Category Archives: Research

Is mindfulness meditation good for kids? Here’s what the science actually says.

From Vox online (by )…

The companies and foundations largely responsible for introducing mindfulness programing into schools tout its psychological benefits — such as reduced stress and increased attention. And they say the evidence for mindfulness is based on decades of scientific research.

But research quality is not the same as quantity. And considering that more and more US schools are embracing it, I decided to take a look through the literature: What does the science actually say about mindfulness in kids?

I read more than a dozen studies — including systematic meta-reviews, which account for thousands of other papers — analyzing the best available research on mindfulness (in both students and adults) and talked to researchers and advocates involved in the work. I asked these experts what questions and concerns parents should have when they hear mindfulness is coming to their schools. (Scroll down for those questions.)

The short of it: The relatively few studies we have on mindfulness in schools suggest a generally positive effect on decreasing anxiety and increasing cognitive performance. But the hype around mindfulness also seems to be outpacing the science, especially when it comes to teaching these practices to children.

Read the full article on Vox.com.

More proof that mindfulness helps students combat stress, depression – just ask student Rob Stephens at CMU

From NBCnews.com

When Rob Stephens, a 22-year-old senior, walks into the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon University, he leaves his homework and stress at the door. He is surrounded by a waterfall wall, plants, lots of natural light and an open space with cushions on the floor — a 24/7 space is set aside for meditation or just peaceful thinking.

CMU student Rob Stephens

“I definitely think it helps to de-stress,” said Stephens, a global studies major from Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s the time I spend making sure I am OK.” Rob Stephens visits the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon, where he can meditate, bond with dogs or just chill out. Sara Jahanian

Mindfulness is as popular at colleges nationwide as it is now at CMU. “It’s someone giving themselves uninterrupted mental space,” said Stephens. “Some focus on themselves or others. It’s a time to stop and refocus your purpose.” Studies show the practice may be an antidote to the high levels of stress and depression seen on college campuses.

The American College Health Association found in a 2015 study that more than 85 percent said they “felt overwhelmed” by the demands of college. And a third of all student said stress had a negative effect on their overall academic performance.

Recently, Stephens enjoyed playing with therapy dogs in the mindfulness room. Students bond with a dog in Carnegie Mellon’s Mindfulness Room. Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Some use the time to take a nap, “to reset their brain,” he said. For others it might include meditation, or focused time at the gym or in yoga. “People can do a lot of mindful things,” Stephens said. “For me, it was time to be with another creature. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a [yoga] child’s pose.”

Read the full article.

How generations meditate on mindfulness

From Forbes Magazine online

According to a recent UC-Davis report, mindfulness training triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities. In recent years, this sort of validating research has helped push mindfulness from a niche interest to a full-blown lifestyle. From the boardroom to the classroom, Americans of all ages are putting their own spin on the practice. Boomers were originally attracted to mindfulness for its holistic benefits. Today, Generation X is using mindfulness as an individual practice to rise above the competition, while Millennials are using it as a team-strengthening exercise.

Read the article on Forbes.com.

News stressing you out?

From patch.com

Reading the news can be a stressful ordeal: Deaths, wars and political turmoil fill the pages of the press, even when we live in relatively peaceful times. But it’s important to stay informed, even if it makes us anxious.

maxresdefaultHow do you find a balance between keeping up-to-date and staying calm? New studies point to benefits of “mindfulness,” an increasingly popular form of anxiety-reduction habits and practices that get people to focus on the present moment, warding off future- and past-directed stressors.

One study, from Georgetown University Medical Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health, took a clinical approach to systematically testing the practice. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, an associate professor at the university, the research team divided a group of 89 patients with generalized anxiety disorder into two groups: one focused on mindfulness meditation and the other on generic stress management techniques.

Read the full article.

Mindfulness meditation may help treat anxiety disorders

From Forbes.com

960x0Our understanding of the ways in which meditation works in the body and brain is becoming more and more nuanced with every study that comes out. Not only does a meditation practice seem to change the structure of the brain in certain ways, but it also seems to affect the way it functions. One way researchers can track this is by measuring the levels of neurotransmitters, hormones and biomarkers. A new study finds that eight weeks of meditation can significantly alter the stress response in people with generalized anxiety disorder, and this is evident in the levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers.

The study will be published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Read the full Forbes.com article.

Scans suggest just 20 minutes of meditation could improve your life

From Wired Meditation

Meditation apps promising to de-stress your life in ten minutes or less have made the idea of balancing your mind in a way that’s convenient incredibly attractive. But unlike a lot of fads, it’s important to remember there is a scientific basis for meditation.

meditationPast studies have shown that meditation can sharpen cognitive skills, and even lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s a practice that has been around for a few thousand years, but one we are only just beginning to understand.

Neuroscientists from Michigan State University (MSU) have now presented clinical data suggesting the practice can help anyone deal with intensely emotional situations in a calm and balanced way, whether they are “naturals” at meditation or undergo a crash course.

