Meditation for attention, stress, and anxiety

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Life transitions can be times of increased stress and anxiety; which can also impact your attention and focus.  One of those transitions includes moving to campus, preparing for the beginning of the fall semester, adjusting to new routines, campus life, etc.

While there are many strategies to help with the transition process, meditation may be the 1 thing to consider because it can be quick, easy, and has low potential for side effects; and has the potential to benefit everyone.  It is practiced by some of the most successful people in the world.

A review of 13 studies showed improvement in ADHD symptoms with mindfulness meditation (1).

41 trials show mindfulness meditation helped improve stress related outcomes such as anxiety, depression, stress, positive mood, etc. (2)

A review of 14 clinical trials shows meditation being more effective than relaxation techniques for anxiety (3).

What are come caveats?

  • While there are many types of mediation techniques, mindfulness-based meditation is the most studied.
  • Different people may benefit from different types of meditation, and this area is being further researched.
  • Practicing regularly may lead to improved benefits.

How to learn meditation?

  • Various apps, books, videos, classes, and guides may be a useful introduction to meditation.

What else might help improve attention, anxiety, and stress related to the beginning of the semester?

What are some helpful resources?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Poissant, H., Mendrek, A., Talbot, N., Khoury, B., & Nolan, J. (2019). Behavioral and Cognitive Impacts of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review. Behavioural neurology2019, 5682050. doi:10.1155/2019/5682050
  2. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2014 Jan. (Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 124.)Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK180102/
  3. Montero-Marin, J., Garcia-Campayo, J., Pérez-Yus, M., Zabaleta-del-Olmo, E., & Cuijpers, P. (n.d.). Meditation techniques v. relaxation therapies when treating anxiety: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Medicine,1-16. doi:10.1017/S0033291719001600

Cannabis Might Worsen Memory and Stopping It Might Improve It

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

As of 2016, about 37 million individuals in the United States reported using cannabis / marijuana in the last year (1).

This is projected to increase in the future as many states move to legalize medicinal and or recreational cannabis or marijuana use.

As with many things like excessive junk food, excessive alcohol, tobacco, etc. being legal does NOT ALWAYS mean being  healthy.

For example, a recent study looked at cannabis and false memories (2), while another study looked at memory changes after stopping cannabis (3).

What was the first study? (2)

  • 23 healthy people aged 18 to 29 with and without tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • They were asked to learn material while sober.
  • 2 days later, researchers compared memory recall among those who had used cannabis vs those who had not 2 hours before the test.

What were the study results of the first study (2)

In the first study, subjects who used cannabis 2 hours prior to the test were more likely to have false recognition of words and pictures that had not been presented during the sober study session (2).

What does this mean?

This small study suggests that cannabis use might impact academic performance (2), though further study is needed.

What was the second study (3)?

  • 88 individuals (Average age 21 years) who used cannabis at least weekly were randomized to 30 days of abstinence or to a control group, abstinence confirmed through biochemical testing (3).
  • Participants underwent cognitive testing at baseline and then weekly for 4 weeks.

What were the results of the second study? (3)

This 4 week study showed that improvements in memory started at week 1 and continued improvement through week 4. (3)

What does this mean?

  • This small study implies stopping cannabis may improve memory; and further longer, larger studies are underway (3).
  • Subjects used cannabis atleast weekly, and it is unclear if there is a difference in benefit among heavy vs light users.
  • These studies suggest that Cannabis or Marijuana may impact your ability to remember, and may cause false recall during tests; as well as memory improvement after stopping cannabis use.  A previous post showed that cannabis may increase alcohol intake (4).

How else is cannabis impacting you?

What are some useful resources regarding cannabis?

Drug treatment group at OSU Office of Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service.

Treatment Facilities in the Columbus, Ohio area:

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville 2017.  http://www.samhsa.gov
  2. Doss MK et al. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannibinol at retrieval drives false recollection of neutral and emotional memories. Biol Psychiatry 2018 May 9; [e-pub]. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.04.020) .
  3.  Schuster RM, Gilman J, Schoenfeld D, et al. One month of cannabis abstinence in adolescents and young adults is associated with improved memory. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018;79(6):17m11977 .
  4. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/02/08/study-impact-of-cannabis-on-alcohol/

Study: Is taking notes on your laptop better than writing them?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

For many students, stress related to academics can be a major factor impacting their mental health. Getting better at study skills might help students feel better.  Many students take notes during class; and often on their laptop (1).  But is this more effective than writing notes by hand?   Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer try to answer this question (2).

Special thanks to my colleague, Dr Barbara Urbanczyk , for suggesting this study(2).

What was the study?

The study authors (2) conducted 3 different studies.

  • Study 1: 67 college students who watched 5 TED talks projected onto a screen, and took notes on a laptop vs. their usual note taking style; and were quizzed 30 minutes later.
  • Study 2: 151 college students who were asked to view a lecture on an individual monitor while wearing headphones and write notes or type notes. Those who chose to type notes were instructed to take notes in their own words, and not type the lecture word for word. Participants were tested afterwards.
  • Study 3: 109 college students were asked to view 4 short lectures lasting a total of 28 minutes in a classroom setting with an individual monitor and headphones. They were tested 1 week later.

What were the results?

  • The authors found that participants using laptops were more inclined to take notes word for word than participants who wrote notes.
  • 1 week after the presentation (study 3), even when students could review their notes, those who had taken notes with laptops performed worse on tests of both factual content and conceptual understanding, than those who had written notes.
  • For conceptual items, those taking notes on laptop, (which the authors found to be verbatim notes) performed better than written notes.

What does this mean?

It may be worth considering adjusting note taking based on the type of information:

When taking notes of factual information, it may be worthwhile to synthesize and summarize notes, and to write in your own words instead of transcribing notes.

More retention might make studying more efficient, which could decrease your stress; and improve mental health.

When taking notes of conceptual information, transcribing notes may be better.

Ultimately, for best results, it may be worth trying different styles and methods of note taking based on different types of content (factual, conceptual, mixture, etc.).

Have you figured out what is the most productive note taking style for you?

Are there any resources to improve study skills?

Check out OSU’s Walter E. Dennis Learning Center for academic coaching, workshops, courses and other resources to improve study skills.

You may also want to consider various books, and other sources to improve study skills.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Fried C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education, 50, 906914.
  2. Mueller PA, Oppenheimer DM.The pen is mightier than the keyboard: advantages of longhand over laptop note taking.  Psychol Sci. 2014 Jun;25(6):1159-68. doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581. Epub 2014 Apr 23.