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Recently, the psychological construct mindfulness has received a great deal of attention. The majority of research has focused on clinical studies to evaluate the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions. This line of research has led to promising data suggesting mindfulness-based interventions are effective for treatment of both psychological and physical symptoms. However, an equally important direction for future research is to investigate questions concerning mechanisms of action underlying mindfulness-based interventions. This theoretical paper proposes a model of mindfulness, in an effort to elucidate potential mechanisms to explain how mindfulness affects positive change. Potential implications and future directions for the empirical study of mechanisms involved in mindfulness are addressed.

BACKGROUND: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract affected by stress, which may benefit from a biopsychosocial treatment approach such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).PURPOSE: A treatment as usual (TAU) wait-list controlled trial was conducted in Calgary, Canada to investigate the impact of MBSR on IBS symptoms. It was hypothesized that MBSR patients would experience greater reduction in overall IBS symptom severity and self-reported symptoms of stress relative to control patients. METHOD: Ninety patients diagnosed with IBS using the Rome III criteria were randomized to either an immediate MBSR program (n = 43) or to wait for the next available program (n = 47). Patients completed IBS symptom severity, stress, mood, quality of life (QOL), and spirituality scales pre- and post-intervention or waiting period and at 6-month follow-up. Intent-to-treat linear mixed model analyses for repeated measures were conducted, followed by completers analyses. RESULTS: While both groups exhibited a decrease in IBS symptom severity scores over time, the improvement in the MBSR group was greater than the controls and was clinically meaningful, with symptom severity decreasing from constantly to occasionally present. Pre- to post-intervention dropout rates of 44 and 23 % for the MBSR and control groups, respectively, were observed. At 6-month follow-up, the MBSR group maintained a clinically meaningful improvement in overall IBS symptoms compared to the wait-list group, who also improved marginally, resulting in no statistically significant differences between groups at follow-up. Improvements in overall mood, QOL, and spirituality were observed for both groups over time. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this trial provide preliminary evidence for the feasibility and efficacy of a mindfulness intervention for the reduction of IBS symptom severity and symptoms of stress and the maintenance of these improvements at 6 months post-intervention. Attention and self-monitoring and/or anticipation of MBSR participation may account for smaller improvements observed in TAU patients.

<p>OBJECTIVES: This study investigated the relationships between a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation program for early stage breast and prostate cancer patients and quality of life, mood states, stress symptoms, and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin. METHODS: Fifty-nine patients with breast cancer and 10 with prostate cancer enrolled in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that incorporated relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, and daily home practice. Demographic and health behavior variables, quality of life, mood, stress, and the hormone measures of salivary cortisol (assessed three times/day), plasma DHEAS, and salivary melatonin were assessed pre- and post-intervention. RESULTS: Fifty-eight and 42 patients were assessed pre- and post-intervention, respectively. Significant improvements were seen in overall quality of life, symptoms of stress, and sleep quality, but these improvements were not significantly correlated with the degree of program attendance or minutes of home practice. No significant improvements were seen in mood disturbance. Improvements in quality of life were associated with decreases in afternoon cortisol levels, but not with morning or evening levels. Changes in stress symptoms or mood were not related to changes in hormone levels. Approximately 40% of the sample demonstrated abnormal cortisol secretion patterns both pre- and post-intervention, but within that group patterns shifted from “inverted-V-shaped” patterns towards more “V-shaped” patterns of secretion. No overall changes in DHEAS or melatonin were found, but nonsignificant shifts in DHEAS patterns were consistent with healthier profiles for both men and women. CONCLUSIONS: MBSR program enrollment was associated with enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms in breast and prostate cancer patients, and resulted in possibly beneficial changes in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning. These pilot data represent a preliminary investigation of the relationships between MBSR program participation and hormone levels, highlighting the need for better-controlled studies in this area.</p>
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