Time perception altered by mindfulness meditation

(Medical Xpress)—New published research from psychologists at the universities of Kent and Witten/Herdecke has shown that mindfulness meditation has the ability to temporarily alter practitioners’ perceptions of time – a finding that has wider implications for the use of mindfulness both as an everyday practice, and in clinical treatments and interventions.

Led by Dr Robin Kramer from Kent’s School of Psychology, the research team hypothesised that, given mindfulness’ emphasis on moment-to-moment awareness, mindfulness would slow down time and produce the feeling that short periods of time lasted longer.

To test this , they used a temporal bisection task, which allows researchers to measure where each individual subjectively splits a period of time in half. Participants’ responses to this task were collected twice, once before and then again after a listening task. By separating people into two groups, participants listened for ten minutes to either an audiobook or a meditation exercise designed to focus their attention on the movement of breath in the body. The results showed that the (audiobook) didn’t change in their responses after the listening task compared with before. However, meditation led to a relative overestimation of durations i.e. time periods felt longer than they had before.

The reasons for this have been interpreted by Dr Kramer and team as the result of attentional changes, producing either improved that allow increased attention to the processing of time, or a shift to internally-oriented attention that would have the same effect.

Dr Kramer said: ‘Our findings represent some of the first to demonstrate how mindfulness meditation can alter the of time. Given the increasing of mindfulness in everyday practice, its relationship with time perception may provide an important step in our understanding of this pervasive, ancient practice in our modern world.’

Dr Kramer also explained that the benefits of mindfulness and mindfulness-based therapies in a variety of domains are now being identified. These include decreases in rumination, improvements in cognitive flexibility, working memory capacity and sustained attention, and reductions in reactivity, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Mindfulness-based treatments also appear to provide broad antidepressant and antianxiety effects, as well as decreases in general psychological distress. As such, these interventions have been applied with a variety of patients, including those suffering from fibromyalgia, psoriasis, cancer, binge eating and chronic pain.

Dr Dinkar Sharma, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Kent, commented: ‘Demonstrating that mindfulness has an effect on time perception is important because it opens up the opportunity that mindfulness could be used to alter psychological disorders that are associated with a range of distortions in the perception of time – such as disorders of memory, emotion and addiction.’

Dr Ulrich Weger, of Witten/Herdecke’s Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, concluded by stating that ‘the impact of a brief mindfulness exercise on elementary processes such as time perception is remarkable’.

‘The effect of on ‘ (Robin S.S. Kramer, Ulrich W. Weger, Dinkar Sharma) is published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

via Time perception altered by mindfulness meditation.


Study examines meditation’s potential to improve recovery after cancer treatment | University of Minnesota

Pat Rudolph had never pegged herself as the meditation type. Yet here she was in a weekly, two-hour mindfulness meditation course with a dozen strangers.

“I’ve never laid still for 20 minutes in my life,” Rudolph thought when she enrolled in a Masonic Cancer Center study looking at the potential of mindfulness-based therapy to ease stress and anxiety in cancer survivors. “And I’m usually uncomfortable in a group. I was the biggest skeptic in the class.”

The study, led by oncologist and Masonic Cancer Center member Anne Blaes, M.D., aims to determine whether mindfulness meditation, combined with reflection and peer support, can quantifiably improve health for patients in the first few months after treatment.

“Patients who’ve gone through cancer treatment have more chronic conditions, more depression and anxiety, more general medical problems,” explains Blaes, an Eastern Star Scholar and Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar. “Finishing chemo and radiation, they go through this whole new phase. We tell them, ‘Congratulations, you’re done! Come back in three months!’ And there’s a real letdown in terms of anxiety, depression, fear of the unknown.”

For many patients, it’s the first time the diagnosis is truly sinking in, Blaes adds—just as the support network is evaporating.

The anxiety and depression patients face can be intense, even crippling, and often the last thing they want is more medicine, she says. “They come in and ask, ‘What can I do? I don’t want another pill.’”

So Blaes is measuring whether, and to what extent, mindfulness meditation techniques affect depression, anxiety, sleep quality, sexual function, and immune response. It’s part of her ongoing effort to explore the promise of complementary medicine to enhance the healing process for cancer survivors.

The study is supported largely by the Hourglass Fund, founded by cancer survivor and motivational speaker Ruth Bachman to advance research in integrative cancer care.

Study participants attend eight weekly, twohour classes in which they learn mindfulness meditation techniques, practice at home daily, and complete reading and reflection assignments. The course also includes a full-day retreat.

