Anger, agression, mindfulness

Peters, J. R., et al. (2015), Anger Rumination as a Mediator of the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Aggression: The Utility of a Multidimensional Mindfulness Model. Journal of Clinical Psychology. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22189. Published online ahead of inclusion in an issue. Abstract.

Objectives. Mindfulness training reduces anger and aggression, but the mechanisms of these effects are unclear. Mindfulness may reduce anger expression and hostility via reductions in anger rumination, a process of thinking repetitively about angry episodes that increases anger. Previous research supports this theory but used measures of general rumination and assessed only the present-centered awareness component of mindfulness. The present study investigated associations between various aspects of mindfulness, anger rumination, and components of aggression.

Method. The present study used self-report measures of these constructs in a cross-sectional sample of 823 students.

Results. Structural equation modeling revealed that anger rumination accounts for a significant component of the relationship between mindfulness and aggression, with the largest effect sizes demonstrated for the nonjudgment of inner experiences facet of mindfulness.

Conclusion. Nonjudgment and present-centered awareness may influence aggression via reduced anger rumination. The importance of examining mindfulness as a multidimensional construct is discussed.

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Compassion meditation and chronic pain

Chapin, H. L., Darnall, B. D., Seppala, E. M., Doty, J. R., Hah, J. M., & Mackey, S. C. (2014). Pilot study of a compassion meditation intervention in chronic pain. Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 1(1), 1-12. Full Text.

The emergence of anger as an important predictor of chronic pain outcomes suggests that treatments that target anger may be particularly useful within the context of chronic pain. Eastern traditions prescribe compassion cultivation to treat persistent anger. Compassion cultivation has been shown to influence emotional processing and reduce negativity bias in the contexts of emotional and physical discomfort, thus suggesting it may be beneficial as a dual treatment for pain and anger.

Our objective was to conduct a pilot study of a 9-week group compassion cultivation intervention in chronic pain to examine its effect on pain severity, anger, pain acceptance and pain-related interference. We also aimed to describe observer ratings provided by patients’ significant others and secondary effects of the intervention. Twelve chronic pain patients completed the intervention (F = 10). Data were collected from patients at enrollment, treatment baseline and post-treatment; participant significant others contributed data at the enrollment and post-treatment time points.

In this predominantly female sample, patients had significantly reduced pain severity and anger and increased pain acceptance at post-treatment compared to treatment baseline. Significant other qualitative data corroborated patient reports for reductions in pain severity and anger.

Loving-kindness and compassion meditation as psychological interventions

Hofmann, S. G., Grossman, P., & Hinton, D. E. (2011). Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions. Clinical psychology review, 31(7), 1126-1132. Full text.

Mindfulness-based meditation interventions have become increasingly popular in contemporary psychology. Other closely related meditation practices include loving-kindness meditation (LKM) and compassion meditation (CM), exercises oriented toward enhancing unconditional, positive emotional states of kindness and compassion.

This article provides a review of the background, the techniques, and the empirical contemporary literature of LKM and CM. The literature suggests that LKM and CM are associated with an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect.

Preliminary findings from neuroendocrine studies indicate that CM may reduce stress-induced subjective distress and immune response. Neuroimaging studies suggest that LKM and CM may enhance activation of brain areas that are involved in emotional processing and empathy. Finally, preliminary intervention studies support application of these strategies in clinical populations.

It is concluded that, when combined with empirically supported treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, LKM and CM may provide potentially useful strategies for targeting a variety of different psychological problems that involve interpersonal processes, such as depression, social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and coping with the strains of long-term caregiving.

Improves tendency to ruminate about anger episodes

Hirano, M., & Yukawa, S. (2013). [The impact of mindfulness meditation on anger]. Shinrigaku kenkyu: The Japanese journal of psychology, 84(2), 93-102. .

Abstract: This study explores the impact of mindfulness meditation on anger. A meditation group (N = 37) attended 5-10 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily for a week. They were assessed with self-report scales measuring three aspects of anger (rumination, arousal, and lengthiness) before, just after, and four weeks after their one-week participation. Their scores were compared to a control group (N = 27), which was assessed at the same intervals as the meditation group. The meditation group was also asked to evaluate their current mood using the Affect Grid before and after each meditation.

The results indicated that participants in the meditation group who continued meditation voluntarily after the week of their participation had decreased anger rumination scores just after and four weeks after their participation. Additionally, the pleasant score on the Affect Grid increased after meditation for almost all the participation days. These findings suggest the efficacy of mindfulness meditation on improving the tendency to ruminate about anger episodes in the medium-term to long-term, and also on improving mood in the short-term.

Short-term meditation training can improve attention

Tang, Y. Y., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152-17156. Full text.

Recent studies suggest that months to years of intensive and systematic meditation training can improve attention. However, the lengthy training required has made it difficult to use random assignment of participants to conditions to confirm these findings. This article shows that a group randomly assigned to 5 days of meditation practice with the integrative body–mind training method shows significantly better attention and control of stress than a similarly chosen control group given relaxation training.

The training method comes from traditional Chinese medicine and incorporates aspects of other meditation and mindfulness training. Compared with the control group, the experimental group of 40 undergraduate Chinese students given 5 days of 20-min  integrative training showed greater improvement in conflict scores on the Attention Network Test, lower anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue, and higher vigor on the Profile of Mood States scale, a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol, and an increase in immunoreactivity.

These results provide a convenient method for studying the influence of meditation by using experimental and control methods similar to those used to test drugs or other interventions.