We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.
But, neuroticism is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of individuals. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable.
This relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. Mindfulness training also has been found to improve individuals’ subjective well-being. So, it makes sense to think that mindfulness may be involved in the link between neuroticism and low subjective well-being. This possible link is explored in today’s Research News article “Curb your neuroticism – Mindfulness mediates the link between neuroticism and subjective well-being”
Wenzel and colleagues studied individuals high in neuroticism and found that they tended to have negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life; that is low subjective well-being.
Wenzel and colleagues then added mindfulness to the prediction and found that mindfulness in part mediated the relationship between neuroticism and low subjective well-being especially in individuals who had high levels of neuroticism. It thus appears that neuroticism lowers mindfulness which in turn results in negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life. This suggests that being mindful may in part protect an individual from the effects of neuroticism on their well-being.
There are a number of potential explanations for these effects of mindfulness. Neuroticism is characterized by rumination and worry, which are thought processes centered on the past and future. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is an ability to focus on the present moment. Hence, mindfulness could be seen as an antidote to the past and future orientation in neuroticism.
Neuroticism is also characterized by moodiness and loneliness. Mindfulness has been shown to improve emotion regulation; the ability to feel and recognize an emotional state but be able to understand it and respond to it appropriately (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/20/regulate-emotions-with-mindfulness/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/control-emotions-the-right-way-with-mindfulness/). So mindfulness would also appear to be an antidote for the moodiness involved in neuroticism. Indeed, it has been shown that mindfulness can reduce feelings of anger and depression and improve self-control among people with high neuroticism.
So, buffer yourself from neuroticism with mindfulness.
“Mindfulness has helped me succeed in almost every dimension of my life. By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.” – Dustin Moskovitz
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies