Cognitively-Based Compassion Training in breast cancer survivors

Gonzalez-Hernandez, E., et al. (2018). Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Clinical Trial Study. Integrative cancer therapies, 1534735418772095. Online 21 Apr 2018. Full text.

From the Abstract. Context. Breast cancer (BC) requires a significant psychological adaptation once treatment is finished. There is growing evidence of how compassion training enhances psychological and physical well-being, however, there are very few studies analyzing the efficacy of compassion-based Interventions on BC survivors.

Objective. To study the efficacy of the Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) protocol in a BC survivor sample on quality of life, psychological well-being, fear of cancer recurrence, self-compassion, and compassion domains and mindfulness facets. Furthermore, enrollment, adherence, and satisfaction with the intervention were also analyzed. . . .

Results. Accrual of eligible participants was high (77%), and the drop-out rate was 16%. Attendance to CBCT sessions was high and practice off sessions exceeded expectations). CBCT was effective in diminishing stress caused by FCR, fostering self-kindness and common humanity, and increasing overall self-compassion scores, mindful observation, and acting with awareness skillsets.

Conclusion. CBCT could be considered a promising and potentially useful intervention to diminish stress caused by FCR and enhance self-kindness, common humanity,

Improving psychological well-being for adults with advanced cancer

Zimmermann, Fernanda F., et al. (2017). “The acceptability and potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in improving psychological well-being for adults with advanced cancer: A systematic review. “Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.” Online Dec 12, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.12.014.

From the Abstract:

The acceptability and potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for the psychological well-being of people with advanced cancers were described, evaluated and synthesized.

The number of studies identified was notably small, MBIs showed benefits and acceptability, but logistical problems and limitations were reported.

Some adaptations to the MBIs must be considered given the target population’s needs, to allow patients to participate in this kind of treatment.

The ethical and methodological obstacles identified provide insights of what kind of MBIs may appropriately address this population needs.

Strengthening disconnectedness between self and nature

Unsworth, S., Palicki, S. K., & Lustig, J. (2016). The Impact of Mindful Meditation in Nature on Self-Nature Interconnectedness. Mindfulness, 1-9.

Previous research has shown that mindfulness and spending time in nature are both related to perceived self-nature interconnectedness, with implications for environmental and psychological well-being.

… Results from pre- and post-trip surveys showed that the combined influence of mindful meditation in nature on self-nature interconnectedness is greater than nature exposure that does not include mindful meditation. One focus of the present research was to examine cognitive dimensions of nature connectedness, given that mindfulness meditation is based on cognitive processes such as selective attention.

… Together, the results from the present research suggest that mindful meditation in nature can be used to re-establish or strengthen concepts of self-nature interconnectedness nature for urban adults.

See Abstract for research design details.

Evidence from neuroimaging studies (lit review)

Marchand, W. R. (2014). Neural mechanisms of mindfulness and meditation: Evidence from neuroimaging studies. World Journal of Radiology, 6(7), 471-479. Full text.

mindimagesAbstract. Mindfulness is the dispassionate, moment-by-moment awareness of sensations, emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness-based interventions are being increasingly used for stress, psychological well being, coping with chronic illness as well as adjunctive treatments for psychiatric disorders. However, the neural mechanisms associated with mindfulness have not been well characterized. Recent functional and structural neuroimaging studies are beginning to provide insights into neural processes associated with the practice of mindfulness.

A review of this literature revealed compelling evidence that mindfulness impacts the function of the medial cortex and associated default mode network as well as insula and amygdala. Additionally, mindfulness practice appears to effect lateral frontal regions and basal ganglia, at least in some cases. Structural imaging studies are consistent with these findings and also indicate changes in the hippocampus. While many questions remain unanswered, the current literature provides evidence of brain regions and networks relevant for understanding neural processes associated with mindfulness.

Brain changes following MBSR training

Lazar, S. (2014). Change in brainstem gray matter concentration following a mindfulness-based intervention is correlated with improvement in psychological well-being. Name: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 33. Full text via Abstract.

Individuals can improve their levels of psychological well-being through utilization of psychological interventions, including the practice of mindfulness meditation, which is defined as the non-judgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.

We recently reported that an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course lead to increases in gray matter concentration in several brain areas, as detected with voxel-based morphometry of MPRAGE MRI scans, including the pons/raphe/locus coeruleus area of the brainstem. Given the role of the pons and raphe in mood and arousal, we hypothesized that changes in this region might underlie changes in well-being.

Reduces chronic stress among family caregivers

O’Donnell, R. M. M. (2013). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as an Intervention Among Family Caregivers of Persons with Neurocognitive Disorders. Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona. Full text.

Providing care for a frail older adult who is suffering from dementia has been described as a stressful experience that may erode psychological well-being and physical health of caregivers. The burden and stress is increased when the caregivers are themselves elderly.

The present study investigated the effectiveness of an 8-week stress-reduction program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), among middle-aged and older family caregivers of persons with neurocognitive disorders, compared with a similarly structured, alternative intervention based on progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

Participants were randomly assigned to either MBSR or PMR (n = 28). The MBSR group showed significantly greater reductions in self-reported levels of depression and isolation from pre- to post-intervention, and those changes remained significant at 8 weeks post-intervention. Both groups showed similar decreases in levels of perceived stress, awakening cortisol levels, cortisol awakening response and daily average cortisol, and in resting systolic blood pressure from pre- to post-intervention. Both groups also reported similar increases in levels of mindfulness and self-compassion.

Significant correlations with amount of daily practice of the instructed stress-reduction approaches were observed for several of the dependent measures. Results suggest that MBSR and relaxation-based interventions may both be effective in reducing psychological and physiological indices of chronic stress among older caregivers of relatives with neurocognitive disorders. However, further research, employing waitlist control participants will be necessary for unambiguous interpretation of the present results.

Self-compassion and well-being

Hall, C. W., et al. (2013). The Role of Self-Compassion in Physical and Psychological Well-Being. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 147(4), 311-323.

Abstract: The relation of self-compassion to physical and psychological well-being was investigated among 182 college students. The self-compassion scale was delineated into three composites, following the proposition by Neff that self-compassion consists of three main components: self-judgment versus self-kindness (SJ–SK), a sense of isolation versus common humanity (I–CH), and over-identification versus mindfulness (OI–M).

Findings support the association between self-compassion and psychological and physical well-being, but the composites demonstrate different influences. SJ–SK and I–CH were predictive of both depressive symptomatology and physical well-being, and SJ–SK and OI–M were predictive of managing life stressors. The results of this study support and expand prior research on self-compassion.