Reduce Psychological Distress by Increasing Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“When the chest is opening, the mind is opening, and we feel emotionally shiny and stability comes.” – Vanda Scaravelli
Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders. It appears to be able to prevent or relieve psychological distress. So, it is important to examine the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves emotion regulation and psychological well-being.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness as a Protective Factor Against Depression, Anxiety and Psychological Distress During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Emotion Regulation and Insomnia Symptoms as Mediators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9010863/ ) Mamede and colleagues had adult from the general population answer an online questionnaire regarding their mindfulness, emotion regulation, and psychological states.
They report that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of psychological distress, including anxiety and depression. These were direct effects of mindfulness. But, in addition, mindfulness had indirect effects by improving emotion regulation which in turn decreased psychological distress. Also, the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of insomnia which were in turn associated with lower levels of psychological distress.
The findings suggest that mindfulness works directly to improve psychological well-being but also indirectly by improving the emotion regulation and reducing insomnia. This clearly suggests that improving mindfulness levels is a good method to improve psychological health.
“Mindfulness isn’t about escaping negative emotions or painful experiences but learning how to feel peace amidst them.” – Charlotte Hilton Anderson
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Mamede A, Merkelbach I, Noordzij G, Denktas S. Mindfulness as a Protective Factor Against Depression, Anxiety and Psychological Distress During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Emotion Regulation and Insomnia Symptoms as Mediators. Front Psychol. 2022 Apr 1;13:820959. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.820959. PMID: 35432084; PMCID: PMC9010863.
Research has linked mindfulness to improved mental health, yet the mechanisms underlying this relationship are not well understood. This study explored the mediating role of emotion regulation strategies and sleep in the relationship between mindfulness and symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As detailed in this study’s pre-registration (osf.io/k9qtw), a cross-sectional research design was used to investigate the impact of mindfulness on mental health and the mediating role of emotion regulation strategies (i.e., cognitive reappraisal, rumination and suppression) and insomnia. A total of 493 participants from the general population answered an online survey and were included in the final analysis. The online survey consisted of the short form of the Five-Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ-SF), the Impact of Event Scale-revised (IES-R), the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8), the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), the short form of the Rumination Response Scale (RSS-SF), and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI).
Structural equation modelling revealed that mindfulness was related to lower symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress, both directly and indirectly. Mindfulness was negatively associated with rumination and insomnia. As hypothesised, models revealed that the associations between mindfulness and depression, anxiety and psychological distress were significantly mediated by its negative associations with rumination and insomnia. Our findings also demonstrated that rumination was related to increased insomnia symptoms, which in turn was associated with increased mental health problems, indicating a mediated mediation. Mindfulness was also positively associated with cognitive reappraisal and negatively associated with suppression, which were, respectively, negatively and positively associated with depressive symptoms, and thus functioned as specific mediators of the association between mindfulness and depression.
Our findings suggest that rumination and insomnia operate transdiagnostically as interrelated mediators of the effects of mindfulness on mental health, whereas cognitive reappraisal and suppression function as specific mediators for depression. These insights emphasise the importance of targeting emotion regulation and sleep in mindfulness interventions for improving mental health. Limitations and implications for practice are discussed.