Not long into the course, Rudolph, a breast cancer survivor, began feeling noticeably more relaxed.

“I could sleep better at night,” she says. “This calms you enough to get the rest you really need; you rest more deeply.”

Moreover, the peer support proved invaluable, Rudolph says, and the group still meets regularly. The exercises Rudolph learned also have been “hugely effective” for helping to treat her lymphedema, a common after-effect of breast cancer surgery that causes fluid buildup in the body.

And Rudolph, the skeptic, continues to use the meditation techniques. That’s the intent behind the course, and if the study bears fruit, Blaes hopes to advocate for more widespread, accessible use of mindfulness meditation courses for cancer survivors.

“Survivors know the limitations of Western medicine. I [often] send patients to health psychologists, but I’m not there—and the psychologist isn’t there—when they wake up at 2 in the morning. They need tools they can use at home.”

via Study examines meditation’s potential to improve recovery after cancer treatment | University of Minnesota.


Hard evidence grows for including meditation in government-sponsored health programs | Science Codex

More people still die from cardiovascular disease than any other illness. Dubbed the number one killer and the silent killer, modern medicine has been researching and incorporating complementary and alternative approaches to help treat and in some cases reverse and hopefully prevent this health problem at an earlier stage of the disease. One of those modalities is meditation.

A new research review paper on the effects of the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique on the prevention and treatment of heart disease among youth and adults provides the hard evidence needed to include such evidence-based alternative approaches into private- and government-sponsored wellness programs aimed at preventing and treating cardiovascular disease.

The paper, “Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents and Adults through the Transcendental Meditation® Program: A Research Review Update” is published in Current Hypertension Reviews, 2012, Vol. 8, No. 3.

In teens, the TM technique has been found to reduce blood pressure, improve heart structure and improve school behavior. According to the paper, the technique has been shown to be a safe alternative. The NIH-sponsored clinical trials conducted with TM mentioned in this review did not observe any adverse effects from TM practice.

In adults the technique reduced stress hormones and other physiological measures of stress and produced more rapid recovery from stress, decreased blood pressure and use of blood pressure medication, decreased heart pain in angina patients, cleared the arteries, reducing the risk of stroke, improved distance walked in patients with congestive heart failure, and decreased alcohol and tobacco use, anxiety, depression, and medical care usage and expenditures. The technique also decreased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, and all causes.

“These findings have important implications for inclusion of the Transcendental Meditation program in medical efforts to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Vernon Barnes, lead author and research scientist at Georgia Health Sciences University, in Augusta, Georgia.

“This review is potentially more important than individual research papers because it shows that TM has an integrated, holistic effect on all levels of cardiovascular disease,” says co-author, Dr. David Orme-Johnson.

Orme-Johnson says that no other meditation technique has been shown to produce this constellation of changes, especially when it comes to hard measures of cardiovascular disease.

This model shows how regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program may reduce chronic stress, which in turn reduces CVD risk factors and improves stress reactivity, thereby decreasing cardiovascular disease, and consequential morbidity and mortality.

(Photo Credit: Vernon A. Barnes)

Dr. Barnes said it was important to start preventing heart disease with adolescents before the disease sets. “Adding Transcendental Meditation at a young age could prevent future cardiovascular disease and save many lives, not to mention reduce the national medical bill by billions of dollars.”

Uniqueness of the Transcendental Meditation technique

The uniqueness of the outcomes of the TM technique may have something to do with the mechanics of the practice of the technique itself says Dr. Barnes. “Meditation practices are different from each other and therefore produce different results. And this is a very important consideration when evaluating the application of meditation as an alternative and complementary medical approach.”

A paper in Consciousness and Cognition discusses three categories to organize and better understand meditation. See Are all meditation techniques the same?

The two common categories are focused attention, concentrating on an object or an emotion, like compassion; and open monitoring, being mindful of one’s breath or thoughts, either contemplating the meaning of them, or just observing them.

Transcendental Meditation uses a different approach and comes under the third category of automatic self-transcending, meditations that transcend their own activity.

The TM technique does not employ any active form of concentration or contemplation, but allows the mind to effortlessly experience the thought process at more refined levels until thinking comes to a quiet settled state without any mental activity. The mind is awake inside and the body is resting deeply, a level of rest much deeper than deep sleep. It is this state of restful alertness that allows the body to make the necessary repairs to rebalance its normal functioning. This cumulative process resets the physiology and shows up as reduced symptoms of cardiovascular disease and improved health.

Source: Maharishi University of Management

via Hard evidence grows for including meditation in government-sponsored health programs | Science Codex.