Be Mindful for Improved Psychological Health
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“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
Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving the physical and psychological condition of otherwise healthy people and also treating the physical and psychological issues of people with illnesses and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be particularly effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.
In fact, the degree of mindfulness, inherent in the individual, without training, known as dispositional mindfulness, has been shown to be associated with the degree of mental and physical health. In today’s Research News article “Dispositional Mindfulness and Psychological Health: a Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5770488/ ), Tomlinson and colleagues review and summarize the published scientific research regarding the relationship of dispositional mindfulness to psychological health. They identified 93 research studies that found three different areas of relationship.
They report that the published research found that dispositional mindfulness was associated with improved psychopathological symptoms. The published research report that the higher the individuals’ levels of dispositional mindfulness the lower the levels of depression, anxiety, disordered eating, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and Borderline Personality Disorder (DPD) symptoms.
They report that the published research found that dispositional mindfulness was associated with improved cognitive performance. It was found that that the higher the individuals’ levels of dispositional mindfulness the lower the levels of avoidant coping strategies e.g. procrastination, rumination, impulsivity, catastrophizing and neuroticism, and the higher the levels of executive function (high level thinking).
Finally, they report that dispositional mindfulness was associated with improved emotional control. It was reported that the higher the individuals’ levels of dispositional mindfulness the lower the levels of perceived stress, emotional distress, and higher levels of emotion regulation, emotional stability, psychological well-being, and recovery following stressful conditions.
This review of the published research suggests that being generally mindful (dispositional mindfulness) is associated with psychological health and well-being. The problem with dispositional characteristics is that they cannot be manipulated as they are relatively stable characteristics of the individual. They can only be correlated with other characteristics. As such, it is impossible to conclude causal relationships between dispositional mindfulness and psychological health. It is equally likely that psychological health produces dispositional mindfulness, that dispositional mindfulness produces psychological health, or that a third factor causes both.
Manipulative research, producing changes in the short-term state of mindfulness, however, demonstrates that increases in mindfulness cause improvements in psychological well-being. So, it is likely that the observed relationships of dispositional mindfulness and psychological health are the result of dispositional mindfulness causing improved emotional and cognitive function and thereby reduced psychopathology and improved mental health.
So, be mindful for improved psychological health.
“A great deal of research has documented physical health benefits of mindfulness, such as an improved immune system, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. Mindfulness has also been linked to mental health benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety, and improved concentration and focus, less emotional reactivity.” – American Psychiatric Association
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Eve R. Tomlinson, Omar Yousaf, Axel D. Vittersø, Lauraine Jones. Dispositional Mindfulness and Psychological Health: a Systematic Review. Mindfulness (N Y) 2018; 9(1): 23–43. Published online 2017 Jul 1. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0762-6
Interest in the influence of dispositional mindfulness (DM) on psychological health has been gathering pace over recent years. Despite this, a systematic review of this topic has not been conducted. A systematic review can benefit the field by identifying the terminology and measures used by researchers and by highlighting methodological weaknesses and empirical gaps. We systematically reviewed non-interventional, quantitative papers on DM and psychological health in non-clinical samples published in English up to June 2016, following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A literature search was conducted using PsycINFO, PubMED, Medline and Embase, and 93 papers met the inclusion criteria. Within these, three main themes emerged, depicting the relationship between DM and psychological health: (1) DM appears to be inversely related to psychopathological symptoms such as depressive symptoms, (2) DM is positively linked to adaptive cognitive processes such as less rumination and pain catastrophizing and (3) DM appears to be associated with better emotional processing and regulation. These themes informed the creation of a taxonomy. We conclude that research has consistently shown a positive relationship between DM and psychological health. Suggestions for future research and conceptual and methodological limitations within the field are discussed.