“Our findings not only demonstrate that meditation improves emotional health, but that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their ‘natural’ ability to be mindful,” said Yanli Lin, lead author on the study. “It just takes some practice.”

Read the full article.

Mindfulness may ease depression, stress in poor African-American women

From PsychCentral

Mindfulness training may help alleviate symptoms of depression and stress in African-American women with lower socio-economic status, according to a new pilot study by researchers at Northwestern Medicine.

PostureIt is well-established that poor black women have an increased risk of depressive disorders. However, they rarely seek out antidepressants or psychotherapy due to negative attitudes and stigma associated with conventional mental health treatments. Mindfulness may provide an effective alternative to these conventional treatments.

“Many women are in need of help with their depression and coping with daily life, but they don’t seek it out because of limited access to high-quality mental health services and the stigma within their families and communities,” said lead researcher Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Our study shows that there are alternatives to traditional mental health treatment, such as mind-body approaches, that effectively alleviate symptoms, and can be done autonomously in the comfort of their own home.”

The study involving 31 black women is the first to test the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions among disadvantaged women with depression in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which provides comprehensive community-based medical care to low-income individuals.

Read the full article.

Meditation can boost attention and lower stress

From newswire.com

Meditation has long been promoted as a way to feel more at peace. But research from a Texas Tech University faculty member shows it can significantly improve attention, working memory, creativity, immune function, emotional regulation, self-control, cognitive and school performance and healthy habits while reducing stress.

meditation in schoolYi-Yuan Tang, the presidential endowed chair in neuroscience and a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, has developed a novel method of mindfulness meditation called Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT).

“Meditation encompasses a family of complex practices that includes mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, yoga, tai chi and chi gong,” Tang said. “Of these practices, mindfulness meditation — often described as nonjudgmental attention to present-moment experiences — has received most attention in neuroscience research over the past two decades. For example, when we observe our thoughts or emotions in the mind, we are often involved in them. With IBMT practice, you distance your thoughts or emotions and realize they are not you, then you see the reality in an insightful and different way. Mindfulness helps you be aware of these mental processes at the present, and you just observe without judgment of these activities.”

IBMT avoids struggles to control thought, relying instead on a state of restful alertness that allows for a high degree of body-mind awareness while receiving instructions from a qualified coach, who provides body-adjustment guidance, mental imagery and other techniques while soothing music plays in the background. Thought control is achieved gradually through posture, relaxation, body-mind harmony and balance.

“IBMT works by brain (central nervous system) and body (autonomic nervous system) interaction – IBMT coaches help participants to change both body and mind states to achieve a meditative state; this is why participating in just five 20-minute sessions of IBMT has shown increased attention, relaxation, calmness, body-mind awareness and brain activity,” Tang said. “Most participants notice a significant decrease in daily stress, anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue. Additionally, IBMT participants show an overall improvement in emotional and cognitive performance as well as improved social behavior.”

Read the full article.

 

‘Mindful eating’ may reduce cardiometabolic risk in adults with obesity

From Endocrine Today

Jennifer J. Daubenmier, PhD
Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD

Adults with obesity randomly assigned to a mindfulness intervention program — including sitting meditation, yoga and mindful eating practices — saw greater improvements in both fasting glucose and triglyceride levels than adults in a standard weight-loss intervention program, according to study findings published in Obesity.

“Mindful eating techniques, in combination with a regular mindfulness meditation practice, may bolster the long-term effects of diet and exercise weight-loss programs for obesity on risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including fasting glucose levels and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol,” Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, assistant professor at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Endocrine Today.

Read the full article on Healio.

Carnegie Mellon researcher finds meditation trains brain

From Carnegie Mellon University

Everyone gets stressed, and we all deal with our stress in different ways — meditation, exercise, or eating chocolate, to name a few examples. But new research out of Carnegie Mellon’s psychology department shows that mindfulness meditation, a state of focusing on the present and interacting nonjudgementally with thoughts, may physically change your brain and help you feel better.

FallWinter11-MeditationMindfulness meditation is a form of focus exercise that can take many forms, but a common one involves sitting upright with closed eyes and focusing on breathing. When the mind wanders, one passively acknowledges thoughts and returns to focus on breathing. The idea is to focus on the present moment instead of thinking about the past or the future.

Over the past few decades, research into mindfulness meditation has shown that it helps improve a broad range of stress-related physical health, disease, and psychiatric outcomes, such as depression and anxiety, but little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms behind these positive health outcomes.

A new study published in Biological Psychiatry and led by David Creswell, an associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, shows that mindfulness meditation reduces interleukin-6, a biomarker of systemic inflammation, in high-stress, unemployed adults more so than simple relaxation techniques.

“Not only did we show that mindfulness meditation training could reduce a health biomarker of inflammation, but we also showed what mindfulness training-related brain changes drove these beneficial health effects,” Creswell said.

Read the full article.