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  • Managing Stress through Mindfulness Meditation

  • What Is Mindfulness Meditation?Distinction between mindfulness and mindfulness meditation (MM)Mindfulness is paying attention to the present momentMM also includes a direct, experiential understanding/ insight into the nature of mental activity and mental events

  • Although present in all spiritual traditions, MM as it is being taught in the West draws its inspiration and technique from BuddhismMM was taught as a powerful, gradual method of self-knowledge and self-mastery through disciplined observation of mental processes

  • MM includes two main components: tranquility meditation (TM) and insight meditation (IM)TM: calming the mind, usually by maintaining awareness of the breathe and resisting focusing on the contents of mental activityIM: understanding the nature or main characteristics of mental events and mental activities and our relationship to them

  • core skill defining mindfulness is the capacity to respond to mental events with an attitude of non-judgmental, accepting, present-moment, awareness (Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2002) dispassionate, non-evaluative, and sustained moment-to-moment awareness of perceptible mental states and processes (Grossman et al., 2004)

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), usually delivered in 8 weekly sessions, has emerged as one of the better known clinical applications of MM (Kabat-Zinn, 1990) MBSR has been shown to significantly benefit individuals with a diverse set of conditions when included as an adjunctive intervention, including :chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1987), cancer (Speca et al., 2000), anxiety disorders (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1992),

  • eating disorders (Kristeller & Hallett, 1999)fibromyalgia (Goldenberg et al., 1994)relapse to depression (Segal et al., 2002).Psoriasis (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1998)Stress (Williams etal., 2001)addictive behavior (Marlatt, 2002)

  • How Does Mindfulness Help?Relaxation?Desensitization?Distraction?Increased frustration tolerance?Extinction?Acceptance?Insight into nature of mental activity?

  • Spiritual teachings that form the basis for MBSR and other MM interventions stress all of these pathways but especially the last one: insightSuch insight reflects the experientially-based conviction that mental events are impermanent, lack any essential / objective existence, and can exacerbate suffering and distressBy comparison, lack of insight attributes a substantiality and power to mental activity that it, by nature, does not possess

  • Pain is unavoidable; Suffering is optionalMM addresses the suffering or distress associated with mental and physical illness by skilful training in this insight most modern MM interventions include extensive practice in MM, breathing exercises, yoga/ body awareness, compassion training and other elements

  • Although research to date is generally supportive, it is not yet definitiveResearch is being directed towards measuring M, evaluating which components of MM are most effective, understanding the biology/ neuroscience of MM, and the mechanism by which it benefits

  • What Happens During MM?Although evidence for the efficacy of MM is growing, very little is known about what is happening while people meditateWithout greater understanding of what is actually happening within the mind it is very difficult to convincingly attribute any benefits of MM to actual MMOur study was designed to obtain some evidence related to this question

  • Study of Mindfulness ProcessHealthy sample of 17 undergraduate students Received course credit for participatingMost had previous MM experienceAsked to meditate 20 daily for 8 weeksRecorded their subjective experiences of MM on a daily basisProvided with weekly instruction by TTPre/post assessment of depression, anxiety, somatic stress, mindfulness skills

  • Daily diary rated the frequency* of the following aspects of MM:Feelings of tranquility and calmAbility to remain present-focusedAbility to remain non-distractibleDistancing from mental activityNonjudgmental attitude towards mental eventsRestlessness and agitationMaintaining attention on the breathe*ranging from none of the time to all of the time on a 6-point scale

  • Weekly instruction encouraged:attention on breath;noting mental activity but neither avoiding or holding on to them;permitting mental events to naturally arise and subside without interferenceattitude of curious, benign observation similar to the experience of watching clouds cross the sky

  • Results14 females; 3 malesMean Age in early 20sFrequency of meditation: 79% of days or 44/56 (ranged from 50% to 100% compliance)Length of daily meditation: 17 min/day or 1.6 hrs. per week (~13 hours in total)

  • Lower anxiety scores post-8 weeks were significantly associated with higher ratings of the following towards mental activity:nonjudgmental/accepting attitude (~r=.-75)non-distractibility (~r =-. 58)present-focus (~r=-.60)achieving tranquility (~r = -.50)

  • Lower depression scores post-8 weeks was significantly associated with higher rating of:nonjudgmental/accepting attitude (~r=.70)

    Lower somatic symptom scores post-8 weeks was significantly associated with:amount of time spent in MM (~r=.65)

  • Significant improvements in ratings of behavioral impulsivity, social relationships and role effectiveness also foundSubjects with > 11 hrs of MM during the study had significantly higher ratings on measures of present-focus and non-distractibility than those with
  • The more time spent in MM per day (which ranged from 9 - 40 minutes with an avg of 17 minutes), the higher the rating for maintaining:present-focus (r=.80), non-distractibility (r =.78), tranquility (r = .73) and non-restlessness (r = .64) at the end of the 8-weeks

  • Summary and ConclusionsMM is increasingly being shown to be an effective adjunctive intervention for the alleviation of mental and physical illness-associated stress and sufferingWhile we know little about what occurs while people practice MM, this study showed that a brief, 8-week program with healthy undergraduates produced measurable benefits with only ~17 minutes of MM/ day

  • Specifically, skill in maintaining present-focus, a non-judgmental attitude and tranquility was associated with lower frequency in negative moods such as anxiety and depression reduced physical symptoms of stress was most associated with time spent in MM

  • Since more time meditating was associated with stronger effects it is likely that practicing MM for about an hour/ day (which is commonly recommended) would yield correspondingly stronger effects, especially in populations who are in significant clinical distressHowever, even in non-clinical populations, improvements were evident with as little as 17 min/day over a two-month period

  • In conclusion, MM is an ancient but novel intervention that is showing potential to help reduce stress and suffering and to also increase self-understanding if practiced regularly and properly

  • MM Instructionsmaintain erect but comfortable sitting posturemaintain attention on rhythym of breathingwhen distracted by any mental activity, note/label distraction and return attention to breathingdo not force the mind neither to think or to not thinkneither encourage thought nor block itpermit thoughts to arise, briefly abide, and subsideobserve your mind dispassionately but alertlyif thoughts come, let them come; if they go, let them go; if they stay, let them stay