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Meditation and Buddhism

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Tim Lomas
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This chapter offers an overview of the intricate connections between meditation and emotion. It begins by outlining a framework for understanding meditation, whereby practices can be classified according to four key parameters: behaviors of mind; object; attitude; and form. It also introduces some basic ideas around the nature of emotions, and affective experience more broadly. After that, the chapter has two main sections. The first explores direct interactions between meditation and emotion, where practices specifically target or elicit certain emotions. We shall look at four clusters of emotions: dysphoric; compassionate; reverential; and ambivalent. The second part then examines indirect interactions, in which the emotional effects of meditation are mediated by other processes. There we consider three such processes: physiology; cognition; and self-transcendence. Although the presentation is necessarily brief, the chapter gives an indication of the ways in which meditation may impact upon emotional experience. The chapter concludes by outlining directions for future research.
Tim Lomas
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Efforts to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals include mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). To understand the value of such initiatives, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of empirical studies pertaining to the use of MBIs with healthcare professionals. Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016 (PROSPERO registration number: CRD42016032899). Eligibility criteria included empirical analyses of well-being outcomes acquired in relation to MBIs. Forty-one papers met the eligibility criteria, consisting of a total of 2101 participants. Studies were examined for two broad classes of well-being outcomes: (a) “negative” mental health measures such as anxiety, depression, and stress; (b) “positive” indices of well-being, such as life satisfaction, together with outcomes associated with well-being, such as emotional intelligence. MBIs were generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures (albeit with moderate effect sizes), and mindfulness does appear to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, so further research is needed, particularly high-quality randomised control trials.
Itai Ivtzan
added a research item
Abstract Stress remains a common factor in modern work life, and resilience building strategies have been shown to support and enhance natural human adaptability in overcoming workplace stress. This study examines the resilience and well-being building efficacy of loving-kindness meditation (LKM). Following initial training with employees of Microsoft Corporation in the United Kingdom, through a seven week intervention, participants (N=13) regularly practiced LKM, comparing results with a wait-list control group (N=15). The study showed significant increases in psychological resilience in the experimental group, along with reduced depression, anxiety and stress; while the control group changes remained insignificant. Overall, the results and prior literature suggest that LKM practice is an effective strategy for building resilience, improving employee adaptability to stress at work and so increasing employee value.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Teenage boys are a source of considerable concern in society, with generally poorer health, educational, and social outcomes than their female counterparts. Of particular concern are “at-risk” adolescents, who by definition are liable to poorer outcomes than peers not deemed at-risk. However, there are indications that activities such as mindfulness may offer opportunities for such adolescents to negotiate more positive constructions of masculinity. This study piloted a new four-week mindfulness-based intervention, created specifically for a group of eight at-risk adolescent boys at a school in London. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with participants before and after the intervention and analyzed using grounded theory. The data revealed an overarching theme of “pressure control.” Participants depicted themselves as facing multiple pressures, many of which related to making the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. However, the context of the intervention enabled them to generate a masculine construction in which they were able to reclaim agency and self-control. Notably, such control was often exercised in the direction of facilitating emotional connection and agility, thus subverting traditional masculine expectations. The results show that at-risk adolescent boys are capable of more nuanced and skilled emotional competencies than they are often given credit for.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
The Mindfulness Based Flourishing Program (MBFP) is an online 8-week intervention developed for enhancing wellbeing with the use of mindfulness practices, through targeting a range of positive variables. The efficacy of the MBFP has been demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial, and in order to further establish it as an intervention with widespread application, cross-cultural validation is warranted. The current study was conducted with the primary aim of testing the validity of the MBFP with a Hong Kong Chinese population, as well as verifying its positive effects. A randomized wait-list controlled design was adopted with 115 participants (92 females, mean age = 31.50). Intervention outcomes were compared between Hong Kong Chinese and British participants. Five positive variables were examined (self-compassion, meaning in life, positive and negative emotions, gratitude, and mindfulness), and measures were taken pre- and post-intervention. Significant gains in wellbeing measures were observed in both the Hong Kong Chinese and the British experimental groups. Levels of wellbeing post-intervention were also higher for the two experimental groups as compared to their control counterparts. The current study provides preliminary evidence for the MBFP’s cross-cultural validity, and strengthens previous claims for its efficacy as a new, accessible alternative for enhancing wellbeing.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Could the practice of mindfulness help at-risk adolescent boys manage the challenges in their lives, do better at school, and generally increase their well-being? Mindfulness is a practice that is thought to develop people’s attention and awareness skills. It has been found to have positive effects in diverse populations, from pregnant mothers to military personnel, and in relation to varied problems, from depression to eating disorders. In this research, I aimed to test whether mindfulness might be of benefit to at-risk adolescent boys, whose characteristics make them more likely to suffer issues with well-being.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Objective: Among efforts to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals are initiatives based around mindfulness meditation. To understand the value of such initiatives, we conducted a systematic review of empirical studies pertaining to mindfulness in healthcare professionals. Method: Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016. Eligibility criteria included empirical analyses of mindfulness and well-being outcomes acquired in relation to practice. 81 papers met the eligibility criteria, comprising a total of 3,805 participants. Studies were principally examined for outcomes such as burnout, distress, anxiety, depression, and stress. Results: Mindfulness was generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures (although results were more equivocal with respect to some outcomes, most notably burnout). Conclusion: Overall, mindfulness does appear to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, so further research is needed, particularly high-quality randomized controlled trials.