Mindfulness (psychology)

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For other uses, see Mindfulness (disambiguation).

Mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment",[1] which can be trained by meditational practices[1] derived from Buddhist anapanasati.[2] It has been popularized in the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn with his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.[3] Mindfulness is also an attribute of consciousness long believed to promote well-being.[4]

Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people who are experiencing a variety of psychological conditions.[5] Clinical studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general, and MBSR in particular. Programs based on MBSR and similar models have been widely adapted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other environments.


Trait, state and practice[edit]

According to Brown, Ryan, and Creswell, definitions of mindfulness are typically selectively interpreted based on who is studying it and how it is applied. Some have viewed mindfulness as a mental state, while others have viewed it as a set of skills and techniques.[6][7]

A distinction can also be made between the state of mindfulness and the trait of mindfulness.[8] According to David S. Black, whereas "mindfulness" originally was associated with esoteric beliefs and religion, and "a capacity attainable only by certain people",[9] scientific researchers have translated the term into measurable terms, providing a valid operational definition of mindfulness.[10][note 1] Black mentions three possible domains:[10]

  1. A trait, a dispositional characteristic (a relatively long lasting trait),[10] a person's tendency to more frequently enter into and more easily abide in mindful states;[11]
  2. A state, an outcome (a state of awareness resulting from mindfulness training),[10] being in a state of present-moment awareness;[11]
  3. A practice (mindfulness meditation practice itself)[note 2]

Various definitions[edit]

  • "A quality of consciousness manifest in, but not isomorphic with, the activities through which it is enhanced."[6][7]
  • "A kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is".[15]
  • "Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originated in Eastern meditation practices[16]
  • "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally"[17]
  • "Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis"[17]

Two-component model[edit]

In a paper that described a consensus among clinical psychologists on an operational and testable definition, Bishop, Lau, et al. (2004)[18] proposed a two-component model of mindfulness:

The first component involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.[18]:232

In this two-component model, self-regulated attention (the first component) "involves bringing awareness to current experience - observing and attending to the changing fields of "objects" (thoughts, feelings, sensations), from moment to moment - by regulating the focus of attention". Orientation to experience (the second component) involves maintaining an attitude of curiosity about objects experienced at each moment, and about where and how the mind wanders when it drifts from the selected focus of attention. Clients are asked to avoid trying to produce a particular state (i.e. relaxation), but rather to just notice each object that arises in the stream of consciousness.[18]:233

Historical development[edit]


Main article: Vipassana

Mindfulness is founded on modern[note 3] vipassana, the training of sati, which means "moment to moment awareness of present events", but also "remembering to be aware of something".[21] It leads to insight into the true nature of reality,[22][23] namely the three marks of existence, the impermanence of and the unsatisfactoriness of every conditioned thing that exists, and non-self. With this insight, the practitioner becomes a so-called Sotāpanna, a "stream-enterer", the first stage on the path to liberation.[24][25]

Jon Kabat-Zinn and MBSR[edit]

In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill.[note 4] This program sparked the application of mindfulness ideas and practices in Medicine[note 5]:230–1 for the treatment of a variety of conditions in both healthy and unhealthy people. MBSR and similar programs are now widely applied in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other environments.

One of MBSR's techniques - the "body scan" - was derived from a meditation practice ("sweeping") of the Burmese U Ba Khin tradition, as taught by S. N. Goenka in his Vipassana retreats, which he began in 1976. Mindfulness practices were inspired mainly by teachings from the Eastern World, particularly from Buddhist traditions. It has since been widely adapted in secular settings, independent of religious or cultural contexts.[note 6][note 7]


Mindfulness is gaining a growing popularity as a practice in daily life, apart from buddhist insight meditation and its application in clinical psychology.[27] Mindfulness may be seen as a mode of being,[28] and can be practiced outside a formal setting.[29] In 2000, The Inner Kids Program, a mindfulness-based program developed for children, was introduced into public and private school curricula in the greater Los Angeles area.[30] In the U.S. business world, interest in mindfulness is rising strongly. Many companies are providing training programs in mindfulness. These include Fortune 500 companies (such as Raytheon, Procter & Gamble, Monsanto, General Mills, and Comcast) and others (such as BASF Bioresearch, Bose, New Balance, Unilever, and, formerly, the failed Nortel Networks).[31][32]

