
  • Brief mindfulness led to lower caloric consumption of ‘junk’ foods.
  • Greater tasting enjoyment mediated the impact of mindfulness on lower consumption.
  • These studies suggest potential benefits of mindfulness in the context of eating.

Objective. Mindfulness-based interventions have been increasingly applied to treat eating-related problems ranging from obesity to eating disorders. Yet few studies have empirically examined the mechanisms of a mindful approach to eating. The current studies examine the potential of brief mindfulness instructions to enhance the psychological and behavioral dimensions of eating.

Methods. In three experiments (total N = 319), we examined whether brief mindfulness instructions would enhance the positive sensory experience involved in tasting food as well as healthy eating behaviors.

Results. Relative to distraction control instructions, the first two studies demonstrated that brief mindfulness instructions increased the enjoyment of a commonly pleasurable food (chocolate; Study 1), and a food with generally more mixed associations (raisins; Study 2). The third study replicated and extended these findings to show that brief mindfulness instructions also led to lower calorie consumption of unhealthy food relative to distracted or no-instruction control conditions, an effect mediated by greater eating enjoyment.

Conclusions. Findings demonstrated the power of brief mindfulness instructions to positively impact both health-relevant behavior and sensory experience associated with eating food. Implications for both theory and clinical applications of mindfulness are discussed.

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.