iRest for older adults with depression

Wahbeh, H., & Nelson, M. (2018-9). iRest Meditation for Older Adults with Depression Symptoms: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, no. 29, doi: 10.17761/2019-00036. Full text.

Abstract. Older adults, a rapidly growing population in the United States, have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress, making them especially susceptible to depression symptoms. Meditation offers promising potential as an effective treatment; however, few studies have evaluated meditation interventions for this demographic.

The objectives of this pilot study were to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an iRest meditation program in older adults with depression symptoms and to collect preliminary data on its effect on depression and depression-related symptoms compared to a vacation control.

The study occurred at the Institute of Noetic Sciences EarthRise Retreat Center and participants’ homes. Thirty generally healthy older adults, aged 55–90, with depression symptoms were recruited. Participants were randomly assigned to a 2-day retreat of either iRest meditation training or vacation. After the retreat, participants were asked to complete 20 minutes of home practice per day for 6 weeks; this consisted of either guided meditations (iRest) or music (vacation).

Data were collected pre- and post-retreat and then 6 weeks later. Measures included depression-related variables (expectancy, depression symptoms, perceived stress, resilience, pain, sleep quality, and spirituality) and biomarkers (voice stress analysis, heart rate, heart rate variability).

We found the iRest intervention for older adults with depression symptoms to be feasible and acceptable. Preliminary results at 6 weeks demonstrated improvements in sleep impairment in older adults compared to the control group and promising trends in improvements in depression symptoms and pain severity.

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The effect of diaphragmatic breathing

Ma, X., et al. (2017). The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in psychology, no. 8, pp. 874, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874. Full text.

From the Abstract. A growing number of empirical studies have revealed that diaphragmatic breathing may trigger body relaxation responses and benefit both physical and mental health. However, the specific benefits of diaphragmatic breathing on mental health remain largely unknown.

The present study aimed to investigate the effect of diaphragmatic breathing on cognition, affect, and cortisol responses to stress. Forty participants were randomly assigned to either a breathing intervention group (BIG) or a control group (CG). The BIG received intensive training for 20 sessions, implemented over 8 weeks, employing a real-time feedback device, and an average respiratory rate of 4 breaths/min, while the CG did not receive this treatment. . . . 

The findings suggested that the BIG showed a significant decrease in negative affect after intervention, compared to baseline.  . . .  In conclusion, diaphragmatic breathing could improve sustained attention, affect, and cortisol levels.

Burnout among hospital chaplains

Hotchkiss, J. T., & Lesher, R. (2018). Factors Predicting Burnout Among Chaplains: Compassion Satisfaction, Organizational Factors, and the Mediators of Mindful Self-Care and Secondary Traumatic Stress. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling72(2), 86-98, https://doi.org/10.1177/1542305018780655

From the Abstract. This study predicted Burnout from the self-care practices, compassion satisfaction, secondary traumatic stress, and organizational factors among chaplains who participated from all 50 states (N = 534).

Chaplains serving in a hospital were slightly more at risk for Burnout than those in hospice or other settings. Organizational factors that most predicted Burnout were feeling bogged down by the “system” (25.7%) and an overwhelming caseload (19.9%).

The strongest protective factors against Burnout in order of strength were self-compassion and purpose, supportive structure, mindful self-awareness, mindful relaxation, supportive relationships, and physical care.

For secondary traumatic stress, supportive structure, mindful self-awareness, and self-compassion and purpose were the strongest protective factors. Chaplains who engaged in multiple and frequent self-care strategies experienced higher professional quality of life and low Burnout risk.

In the chaplain’s journey toward wellness, a reflective practice of feeling good about doing good and mindful self-care are vital. The significance, implications, and limitations of the study were discussed.

Effect of online mindfulness intervention on well-being

Bailey, N. W., et al. (2018). Effect on Well-Being from an Online Mindfulness Intervention: “Mindful in May”. Mindfulness, 1-11. First online March 18, 2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0910-7.

Abstract (excerpt). Mindfulness has been shown to improve mental health and well-being both in clinical populations and in healthy controls. However, while most mindfulness interventions have been assessed in a research context, demonstrating efficacy, the majority of mindfulness interventions in the public sphere are not assessed, and there has been little research examining the effectiveness of these interventions in the public context.

