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Abstract

Although empirical interest in meditation has flourished in recent years, few studies have addressed possible downsides of meditation practice, particularly in community populations. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 male meditators in London, UK, recruited using principles of maximum variation sampling, and analysed using a modified constant comparison approach. Having originally set out simply to inquire about the impact of various meditation practices (including but not limited to mindfulness) on men’s wellbeing, we uncovered psychological challenges associated with its practice. While meditation was generally reported to be conducive to wellbeing, substantial difficulties accounted for approximately one quarter of the interview data. Our paper focuses specifically on these issues in order to alert health professionals to potential challenges associated with meditation. Four main problems of increasing severity were uncovered: Meditation was a difficult skill to learn and practise; participants encountered troubling thoughts and feelings which were hard to manage; meditation reportedly exacerbated mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety; and in a few cases, meditation was associated with psychotic episodes. Our paper raises important issues around safeguarding those who practise meditation, both within therapeutic settings and in the community.
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... Most informal exercises included in the review encouraged participants to direct their attention to the sensory properties of their food and body cues. Mindful attention has been shown to be counter-therapeutic when overused (Baer et al. 2019;Farias and Wikholm 2016;Lomas et al. 2015) and may exacerbate disinhibited eating behaviors (Kearney et al. 2012) and psychological distress (Baer et al. 2019;Farias and Wikholm 2016;Lomas et al. 2015). Given that individuals with overweight and obesity demonstrate a reduced ability to emotionally regulate and a tendency to compulsively overeat in response to negative emotions (Frayn and Knäuper 2018;Geliebter and Aversa 2003;Konttinen et al. 2009;Mantzios and Wilson 2015;Schag et al. 2013), exercises that only focus on enhancing attentional capabilities may inadvertently prompt episodes of overeating. ...
... Most informal exercises included in the review encouraged participants to direct their attention to the sensory properties of their food and body cues. Mindful attention has been shown to be counter-therapeutic when overused (Baer et al. 2019;Farias and Wikholm 2016;Lomas et al. 2015) and may exacerbate disinhibited eating behaviors (Kearney et al. 2012) and psychological distress (Baer et al. 2019;Farias and Wikholm 2016;Lomas et al. 2015). Given that individuals with overweight and obesity demonstrate a reduced ability to emotionally regulate and a tendency to compulsively overeat in response to negative emotions (Frayn and Knäuper 2018;Geliebter and Aversa 2003;Konttinen et al. 2009;Mantzios and Wilson 2015;Schag et al. 2013), exercises that only focus on enhancing attentional capabilities may inadvertently prompt episodes of overeating. ...
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Objectives There remains a significant variability in the methods and techniques used to promote mindful eating for individuals with overweight and obesity. This variability in treatment programs may result in incongruent findings as well as present challenges in identifying active processes of behavior change. The purpose of the scoping review was to identify and to describe the various methods and techniques used to cultivate mindful eating behaviors in individuals with overweight and obesity. This discernment process is a crucial first step in better understanding why certain mindful eating programs are more effective than others. Methods Studies published prior to July 26, 2021, were retrieved from PsycINFO, MEDLINE, ProQuest, and Scopus. After screening and full-text review, 19 studies were included. Results The review highlighted several inconsistencies and instructional biases that may explain some of the observed heterogeneity in treatment effects. Specifically, our results showed a discrepancy between formal and informal practices. Although formal approaches encouraged a balance between the attention and attitude elements of mindfulness, informal approaches did not. Conclusions Future mindful eating programs should aim to develop and evaluate informal approaches that integrate both the attention and attitude components of mindfulness. Greater use of standardized language, unambiguous descriptions of core therapeutic components, and the use of validated measures of mindfulness will furthermore improve empirical investigations.
... MBIs are not significantly more efficacious than evidence based treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), standard behavioural or pharmacotherapies (Goldberg et al., 2018;Khoury et al., 2013). Additionally, the commitment required from both participant and facilitator is substantial, potentially creating barriers to mindfulness-based treatment (Crane & Kuyken, 2013;Lomas, Cartwright, Edginton, & Ridge, 2015 ...
