Happy thoughts

Kevin Lewis

June 08, 2019

Loving-Kindness Meditation Slows Biological Aging in Novices: Evidence from a 12-week Randomized Controlled Trial
Khoa Le Nguyen et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming


Combinations of multiple meditation practices have been shown to reduce the attrition of telomeres, the protective caps of chromosomes (Carlson et al., 2015). Here, we probed the distinct effects on telomere length (TL) of mindfulness meditation (MM) and loving-kindness meditation (LKM). Midlife adults (N = 142) were randomized to be in a waitlist control condition or to learn either MM or LKM in a 6 week-workshop. Telomere length was assessed 2 weeks before the start of the workshops and 3 weeks after their termination. After controlling for appropriate demographic covariates and baseline TL, we found TL decreased significantly in the MM group and the control group, but not in the LKM group. There was also significantly less TL attrition in the LKM group than the control group. The MM group showed changes in TL that were intermediate between the LKM and control groups yet not significantly different from either. Self-reported emotions and practice intensity (duration and frequency) did not mediate these observed group differences. This study is the first to disentangle the effects of LKM and MM on TL and suggests that LKM may buffer telomere attrition.

Associations between adolescent media use, mental health, and risky sexual behaviors
Renae Merrill & Xinya Liang
Children and Youth Services Review, August 2019, Pages 1-9


Guided by the ecological “technosystem,” data was examined from 13,156 adolescents completing the CDC's 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) looking for associations between television, social media, depressive symptoms, suicidality, and sexual risk behaviors. Regression results indicate media use is not an important factor in adolescents' internalizing and externalizing problems. Social media and television are unlikely the contributors to both mental health and risky sexual behaviors. Findings from this research are important for future studies that focus on multi-systemic prevention and intervention efforts aimed at promoting adolescent resiliency, particularly among vulnerable youth who are most susceptible to media influences.

Improvisational theater classes improve self-concept
Brooke DeBettignies & Thalia Goldstein
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming


Claims are often made that classes in improvisational theater (improv) are beneficial to self-concept. However, empirical evidence supporting this assumption is scarce. The present study investigated the effect of improvisational theater classes on children’s self-concept. Fifty-two elementary schoolchildren participated in an experimental, repeated-measures, control group design. Children aged 8 to 11 enrolled in an afterschool program were randomly assigned to take improv classes or study hall, switching halfway through the academic year. Self-concept was tested 3 times (at the beginning, before the semester switch, and at the end) with the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, Second Edition (Piers & Herzberg, 2002). Results revealed a significant positive effect of improv classes on self-concept, but only for those students who began with a relatively lower level of self-concept. This positive effect of gains in self-concept following improv classes was maintained over time. These findings support claims that educational theater in the form of improvisational classes has a positive effect on self-concept in children, specifically for those children with relatively lower self-concept. Improvement in self-concept via improvisational theater may come from improv’s specific emphasis on cognitive constructs that underpin self-concept, such as working in agreement, spontaneity, commitment, and being present in the moment (e.g., through maintained focus, active listening and observing, eye contact, and emotional presence).

Office window views: View features trump nature in predicting employee well-being
Emmy van Esch et al.
Journal of Environmental Psychology, August 2019, Pages 56-64


A growing number of organizations are re-designing workplaces to give employees greater exposure to natural views, which frequently improve well-being. But what is it about views of nature that produce these benefits? Is it the overall view or the particular features within a view? If it is features, what features have the greatest effects on well-being, and are these features particular to natural settings or might they generalize to built settings? We conducted two studies to examine these questions. In Study 1, we found that people could distinguish natural view features and that view features elicited psychological reactions congruent with characteristics of those features. In Study 2, we found that features of office window views better predicted psychological, physical, and job-specific well-being than the overall amount of nature in the view. Perhaps the most intriguing result was that this also occurred with view features in built environments. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


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