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Both separately and in conjunction, mindfulness and positive psychological interventions have been found to increase wellbeing against a number of measures. Research has been primarily based upon the application of self-report scales, and little has yet been done to examine the lived experience of participants. The aim of this study therefore was to apply an interpretative phenomenological approach to the experience of participants in a Mindfulness Based Flourishing (MBF) programme which combines positive psychological interventions with mindfulness, in order to more fully understand the scope and depth of the impact their experience had on them. Three participants from a completed MBF each had a one-off semi-structured interview, the results of which were transcribed verbatim. The resulting texts were analysed, with five themes emerging which demonstrated the impact the programme had had on participants’ sense of self and on the nature of their connections with others. While all participants identified benefits accruing from the course, it also presented challenges emotionally as well as in terms of the embedding of knowledge and skills. Future research should look to examine the impact of such programmes in wider cultural and temporal frameworks, and additionally should explore the application of Grounded Theory to identify more theoretical level explanations of phenomenon.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Amidst the burgeoning enthusiasm for mindfulness in the West, there is a concern that the largely secular ‘de-contextualized’ way in which it is being harnessed is denuding it of its potential to improve health and wellbeing. As such, efforts are underway to ‘re-contextualize’ mindfulness, explicitly drawing on the wider framework of Buddhist ideas and practices in which it was initially developed. This paper aims to contribute to this, doing so by focusing on Zen Buddhism, and in particular on Zen aesthetic principles. It concentrates on the seven principles identified by Shin’ichi Hisamatsu (1971) in his classic text Zen and the Fine Arts: kanso (simplicity); fukinsei (asymmetry); koko (austere sublimity); shizen (naturalness); daisuzoku (freedom from routine); sei-jaku (tranquillity); and yūgen (profound grace). The presence of these principles in works of art is seen as reflecting and communicating insights that are central to Buddhism, such as non-attachment. Moreover, these principles do not only apply to the creation and appreciation of art, but have clear applications for treating health-related disorders, and improving quality of life more generally. This paper makes the case that embodying these principles in their lives can help people enhance their levels of psychosomatic wellbeing, and come to a truer understanding of the essence of mindful living.
Tim Lomas
added 2 research items
Work can be demanding, imposing challenges that can be detrimental to the physical and mental health of workers. Efforts are therefore underway to develop practices and initiatives that may improve occupational wellbeing. These include interventions based on mindfulness meditation. This paper offers a systematic review of empirical studies featuring analyses of mindfulness in occupational contexts. Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016. Eligibility criteria included experimental and correlative studies of mindfulness conducted in work settings, with a variety of wellbeing and performance measures. 153 papers met the eligibility criteria and were included in the systematic review, comprising 12,571 participants. Mindfulness was generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, so further research is needed, particularly involving high-quality randomised control trials.
Tim Lomas
added 23 research items
Traditional masculine norms around emotions (e.g., inexpressiveness) can mean men have difficulties managing their emotions, contributing to potential mental health problems. However, it is recognized that men and masculinities are diverse, and that some men can positively self-manage their mental health, although this has received little attention in the literature. Uniquely, we sought to find men who had discovered ways to engage constructively with their emotions, in this case through meditation. Thirty male meditators, recruited using a maximum variation sampling strategy, participated in a longitudinal mixed-methods study in the United Kingdom. Participants undertook 2 cognitive neuroscience sessions, approximately 1 year apart, composed of cognitive assessments of attention combined with electroencephalograph measurement during task performance and meditation. In-depth narrative interviews exploring men's experiences of meditation were also conducted at both time points, analyzed using a modified constant comparison approach. Taken together, the quantitative and qualitative results suggest that men developed attention skills through meditation, although there were variations according to previous meditation experience (e.g., a sharper longitudinal increase in theta amplitude under meditation for novice practitioners). Moreover, development of attention appeared to enhance men's emotional intelligence, which in turn could be conducive to well-being. The results have implications for psychologists working with men, pointing to the potential for teaching men about better regulating their emotions for improved well-being.
Positive psychology has been criticized for the lack of research on the role of the body in wellbeing. As the research into the many variables that influence subjective wellbeing (SWB) continues, the important role of body awareness (BA) on SWB has been neglected. It was hypothesised that there would be a significant predictive relationship between BA and SWB, and moreover that this relationship would be moderated by mindfulness. One hundred and nineteen participants from the general population completed relevant self-report scales through an online survey. BA had a positive relationship with SWB, but this relationship was not moderated by mindfulness. These findings have implications for positive psychology that reinforce the argument for more body-based interventions and overall embodiment within the discipline.
Mindfulness in Positive Psychology brings together the latest thinking in these two important disciplines. Positive psychology, the science of wellbeing and strengths, is the fastest growing branch of psychology, offering an optimal home for the research and application of mindfulness. As we contemplate mindfulness in the context of positive psychology, meaningful insights are being revealed in relation to our mental and physical health. The book features chapters from leading figures from mindfulness and positive psychology, offering an exciting combination of topics. Mindfulness is explored in relation to flow, meaning, parenthood, performance, sports, obesity, depression, pregnancy, spirituality, happiness, mortality, and many other ground-breaking topics. This is an invitation to rethink about mindfulness in ways that truly expands our understanding of wellbeing. Mindfulness in Positive Psychology will appeal to a readership of students and practitioners, as well as those interested in mindfulness, positive psychology, or other relevant areas such as education, healthcare, clinical psychology, counselling psychology, occupational psychology, and coaching. The book explores cutting edge theories, research, and practical exercises, which will be relevant to all people interested in this area, and particularly those who wish to enhance their wellbeing via mindfulness