Depressions Interferes with Mindfulness’ Relationship to Smoking

Depressions Interferes with Mindfulness’ Relationship to Smoking


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“There’s lots of self-judgment that goes on when you’re trying to do something difficult, like trying to quit smoking. Also, if we judge others, that can get us riled up, which can lead to smoking. We teach it as a way to learn to concentrate more but also to let go of judgment. When people have a craving, they can notice if they’re resisting or beating themselves up.” – Judson Brewer


“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). So, treating nicotine addiction and producing smoking cessation could greatly improve health. But, smoking has proved devilishly difficult to treat. There are a wide variety of methods and strategies to quit smoking which are to only a very limited extent effective. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 40% of smokers who want to quit make a serious attempt to do so each year, but fewer than 5% actually succeed. Most people require three or four failed attempts before being successful.


Cigarette smoking is highly related to depression. In addition, mindfulness has been shown to be negatively related to depression and is also effective in assisting smokers in quitting. Hence, examining the relationships between mindfulness, depression, and cigarette smoking may lead to better methods to quit smoking and prevent relapse. In today’s Research News article “Facets of Mindfulness Mediate the Relationship between Depressive Symptoms and Smoking Behavior.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Vinci and colleagues investigate the relationships of the facets of mindfulness of observing, describing, acting with awareness, and accepting without judging, with depression and cigarette smoking.


They recruited undergraduate students who smoked cigarettes and had them complete online measures of mindfulness, cigarette use, smoking consequences, and depression. They found that the higher the students’ levels of depression the more cigarettes they smoked per day. They also found that the higher the level of mindfulness accepting without judging the fewer cigarettes they smoked per day and the lower the expectation that smoking would decrease negative emotions like depression.


Applying a sophisticated multiple mediation statistical method to the data they found that depression increased mindful observing which in turn increased the expectation that smoking would improve negative emotions. In addition, they found that depression decreased mindfully accepting without judging which in turn decreased the expectation that smoking would improve negative emotions. In other words, depression worked through mindfulness facets to alter the students’ expectation that they would feel emotionally better after smoking.


The results suggest that the greater the students’ levels of mindful accepting without judging the lower the expectation that smoking would make them feel better and the lower their cigarette consumption. This suggests that improving the students’ abilities to accept things as they are without judgement would lower their beliefs that smoking a cigarette will make them feel emotionally better which would act, in turn, to decrease cigarette consumption. They also suggest that depression interferes with this by lowering the ability of accepting without judging and thereby increase the expectation of feeling better. In other words, depression interferes with mindfulness’ ability to lower expectations and cigarette smoking.


This study is correlative, so causal relationships cannot be concluded. But, the fact that mindfulness training has been found previously to both lower depression and cigarette smoking, suggests that the relationships discovered in the present study reflect underlying causal connections. These results provide a clearer perspective on how mindfulness training may improve the ability to overcome drug addictions, doing so by reducing the expectation that the drug will help them feel better emotionally.


So, increase mindfulness and reduce smoking.


“I noticed that people who have addictions and those who teach mindfulness speak the same language. Mindfulness teachers will tell you that stress is caused by craving. If you can let go of that craving, then your stress will dissolve, and practicing mindfulness is the way to do that.” – Judson Brewer


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Vinci, C., Spears, C. A., Peltier, M. R., & Copeland, A. L. (2016). Facets of Mindfulness Mediate the Relationship between Depressive Symptoms and Smoking Behavior. Mindfulness, 7(6), 1408–1415.



The relationship between cigarette smoking and depressive symptoms is well-established. Dispositional mindfulness has been associated with lower depressive symptoms, lower smoking dependence, and higher odds of smoking cessation. Given that mindfulness is multi-faceted, the current study examined which facets of mindfulness might mediate the relationship between depressive symptoms and smoking behavior. Participants (n = 72) completed the Smoking Consequences Questionnaire (SCQ), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CESD), and Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS; subscales-Observe, Describe, Acting with Awareness, Accepting without Judgment), and indicated number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD). Simple mediation models (followed by multiple mediation when more than one facet was significant) tested whether mindfulness facets mediated the relationship between CESD and smoking behavior (CPD and SCQ subscales). Results indicated that 1) lower depressive symptoms were associated with higher Accepting without Judgment, which was related to lower Negative Reinforcement expectancies, 2) lower depressive symptoms were associated with increased Describe, which was associated with greater perceived Negative Consequences, 3) lower depressive symptoms were associated with higher Accepting without Judgment, which was associated with lower Negative Consequences expectancies, and 4) higher depressive symptoms were associated with higher scores on Observe, which related to both greater Positive Reinforcement and Negative Consequences expectancies. Greater Accepting without Judgment and Describe aspects of mindfulness may serve as protective factors in the relationship of depressive symptoms and smoking.

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