Improve Psychological Adjustment with Meditation

Improve Psychological Adjustment with Meditation

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Fine-tuning which type of mindfulness or meditation someone uses as a prescriptive to treat a specific need will most likely be the next big advance in the public health revolution of mindfulness and meditation.” – Christopher Bergland


Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.


In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise and fall away without paying them any further attention. Loving Kindness Meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.


These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment. They are also similar to many religious and spiritual practices. There are large differences between these practices that are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. But what those differences are is not known. In today’s Research News article “Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Montero-Marin and colleagues explore the different effects of these practices on the psychological well-being of practitioners.


They recruited adult participants online and had them complete measures of happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and negative psychological adjustment. They were also asked to indicate the amount of prayer, and the types and amounts of meditation practices engaged in, including open monitoring, focused, and compassion meditation types.


They found that positive psychological states were associated with the amount of the various meditation practices and not particularly with religiosity or prayer. They found that the amount of focused meditation practice was significantly related to all measures of psychological adjustment, including happiness, depression, positive and negative emotions, and negative psychological adjustment. On the other hand, open monitoring practice was significantly associated with self-regulation of negative emotions and compassion meditation was significantly related to positive emotions and happiness.


These are interesting results that are cross-sectional and correlative. So, care must be taken in concluding causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that meditation practice has positive benefits for the psychological state of the practitioner that are superior to religious practices. It appears that focused meditation practice has the greatest benefits while compassion meditation may help increase happiness and open monitoring meditation may help with dealing with negative emotions. Previous research has indicated some additional benefits of religiosity, prayer, and focused, open monitoring, and compassion meditation techniques. It remains for future research to better clarify the advantages and disadvantages of each of these meditation types.


So, improve psychological adjustment with meditation.


”For someone who meditates, the practice offers a chance to improve physical wellbeing, as well as emotional health. However, there is no “right way” to meditate, meaning people can explore the different types until they find one that works for them.” – Zawn Villines


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary


Montero-Marin J, Perez-Yus MC, Cebolla A, Soler J, Demarzo M and Garcia-Campayo J (2019) Religiosity and Meditation Practice: Exploring Their Explanatory Power on Psychological Adjustment. Front. Psychol. 10:630. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00630


There has been increased interest in the relationships between religiosity, meditation practice and well-being, but there is lack of understanding as to how specific religious components and distinct meditation practices could influence different positive and negative psychological adjustment outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the explanatory power of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), and compassion meditation (CM) on psychological adjustment, taking into consideration a number of practice-related variables such as session length, frequency of practice and lifetime practice. Psychological adjustment was assessed by means of happiness, positive affect, depression, negative affect, and emotional overproduction. A cross-sectional design was used, with a final sample comprising 210 Spanish participants who completed an online assessment protocol. Hierarchical regressions were performed, including age, sex and psychotropic medication use in the first step as possible confounders, with the addition of religious beliefs and the practice of prayer, FA, OM, and CM in the second step. FA session length was related to all psychological adjustment outcomes: happiness (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.25, p = 0.001), positive affect (ΔR2 = 0.09, p = 0.002; β = 0.18, p = 0.014), depression (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.004; β = -0.27, p < 0.001), negative affect (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = -0.27, p < 0.001) and emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.07, p = 0.013; β = -0.23, p = 0.001). CM session length was related to positive affect (β = 0.18, p = 0.011). CM practice frequency was associated with happiness (ΔR2 = 0.06, p = 0.038; β = 0.16, p = 0.041). Lifetime practice of FA was related to happiness (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.007; β = 0.21, p = 0.030) and OM to emotional overproduction (ΔR2 = 0.08, p = 0.037; β = -0.19, p = 0.047). Religious beliefs and prayer seemed to be less relevant than meditation practices such as FA, OM, and CM in explaining psychological adjustment. The distinct meditation practices might be differentially related to distinct psychological adjustment outcomes through different practice-related variables. However, research into other forms of institutional religiosity integrating social aspects of religion is required.


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