Being Mindfully Non-Judgmental is Associated with Greater Happiness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Start taking notice of these everyday moments, and bask in their glow for a beat or two. The more easily you can identify even the simplest of joys in life, the more of them you’ll discover, everywhere.” – Kelle Walsh
“Meditation leads to concentration, concentration leads to understanding, and understanding leads to happiness” – This wonderful quote from the modern day sage Thich Nhat Hahn is a beautiful pithy description of the benefits of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness allows us to view our experience and not judge it, not put labels on it, not make assumptions about it, not relate it to past experiences, and not project it into the future. Rather mindfulness lets us experience everything around and within us exactly as it is arising and falling away from moment to moment.
A variety of forms of mindfulness training have been shown to increase psychological well-being and happiness. So, it would be expected that yoga practice would similarly increase these positive states. It is not known, however, if the relationship of mindfulness with happiness moderated by the personality of the individual.
In today’s Research News article “Personality and nonjudging make you happier: Contribution of the Five-Factor Model, mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to subjective well-being.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6999907/), Ortet and colleagues recruited two samples, college students and healthy adults from the community. A subsample of the community participants received a once a week for 6-weeks, 2-hour, training in mindfulness and metacognition including knowing how to differentiate between the story attached to experience and the actual present moment one. The participants completed the Subjective Happiness Questionnaire, the Big Five Personality inventory measuring five broad domains of personality: emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and the five facets of mindfulness including observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience.
They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, particularly the nonjudging facet, the higher the levels of subjective well-being, and all of the 5 of the personality traits of extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability. They found that the personality factors that were most strongly associated with subjective well-being were emotional stability and extraversion. When personality factors were taken into account only the mindfulness facet of nonjudging was still positively associated with happiness.
These results are correlational and as such must be interpreted with caution. The fact that the individuals’ personality characteristic accounted for most of the mindfulness – happiness relationship underscores problems with causation. The third factor of personality was primarily responsible for the mindfulness – happiness relationship. But previous studies have demonstrated with manipulative studies that mindfulness causes an increase in happiness. So, the results of the present study likely result from a causal connection between the mindfulness facet of nonjudging and happiness.
The findings suggest that there are three factors that are particularly important for happiness. Being outgoing is associated with happiness indicating the importance of being engaged socially in being happy. Being emotionally stable is also associated with happiness indicating the importance of having consistent patterns of behavior for being happy. Finally, not judging inner experience but rather simply accepting it as it is, is associated with happiness. This suggests that stopping looking at inner experience as good or bad, deserved or undeserved, or painful or not is important for individual happiness. Allowing inner experience to simply occur with acceptance helps to promote happiness.
So, being mindfully non-judgmental is associated with greater happiness.
“we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment, and we’re least happy when the mind is wandering.” – Melli Obrien
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Ortet, G., Pinazo, D., Walker, D., Gallego, S., Mezquita, L., & Ibáñez, M. I. (2020). Personality and nonjudging make you happier: Contribution of the Five-Factor Model, mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to subjective well-being. PloS one, 15(2), e0228655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228655
Mindful individuals are able to acknowledge mind wandering and live in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. Previous studies have found that both mind wandering and mindfulness are associated with subjective well-being. However, the main predictor of happiness is personality; more specifically, happier people are emotionally stable and extraverted. The present study aimed to explore the contribution of the five factors of personality, dispositional mindfulness facets and a mindfulness intervention to happiness. A sample of 372 university students was assessed with the NEO-Five Factor Inventory, and another sample of 217 community adults answered the Big Five Personality Trait Short Questionnaire. Both samples, 589 participants in all, completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Subjective Happiness Scale. Furthermore, 55 participants from the general population sample took a 6-week training course in meditation and developing mindfulness. The regression analyses showed that emotional stability and extraversion traits were the strongest predictors of subjective well-being. Nonetheless, the nonjudging facet, which is nonevaluative/acceptance awareness of thoughts and feelings, still remained a significant predictor of happiness when personality was accounted for. Finally, mindfulness training did not increase subjective well-being. Being nonjudgmental of one’s inner thoughts, feelings and sensations contributes to happiness even when personality is taken into account. Accordingly, it seems reasonable that mindfulness training that intends to improve subjective well-being should focus on noticing thoughts without judging them.