Episode 142 :: David Messer :: Online Mindfulness and Cancer Recovery
You're listening to episode. One forty two of present moment <music> welcome to present moment mindfulness practice insci- i'm ted meissner present moment is podcast with interviews conversations and roundtable discussions we speak with mindfulness most teachers about their newest findings published in peer reviewed science journals teachers about their understanding and methods as they work with students of mindfulness authors about their books and interests and we also speak with every day practitioners the websites present moment mindfulness dot com has show notes for each episode along with resource materials. David messer joins us to speak about his research with online mindfulness and cancer recovery <music> and if you're listening to this podcast in find value in insights from what is shared here know that this is made available from your generosity and the generosity of others like you. I want to thank those of you who are making monthly donations to keep this podcast going and if you're not yet please take a moment go to present moment mindfulness dot com and click on make a donation one time or especially monthly donations show. You value this work which can't happen without you. Thank you for your help your support and your kind generosity a question has been brewing in the global mindfulness community for awhile how about the value of online programs and whether they can't compare to the experience of being in person i frequently hear strong me and certain judgments about this from people who have no experience teaching online fact is there are different levels of what is meant by online online and my own experience has been the participants get as much out of these courses as in person including the deep connections formed with one on another david masters in counseling psychology. He's a licensed psychologist consultant and educator specializing analyzing in mindfulness and technological innovation to improve client wellness organizational functioning and student achievement. Our guest today is nasser david. Welcome to the podcast here i ted. I'm happy to be here sure well. Let's get started by asking you a little bit about your background yeah. This is a funny question. I mean i can tell you about my professional background. I'm a psychologist at in in particular a counseling psychologist so i'm trained clinically to work with individuals vigils our families and kids. I'm also trained to do research which i think is what we're gonna talk more about. Today i think in regards to mindfulness and this study i did my personal background is kind of important also so i was raised in eugene oregon. My parents are wonderful. People kind of old hippies so as a kid. They taught me to meditate kind of when i was in high school so probably the only kid on the block who who after dinner the whole family would go sit and meditate together for so that was pretty wonderful to think what else would the use of much. I think i've just always kind of had <hes> motivation to try to help sometimes somewhat. I don't know if you could say arrogantly. I'm not sure what when i was a kid i like i wanted to be a diplomat and go solve the mideast peace crisis and like i. I had all these ideas and i could do it. Why couldn't they do it and i've always had this really strong urge to help but i think personally i tend to do well with the people interacting with people and so i think psychology and counseling psychology in particular has been a good fit and as part of the program we do a lot of research and so you know i got a sense of how much research can move policy help people listened to research and also obviously how research is a really good way to ascertain tatum. What's what's true at a particular moment. So that's a lot of my i guess background and motivation for doing this. I think that's a really good point that we sometimes try to make on. This podcast is <hes> the research is really good at supporting us having a greater understanding of going on and it doesn't eliminate it of course that there is a response to the practice and that is also something to understand and know the research which is great at opening up ways of potential therapies we might not have thought of before and shows that there can be benefit for people in different situations like we're going to be talking about today so let's see we into them. Got you interested in doing this. Particular study yes so this was a study examining manning the experience of cancer survivors and the potential for mindfulness training particularly mindfulness training online to help them so a big part of the most of my motivation is that my father is a cancer survivor multiple times over and so i've had direct experience about how cancer is not just a physical condition. It's it's very far from a soul much of the diagnosed diagnosed sys and being treatment and even after pibor finished quote unquote with treatment is psychological experience of not to mention mentioned the experience you know as in my case for for family members coping with it so when i look at cancer air there's a lot of care are in a lot of focus on the physical component which makes sense obviously we would want people to live and they're so much more to care and into supporting people than just that i thought of meditation in particular because my dad <hes> i mean my parents have always meditated to some degree but when my hi dad was diagnosed with cancer he started meditating very regularly and the the few times that he doesn't talk a whole lot about his experience ends but the few times that i would ask them about it. He shared how helpful meditation and particularly mindfulness is for him and so yeah i thought i would i. I would look at it in the part of me. That really wants to make a difference sort of latched onto the internet based piece of the internet gives us the