Trait, state and practice[edit]

Trait-like constructs[edit]

Seven mindfulness measures have been developed which are based on self-reporting of trait-like constructs:[33]

  • Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)
  • Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI)
  • Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
  • Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS)
  • Mindfulness Questionnaire (MQ)
  • Revised Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS-R)
  • Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale (PHLMS)

State-like phenomenon[edit]

The Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) measures mindfulness as a state-like phenomenon, that is evoked and maintained by regular practice.[33]


According to Steven F. Hick, mindfulness practice involves both formal and informal meditation practices, and nonmeditation-based exercises.[34] Formal mindfulness, or meditation, is the practice of sustaining attention on body, breath or sensations, or whatever arises in each moment.[34] Informal mindfulness is the application of mindful attention in everyday life.[34] Nonmeditation-based exercises are specifically used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.[34]

Mindfulness meditation[edit]

Mindfulness meditation is practiced sitting with eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion, or on a chair, with the back straight.[web 1] Attention is put on the movement of the abdomen when breathing in and out,[2] or on the awareness of the breath as it goes in to and out of the nostrils.[35] As thoughts come up, one returns to focusing on breathing. One passively notices one's mind has wandered, but in an accepting, non-judgmental way. Meditators start with short periods of 10 minutes or so a day. As one practices regularly, it becomes easier to keep the attention focused on breathing.[27] Eventually awareness of the breath can be extended into awareness of thoughts, feelings and actions.[35]


A famous exercise, introduced by Kabat-Zinn in his MBSR-program, is the mindful tasting of a raisin,[36] in which a raisin is being tasted and eaten mindfully.[37][note 8]

Therapy programs[edit]

Mindfulness-based stress reduction[edit]

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a cognitive and behavioral therapy program[38] developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, which uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful.[27] In recent years, meditation has been the subject of controlled clinical research.[39] This suggests it may have beneficial effects, including stress reduction, relaxation, and improvements to quality of life, but that it does not help prevent or cure disease.[40] While MBSR has its roots in spiritual teachings, the program itself is secular.[41]

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy[edit]

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a psychological therapy designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with Major depressive disorder (MDD).[42] It uses traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods and adds in newer psychological strategies such as mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Cognitive methods can include educating the participant about depression.[43] Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them.[44] Like CBT, MBCT functions on the theory that when individuals who have historically had depression become distressed, they return to automatic cognitive processes that can trigger a depressive episode.[45] The goal of MBCT is to interrupt these automatic processes and teach the participants to focus less on reacting to incoming stimuli, and instead accepting and observing them without judgment.[45] This mindfulness practice allows the participant to notice when automatic processes are occurring and to alter their reaction to be more of a reflection. Research supports the effects of MBCT in people who have been depressed three or more times and demonstrates reduced relapse rates by 50%.[46]

Acceptance and commitment therapy[edit]

Acceptance and commitment therapy or (ACT) (typically pronounced as the word "act") is a form of clinical behavior analysis (CBA)[47] used in psychotherapy. It is an empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways[48] with commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. The approach was originally called comprehensive distancing.[49] It was developed in the late 1980s[50] by Steven C. Hayes, Kelly G. Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl.[51]

Dialectical behavior therapy[edit]

Mindfulness is a "core" exercise used in Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a psychosocial treatment Marsha M. Linehan developed for treating people with borderline personality disorder. DBT is dialectic, explains Linehan,[52] in the sense of "the reconciliation of opposites in a continual process of synthesis." As a practitioner of Buddhist meditation techniques, Linehan says:

This emphasis in DBT on a balance of acceptance and change owes much to my experiences in studying meditation and Eastern spirituality. The DBT tenets of observing, mindfulness, and avoidance of judgment are all derived from the study and practice of Zen meditations.[53]

Mode Deactivation Therapy[edit]

