Well-Being and Resilience
Scientific investigation into how mindfulness may contribute to resilience and general well-being is a large area of ongoing research. Described below is a brief sample of some of the research that has examined how mindfulness may assist with: improving resilience; reducing stress and negative mood; increasing positive emotion; enhancing control over impulsive eating; contributing to healthy behaviour (e.g. reduced craving for cigarettes) and perhaps more positive long term health outcomes.
The American Psychological Association (APA, 2015, p.1) has defined resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”. In this paradigm, psychological resilience is not considered a fixed trait, but rather involves adaptive ways of thinking and behaving in response to stressors that can be learned and enhanced (Southwick & Charney, 2012). It has been argued that mindfulness is one of a number of key factors underpinning resilience to stress and psychological well-being (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Garland et al., 2010; Rees et al., 2015). More specifically, it has been theorised that mindfulness training enhances emotion regulation and recovery from stressors (Teper, Segal, & Inzlicht, 2013). This view is supported by research that shows mindfulness appears to be linked to more flexible cognitive and behavioural responses to stressors and stress eliciting tasks (Good et al., 2015). For example, mindfulness has been associated with reduced impulsivity to stressors (Mantzios, 2014) and increased positive reappraisal of stressors (Garland et al., 2010). Similarly, recent research by Donald and colleagues (2016) suggests that present-moment awareness of one’s actions, thoughts, and feelings during stressful events promotes feelings of self-efficacy and acting in accordance with one’s values, and that these beneficial effects extend into the next day.
Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation
In line with the above, research suggests mindfulness and mindfulness training assists with reducing emotional reactivity to certain negative stimuli and the duration of the emotional cycle (Arch & Craske, 2010; Goldin & Gross, 2010). For example, mindfulness increases the speed of recovery from negative emotions after induction of a negative mood (Keng et al. 2013) and after public speaking (Brown, Weinstein, & Creswell, 2012). It has thus been argued that mindfulness practices help someone observe their experiences with greater objectivity and psychological distance, and this helps dampen emotional reactivity to stressors (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Farb et al., 2007; Hülsheger et al., 2014). Consistent with this position, numerous studies have shown that mindfulness interventions generally lead to lower levels of worry, stress, depression, and negative mood (Craigie et al., 2008; Khoury et al., 2013; Goyal et al., 2014; Hoffman et al., 2010; Hülsheger et al., 2013), and appear to cultivate more positive mood and emotion which acts as a buffer against stress (Garland et al., 2010; van der Velden et al., 2015).
Physical Health and Behaviour
In terms of more general health outcomes, it has been argued that improvements in self-regulation that mindfulness affords leads to better health behaviour (Glomb et al., 2011). For example, mindfulness practice has been shown to help individuals with eating compulsions (Papies, Pronk, Keesman, & Barsalou, 2014) and to reduce cigarette cravings (Westbrook et al., 2013). In the latter case, this seems to be the result of breaking the connection between craving and smoking (Elwafi, Witkiewitz, Mallik, Thornhill, & Brewer, 2013). Likewise, mindfulness for binge eating and emotional eating is another area of research that has yielded positive outcomes (Katterman et al., 2014). Finally, mindfulness training may also enhance immune system functioning and perhaps long term health outcomes. To illustrate, a recent meta-analysis of studies suggest possible positive effects of mindfulness meditation on specific markers of inflammation, cell-mediated immunity, and biological aging (Black & Slavich, 2016). While promising, the authors also note the results are still only tentative, requiring further replication. Similarly, there is some preliminary evidence that mindfulness training over the longer term can lead to reduced visits to health care services at a comparable level to a healthy exercise and diet intervention (Klatt et al., 2016).
References and Further Reading
American Psychological Association (2015). The road to resilience. Washington DC: American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx. Accessed 20 September, 2015.
Arch, J. J., & Craske, M. G. 2010. Laboratory stressors in clinically anxious and non-anxious individuals: The moderating role of mindfulness. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48: 495-505.
Black, D. S. & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. 2003. The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological wellbeing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84: 822-848.
Brown, K. W., Weinstein, N., & Creswell, J. D. 2012. Trait mindfulness modulates neuroendocrine and affective responses to social evaluative threat. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37: 2037-2041.
Cahn, B. & Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin, 13 (2), 180-211.
