We echo their call for a more nuanced perspective on the rich world of contemplative practice. While certainly important, there are other equally important families that may also impact attentional processes, but which are primarily designed for different ends. Another important family of practices that has received scant attention from the scientific community are those that involve self-inquiry and investigation to bring about self-knowledge, insight, and wisdom.
Again, these practices are widespread across a range of traditions, but have not been considered in the world of mindfulness-oriented research see Dahl et al. Another important dimension of contemplative practice that has received little scientific attention is the modes of training that are thought to strengthen psychological processes—such as those related to the regulation of attention—but through pathways other than those emphasized in formal sitting meditation practice.
Similarly, the routines of daily life may be used as opportunities to cultivate virtuous qualities such as patience, equanimity, and kindness. Thus, as Van Dam et al. As a consequence, other families of training and modes of practice—as well as the differential and synergistic effects of this diversity of approaches—have not received the attention they deserve. Future research would therefore benefit from heeding their call to focus on the psychological mechanisms and outcomes of specific practices and to look beyond the confines of the current paradigm.
Mindfulness and related contemplative practices were not originally developed to treat disease. The application of meditation and other contemplative practices as treatments for disease is a unique 21st-century phenomenon. The Van Dam article mentioned well-being only a single time and in the abstract , yet we believe this to be among the most important applications for contemplative training and yet one that has received a paucity of attention at this time.
Much of the evidence reviewed in the Van Dam article is focused on the impact of MBIs on clinical problems, including mental and physical diseases, pain, anxiety, depression, obesity, and addiction. It is very important to recognize that MBIs were not originally developed to treat illnesses. These practices were designed primarily to actualize human flourishing. Key issues of duration, intensity, and spacing of meditation practice and the extent to which formal practice is required or whether practice can be piggybacked onto other non—cognitively demanding activities of daily living e.
The issue of practice dosage is among the most important practical questions regarding the dissemination of MBIs yet has received virtually no serious research attention. Is it more effective to practice in multiple, brief sessions in a given day, or in one longer session? Are periods of intensive practice, such as retreats, more or less impactful than consistent daily practice?
At present, we do not know the answers to these questions. Or perhaps the answer varies for different types of people. Related to this, we can ask whether formal practice is necessary or whether learning can occur in the context of other activities of daily living onto which practice is piggybacked, such as commuting.
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We also do not know the impact of simple empirically examined strategies for promoting healthy habits Rothman et al. They also appropriately note that MBIs may be beneficial for some people and not for others. Both of these issues might be more effectively addressed by studies that utilize mobile technology to disseminate MBIs. As Van Dam et al. We envision a future where mobile technology is increasingly harnessed to both deliver MBIs and related contemplative interventions and also simultaneously used to acquire data in the field at scale.
This will enable standardization and the collection of very large- N datasets that will facilitate addressing many outstanding questions that remain unanswered. Finally, the cautions urged regarding neuroscientific research by Van Dam et al. We strongly agree with the interpretative problems that plague neuroscientific studies of mindfulness meditation, highlighted by Van Dam et al. As with most of the other problems they raised, the issues are not unique to mindfulness research.
The same concerns pertain to neuroimaging studies of emotion, for example. As one example, we reported that long meditators were no different from nonmeditator controls on a heartbeat detection task, an objective measure of interoceptive awareness Khalsa et al. We clearly hypothesized that meditators would be superior and the only difference we observed was that they reported increased confidence in the accuracy of their performance, despite the fact that the meditators objective performance did not differ from nonmeditating controls.
In conclusion, the critical evaluation of this large group of scholars who are coauthors of the Van Dam et al. As we note in this commentary, while Van Dam et al. We look forward to the next generation of research on contemplative interventions. These interventions will play an increasingly important role in many sectors of society that are coming to appreciate the importance of regarding well-being as a skill that can be cultivated.
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Outstanding Challenges in Scientific Research on Mindfulness and Meditation
Share Share. At first, we can identify the similarity between the two practices: both of them regulate attention for a given stimulus. This attentional training, which is inherent to the meditation practices mentioned here, was possible to be noticed in this study through the better performance of these two groups as a function of the control group when compared to the distraction strategy.
Indeed, the attentional training provided by meditations, regardless of their type, influenced emotion regulation from a strategy of attention directed. On the other hand, in relation to the cognitive reappraisal strategy, THM was more effective than MF, as previously exposed.
Our findings introduce an important variable when choosing a meditation practices: the content of meditation matters on the emotion regulation, at least when we seek to investigate the immediate effect of meditation. Future studies might address the effects of short versus long term practices as well as the last-long effects.
We administered the instructional audios in their original format strictly following the procedures used by the instructors, i. Thus, the THM intervention had 27 min long with background calm music while MF had 20 min and no music. These two differences might had impacted some of our findings. New studies are needed to test for the effects of length and background music. In addition to the results found in relation to reappraisal and distraction, another finding draws our attention.
In the maintain strategy, that is, when the participant responded spontaneously during passive observation of the stimuli, both groups of meditation were reported less negative emotional arousal as compared to the control group. At the same time, no effect was observed for valence evaluation during passive observation.
Thus, going through a meditation practice independently of its type reduced the arousal evoked by the stimuli while kept the same judgment of valence. Thus, our results do not point to significant effects of any type of meditation on affect modulation when it is practice for the first time in one session only. It is important to observe that that long-term experience of meditation can lead to more satisfactory results on the modulation of affect Garland et al.
The intensity evaluations of the positive and negative pictures, performed after the use of each of the strategies clearly demonstrate the specificities of each one of them in the modulation of the emotional response components. In respect of negative images, down-regulation and distraction were equally effective in suppressing emotional intensity than maintain.
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These results indicate that both strategies were adequately performed by the participants, in addition to comply their objective: to change the current emotional arousal Gross and Thompson, However, when dealing with the arousal judgment for positive pictures, it is possible to identify the differences between the two strategies, a topic that has already been discussed here. If to suppress an emotion, distraction is effective, however, if the main goal is to amplify this emotion, this strategy is not the best choice.
This is because their goal is to shift the attentional focus of the emotional stimulus to an alternative stimulus Sheppes et al. In this sense, it is not possible to amplify an emotion without coming into contact with it. For this purpose, the cognitive reappraisal strategy is more effective, as it was possible to observe in the results of the present study.
These results corroborate with the literature Sheppes and Gross, and point out the importance that the different strategies of emotion regulation continue to be studied. Regarding the psychophysiological effects , although no significant group effect was found in the interbeat intervals IBI , the results of the electrocardiographic record ECG contribute to this discussion about the particularities of each of the emotion regulation strategies.
Regardless of the group or the valence of the image, the distraction strategy recruited greater cardiac acceleration in the intervals 5, 6, and 7, corresponding to the last 2, ms of image presentation time of the use of the strategy. At the same time, the cognitive reappraisal strategy presented a decrease in cardiac acceleration, as well as the strategy of passive observation.
These results point once again to the differences between strategies.