People Select Mindfulness Training Techniques Based Upon Their Personal Characteristics

People Select Mindfulness Training Techniques Based Upon Their Personal Characteristics


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Meditation is a simple strategy that can help obtain better health and a happier life. It takes time to master, as does any other skill. If a person sticks with it and is willing to experiment with the different methods, they are more likely to discover a meditation style that suits them.” – Medical News Today


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 affecting different psychological areas.


Four types of meditation are the most commonly used practices for research purposes. In body scan meditation, the individual focuses on the feelings and sensations of specific parts of the body, systematically moving attention from one area to another. 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. 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. On the other hand, 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 stimuli and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention.


There is little understanding as to why an individual chooses one meditation technique over another. In today’s Research News article “Predicting Individual Preferences in Mindfulness Techniques Using Personality Traits.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:,  Tang and Braver examine the characteristics of individuals who choose either body scan meditationloving kindness meditationfocused attention meditation, or open monitoring meditation.


They recruited adults online who did not practice mindfulness or yoga and presented them with 5 daily recorded sessions. In the first 45-minute session the participants completed measures of mindfulness, big 5 personality traits, self-compassion, interpersonal reactivity, perceived stress, sensory processing sensitivity, and attentional control and absorption. They were also provided an introduction to meditation techniques with descriptions of all 4 techniques. On subsequent days they were directed by recorded instructions to practice for 15-20 minutes either body scan meditationloving kindness meditationfocused attention meditation, or open monitoring meditation. The order of the 4 practices was randomized for each participant. After each session they were asked questions regarding their content to ensure that they performed the practices. After completing all sessions, the participants were asked to rank them according to their preferences.


They found that all of the meditation techniques were about equally distributed in the preferences of the participants. There were no significant predictors of preferences for focused attention meditation or body scan meditation, but there were significant predictors of preferences for loving kindness meditation and open monitoring meditation. Female participants and participants who were high in empathy were significantly more likely to prefer loving kindness meditation. Participants who were high in the mindfulness facets of non-judging and non-reacting were significantly more likely to prefer open monitoring meditation.


These results make sense. Empathetic people, particularly women, are more sensitive to the feelings of others and so they would find meditating on those feelings, loving kindness meditation, more attractive. Open monitoring meditation. involves simply observing whatever is transpiring without judgement and reaction. So, it makes sense that people who were high in in the mindfulness facets of non-judging and non-reacting would find this form of meditation more attractive.


So, people select mindfulness training techniques based upon their personal characteristics.


“In the end, the best meditation technique and the one that will help you gain the most positive benefits is one you can stick to.” – Elizabeth Scott


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary


Tang R and Braver TS (2020) Predicting Individual Preferences in Mindfulness Techniques Using Personality Traits. Front. Psychol. 11:1163. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01163


The growing popularity of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) has prompted exciting scientific research investigating their beneficial effects on well-being and health. Most mindfulness programs are provided as multi-faceted packages encompassing a set of different mindfulness techniques, each with distinct focus and mechanisms. However, this approach overlooks potential individual differences, which may arise in response to practicing various mindfulness techniques. The present study investigated preferences for four prototypical mindfulness techniques [focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), loving-kindness (LK), and body scan (BS)] and identified factors that may contribute to individual differences in these preferences. Participants without prior mindfulness experiences were exposed to each technique through audio-guided instructions and were asked to rank their preferences at the end of all practices. Results indicated that preferences for loving-kindness were predicted by empathy, and that females tended to prefer loving-kindness more than males. Conversely, preferences for open monitoring were predicted by nonreactivity and nonjudgment of present moment experiences. Additionally, higher state mindfulness was detected for individuals’ preferred technique relative to other alternatives. These findings suggest that individuals tend to prefer techniques compatible with their personalities, as the predictor variables encompass trait capacities specifically relevant to practicing these techniques. Together, our results suggest the possibility that assessing individual difference and then tailoring MBIs to individual needs could be a useful way to improve intervention effectiveness and subsequent outcomes.


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