Meditation Helps Marines Improve Mental Performance Under Stress of War
Excerpted from an article by Patrick Hruby in the Dec. 8, 2012, issue of The Washington Times.
Designed by former U.S. Army captain and current Georgetown University professor Elizabeth Stanley, PhD, M-Fit [Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training] draws on a growing body of scientific research indicating that regular meditation alleviates depression, boosts memory and the immune system, shrinks the part of the brain that controls fear and grows the areas of the brain responsible for memory and emotional regulation. …
“The initial concerns from the military were, ‘Is this going to be a waste of time, and is this going to interrupt my finely honed rapid-action drills?’” Stanley said.
“The concerns coming from the mindfulness side were, ‘If you teach them these skills, and they become more open people, will it undermine their ability to armor up psychologically? A few people even wondered if I was trying to make, quote, ‘better baby-killers.’” …
Amishi Jha, the researcher who evaluated the troops, found that the service members in the program ended up with improved moods and greater attentiveness—and that the individuals who spent additional time meditating on their own saw the biggest improvements.
According to Stanley, meditative training can help troops … by increasing efficiency in the insular cortex, which allows people to rapidly switch between thinking and unthinking states of mind. …
“People come into the course thinking it will ruin their ability to respond fast in combat, but actually, we’re enhancing their ability.”
Source: The Washington Times
The 21-Minutes-Per-Year Marriage Cure for Couples With Conflicts
Excerpted from the Jan. 3, 2013, “We’re Only Human” by Wray Herbert, APS
Eli Finkel … a psychological scientist at Northwestern University and an expert on relationships. … [came] up with a simple intervention that helps marriage partners reappraise conflict when it arises. …
They recruited 120 married couples from the Chicago area for a two-year Internet-based study. The volunteers ranged in age from 20 to 79, with a median of about 40. They also ranged from newlyweds to 50-year veterans … . Every four months, both husbands and wives reported on the quality of their marriage … . They also described the most significant conflict they had had with their spouse over the previous four months … .
All the couples did this for the first year. Then half the couples were randomly assigned to the intervention group, and during the second year these volunteers added a seven-minute writing exercise to each ... Internet session. The writing was prompted by instructions from the experimenter this way (I’m paraphrasing):
“Think about the disagreement you mentioned, but think about it from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. …
That was it: Three seven-minute writing sessions over a year’s time. And the results? All of the marriages declined significantly in quality over the first year of the study, as pre-dicted. And this decline continued throughout the second year for the controls. But for those who did the writing exercise—reappraising their disagreements from a neutral perspective—this decline in quality came to a halt.
Source: Association for Psychological Science
Mentally Ill in U.S. Have Much Higher Rate of Smoking
Adults with some form of mental illness smoke at a rate that is 70 percent higher than adults with no mental illness, according to a Feb. 5, 2013, Vital Signs report. The report—by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—finds that 36 percent of adults with a mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21 percent of adults who do not have a mental illness.
Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence is especially high among younger adults, American Indians and Alaska Natives, those living below the poverty line, and those with lower levels of education. Differences also exist across states, with smoking prevalence ranging from 18.2 percent in Utah to 48.7 percent in West Virginia.
Adult smokers with mental illness are also less likely to quit smoking cigarettes than adult smokers without mental illness.
To address the high rates of tobacco use among persons with mental illness, SAMHSA, in partnership with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC), has developed a portfolio of activities designed to promote tobacco cessation efforts in behavioral healthcare. CDC also works closely with national partners, state tobacco control programs, and other stakeholders to address smoking among individuals with mental illness.
For quitting assistance, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit . Also, visit for information on quitting and preventing children from using tobacco.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Watch a video clip of the Vital Signs’ report on cigarette use among U.S. adults with mental illness.
Facebook Activity Reveals Clues to Mental Illness
Social media profiles could eventually be used as tools for psychologists and therapists, according to study leader Elizabeth Martin, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri’s psychological science department in the College of Arts and Science.
“The beauty of social media activity as a tool in psychological diagnosis is that it removes some of the problems associated with patients’ self-reporting,” Martin said. “For example, questionnaires often depend on a person’s memory, which may or may not be accurate. By asking patients to share their Facebook activity, we were able to see how they expressed themselves naturally. Even the parts of their Facebook activities that they chose to conceal exposed information about their psychological state.”
To conduct the study, the researchers asked participants to print their Facebook activity and correlated aspects of that activity with the degree to which those individuals exhibited schizotypy, a range of symptoms including social withdrawal to odd beliefs.
Some study participants showed signs of the schizotypy condition known as social anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure from usually enjoyable activities, such as communicating and interacting with others. In the study, people with social anhedonia tended to have fewer friends on Facebook, communicated with friends less frequently, and shared fewer photos.
Other study participants concealed significant portions of their Facebook profile before presenting them to researchers. These participants also showed schizotypy symptoms, known as perceptual aberrations, which are anomalous experiences of one’s senses, and magical ideation, which is the belief that events with no physical cause-and-effect are somehow causally connected. Hiding Facebook activity also was considered a sign of higher levels of paranoia.
Source: University of Missouri, Jan. 24, 2013. The study, “Social Networking Profile Correlates to Schizotypy,” was published in the journal Psychiatry Research.