As such, this study explored whether a public online mindfulness intervention providing 10-min daily guided meditations was associated with improvements in well-being, and whether these improvements were related to the number of days participants practiced mindfulness meditation. Two hundred and nineteen participants took part in the study. Participants were aged 22–75, and the majority of participants were female. The majority of participants undertook mindfulness practice on 25+ days.

Participants completed both baseline and post-intervention assessments of perceived stress, positive and negative affect, mindfulness, flourishing, and self-compassion. Results indicated that all measures improved from baseline to post-intervention and that number of days practiced predicted increased mindfulness, and increased mindfulness predicted improvements in positive affect. These results suggest that online mindfulness interventions may be effective at improving mental health in the general population.

Improving psychological symptoms of depression and stress in people with diabetes

Pearson, S., Wills, K., Woods, M. et al. Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Distress and HbA1c in People with Diabetes. Mindfulness (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0908-1

Abstract (excerpt). Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a prevalent chronic condition that is associated with a high degree of psychological distress. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel approach to delivering an intervention of mindfulness practice (IMP) to a patient population with a demonstrated need for psychological support.

The novel approach utilised a self-directed audio compact disc (CD) recording of mindfulness practice. In this randomised controlled trial, 67 participants with T2DM (mean age = 59.4), attending outpatient clinics, were randomised to an IMP (n = 31) or a control (n = 36) group.

Participants receiving the IMP reported significant reductions in depression and stress when compared with the control group. At the 12-week follow-up, there was an overall reduction in depression and stress in the IMP group relative to the control group.

The current study has shown that an easily accessible self-directed IMP was effective in improving psychological symptoms of depression and stress.

*IMP = intervention of mindfulness practice

Sleep problems among older adults

MacLeod, S., et al. Practical non-pharmacological intervention approaches for sleep problems among older adults. Geriatric Nursing. In Print. Full article

Abstract. Poor sleep is common among older adults, often caused by multiple underlying factors such as chronic stress. Poor sleep is subsequently associated with negative health outcomes including higher morbidity and mortality.

Our primary purpose is to explore practical non-pharmacological intervention approaches integrating stress management to improve sleep quality among older adults. In doing so, we highlight approaches that appear to hold promise in real-world settings with older individuals.

We conducted a tailored literature review specifically on approaches to improve sleep quality among older adults, with emphasis on those integrating stress management. Online search engines were reviewed to identify research in these areas.

Various non-pharmacological intervention approaches, such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, have shown promise in improving sleep quality and health outcomes within this population. Those integrating chronic stress management appear to be particularly successful. Thus further development of multidimensional sleep interventions integrating stress management with seniors is warranted.

Mindful with your baby

Potharst, Eva, et al. “Mindful with Your Baby: Feasibility, Acceptability, and Effects of a Mindful Parenting Group Training for Mothers and Their Babies in a Mental Health Context.” Mindfulness, first online 13 Apr 2017, DOI: 10.1007/s12671-017-0699-9. Full text.

From the Abstract: Many mothers experience difficulties after the birth of a baby. Mindful parenting may have benefits for mothers and babies, because it can help mothers regulate stress, and be more attentive towards themselves and their babies, which may have positive effects on their responsivity.

This study examined the effectiveness of . . . an 8-week mindful parenting group training for mothers with their babies. The presence of the babies provides on-the-spot practicing opportunities and facilitates generalization of what is learned. Forty-four mothers with their babies (0–18 months), who were referred to a mental health clinic because of elevated stress or mental health problems of the mother, infant (regulation) problems, or mother-infant interaction problems, participated in 10 groups, each comprising of three to six mother-baby dyads.

Questionnaires were administered at pretest, post-test, 8-week follow-up, and 1-year follow-up. Dropout rate was 7%. At post-test, 8-week follow-up, and 1-year follow-up, a significant improvement was seen in mindfulness, self-compassion, mindful parenting, (medium to large effects), as well as in well-being, psychopathology, parental confidence, responsivity, and hostility (small to large effects).