Mode Deactivation Therapy (MDT) is a treatment methodology that is derived from the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and incorporates elements of Acceptance and commitment therapy, Dialectical behavior therapy, and mindfulness techniques.[54] Mindfulness techniques such as simple breathing exercises are applied to assist the client in awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of unpleasant and distressing thoughts and feelings as they occur in the present moment. Mode Deactivation Therapy was developed and is established as an effective treatment for adolescents with problem behaviors and complex trauma-related psychological problems, according to recent publications by Jack A. Apsche and Joan Swart.[55]

Other programs[edit]

Since 2006, research supports promising mindfulness-based therapies for a number of medical and psychiatric conditions, notably chronic pain (McCracken et al. 2007), stress (Grossman et al. 2004), anxiety and depression (Hofmann et al. 2010), substance abuse (Melemis 2008:141-157), and recurrent suicidal behavior (Williams et al. 2006). Bell (2009) gives a brief overview of mindful approaches to therapy, particularly family therapy, starting with a discussion of mysticism and emphasizing the value of a mindful therapist.

Morita therapy

The Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita, who trained in Zen meditation, developed Morita therapy upon principles of mindfulness and non-attachment. Since the beginnings of Gestalt therapy in the early 1940s, mindfulness, referred to as "awareness", has been an essential part of its theory and practice.[56]

Adaptation Practice

The British doctor Clive Sherlock developed Adaptation Practice in 1977. Adaptation Practice is a structured programme of self-discipline.[57][58]

Hakomi therapy

Hakomi therapy, under development by Ron Kurtz and others, is a somatic psychology based upon Asian philosophical precepts of mindfulness and nonviolence.


Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), developed by Richard C. Schwartz, emphasizes the importance of both therapist and client engaging in therapy from the Self, which is the IFS term for one’s "spiritual center". The Self is curious about whatever arises in one’s present experience and open and accepting toward all manifestations.

Positive psychology

Principal researchers belonging to the Positive Psychology school, including Martin Seligman and Jonathan Haidt, suggest that mindfulness is but one (albeit a major) component of a "repertoire" of disciplines that have been shown to significantly improve "Subjective Well-being" (happiness). They recommend a combination of exercise, mindfulness meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and, where needed, medication (esp selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).[59]

Mindfulness relaxation

Mindfulness relaxation uses breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.[60]

Scientific research[edit]

Mindfulness scales[edit]

In the relatively new field of western psychological mindfulness, researchers attempt to define and measure the results of mindfulness primarily through controlled, randomised studies of mindfulness intervention on various dependent variables. The participants in mindfulness interventions measure many of the outcomes of such interventions subjectively. For this reason, several mindfulness inventories or scales (a set of questions posed to a subject whose answers output the subject's aggregate answers in the form of a rating or category) have arisen. Twelve such methods are detailed at Mindfulness Research Guide. Examples include:

Through the use of these scales - which can illuminate self-reported changes in levels of mindfulness, the measurement of other correlated inventories in fields such as subjective well-being, and the measurement of other correlated variables such as health and performance - researchers have produced studies that investigate the nature and effects of mindfulness. The research on the outcomes of mindfulness falls into two main categories: stress reduction and positive-state elevation.

Effects of mindfulness meditation[edit]

Research has been ongoing over the last twenty or thirty years, with a surge of interest over the last decade in particular.[62][63]

Evidence of benefits of Mindfulness[edit]

A 2013 meta-analysis of mindfulness-based therapies (MBT), involving 209 studies and 12,145 participants, indicated that MBT is moderately effective in pre-post studies, superior to some treatments (psychoeducation, supportive therapy, relaxation, imagery, and art-therapy), but not more effective than traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.[64] The analysis found that MBT was more effective in treating psychological disorders than it was in treating physical or medical conditions. MBT showed "large and clinically significant effects in treating anxiety and depression", with gains maintained at follow-up. These findings were similar to those obtained in previous meta-analyses.[65] The authors acknowledged, however, the wide variation between the studies in their design, interventions, participants, outcomes, and quality; it is thus possible that their conclusions may be overstated.[66]