Thesis
Background: Mindfulness protocols, though beneficial for a range of indications, often involve long-term commitment and may not be accessible for those naturally low in trait mindfulness (e.g. attention-/ anxiety-related disorders). It remains unclear which ‘dose’ of mindfulness is necessary to produce beneficial effects, and broadly, how drugs such as nootropics and psychedelics may interact with mindfulness meditation. / Aims: The aims of this thesis are (1) to explore what dose of mindfulness is necessary to enhance state mindfulness (among other outcomes) and whether a drug can modulate, or add to the effects of a mindfulness strategy, (2) to explore how psychedelics may affect a meditation experience, and (3) to examine what role changes in mindfulness play in regards to beneficial psychological health outcomes shown after ceremonial psychedelic use. / Methods: A mixture of methodologies were applied to answer the above questions. Specifically, single-session mindfulness literature was systematically reviewed, and a double-placebo controlled study was designed and conducted to explore the potential for pharmacological enhancement of a single mindfulness strategy. A thematic analysis was conducted to explore user accounts of combined psychedelic and meditation experiences. Finally, linear multilevel models and longitudinal mediation models were used to explore the associations between changes in mindfulness capacity and psychological health over the course of a naturalistic ayahuasca study. / Results: Single-session mindfulness studies are capable of producing a variety of beneficial effects, and adjunctive modafinil appears to enhance some effects of behavioural strategies as well as participant engagement in subsequent practice. Psychedelics may also prove to be useful counterparts to meditations, and conversely, while psychedelics appear to enhance mindfulness, meditation practice can assist also in the navigation of, and potentially enhance effects of the psychedelic process.
... There was similar variance in how studies reported somatic effects. Lomas et al. (2015) labeled physical discomfort issues (i.e., somatic) as "lower," while Cramer et al. (2019) categorized somatic distress as "acute" or "chronic," with a detailed breakdown of specific bodily locations (e.g., muscles, joints, vertebrae). ...
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Objectives Studies that use meditation-interventions (MIs) and mind–body practices (MBPs) typically highlight health-enhancing benefits whereas health-inhibiting adverse effects (AEs) have been largely underreported. The primary aim of this review was to identify articles outlining health-inhibiting AEs and synthesize the findings narratively. Randomized control trials were excluded because this design often underreports AEs or does not include measures for monitoring them. Methods We conducted our search using four different databases (PubMed, PsychInfo, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, and Web of Science) from inception to March 2021. We used cited reference searching and conducted a gray literature search. Results A total of 1,826 articles were identified through search strategies. Sixty-one studies met all inclusion criteria, and were separated by intervention/practice, with MIs being used most frequently (n = 41). The total sample size was 8,620. AEs were separated into two categories: somatic and mental distress. Nearly all studies (n = 57) mentioned some form of mental distress such as anxiety, while fewer studies (n = 21) reported somatic distress such as sleep disturbance. Individuals primarily engaged with MIs and MBPs face-to-face (n = 59). Conclusions This review suggests that AEs appear more frequently in research using MIs, and that mental distress is more common than somatic. These effects were primarily identified in studies delivering MIs and MBPs face-to-face, suggesting that future studies should aim to evaluate emerging technologies (i.e., apps). Easy access to apps disseminating MIs and/or MBPs could be problematic for users, considering the lack of supervision associated with technology. Systematic review registration: PROSPERO ID#CRD42020167263
... Although programs such as MBSR have shown promising outcomes, secular meditation is not without risks. Practiced outside of the religious/spiritual context in which it originated, meditation has on occasion been found to exacerbate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Lomas et al., 2015). ...
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Numerous studies have shown the beneficial role that spirituality can play in helping cancer survivors cope with the disease process, but there is limited research about the lived experiences of cancer survivors who have had a spiritually based meditation practice prior to diagnosis. The purpose of this study was to understand the meaning of the spiritual experiences of cancer survivors who were long-term Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga meditation (BK-RYM) practitioners. A total of six participants with a history of cancer diagnosis were recruited from BK-RYM centers. Participants were interviewed in-depth, and the data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Seven superordinate themes were identified from a cross analysis of the participants’ narratives: (A) mental stability and clarity, (B) spiritual connection and self-empowerment, (C) personal relationship with God, (D) mind–body-soul healing practices, (E) empowering support system, (F) positive health outcomes, and (G) post-cancer spiritual growth. An additional singular theme emerged for one participant: (H) transient negative state of mind. These findings point toward the possibility that integrating spiritually focused meditation early in a cancer diagnosis may improve the quality of life and well-being of cancer survivors. Such spiritual measures may serve to reduce suffering as well as reduce healthcare costs by decreasing cancer-related emotional and physical complications.
