The Immediate and Long-Term Effects of an Intensive Meditation Retreat
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Proliferation of mindfulness retreat centers has paralleled the growing interest in mindfulness practice, but the research into the effects of retreats on psychological outcomes has received relatively little empirical attention. This study (1) investigated the effects of Vipassana retreats on psychosocial outcomes, (2) evaluated the durability of outcomes at follow-up, and (3) examined baseline predictors of outcome. One hundred ninety-five participants underwent a 1-week meditation retreat at a leading meditation retreat center. Participants completed measures of mindfulness, anxiety, depression, dysfunctional attitudes, emotion regulation, set shifting, and attention before and after a pre-retreat control period, immediately following the retreat, and 4 weeks following the end of the retreat. Structural equation models indicated that there were significant improvements in mindfulness, anxiety, depression, and dysfunctional attitudes and that these gains were maintained at follow-up. Older age was associated with better functioning pre-retreat but comparatively less improvement overall. These results highlight the strong effects of meditation retreats on a variety of psychosocial outcomes and also identified baseline predictors of outcome.
KeywordsMindfulness Meditation Meditation retreat Vipassana
Portions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, April 2016. Jonathan P. Stange was supported by National Research Service Award F31MH099761 and grant 5T32MH067631-12 from NIMH.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures involving human participants were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the appropriate institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of Interest
The first three authors have all participated in retreats at Insight Meditation Society. None of these individuals were participants in this study. The authors have no other conflicts of interest to report.
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