Effectiveness of meditation retreats: meta-analysis

Khoury, B., at al. (2017). Effectiveness of traditional meditation retreats: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research92, 16-25, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2016.11.006. Taken from the Abstract.

Background. An increasing number of studies are investigating traditional retreats. Very little, however, is known about their effectiveness.

Objective. To evaluate the effectiveness of meditation retreats on improving in general population. A total of 20 papers (N = 2912) were included.

Results suggested large effects on measures of anxiety, depression, stress, and moderate effects on measures of emotional regulation and quality of life. As to potential mechanisms of actions, results showed large effects on measures of  mindfulness and compassion, and moderate effects on measures of acceptance. 

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Meditation and PTSD

Hilton, L., et al. (2017). Meditation for posttraumatic stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy9(4), 453. From the Abstract.

Objective: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that synthesized evidence from randomized controlled trials of meditation interventions to provide estimates of their efficacy and safety in treating adults diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results: In total, 10 trials on meditation interventions for PTSD with 643 participants met inclusion criteria. Across interventions, adjunctive meditation interventions of mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and the mantram repetition program improve PTSD and depression symptoms compared with control groups, but the findings are based on low and moderate quality of evidence.

Effects were positive but not statistically significant for quality of life and anxiety, and no studies addressed functional status. The variety of meditation intervention types, the short follow-up times, and the quality of studies limited analyses.

Conclusions: Meditation appears to be effective for PTSD and depression symptoms, but in order to increase confidence in findings, more high-quality studies are needed on meditation as adjunctive treatment with PTSD-diagnosed participant samples large enough to detect statistical differences in outcomes.

Beneficial for asthma?

Paudyal, P., et al. (2018). Meditation for asthma: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Asthma55(7), 771-778, https://doi.org/10.1080/02770903.2017.1365887. 

From the AbstractOur review suggests that there is some evidence that meditation is beneficial in improving quality of life in asthma patients. As two out of four studies in our review were of poor quality, further trials with better methodological quality are needed to support or refute this finding.

Mindfulness-based therapy for dyspnea

Mularski, R. A., et al. (2009). Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based therapy for dyspnea in chronic obstructive lung disease. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine15(10), 1083-1090, DOI: 10.1089=acm.2009.0037. Full text.

From the Abstract. The objective of this study was to test the efficacy of a mindfulness-based breathing therapy on improving symptoms and health-related quality of life in those with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).

This trial found no measurable improvements in patients with COPD receiving a mindfulness-based breathing therapy compared to a support group, suggesting that this intervention is unlikely to be an important therapeutic option for those with moderate-to-severe COPD.

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.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Yokogawa, M., et al. (2018). Comparison of two instructions for deep breathing exercise: non-specific and diaphragmatic breathing. Journal of physical therapy science30(4), 614-618. Full text.

Abstract. [Purpose] Breathing exercises are frequently prescribed to reduce pulmonary complications after abdominal and thoracic surgery. Appropriate instructions ensuring the integrity of the self-exercise are important. This study compared the effects of two instructions, focusing on non-specific breathing (NB) and diaphragmatic breathing (DB) patterns, respectively, on the ventilatory efficiency and work of breathing. 

[Subjects and Methods] The participants were healthy men (n=15) and women (n=15). Ventilatory parameters, heart rate, and autonomic nervous system activity were measured during natural and deep breathing phases performed under the two instructions (NB and DB), with the deep breathing phase following the natural breathing phase.

[Results] For both men and women, ventilatory efficiency was increased during deep breathing relative to natural breathing, regardless of the instructions. In women, the increment in ventilatory efficiency during deep breathing was greater under NB compared to that under DB. The work of breathing decreased during deep breathing in women under both instructions, but did not change in men under DB.

[Conclusion] Under NB instruction, deep breathing elicits similar or greater effects on ventilatory efficiency compared to that under DB instruction.

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.