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Mindful : June 2015
For individual study citations, please visit mindful.org/ researchroundup With help from Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, U of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Mindfulness, U of Massachusetts Medical School, and Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley. LEARNING MATTERS Can mindfulness help kids do better in school? A recent study published in Mindfulness found that expos- ing school kids to an audio-guided mindful awareness training program for 10 minutes a day significantly increased their per- formance in read- ing and science— without disrupting teaching. NOT A PANACEA A growing body of research shows that meditation and mindfulness candoalotof good. But you need perspective, too— or so suggests a recent one-week National Institutes of Health study that looked at whether mindful- ness meditation improves work- ing memory or decreases mind wandering. The study did not find evidence for that, but it did find that meditation eases stress- related memory impairment s. Less Stress for Nurses More and more studies are showing that mindfulness can help health-care workers reduce job-related stress and burnout. A new one looked specifically at emergency room nurses in Switzerland. The 50 par ticipants completed a sur vey about stress, mindfulness, burnout, anxiety, and depression, and found that the most frequent cause of stress on the job involved inter- personal conflict. But mindful traits like non-judgmental acceptance of experience were associated with better relation- ships as well as less depression and burnout—suggesting that cultivating mindfulness may help nurses cope with their high-stress jobs. Easing Chronic Pain If you’re one of the millions of adults who suffer from chronic pain or disease, there may be some good news: An eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program has proven effective in easing pain. A recent study looked at 38 par ticipants at Kaiser Permanente, Colorado, who suffered mostly from back or joint pain or psychological distress. Patients were assessed at the beginning and end of the program and at one year after the baseline assessment. Changes in how they used the health-care system were compared for the six-month period before the first MBSR class and 18 months after completion of the class. During the class, par ticipants were introduced to core MBSR practices, including a guided body scan, some yoga, and sitting and walking meditation. Not only did the patients repor t significant improvements in mental and physical function after taking the course, but they significantly decreased their use of health ser vices such as emergency rooms and specialty care. “Turn off email notifications and close your inbox. You’ll thank me—though please don’t feel you need to send an email to say so.” — Oliver Burkeman, reporting on research showing that checking email less frequently reduces stress. Being All That They Can Be American soldiers receive intensive train- ing before being deployed overseas. Little of it, however, helps to psychologically prepare them for the ex treme stress of missions that can range from combat in Afghanistan to providing on-the-ground help in natural disasters—stress that can lead to life-or-death lapses in at tention. A new study led by University of Miami neu- roscientist Amishi Jha explored whether a brief training in cultivating moment- to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings could help build resilience and improve per formance in detail- oriented tasks. Eight to 10 months before the soldiers’ deployment to Afghanistan, Jha’s team put 75 of them through either a seven-week program that emphasized engaging in practices like meditation or one that consisted mainly of lectures about mindfulness. A third group of soldiers and a four th of civilians went through no training at all, to ser ve as controls. All the groups were tested before and after train- ings for their ability to pay sustained atten- tion to boring tasks. The results: Soldiers who went through the engaged mindful- ness training outper formed all three of the other groups. In other words, practicing mindfulness bolstered their at tention dur- ing the high-stress period before deploy- ment to a combat zone. It’s a finding with implications for other kinds of workers who face daily strain and even danger on the job, such as firefighters or emergency room workers. ● 12 mindful June 2015 what’s new Research Roundup PHOTOGRAPHS:©STOCKYIMAGES,©DEKART/DOLLARPHOTOCLUB