Improve Mental Well-Being with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“engaging in mindfulness meditation cultivates our ability to both focus and broaden our attention, which is a practical way to elicit psychological well-being.” Jennifer Wolkin
Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.
There is a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditation, yoga, mindful movements, contemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. Some are recommended to be practiced for years while others are employed for only a few weeks. Regardless of the technique, they all appear to develop and increase mindfulness. One particularly effective mindfulness training program is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The patients are also encouraged to perform daily practice. It is unclear, however, exactly how the state of mindfulness of the participants at the beginning of training affect the effects of the MBSR program.
In today’s Research News article “The many facets of mindfulness and the prediction of change following mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5815955/), Gawrysiak and colleagues recruited participants in an 8-week, one 2.5-hour session per week of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. They were measured before and after treatments for perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, mindfulness, and decentering.
They found that in comparison to baseline, after the MBSR program there were large significant improvements in all measures including increases in mindfulness, positive emotions, and decentering and decreases in negative emotions, and perceived stress. They then examined the relationship of the levels of mindfulness facets at baseline and the changes in emotions and stress produced by the MBSR program. They found that in general, participants with high levels of mindfulness facets of awareness, acceptance, and decentering had significantly greater increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions. On the other hand, participants with low levels of acceptance, and decentering had significantly greater decreases in stress, negative emotions.
These results clearly demonstrate that participating in an MBSR program produces improved mindfulness, emotional health, and stress reduction. These are in line with a number of previous findings that mindfulness training improves emotions and perceived stress levels. But, the results regarding baseline mindfulness facets on emotions and stress are complex and a bit counterintuitive. They suggest that participants who are already high in awareness, acceptance, and decentering benefited the most in regards to their emotions from the MBSR program. While, those low in acceptance, and decentering benefited the most in regards to their perceived stress levels. More research is needed to better understand these complex relationships.
So, improve mental well-being with mindfulness.
“The practice of mindfulness is an effective means of enhancing and maintaining optimal mental health and overall well-being, and can be implemented in every aspect of daily living.” – Rezvan Ameli
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Gawrysiak, M. J., Grassetti, S. N., Greeson, J. M., Shorey, R. C., Pohlig, R., & Baime, M. J. (2017). The many facets of mindfulness and the prediction of change following mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Journal of clinical psychology, 74(4), 523–535. doi:10.1002/jclp.22521
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) promotes numerous psychological benefits, but few studies have identified for whom MBSR is most effective. The current study tested the hypothesis that lower baseline mindfulness invites more “room to grow” and, thus, predicts greater improvement during MBSR.
We examined three facets of mindfulness (awareness, acceptance, decentering), among 131 MBSR participants prior to enrollment, to test the hypothesis that lower baseline mindfulness predicts greater improvements in perceived stress, positive affect (PA), and negative affect (NA) following MBSR.
Lower acceptance and decentering predicted greater decreases in perceived stress. Higher awareness, acceptance, and decentering predicted greater increases in PA. Higher awareness predicted greater reductions in NA. Lower decentering predicted greater reductions in NA.
Findings partly supported the hypothesis that lower baseline mindfulness predicts greater improvement following MBSR and emphasize the importance of assessing multiple mindfulness facets given their unique, contrasting relations to outcomes.