Mindfulness is Associated with Stable and Flexible Personalities
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness meditation, may help shape a person’s personality traits and promote a healthier self-concept.” – April McDowell
Personality characteristics are thought to be relatively permanent traits that form an individual’s distinctive character. Current psychological research and theorization on personality has suggested that there are five basic personality characteristics. The so called “Big 5” are Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Emotional Stability. The enduring trait of mindfulness has a positive relationship with all of the “Big 5” characteristics.
Recently, these characteristics have been organized into two overarching metatraits; stability and flexibility. The relationship of trait mindfulness to these two metatraits has not been explored.
In today’s Research News article “The Mindful Personality II: Exploring the Metatraits from a Cybernetic Perspective.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5979271/), Hanley and colleagues examine the relationship of the enduring characteristic of mindfulness with the stability and flexibility metatraits. The researchers recruited adult participants online and had them complete measures of the Big 5 Personality Traits, mindfulness, and psychological well-being. From the Big 5 they extracted measures of the metatraits stability and flexibility.
They found, as have others, that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of each of the Big 5 personality traits. Using structural modelling they found that mindfulness was positively associated with both metatraits of stability and flexibility and these, in turn, were positively associated with psychological well-being. In other words, the higher the levels of dispositional mindfulness, the higher the levels of stability and flexibility, the better the psychological health of the individual. This was also true for all of the five facets of mindfulness; observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-reactivity, and non-judging.
This study is correlational and causation cannot be concluded. But these results are in line with previous findings of the positive relationship of mindfulness with the Big 5 personality traits. The findings extend this positive relationship to the two stability and flexibility, the metatraits derived from the Big 5 traits. They suggest that mindfulness is associated with stable and flexible personalities. Mindful individuals do not overreact to distractions, interference, unexpected events and at the same time are more open and able to respond differently and creatively to situations. Hence, mindful people have personalities better able to deal with the ups and downs and twists and turns of life.
“Overall, the findings . . . expand upon previous mindfulness-related research by demonstrating a strong relationship between mindfulness and enhanced level of some personality characteristics including openness, theory of mind, suggestibility and pro-social behaviour.” – Hossein Kaviani
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Hanley, A. W., Baker, A. K., & Garland, E. L. (2018). The Mindful Personality II: Exploring the Metatraits from a Cybernetic Perspective. Mindfulness, 9(3), 972–979. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0836-5
Relationships between dispositional mindfulness and the personality metatraits, stability and plasticity, remain unexplored despite continued efforts to more accurately characterize associations between dispositional mindfulness and personality. The metatraits are theorized to constitute basic requirements for biological survival and their expression is believed to be a strong determinant of well-being. As such, this study used path analysis to explore associations between dispositional mindfulness, the metatraits and psychological well-being in a sample of 403 American adults. Results indicate that dispositional mindfulness is principally associated with stability, or the capacity to sustain currently operative schemas and goals. Results further suggest a positive relationship between dispositional mindfulness and plasticity, or the tendency to flexibly adapt to changing circumstances. A more granular investigation of these associations demonstrated that the facets of dispositional mindfulness are differentially related with the metatraits. Ultimately, the metatraits were found to fully mediate the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and psychological well-being.