ability to scale scale treatments immediately to thousands if not millions of people and so while personally like myself i kind of like teaching and learning person to person <hes> i couldn't ignore the potential there at sort of the motivation for the study so something deep in in connection with your own life life and that provides some energy for you to do this work and so. Let's start to take a look at what you did for the study. I'm very curious about when you say internet. Turn it training. What did that look like. Was that intervention. Yes so relatively simple. What my thoughts about it was. I want this to be something that people will actually do you know they're they're different interventions. I think there's a trade off between the more involved. Something is quite possibly the more helpful it is and in some ways the less likely people art do it right so if you've got a website. Are you likely to read twenty pages his of text and go through demonstrations and examples. Maybe maybe not you know. Are you likely to read one page of text yeah. Probably you probably do that so real simple. The intervention was six weeks long each week. Participants who were in the condition that received the mind of spinning intervention got a page to two pages of instruction tax pictures things like that they got a guided meditation guided meditation was pretty brief the between eight and seventeen minutes long so most of them are more about twelve and they got simple ideas for how to practice this outward. When you're driving your car when you're talking to your significant another <hes> etc so <hes> said that was the intervention so each week we asked them to practice the guided meditation listen to that daily and it was audio audio rather than video we ask them. We said you know the daily practices are optional just do it if they're fun and interesting to you and we asked them to read the lesson as as many times as they liked but at least once now we compared that to folks who are getting care as usual so all of these folks in the study were cancer survivors hyper so folks who had had stage one through three cancer and were done with major treatment but they were still within three years of that remission russian so when we were treating stress we wanted to make sure it was stress related to the cancer experience and not just in maybe different stress you might have twenty five years later in your car breaks down said that was the intervention and then we looked at what's the a fact we studied before and after folks in both conditions what's the effect on in particular <hes> depression anxiety which are really common offer folks who have had cancer on overall mood other pieces that might be common for for folks and on sleep since sleep disturbances of pretty common results of anxiety diety and going through major treatments as well and fatigue since that's a big indicator of how much people can realistically do in their lives so so that was that was the study. So what did you find. Did you did some different measures. It sounds like andrew. Those results were came out the study. Will the study showed that the intervention was really effective so on all of the measures the folks who are doing the mindfulness training along with the usual carrying on to support groups etcetera did a good deal better than the folks who were just doing usual joie care doctors visits going to support groups so in every measure the folks who did the training did better and as has been found in other the research there was what we call a ghost response relationships so the folks who practice more often got more benefit so folks folks got benefit even if they just sat down once a week and did the meditation and read the lesson. They got a little bit of benefit the more they did it twice a week and some folks folks that every day as we'd ask wasn't that's okay. We assume that more you did it the more benefit. They got so free you personally. What is the most interesting aspect of this. Perhaps unexpected thing that came out of the results. I mean to be completely honest. I had i didn't know if it would work. I mean self study is like i think people buy books. They read the books they practice. Presumably a does something but the norm. I'm with teaching mindfulness is that there's in person instruction. I think there's a sense that there's some i don't know what are these special sauce. That being in person with the teacher is meaningful. You feel what they have to bring in. You sort of take that so presenting something over over the internet was an unknown and this is not the first study to present a mindfulness training over the internet but it was the first study with a control condition shen to present something that wasn't led by a teacher in real time so there are different types of online intervention. Some you get on there is a teacher feature. There and maybe other students are there as well and you can ask questions. This was what's called a synchronous. So you get on you study at your own pace you take time on the things you wanna take time on but there's no back and forth so i honestly didn't know what the result would be. We we didn't know if there is perhaps something necessary or useful about in person interaction and they're very well might be <hes> what we did find was that there there was some benefit and honestly the research now suggests that the benefit of these with what are called a synchronous interventions are about the the same as those that are synchronised. It's interesting. I think a lot of folks myself included when you're meeting with new people in a classroom setting that can be of anxiety exciting provoking right and so for some people i think not interacting with a lot of people can be a little more relaxing than they can move at their own pace so so yes we found that this self study self guided <hes> internet intervention on was really useful but yeah i