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Mindful : April 2018
T hese days, there’s little debate about the stress-reducing benefits of mindfulness med- itation. In a report published in 2015 in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, researchers reviewing find- ings from 29 studies con- cluded that MBSR has a large beneficial effect on stress and moderate effects on anxiety, depression, distress, and quality of life. And while some research- ers look at the psychological benefits, others measure physiological changes linked to stress. In a 2017 report in the Journal of Psychi- atric Research, Australian researchers reviewed findings from 45 studies. Together, they concluded, the results provide strong evidence that MBSR is associated with lower levels of the stress- related hormone cortisol. “There are many ways that mindfulness meditation helps reduce stress,” says Eric Garland, PhD, director of the Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development at the University of Utah. “Mindfulness helps people focus on the stresses in their lives without imme- diately reacting to them. And it also increases cognitive flexibility, allowing people to see stressful situations from different perspectives. Someone who has had a heart attack may think, Oh no, I’m going to die. Through mindful- ness meditation, that person can learn to think of the heart attack as a second chance at living a healthier life.” One area of special interest is the use of mindfulness to ease stress and fear during pregnancy and childbirth. In a trial reported in 2017 in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Larissa Duncan, PhD, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin– Madison, recruited 30 first- time expectant mothers who expressed worries about the pain of childbirth. The women and their par tners took part in an 18-hour intensive weekend mindfulness workshop based on the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting program that focused specifically on these fears. The results showed that mindfulness training that addresses fear and pain during childbirth improved childbirth experiences and lessened depression symptoms both during pregnancy and in the early postpartum period, compared with childbirth classes without mindfulness training. “Stress and fear of pain associated with childbirth can have long- lasting negative outcomes on a mother, her child, and the whole family,” says Duncan. “By teaching mindfulness as a basic life skill, we can help enhance physical and mental well-being during pregnancy and birth and for the parenting journey that lies ahead.” ● Relieving Stress 58 mindful April 2018 health care