Meditation, focusing, and CBT all have been shown to be effective treatments for a number of psychological problems. In previous research Sugiura and colleagues identified five factors in common to meditation, focusing, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), refraining from catastrophic thinking, self-observation, logical objectivity, detached coping, and acceptance. This raises the questions as to whether these common factors may be responsible for the common clinical outcomes, and which of these common factors is most important for each of a variety of disorders.
In today’s Research News article “Common Factors of Meditation, Focusing, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Longitudinal Relation of Self-Report Measures to Worry, Depressive, and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms Among Nonclinical Students.”
Sugiura and colleagues pursue these questions with a sample of undergraduate students.
They found that the greater the detached coping the lower the levels of obsessive-compulsive (OCD) symptoms. Detached coping emphasizes detachment and distancing from external conditions. This is exactly what mindfulness training is supposed to do, to allow us to see things objectively as they are. This suggests that mindfulness training is effective against obsessive-compulsive symptoms through its development of the skill of detached coping. Similarly, it was found that the greater the detached coping the lower the levels of depressive symptoms. This suggests that mindfulness training is effective against depression by allowing the individual to look at their situation more objectively, with detachment, and as a result not respond to it as something to feel bad about.
Worrying is also effectively reduced by mindfulness. The mechanism appears to be more complicated than that for OCD or depressive symptoms. It was found that the greater the level of refraining from catastrophic thinking the lower the levels of worrying, while the greater the level of self-observation the stronger the levels of worrying. Refraining from catastrophic thinking reflects the skills necessary to detach from and to suspend negative thinking, which frequently involves a fear of a future negative outcome, a worry. Mindfulness, by focusing on the present rather than the future interferes with worrying about the future and thus can be an effective antidote to worry.
Finally, Self-observation constitutes engagement in self-focus with curiosity and openness. Surprisingly it was associated with increased worrying. It appears that self-observation activates negatives beliefs about worrying. This suggests that it produces a worrying about worrying that increases worry.
So, it appears that the factors in common to meditation, focusing, and CBT of refraining from catastrophic thinking, self-observation, and detached coping are also associated with the symptoms common to psychological problems. But, that different factors are involved with different issues. This suggests that the three treatments may be effective by invoking common intermediaries for various disorders.
So, practice mindfulness and improve your psychological wellbeing.