Ortiz, Robin, and Erica M. Sibinga. “The Role of Mindfulness in Reducing the Adverse Effects of Childhood Stress and Trauma.” Children, vol. 4, no. 3, 2017, pp. 16. Full text.
Abstract. Research suggests that many children are exposed to adverse experiences in childhood. Such adverse childhood exposures may result in stress and trauma, which are associated with increased morbidity and mortality into adulthood.
In general populations and trauma-exposed adults, mindfulness interventions have demonstrated reduced depression and anxiety, reduced trauma-related symptoms, enhanced coping and mood, and improved quality of life. Studies in children and youth also demonstrate that mindfulness interventions improve mental, behavioral, and physical outcomes.
Taken together, this research suggests that high-quality, structured mindfulness instruction may mitigate the negative effects of stress and trauma related to adverse childhood exposures, improving short- and long-term outcomes, and potentially reducing poor health outcomes in adulthood. Future work is needed to optimize implementation of youth-based mindfulness programs and to study long-term outcomes into adulthood.
Tang, Y. Y., Hölzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16, 213–225. doi:10.1038/nrn3916. Abstract (including 180 references). Full text at lead author’s website.
Research over the past two decades broadly supports the claim that mindfulness meditation — practiced widely for the reduction of stress and promotion of health — exerts beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and cognitive performance. Recent neuroimaging studies have begun to uncover the brain areas and networks that mediate these positive effects.
However, the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear, and it is apparent that more methodologically rigorous studies are required if we are to gain a full understanding of the neuronal and molecular bases of the changes in the brain that accompany mindfulness meditation.
Goyal, M., et al. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being. Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 124. Full text.
Objective: Meditation, a mind-body method, employs a variety of techniques designed to facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. An increasing number of patients are using meditation programs despite uncertainty about the evidence supporting the health benefits of meditation. We aimed to determine the efficacy and safety of meditation programs on stress-related outcomes (e.g., anxiety, depression, stress, distress, well-being, positive mood, quality of life, attention, health-related behaviors affected by stress, pain, and weight) compared with an active control in diverse adult clinical populations.
Conclusions: Meditation programs, in particular mindfulness programs, reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health as well as stress-related behavioral outcomes.
Corsica, J., et al. (2014). Development of a novel mindfulness and behavioral intervention for stress-eating: A comparative pilot study. Eating Behaviors. In-press. Abstract.
Stress-related eating is increasingly cited as a difficulty in managing healthy eating behaviors and weight. However few interventions have been designed to specifically target stress-related eating. In addition, the optimal target of such an intervention is unclear, as the target might be conceptualized as overall stress reduction or changing emotional eating-related thoughts and behaviors.
This pilot study compared the effects of three interventions targeting those components individually and in combination on stress-related eating, perceived stress, and weight loss to determine whether the two intervention components are effective alone or are more effective when combined. Fifty-three overweight participants (98% female) who reported elevated levels of stress and stress-eating and were at risk for obesity were randomly assigned to one of three six- week interventions: A modified mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention, a cognitive behavioral stress-eating intervention (SEI), and a combined intervention that included all MBSR and SEI components.
All three interventions significantly reduced perceived stress and stress-eating, but the combination intervention resulted in greater reductions and also produced a moderate effect on short term weight loss. Benefits persisted at six week follow-up. The pattern of results preliminarily suggests that the combination intervention (MBSR + SEI) may yield promise in the treatment of stress-related eating.