Mindful­ness to address transdiagnostic mental processes

Greeson, J. M. (2015). Transtherapeutic Mindfulness. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 21(3). Full Text.

From the Abstract: Mindfulness is a natural quality of awareness characterized by attending to the present moment, nonjudgmentally, and without reacting to negative thoughts or negative emotions im­plicated in mood disorders and other psychiatric conditions.

A relatively new clinical perspective suggests that, by specifi­cally targeting transdiagnostic processes that are shared across numerous mental disorders—such as negative thinking, the tendency to experience negative affect, and emotional reac­tivity—mindfulness training offers a viable approach to treat­ing mood disorders and a number of common, stress-related comorbidities, including sleep disturbance, chronic pain, and substance misuse. Therefore, as a clinician, using mindful­ness to address transdiagnostic mental processes that underlie mood symptoms can be quite efficient and therapeutic. . . .

Finally, research suggests that different mindfulness prac­tices, such as mindful breathing, sitting meditation, body scan, mindful yoga, and loving kindness, can produce differ­ent effects on transdiagnostic outcome measures, allowing a clinician to move toward personalized mindfulness prac­tices based on each patient’s individual needs, symptoms, and preference.

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.

Spousal mindfulness perceived as emotional support in patients with chronic pain

Williams, A. M., & Cano, A. (2013). Spousal Mindfulness and Social Support in Couples with Chronic Pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain. Epub ahead of print. Abstract.

Existing research has reported the correlation between patients’ psychological flexibility, of which mindfulness is a component, and their perceptions of the spouses’ support provision. It is quite likely that spouses’ mindfulness, in particular certain aspects of mindfulness, is also related to the support they provide to patients. The current study examined this issue.

Methods: The sample included 51 couples in which one partner had chronic pain. Patients and their spouses each completed a questionnaire that assessed three facets of their own mindfulness (i.e., non-reactivity, acting with awareness, non-judging). In addition, patients reported on their pain-related psychological flexibility, marital satisfaction, and perceptions of spousal support.

Results: Only one facet of patients’ mindfulness (i.e., non-reactivity) was related to their perceptions of their spouses as being emotionally responsive to them. Spouses’ non-judging and non-reactivity were negatively correlated with punishing spouse responses. In addition, spouses’ acting with awareness was positively correlated with patients’ reports of perceived partner responsiveness and instrumental support and negatively correlated with patients’ reports of punishing spouse responses, often over and above the contribution of patients’ own mindfulness or pain-related psychological flexibility.

Discussion: Spouses’ mindfulness, especially as it pertains to acting with awareness, was most consistently associated with patient perceptions of spousal support. These findings suggest that acting with awareness should be examined further including the possible contributions this type of mindfulness may make to healthy relationship behaviors in the context of pain.

Effect on attention and time perception

Kramer, R. S. S., Wegen, U., & Sharma, D. (2013). The effect of mindfulness meditation on time perception. Consciousness and Cognition, 22(3), 846–852. Abstract.

Highlights: • We examined the effect of mindfulness meditation on time perception. • Mindfulness meditation increased perceived duration, therefore slowing time. • A control task had no effect on perceived duration. • Mindfulness meditation altered time perception via attentional processes.

From the Abstract: Research has increasingly focussed on the benefits of meditation in everyday life and performance. Mindfulness in particular improves attention, working memory capacity, and reading comprehension. Given its emphasis on moment-to-moment awareness, we hypothesised that mindfulness meditation would alter time perception.

Using a within-subjects design, participants carried out a temporal bisection task, where several probe durations are compared to “short” and “long” standards. Following this, participants either listened to an audiobook or a meditation that focussed on the movement of breath in the body. Finally, participants completed the temporal bisection task for a second time.

The control group showed no change after the listening task. However, meditation led to a relative overestimation of durations. Within an internal clock framework, a change in attentional resources can produce longer perceived durations. This meditative effect has wider implications for the use of mindfulness as an everyday practice and a basis for clinical treatment.

Self-monitoring, cognitive control, and mind-wandering

Brewer, J.A., et al. (2011). Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 108(50). Published online. Full text.

Abstract: Many philosophical and contemplative traditions teach that “living in the moment” increases happiness. However, the default mode of humans appears to be that of mind-wandering, which correlates with unhappiness, and with activation in a network of brain areas associated with self-referential processing. We investigated brain activity in experienced meditators and matched meditation-naive controls as they performed several different meditations (Concentration, Loving-Kindness, Choiceless Awareness).

We found that the main nodes of the default-mode network (medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices) were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control), both at baseline and during meditation. Our findings demonstrate differences in the default-mode network that are consistent with decreased mind-wandering. As such, these provide a unique understanding of possible neural mechanisms of meditation.

Background: Mind-wandering is not only a common activity present in roughly 50% of our awake life, but is also associated with lower levels of happiness. Moreover, mind-wandering is known to correlate with neural activity in a network of brain areas that support self-referential processing, known as the default-mode network (DMN). This network has been associated with processes ranging from attentional lapses to anxiety to clinical disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s Disease. Given the interrelationship between the DMN, mind-wandering, and unhappiness, a question arises: Is it possible to change this default mode into one that is more present-centered, and possibly happier? One potential way to reduce DMN activity is through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness, a core element of diverse forms of meditation, is thought to include two complementary components: maintaining attention on the immediate experience, and (ii) maintaining an attitude of acceptance toward this experience.