Tag Archives: Meditation

Mindfulness meditation reduces symptoms of depression

10 Nov

Here is a well designed study looking at the effects of mindfulness meditation on depression. The abstract reads:


Training in mindfulness has been introduced to the treatment of depression as a means of relapse prevention. However, given its buffering effects on maladaptive responses to negative mood, mindfulness training would be expected to be particularly helpful in those who are currently suffering from symptoms. This study investigated whether a brief and targeted mindfulness-based intervention can reduce symptoms in acutely depressed patients.


Seventy-four patients with a chronic or recurrent lifetime history were randomly allocated to receive either a brief mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) encompassing three individual sessions and regular home practice or a control condition that combined psycho-educational components and regular rest periods using the same format as the MBI. Self-reported severity of symptoms, mindfulness in every day life, ruminative tendencies and cognitive reactivity were assessed before and after intervention.


Treatment completers in the MBI condition showed pronounced and significantly stronger reductions in symptoms than those in the control condition. In the MBI group only, patients showed significant increases in mindfulness, and significant reductions in ruminative tendencies and cognitive reactivity.


Brief targeted mindfulness interventions can help to reduce symptoms and buffer maladaptive responses to negative mood in acutely depressed patients with chronic or recurrent lifetime history.

Meditation claims

11 Sep

My attention was recently draw to a blog post labeled “108 Benefits of Daily Meditation.” It didn’t take me long before I found something that made me feel uneasy, example number three to be exact:

blood pressure post What surprised me was the chart. It does not appear in the cited paper. The chart lacks an explanatory note, but the normal interpretation would be that it is comparing the effects of different interventions on blood pressure change. The horizontal lines represent the 95% confidence interval around some effect size. If the line crosses zero then we say that the findings were not statistically significant. Thus, the blog post included a chart that contradicts the findings of the cited paper.


Meta-analysis of home based mindfulness meditation

5 Jul

A meta-analysis published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy reports that home based mindfulness meditation is as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy homework. Here is the abstract:

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) emphasize the importance of mindfulness practice at home as an integral part of the program. However, the extent to which participants complete their assigned practice is not yet clear, nor is it clear whether this practice is associated with positive outcomes.

For this systematic review and meta-analysis, searches were performed using Scopus and PubMed for studies published through to the end of 2015, reporting on formal home practice of mindfulness by MBSR or MBCT participants.

Across 43 studies (N = 1427), the pooled estimate for participants’ home practice was 64% of the assigned amount, equating to about 30 minutes per day, six days per week [95% CI 60–69%]. There was substantial heterogeneity associated with this estimate. Across 28 studies (N = 898), there was a small but significant association between participants’ self-reported home practice and intervention outcomes (r = 0·26, 95% CI 0·19,–0·34).

MBSR and MBCT participants report completing substantial formal mindfulness practice at home over the eight-week intervention, albeit less than assigned amounts. There is a small but significant association between the extent of formal practice and positive intervention outcomes for a wide range of participants.

And here is Larry Terkel with advice on how to meditate:

Can mice meditate?

17 Mar

Over at Deric’s Mindblog there is a post about this paper on mouse meditation! Here is the abstract:

Meditation training induces changes at both the behavioral and neural levels. A month of meditation training can reduce self-reported anxiety and other dimensions of negative affect. It also can change white matter as measured by diffusion tensor imaging and increase resting-state midline frontal theta activity. The current study tests the hypothesis that imposing rhythms in the mouse anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), by using optogenetics to induce oscillations in activity, can produce behavioral changes. Mice were randomly assigned to groups and were given twenty 30-min sessions of light pulses delivered at 1, 8, or 40 Hz over 4 wk or were assigned to a no-laser control condition. Before and after the month all mice were administered a battery of behavioral tests. In the light/dark box, mice receiving cortical stimulation had more light-side entries, spent more time in the light, and made more vertical rears than mice receiving rhythmic cortical suppression or no manipulation. These effects on light/dark box exploratory behaviors are associated with reduced anxiety and were most pronounced following stimulation at 1 and 8 Hz. No effects were seen related to basic motor behavior or exploration during tests of novel object and location recognition. These data support a relationship between lower-frequency oscillations in the mouse ACC and the expression of anxiety-related behaviors, potentially analogous to effects seen with human practitioners of some forms of meditation.

Here’s the Indian version of the Mickey Mouse show:

Two years of meditation

1 Jan

I have completed my second year of daily meditation. I only missed two days this year, one because I was seriously ill. One tool that has really helped me is the Insight Timer. I started using the timer after I began meditating so it is not a complete record, but here are my statistics:

Number of sessions: 702
Average session time: 14.2 minutes
Longest session time: 21 minutes
Total session time: 166 hours 26 minutes

I started meditating for ten minutes a day but now do 15 minutes. I have been experimenting with various forms of metta meditation, but it is still a work in progress. I will continue to press on.

Here is a video by my friend and teacher Larry Terkel on mediation:

Only 47 high-quality studies on meditation.

24 Dec

I practice meditation everyday, so I have a bias in favor of the practice. However, the point of science is to control for our biases. We have been told that the evidence for meditation is overwhelming, but how good is the evidence? To its credit, the Buddhist magazine Tricycle discusses a recent meta-analysis of research on meditation and the results are sobering:

“only 47 out of over 18,000 studies had them, which is pretty telling: it suggests that there are fewer than 50 high-quality studies on meditation”

In the article, scientist Willoughby Britton offers some perspective:

“With any new discovery, there is usually some initial craze before it gets too popular, and then there is a backlash. A lot of things that were overhyped get torn down. And whatever is really legitimately true is left standing in the end. So I think we are at the peak of this first phase. There have already been a couple rounds of criticism.”

Science is good for meditation. Not all claims on its behalf will turn out to be true, but that’s OK. In the long run, we are better off having a nuanced rational understanding of our practice.

Productive habits of Carla Sinclair

26 Nov

A nice post by BoingBoing co-founder Carla Sinclair about her productive habits:

“Making exercise, meditating, and sunshine part of my daily routine greatly improves my mood and clarity of mind.”

Good advice for everyone.

“Set Priorities for Your Day: Make sure you get things done that will make you feel good about your day.
Meditate: try one or more of our guided meditation plans.
No Screens After 10pm: set a limit for when you’ll turn of screens, one way you might improve the quality of your sleep. Or search “screens” to find other “no screens” habits based on other times”


Telomere trifecta

3 Oct

This is my third blog post in three days on telomeres. I think the subject is important and may yield new insights into human health.

Today I am going to share another video from Dr. Greger about the role of diet in telomere length:

Negative side effects from meditation?

15 May

A couple of days ago I blogged about Willoughby Britton’s research on meditation. Here is an interview where she talks about some of the possible negative side effects of mediation. Note that this is not an argument against meditation, but an effort to realistically evaluate both the benefits and the possible risks.

A few of the comments, posted on Vimeo, are hostile to Britton’s work. For example,

“Is this ‘scientific’ work trying to make people feel afraid of meditating and evolving their consciousness?”

I think this kind of reaction is unfortunate. Science is not about re-affirming preconceptions, it is about taking evidence seriously and entertaining hard questions. I meditate everyday and I value the work of scientists like Britton who try to ground practice in rigorous science.


The Dark Side of Meditation from Centre of Gravity on Vimeo.

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Meditation for athletes

19 Mar

An article in The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on Penn State players using mindfulness meditation to improve performance:

“elite athletes from Penn State’s Frazier to the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks are using meditation and yoga to enhance performance and avoid destructive habits like dwelling on mistakes.”

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