... Despite increases in research and dissemination, critics often note methodological shortcomings in MBI research (Gu et al., 2015): failure to utilise rigorous randomization processes (Goyal et al., 2014); variability in intervention style (Shonin et al., 2013); and concern regarding the potential for participants to experience adverse effects when undertaking MBIs, such as re-experiencing traumatic memories (Brewin, 2015;Lomas et al., 2015;Van Dam et al., 2018). Thus, the purpose of this review is to address the gap in the literature concerning the effectiveness of MBIs among individuals with ACE histories, specifically taking into account methodological rigor. ...
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Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are associated with increased psychological wellbeing. The literature suggests that individuals exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may benefit greatly from MBIs. However, research has tended to focus on universal MBIs for this population with less attention on the effectiveness of targeted approaches. Moreover, there is growing concern regarding the methodological rigor of MBI research. This systematic mixed studies review (SMRS) reports the effectiveness of MBIs for improving mental health and cognition among individuals with ACE histories. Additionally, the review reports the quality and rigor of the included research. Systematic searches of PsycInfo, EMBASE, MEDLINE, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, ProQuest Social Science database and the Child Development and Adolescent Studies database were conducted. Results were screened and data were extracted then synthesized using a data-based convergent synthesis design. Thirteen studies were included in the final review. Six prominent themes emerged. Themes indicated that MBIs were effective for improving mental health and cognition for individuals with ACEs. For example, improvements in mood and anxieties, as well as a better ability to manage emotions. Shortcomings in the quality of MBI research included lack of reporting of methodological details (e.g., randomization procedures) and not systematically reporting adverse event evaluations. Recommendations are made for future research to strengthen the evidence base for MBIs for individuals with ACEs.
... Meditation in modern thought and culture has been closely associated with the goal of attaining unusual experiences and states of consciousness (Sharf, 2000;Tweed, 2005;McMahan, 2008;Payne, 2012;Harrington and Dunne, 2015). However, the familiar and mundane experiences of the mind and body (or mind-body) engaged in learning to meditatefrustration, difficulty, mind wandering, falling asleep, selfevaluation, physical discomfort-can also be a common part of learning to meditate and are relevant to novices' learning processes (Hasenkamp et al., 2012;Lomas et al., 2015). In an introductory course, novice meditators are generally tasked with (1) becoming familiar with the skills and strategies for practicing compassion meditation, (2) learning a framework of concepts and goals in which devoting time and energy to compassion meditation makes sense, and (3) internalizing and habituating compassionate perspectives and responses through repeated practice. ...
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Over the last decade, numerous interventions and techniques that aim to engender, strengthen, and expand compassion have been created, proliferating an evidence base for the benefits of compassion meditation training. However, to date, little research has been conducted to examine individual variation in the learning, beliefs, practices, and subjective experiences of compassion meditation. This mixed-method study examines changes in novice meditators’ knowledge and contemplative experiences before, during, and after taking an intensive course in CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training), a contemplative intervention that is increasingly used for both inter- and intrapersonal flourishing. The participants in this study ( n = 40) were Christian healthcare chaplains completing a 1-year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) who learned CBCT as part of their professional chaplaincy training curriculum. Prior to and upon completion of training, we surveyed participants to assess their beliefs about the malleability of compassion, types of engagement in compassion meditation, and perceptions of the impact of taking CBCT. We also conducted in-depth interviews with a subset of participants to gain a qualitative understanding of their subjective experiences of learning and practicing compassion meditation, a key component of CBCT. We found that participants reported increases in the extent to which they believed compassion to be malleable after studying CBCT. We also found high levels of variability of individual ways of practicing and considered the implications of this for the study of contemplative learning processes. This multi-methodological approach yielded novel insights into how compassion practice and compassion-related outcomes interrelate, insights that can inform the basic scientific understanding of the experience of learning and enacting compassion meditation as a means of strengthening compassion itself.
... Numerous studies have documented impacted sleep quality as a result of traditional MBIs, including multiple case reports [59][60][61] and mixed-methods research [62,63]. Additionally, research has linked MBPs to lack of appetite [55,59,64], lethargy [64], and body discomfort [65,66]. Despite the significant body of research focused on this theme, apps have a limited capability of addressing physical ailments (i.e., no in-person diagnosis). ...
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Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and practices (MBPs) can promote better health outcomes. Although MBIs and MBPs were developed to be delivered in-person, mobile health (mHealth) tools such as apps have made these more accessible. Mindfulness apps (MAs) are popular among emerging adults (EAs) who have the highest ownership of smartphones and who are also at risk for distress. While adverse effects have been observed with MBIs/MBPs, this has not been examined when mindfulness is practiced using apps. We interviewed EAs (n = 22) to capture their motivations for using these apps and identified health-inhibiting and enhancing experiences. Data were thematically analyzed using the constant comparative method. Motivations for app use included accessibility, convenience, and stress/health management. EAs described health-enhancing outcomes (reduced distress, improved physical symptoms, increased focus) and health-inhibiting outcomes (worsened distress, performance uncertainty, dependency development, worsened physical health). They provided suggestions for improving apps (e.g., feedback option). These findings illustrate benefits and risks that EAs may encounter when practicing mindfulness using apps, which can inform the best practices for app design.
