Wachholtz, A. B., & Pargament, K. I. (2005). Is spirituality a critical ingredient of meditation? Comparing the effects of spiritual meditation, secular meditation, and relaxation on spiritual, psychological, cardiac, and pain outcomes. Journal of behavioral medicine, 28(4), 369-384. Full text.
Abstract. This study compared secular and spiritual forms of meditation to assess the benefits of a spiritual intervention.
Participants were taught a meditation or relaxation technique to practice for 20 min a day for two weeks. After two weeks, participants returned to the lab, practiced their technique for 20 min, and placed their hand in a cold-water bath of 2◦C for as long as they could endure it. The length of time that individuals kept their hand in the water bath was measured. Pain, anxiety, mood, and the spiritual health were assessed following the two-week intervention.
Significant interactions occurred (time × group); the Spiritual Meditation group had greater decreases in anxiety and more positive mood, spiritual health, and spiritual experiences than the other two groups. They also tolerated pain almost twice as long as the other two groups.
Costa, A., & Barnhofer, T. (2015). Turning Towards or Turning Away: A Comparison of Mindfulness Meditation and Guided Imagery Relaxation in Patients with Acute Depression. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, 1-10. Abstract.
Background: Disengaging from maladaptive thinking is an important imperative in the treatment of depression. Mindfulness training is aimed at helping patients acquire relevant skills for this purpose. It remains unclear, however, whether this practice is helpful when patients are acutely depressed.
Aims: In order to investigate effects of mindfulness on symptoms and self-regulatory capacities in this group, the current study compared a brief training in mindfulness (n = 19) to guided imagery relaxation (n = 18).
Method: Participants were introduced to the respective techniques in a single session, and practised daily over one week. Self-reported severity of symptoms, difficulties in emotion-regulation, attentional control, the ability to decentre, and mindfulness were assessed pre and post-intervention, and at a one-week follow-up.
Results: Symptoms of depression significantly decreased and self-regulatory functioning significantly increased in both groups, with changes being maintained during follow-up. When controlling for change in depressive symptoms, results showed significantly higher improvements in emotion regulation at follow-up in the mindfulness group. The ability to decentre predicted changes in symptoms from pre to post-intervention, while mindfulness skills predicted changes in symptoms during the maintenance phase.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that both practices can help to instigate reductions in symptoms and enhance self-regulatory functioning in depression. However, in order to improve emotion regulation above levels explained by reductions in symptoms more intentional mental training seems necessary. Furthermore, while the ability to disengage from negative patterns of thinking seems crucial for initial reduction of symptoms, maintenance of gains might require broader skills in mindfulness.
Tang, Y. Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M. I. (2013). Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Epub before print, August 5, full text.
More than 5 million deaths a year are attributable to tobacco smoking, but attempts to help people either quit or reduce their smoking often fail, perhaps in part because the intention to quit activates brain networks related to craving.
We recruited participants interested in general stress reduction and randomly assigned them to meditation training or a relaxation training control. Among smokers, 2 weeks of meditation training (5 hours in total) produced a significant reduction in smoking of 60%; no reduction was found in the relaxation control. Resting-state brain scans showed increased activity for the meditation group in the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex, brain areas related to self-control. These results suggest that brief meditation training improves self-control capacity and reduces smoking.
Manzoni, G. M., et al. (2008). Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 8(14). [from the Abstract]. Read article in full.
Relxation training is a common treatment for anxiety problems. acking is a recent quantitative meta-analysis that enhances understanding of the variability and clinical significance of anxiety reduction outcomes after relaxation treatment. Twenty-seven studies were included, drawing on international research between 1997 and 2007.
The authors concluded that their meta-analytical study shows consistent and significant efficacy of relaxation training in reducing anxiety. They found that applied relaxation, progressive relaxation and meditation showed greater effect sizes than other techniques.