Mindfulness and Sense of Control are Independently Associated with Emotions
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“the truth is that meditation does not eradicate mental and emotional turmoil. Rather, it cultivates the space and gentleness that allow us intimacy with our experiences so that we can relate quite differently to our cascade of emotions and thoughts. That different relationship is where freedom lies.” – Sharon Salzburg
Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.
This may indicate that mindfulness training improves the sense of control over our inner life.
In today’s Research News article “The Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness, Sense of Control, and Affect in a National Sample of Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093486/), Imel and colleagues examine the relationship of sense of control with mindfulness’ ability to improve emotions. They recruited a large sample of adults (from 28 to 84 years of age) and had them complete measures of mindfulness, sense of control, positive and negative emotions, religiousness and spirituality, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion.
Employing a moderation analysis, they demonstrated that the sense of control was strongly positively associated with positive emotions and negatively associated with negative emotions. In addition, mindfulness was also associated with positive and negative emotions. But mindfulness was not associated with sense of control. These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness did not affect emotions by altering the individuals’ sense that they were in control of themselves. Rather, it would appear that mindfulness and sense of control are independently associated with emotions.
Thus, mindfulness and sense of control are independently associated with emotions.
“The key to overcoming these difficult emotions is mindfulness! Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm down and soothe yourself. In this state, you have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than react.” – Toni Parker
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Imel, J. L., & Dautovich, N. D. (2018). The Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness, Sense of Control, and Affect in a National Sample of Adults. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 73(6), 996–1005. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbw092
The present study examined factors associated with better affective experiences across the life span, extending existing research to older adults. Specifically, we investigated dispositional mindfulness and sense of control as predictors of affect and sense of control as a potential mediator of the mindfulness—affect associations.
We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness mediated by sense of control would predict affective outcomes. An archival analysis of a sample of 4,962 adults, aged 28 to 84 years, was conducted using the Midlife in the U.S. national survey (MIDUS-II). Exploratory analyses were conducted with age as a moderator in all associations.
Greater dispositional mindfulness predicted more positive and negative affect irrespective of age. Dispositional mindfulness did not predict sense of control. Greater sense of control predicted more positive and less negative affect, and these associations were significantly moderated by age. Sense of control did not mediate the dispositional mindfulness—affect associations.
The present study extends existing research on the dispositional mindfulness—positive affect association to older ages. The sense of control and positive and negative affect associations are enhanced and buffered, respectively, at older ages, indicating that the association between control and affect differs by age.