First-semester undergraduate research assistant, Amber Efthemiou, recently presented the article titled, “The Effects of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion on Improving the Capacity to Adapt to Stress Situations in Elderly People Living in the Community” (Perez-Blasco et al., 2016).
The concept of self-compassion embodies kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Mindfulness specifically encourages openness, curiosity, and acceptance through the non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. Interventions based on mindfulness have been found to be effective in clinical and non-clinical contexts in hand with increasing one’s ability to cope (i.e., emotion-focused and problem-focused) and resilience. Elderly adults, especially, can benefit from such mindfulness interventions due to the experience of hardships related to aging. Self-judgement, isolation, and rumination can be prevented with the improvement of emotional regulation and self-perception of aging.
Perez-Blasco et al. (2016) aimed to improve resilience levels, reduce stress, reduce age-related anxiety and depression, and change coping strategies through the evaluation of the effectiveness of mindfulness and self-compassion in older adults. Participant criteria included age of 60 years or older, not under institutional care, and being cognitively healthy. The measurements used were the Brief Resilient Coping Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales, and Coping Strategies Questionaire. The intervention program lasted 10 consecutive weeks with one 2-hour session a week in a group setting. The formal practice held different forms of meditation; while the informal practice consisted of daily mindful activities.
To determine whether groups were homogenous prior to treatment, chi-squared tests, t-tests for independent samples, and Mann-Whitney U-tests were performed. The repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to analyze the intervention’s effects. Results showed a significant increase in resilience, positive reappraisal, and avoidance along with a significant decrease in anxiety and stress. For coping results, there was a significant decrease in problem-solving coping, negative self-focused coping, overt emotional expression, and religion. Conclusions indicated mindfulness leads to resiliency later in life with self-compassion as a useful tool in therapy. Self-compassion led to positive responses to aging and age-related events. Cathartic emotional expression and impulsivity decreased leading to a greater capacity for introspection through emotional awareness. There was a notable change in the meaning of a stressful situation, a decrease in religion, and no significant improvement in social support.
Limitations of the presented study were the small sample size, absence of double-blind assessment with lack of control for potential covariates, and some low ETA squared obtained. Implications would be included set up a mindfulness program adapted to elderly people to obtain greater benefits for this population. Efthemiou believes the demonstrated interventions could be used for those who are 75 and older along with those in a care facility/nursing home.
Wonderful presentation, Amber! We are eager to see how you pursue this line of research.