didn't know if it would be. I'm glad it is in the main benefit of these as synchronous interventions is at they don't require a teacher to be there so if you have really strong strong insightful interventions those can be made standard care for example for people who are coming out of cancer pitching men and it can be a resource just like a support group can be a resource and it can really improve people's well-being so that was the most interesting testing important finding for me. It rugen removes the the bucket of requiring to have l._c. Not just teachers teachers indirect live engagement with participants talk with moment as well but just seeing that there can be this limitless <unk> scale before standard events that might be just a little bit that might be a way to help people just deal with what they're going through and i'd say a host cancer recovery tiny mode. What might that be like. Is it beneficial to give just that dose just a little bit. It's going could help them and that is wrong thing any more than say running. A five k is bad because it's not a marathon. This is something that castillejos yeah even if there's less benefit even if the benefit a small if there's some benefit and that can be provided to everybody or are a lot of people it's a real difference so one of the things i wanna share with those realis- name his for those who many teachers cheers were listening to this podcast and know that i do teach online as well as a person and what i found is that doing those in particular it was live video <unk> interaction with a teacher has very strong connection and ability to reach participants in the program and at one shouldn't dismiss that because it's different than face to face and the same thing applies to as synchronous kinds of programs like this that really depends on what is it. You're trying to get out of this word provide for the participants in these programs. If it's kinda move the needle can we touch people in a way that otherwise they would have nothing and there's value in doing this kind of work and if you really want to carry things even further forward <music> ads alive your action and the group participation that's great and that's another thing that can be done to so. It's good to see this kind of program. Go forward wondering david. Would you like to see happen in the future with mindfulness program spore in anything really that helps people people who are suffering in some way like do cancer recovery. I don't know honestly that personally have a strong feeling about like like oh. I'm i'm really pro mindfulness and this should be incorporated. I'm pro what helps people and i really levi trust people's individual experiences and i trust the research and research is basically just listening to people's individual experiences all together doc and seeing what helps him so the research at the moment and people's individual experiences that occurred suggest that the able to d with the facts that they've had cancer and integrate that into their lives and not running running from that then be able to live in the way that's most meaningful to them is really helpful for this particular condition given that a lot of people. I'll have fear of recurrence and whatnot so given that it seems like this is helpful. I think as i mentioned earlier i think it would be really useful useful to have treatments like this as an option for folks who are leaving care weaving hospital based care synchronised treatments are really important orton to and can be very helpful so i think given the probably different types of learning work best for different people having mindfulness programs that involve some as synchronous elements that people can engage in on their own and the ability to connect with the teachers or or other students for support. I think would be wonderful. I think that's one of the challenges for example when people leave hospital based care they may be have been going to support groups that have lots in connection with other people and then when they leave all the sudden. They're on their own so i think that connection with people like you're saying is important too in. It's interesting what you're describing. It sounds like a portfolio of care that in addition to once medical treatment said this is perhaps the most important in dealing with medical conditions like cancer in its recovery is that once that part of the portfolio of care finishes medically right now you're fine. They're still this other. The mentioned the very beginning which is that's not the totality of the experience with cancer. There's also mental and emotional challenges ages that may still echo quite strongly for the rest of one's life or maybe maybe they're very resilient and assist a couple of weeks of that was interesting interesting but having the ability to offer for those people wherever they happen to be within this encounter cancer in and also oh for caregivers as well that there can also be finished its for caregivers to get some a synchronous hell with what they're going through their providing support to someone that they love were caring for these are halpern aspects of this portfolio of chair that doesn't just end with the medical that there needs to be something absolutely and i think a lot of people's challenges even after their major treatments have stopped are cyclical so some people the first few weeks are really difficult and then things get a little bit better and then it's difficult again throughout your life and so so even if the mindful learning mindfulness isn't super important right away and it might be important right away for some people knowing. It's there so so that when things get challenging a year five years tenure stopped malign they they know there. Was this thing that helped me a lot right after my treatment. Maybe i'll go back to that. The i also liked the way you use. The particular wording in this is great to hear researcher