Students and Military who are High in All Facets of Mindfulness Have Better Psychological Health
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“The research is strong for mindfulness’ positive impact in certain areas of mental health, including stress reduction, emotion and attention regulation, reduced rumination, for reducing mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and preventing depressive relapse.“ – Kelle Walsh
Mindfulness 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, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies.
One of the premiere measurement tools for mindfulness is the Five Factors of Mindfulness Questionnaire. It measures overall mindfulness and also five facets; observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judgement, and non-reactivity. People differ and an individual can be high or low on any of these facets and any combination of facets. It is not known what pattern of mindfulness facets are most predictive of good mental health.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Psychological Health Outcomes: A Latent Profile Analysis among Military Personnel and College Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800780/ ), Bravo and colleagues recruited active and retired military personnel and college students. They were measured online for mindfulness, depression, anxiety, rumination, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug abuse symptoms.
They found that overall, the greater the levels of mindfulness, the better the mental health of the participants including lower depression, anxiety, rumination, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug abuse symptoms. The military personnel were higher on all measures except rumination than the college students.
For the college students latent profile analysis revealed 4 mindfulness profiles ““high mindfulness” group (i.e., moderately high on all facets of mindfulness), a “low mindfulness” group (i.e., relatively low-to-average on all facets of mindfulness), a “judgmentally observing” group (i.e., high on observing facet, low on non-judging of inner experience and acting with awareness) and a “non-judgmentally aware” group (i.e., low on observing, high on non-judging of inner experience and acting with awareness).” For the military personnel latent profile analysis revealed 3 mindfulness profiles “high mindfulness” group (i.e., moderately high on all facets of mindfulness), a “low mindfulness/ judgmentally observing” group (i.e., relatively low-to-average on describing, and non-reacting facets of mindfulness and high on observing facet, low on non-judging of inner experience and acting with awareness) and a “non-judgmentally aware” group (i.e., low on observing, high on non-judging of inner experience and acting with awareness).
For both the military personnel and the students, the participants with the “high mindfulness” profile had significantly better mental health than those with the other profiles including lower depression, anxiety, rumination, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug abuse symptoms. It is important to note that the results were similar in very different participant populations, suggesting that the results are generalizable.
The results further suggest that with mindfulness there are very different types of people, expressing mindfulness in different ways and this makes a difference in the relationship of mindfulness to mental health. The results suggest that overall being mindful is associated with good mental health. They further suggest that being generally high on all facets of mindfulness is an even better predictor of good mental health. It may make sense in future research to pay more attention to these different mindfulness profile groups in investigating mindfulness relationships with mental and physical well-being.
It is clear that mindfulness is associated with better mental health.
“We’ve seen this in the clinical domain for many years. People, in concert with their physicians… actually going off their medications for pain, for anxiety, for depression, as they begin to learn the self-regulatory elements of mindfulness. They discover that the things that used to be symptomatically problematic for them are no longer arising at the same level.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Bravo, A. J., Pearson, M. R., & Kelley, M. L. (2017). Mindfulness and Psychological Health Outcomes: A Latent Profile Analysis among Military Personnel and College Students. Mindfulness, 9(1), 258-270.
Previous research on trait mindfulness facets using person-centered analyses (e.g., latent profile analysis [LPA]) has identified four distinct mindfulness profiles among college students: a high mindfulness group (high on all facets of the Five-Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire [FFMQ]), a judgmentally observing group (highest on observing, but low on non-judging of inner experience and acting with awareness), a non-judgmentally aware group (high on non-judging of inner experience and acting with awareness, but very low on observing), and a low mindfulness group (low on all facets of the FFMQ). In the present study, we used LPA to identify distinct mindfulness profiles in a community based sample of U.S. military personnel (majority veterans; n = 407) and non-military college students (n = 310) and compare these profiles on symptoms of psychological health outcomes (e.g., suicidality, PTSD, anxiety, rumination) and percentage of participants exceeding clinically significant cut-offs for depressive symptoms, substance use, and alcohol use. In the subsample of college students, we replicated previous research and found four distinct mindfulness profiles; however, in the military subsample we found three distinct mindfulness profiles (a combined low mindfulness/judgmentally observing class). In both subsamples, we found that the most adaptive profile was the “high mindfulness” profile (i.e., demonstrated the lowest scores on all psychological symptoms and the lowest probability of exceeding clinical cut-offs). Based on these findings, we purport that the comprehensive examination of an individual’s mindfulness profile could help clinicians tailor interventions/treatments that capitalize on individual’s specific strengths and work to address their specific deficits.