There is an abundance of literature on the benefits of mindfulness-based therapy approaches. Research has shown that mindfulness practices can help clients relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. People who practice mindfulness also experience fewer mood fluctuations. Mindfulness is designed to help individuals acknowledge and accept their emotions and reactions in a non-judgmental way. Rather than seeing themselves as the emotion, clients learn how to see the emotions as separate from themselves, as transient events that do not define who they are. Despite the large body of research showing the many psychological and physical health benefits of mindfulness, few studies have looked at how brief mindfulness might affect a person’s mood. To this end, Catherine N. M. Ortner of the Department of Psychology at Thompson Rivers University in Canada recently led a study assessing the outcome of a brief mindfulness session compared to two other sessions.
Ortner recruited a group of participants and asked them to write about a particular event that caused conflict for them. They then reported on their mood states and anger levels, prior to being entered into a mindfulness condition, a neutral condition, or a distraction condition. The sessions lasted 10 minutes, after which the participants then wrote about the event again and once more reported the effects on their moods. Ortner discovered that although there were some minimal differences in the outcomes, the mindfulness participants did not have significant improvements relative to the other groups.
While the participants in the distraction group scored higher on decentering than the other two groups, all three groups of participants saw decreases in negative mood and anger. The only real difference found in the mindfulness group was that curiosity scores on the mindfulness scale did predict decreases in anger and negative mood. This could be due to the open, accepting approach taught in mindfulness that perhaps increases curiosity. However, Ortner noted that this result was only found in some of the participants in the mindfulness group, not all of them. “Future work should explore the relation between dispositional mindfulness and response to both brief mindfulness manipulations and longer interventions,” Ortner said.
Ortner, C. N. M., and Zelazo, P. D. (2012). Responsiveness to a mindfulness manipulation predicts affect regarding an anger-provoking situation. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029664
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