wording of seems seems to be indicates. The science is tentative researches tentative and can be changed and updated as we have more information mation but in particular with this personal experience that your individual mileage may vary what this is like for you can be a little different than it is for for the person going through the same thing. That's also something to notice. What's it like for you and one of the things that may be most helpful to you on that journey. Thank you for using things that way sure yeah. Everyone's experiences different. I mean research looks at what's helpful to the most amount of people right on average and every single individual person responds differently so yeah i i would really encourage anybody who's going through something like this to to listen to themselves to trust their own inner our wisdom their own sense of what's helpful for them to pursue that you and i one thing will encourage because sometimes they hear that taking us oh ooh well. <hes> medical treatment sounds unpleasant so i'm not going to do that. Sometimes what is most helpful to. You is not what we want to do. You it may not be as in my case a couple of major surgeries and for many listening and maybe chemo treatments that this is hard getting well. How part of our minds less practice is seeing things as they are and receiving what is also things we don't want to have to go through but thank you nonetheless molest sustain and prolong her even save our lives so when we talk about what is what is bested may not always be. What's comfortable will be helpful to us. I i really think that ted. I wanted to be clear. Mindfulness was was was not developed to treat disease that wasn't sort of why it was developed in the first place and it's not a replacement for traditional therapies and to be totally honest in terms of the research. There's a little bit of research that suggests there's a little bit of immune benefit for meditation which makes sense that's right. You're you're calming your body down. You're able to deal with stress or easily and it's not a treatment. It's the stress and the psychological impact of going through it but it's not a treatment for the disease in enough at south. At least there's no research right now to suggest that at all and that's a very important point is that if you hear this minding the hype about mindfulness mindless is not a curable and is not as you're saying replacement replacement for medical treatment so one of the things in fact it was mentioning this talk of is just yesterday. It's concerning erin. People have say a positive experience variance on retreat of a few days and think well this positive experience. I can stop taking my medication for x. Condition and ah course his teacher never recommended us for lots of reasons but one of the main ones is you're in very neat conditions when you're on say a retreat retreats and of course you feel better getting out of what stressors you avenue your life. It's like when one takes vacation soften as a comparison made made a mindfulness as no better than vacation two different thing a maps and some of those conditions are the same outside of the regular stresses are went by and end mindfulness is about house you work with life while you're in the midst of those stressors voiding so please don't stop to iran's. Don't stop regular treatment. This is something to help you with how you're doing with all of that and as david said there are some indications didn't cresswell's were h._i._v. should be patients in seeing some measurable indicators of how that may be affecting biological resistance. That's great and it's very early on. It's kinds of studies so always wondering is there anything else you wanna share with the listeners. Today i think one of the pieces of mindfulness that's been most helpful to me. Is it allows you the space to be with whatever is going on for you what that's easy and pleasant and or whether that's difficult for unpleasant i think i would just share that for anyone who has a chronic disease or an acute. It does ease that it's okay and really helpful to have a wide variety of feelings about the conditions to just sometimes feel okay an optimistic and confident and to sometimes feel really not okay and sad and depressed. I and i think there's often pressure for folks who have diseases chronic diseases cancer in particular to hold up a good front to fight and if that's useful for you if that's useful some the time then fantastic and there's no right way to be with cancer or with the disease however you're feeling is okay and if i think if you're not feeling well getting social support and care from hospitals or or psychological support from counselors all that is great and it's okay to be the however you are that you don't have to be just how other people are outdo- aren't you to be. I think that's a very important point. Thank you so much to raising that. I often hear the characterization of going through a cancer treatment as fighting it beating and and of course that sets an expectation that it somehow on you due to beat this neck and be a subtle form of aggression then making some some attribution of responsibility liane you for how the body is biologically responding yet missing ridge in you do your treatments and do the things you need to do on a pass to care as you're going through this that's great and don't take it is something you personally failing at and when the body does the body does and you're dealing under difficult circumstances. It's orient point david. Thanks sandra so our guest david nestor o._b. Find awesome links on paper that we're talking about today and thank you so much. Being here really enjoyed this conversation. Thanks <hes>. It's a real pleasure <music>. Thanks for listening. If you'd like to learn more about something you've heard in today's podcast. Please come visit the website. 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