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Objective: In this study, we evaluated brain electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in healthy participants during the performance of paired and individual mindfulness meditation (MM). We hypothesized that EEG activity is differentially affected by meditation in pairs compared to individual meditation. Methods: A total of 20 healthy female university students (mean age 19.54 years, SD =1.53) with no prior experience in MM participated in this study. All participants had to perform a 5-minute MM task together and individually while the other participant was in rest or performing a concentration task (control condition). To exclude social interaction as main factor, participants were separated from their research partner by an opaque screen while instructions were given through headphones. Brain electroencephalographic (EEG) activity from each individual student was measured during all conditions. Results: The main findings indicate that left-frontal alpha and theta spectral EEG power was significantly higher during the paired MM condition compared to individual MM and control condition. Conclusions: This controlled MM study demonstrates differences in brain activity between practicing mindfulness in pairs compared to practicing it individually. We conclude that the increased alpha and theta EEG power during paired MM may be associated with social facilitation or the activation of "theory of mind." The results invite further reflection on interpersonal communication and mindfulness.
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There has been growing interest in meditation adversities amongst mindfulness communities in recent years. This article documents US meditator distress upon experiencing incoherence in the eclectic resources supporting their practice. How might the anthropology of ethics consider self‐cultivation practices when the traditions supporting them fail due to incoherence? We need further research on moral bricolage to answer that question.
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Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. The past is history. The future yet to come. Looking deeply at life as it is in the very here and now, the practitioner dwells unshaken and free in heart. We must be diligent today, as death may strike tomorrow, for there is no bargaining with the lord of death.–The Buddha, 2,500 BCEThe principal Buddhist suttas on mindfulness include the ānāpānasati sutta, satipatthāna sutta, mahasatipatthāna sutta, and kāyagatāsati sutta. Irrespective of whether they prefer to practise mindfulness from a Buddhist or secular perspective, most dedicated mindfulness practitioners are familiar with many of the core teachings outlined in these suttas (e.g., use of the breath as a mindfulness anchor, mindfulness of the body and its constituents, maintaining mindful awareness during daily activities, etc.). However, one key aspect of the abovementioned suttas that often seems to be overlooked by mindfulness practitioners is the emphasis these teach
Chapter
This chapter discusses meditation; its psychological, behavioral, and physiological effects; and how it can be effectively incorporated into the routine care of individuals who require mental and medical interventions. The relaxation response is the biological consequence of a wide variety of mental focusing techniques, one of which is meditation. A variety of techniques can be used to elicit the relaxation response, including meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, yoga, exercise, repetitive prayer, and the presuggestion phase of hypnosis. Although all of these strategies result in the same physiological response, two components appear to be essential to achieving the relaxation response: mental focusing and adopting a passive attitude toward distracting thoughts. For many patients with psychological disturbances who might be hesitant to enter therapy, relaxation response training is a nonthreatening intervention that can be introduced prior to other more rigorous forms of therapy such as cognitive therapy or medication. Meditation and other modes of eliciting the relaxation response can be a means of preparing for standard psychotherapy by allowing the patient to observe thoughts and mental events. Relaxation-response training can also be used to facilitate behavior modification goals. The relaxation response has been associated with improvements in many medical conditions including hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, chronic pain, insomnia, side effects of cancer therapy, side effects of AIDS therapy, infertility, and preparation for surgery and X-ray procedures.
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This article describes the concept of posttraumatic growth, its conceptual foundations, and supporting empirical evidence. Posttraumatic growth is the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises. It is manifested in a variety of ways, including an increased appreciation for life in general, more meaningful interpersonal relationships, an increased sense of personal strength, changed priorities, and a richer existential and spiritual life. Although the term is new, the idea that great good can come from great suffering is ancient. We propose a model for understanding the process of posttraumatic growth in which individual characteristics, support and disclosure, and more centrally, significant cognitive processing involving cognitive structures threatened or nullified by the traumatic events, play an important role. It is also suggested that posttraumatic growth mutually interacts with life wisdom and the development of the life narrative, and that it is an on-going process, not a static outcome.