Loving-kindness meditation builds positive emotions

Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5), 1045. Full text.

The authors tested this build hypothesis in a field experiment with working adults (n = 139), half of whom were randomly-assigned to begin a practice of loving-kindness meditation.

Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms).

In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms. Discussion centers on how positive emotions are the mechanism of change for the type of mind-training practice studied here and how loving-kindness meditation is an intervention strategy that produces positive emotions in a way that outpaces the hedonic treadmill effect.

MBCR vs. group therapy with survivors of breast cancer

Carlson, L. E., et al. (2013). Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy for distressed survivors of breast cancer (MINDSET). Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31(25), 3119-3126. From the Abstract:

Purpose. To compare the efficacy of the following two empirically supported group interventions to help distressed survivors of breast cancer cope: mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) and supportive-expressive group therapy (SET).

Patients and Methods. This multisite, randomized controlled trial assigned 271 distressed survivors of stage I to III breast cancer to MBCR, SET, or a 1-day stress management control condition. MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga, whereas SET focused on emotional expression and group support. Both intervention groups included 18 hours of professional contact. Measures were collected at baseline and after intervention by assessors blind to study condition. Primary outcome measures were mood and diurnal salivary cortisol slopes. Secondary outcomes were stress symptoms, quality of life, and social support.

Results. Women in MBCR improved more over time on stress symptoms compared with women in both the SET and control groups. Per-protocol analyses showed greater improvements in the MBCR group in quality of life compared with control group and in social support compared with the SET group.

Conclusion. In the largest trial to date, MBCR was superior for improving a range of psychological outcomes for distressed survivors of breast cancer. Both SET and MBCR also resulted in more normative diurnal cortisol profiles than the control condition. The clinical implications of this finding require further investigation.

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.