Craigie, M. A., Rees, C., Marsh, A., & Nathan, P. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder: A preliminary evaluation. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 553-568.
Donald, J. N., Atkins, P. W., Parker, P. D., Christie, A. M., & Ryan, R. M. (2016). Daily stress and the benefits of mindfulness: Examining the daily and longitudinal relations between present-moment awareness and stress responses. Journal of Research in Personality.
Elwafi, H. M., Witkiewitz, K., Mallik, S., Thornhill IV, T. A., & Brewer, J. A. 2013. Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: Moderation of the relationship between craving and cigarette use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 130: 222-229.
Farb, N. A. S., Segal, Z. V., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z., & Anderson, A. K. 2007. Attending to the present: Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2: 313-322.
Garland, E. L., Fredrickson, B., Kring, A. M., Johnson, D. P., Meyer, P. S., & Penn, D. L. (2010). Upward spirals of positive emotions counter downward spirals of negativity: Insights from the broaden-and-build theory and affective neuroscience on the treatment of emotion dysfunctions and deficits in psychopathology. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 849-864. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.002
Glomb, T. M., Duffy, M. K., Bono, J. E., & Yang, T. 2011. Mindfulness at work. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 30: 115-157.
Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. 2010. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10: 83-91.
Good, D. J., Lyddy, C. J., Glomb, T. M., Bono, J. E., Brown, K. W., Duffy, M. K., & Lazar, S. W. (2015). Contemplating mindfulness at work: an integrative review. Journal of Management, Online, November. doi: 10.1177/0149206315617003
Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M. S., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., . . . Shihab, H. M. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357-368.
Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169-83.
Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 310. doi:10.1037/a0031313
Hülsheger, U. R., Lang, J. W. B., Depenbrock, F., Fehrmann, C., Zijlstra, F. R. H., & Alberts, H. J. E. M. (2014). The power of presence: The role of mindfulness at work for daily levels and change trajectories of psychological detachment and sleep quality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99: 1113-1128.
Katterman, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., & Corsica, J. (2014). Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review. Eating Behaviors, 15(2),197-204.
Keng, S.-L., Robins, C. J., Smoski, M. J., Dagenbach, J., & Leary, M. R. 2013. Reappraisal and mindfulness: A comparison of subjective effects and cognitive costs. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51: 899-904.
Klatt, M. D., Sieck, C., Gascon, G., Malarkey, W., & Huerta, T. (2016). A healthcare utilization cost comparison between employees receiving a worksite mindfulness or a diet/exercise lifestyle intervention to matched controls 5 years post intervention. Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., . . . Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-Based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(6), 763-771.
Kuyken, W., Warren, F. C., Taylor, R. S., Whalley, B., Crane, C., Bondolfi, G., . . . Dalgleish, T. (2016). Efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in prevention of depressive relapse: An individual patient data meta-analysis from randomized trials. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(6), 565-74.
Mantzios, M. (2014). Exploring the relationship between worry and impulsivity in military recruits: The role of mindfulness and self‐compassion as potential mediators. Stress and Health, 30(5), 397-404. doi: 10.1002/smi.2617
Papies, E. K., Pronk, T. M., Keesman, M., & Barsalou, L. W. 2014. The benefits of simply observing: Mindful attention modulates the link between motivation and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108: 148-170.
Rees, C. S., Breen, L. J., Cusack, L., & Hegney, D. (2015). Understanding individual resilience in the workplace: the international collaboration of workforce resilience (ICWR) model. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 73. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00073
Southwick, S.M., & Charney D.S. (2012). Resilience: the science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. Cambridge University Press, NY: New York.
Teper, R., Segal, Z. V., & Inzlicht, M. (2013). Inside the mindful mind: How mindfulness enhances emotion regulation through improvements in executive control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(6), 449-454.
van der Velden, A. M., Kuyken, W., Wattar, U., Crane, C., Pallesen, K. J., Dahlgaard, J., … & Piet, J. (2015). A systematic review of mechanisms of change in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in the treatment of recurrent major depressive disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 37, 26-39. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.02.001
Westbrook, C., Creswell, J. D., Tabibnia, G., Julson, E., Kober, H., & Tindle, H. A. 2013. Mindful attention reduces neural and self-reported cue-induced craving in smokers. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8: 73-84.