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Complement Health Pract Rev. 2010 Dec 14;15(3):115-131.

Mind-Body Interventions to Reduce Risk for Health Disparities Related to Stress and Strength Among African American Women: The Potential of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Loving-Kindness, and the NTU Therapeutic Framework.

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1
School of Nursing, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

Abstract

In the current article, the authors examine the potential role of mind-body interventions for preventing or reducing health disparities in a specific group-African American women. The authors first discuss how health disparities affect this group, including empirical evidence regarding the influence of biopsychosocial processes (e.g., psychological stress and social context) on disparate health outcomes. They also detail how African American women's unique stress experiences as a result of distinct sociohistorical and cultural experiences related to race and gender potentially widen exposure to stressors and influence stress responses and coping behaviors. Using two independent, but related, frameworks (Superwoman Schema [SWS] and the Strong Black Woman Script [SBW-S]), they discuss how, for African American women, stress is affected by "strength" (vis-à-vis resilience, fortitude, and self-sufficiency) and the emergent health-compromising behaviors related to strength (e.g., emotional suppression, extraordinary caregiving, and self-care postponement). The authors then describe the potential utility of three mind-body interventions-mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), and NTU psychotherapy-for specifically targeting the stress-, strength-, and contextually related factors that are thought to influence disparate outcomes for African American women. Self-awareness, self-care, inter- and intrapersonal restorative healing and a redefinition of inner strength may manifest through developing a mindfulness practice to decrease stress-related responses; using LKM to cultivate compassion and forgiveness for self and others; and the balance of independence and interdependence as a grounding NTU principle for redefining strength. The authors conclude with a discussion of potential benefits for integrating key aspects of the interventions with recommendations for future research.

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