A systematic study on the efficacy of various forms of meditation programs (inc mantra, transcendental, and mindfulness meditation), commissioned by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, was published in 2014.[67] After a review of 17,801 citations, the study based its conclusions on 41 randomized controlled trials with an active control, involving 2,993 participants. It concluded that "Meditation programs, in particular mindfulness programs, reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress."[67]:vii The assessment found that:

  1. "Mindfulness meditation programs improved multiple dimensions of negative affect, including anxiety, depression, and perceived stress/general distress ... the effects were significant for anxiety and marginally significant for depression at the end of treatment, and these effects continued to be significant at 3-6 months for both anxiety and depression";[67]:130
  2. there is a "small and consistent signal that any domain of negative affect is improved in mindfulness programs when compared with a nonspecific active control";[67]:131
  3. although the effects were small, they are "fairly comparable with what would be expected from the use of an antidepressant in a primary care population";[67]:131
  4. MBT "did not show superiority for any outcome" when compared to such therapies as exercise, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications;[67]:131
  5. MBSR has a small effect on general pain severity, and causes "a statistically significant 30 percent reduction in abdominal pain severity at 2 months that maintained at six months".[67]:133
  6. "no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight."[web 2][note 9]

Brain mechanisms[edit]

In 2011, NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) released findings from a study in which magnetic resonance images were taken of the brains of 16 participants 2 weeks before and after the participants joined the mindfulness meditation (MM) program by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Researchers concluded that

..these findings may represent an underlying brain mechanism associated with mindfulness-based improvements in mental health.[68]

The analgesic effect of MM involves multiple brain mechanisms including the activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.[69] In addition, brief periods of MM training increases the amount of grey matter in the hippocampus and parietal lobe.[70] Other neural changes resulting from MM may increase the efficiency of attentional control.[71]

Substance abuse[edit]

Beyond its use in reducing depressive acuity, research additionally supports the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation upon reducing cravings for substances that people are addicted to. Addiction is known to involve the weakening of the prefrontal cortex that ordinarily allows for delaying of immediate gratification for longer term benefits by the limbic and paralimbic brain regions. Mindfulness meditation of smokers over a two-week period totaling 5 hours of meditation decreased smoking by about 60% and reduced their cravings, even for those smokers in the experiment who had no prior intentions to quit. Neuroimaging of those who practice mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, a sign of greater self-control.[72]

As part of treatment for substance abuse disorders (SUDs), conclusive data for efficacy is lacking, significant methodological limitations exist and it is unclear which people with SUDs might benefit most from mindfulness meditation (MM).[73]

Attention and Mindfulness[edit]

Attention networks and mindfulness meditation[edit]

Psychological and Buddhists conceptualisations of mindfulness both highlight awareness and attention training as key components, in which levels of mindfulness can be cultivated with practise of mindfulness meditation.[74] Focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation are distinct types of mindfulness meditation, and the former relates to directing and maintaining attention on a chosen object (e.g. the breath).[75] Open monitoring meditation does not involve focus on a specific object, and instead awareness is grounded in the perceptual features of one’s environment.

Focused attention meditation is typically practised first to increase the ability to enhance attentional stability, and awareness of mental states with the goal being to transition to open monitoring meditation practise that emphases the ability to monitor moment by moment changes in experience, without a focus of attention to maintain. Mindfulness meditation may lead to greater cognitive flexibility [76][77]

Neurological processes underlying focused attention meditation[edit]

It is considered that focused attention meditation entails the activation of attention networks in the following manner:[78]

  1. Initially the alerting network of attention is activated involving sustaining attention on a chosen object. It is associated with the right parietal cortex, right frontal cortex and the thalamus [78]
  2. When mind wandering occurs this relates to activation of the default mode network associated with the following brain areas: the posterior cingulate cortex, posterior lateral parietal/temporal cortices, the cingulate cortex, and the parahippocampal gyrus.[79] This attention network is associated with certain attentional states as introspective thought and daydreaming. Conversely, when de-activated it relates to task-engagement.[80]
  3. Distraction from the focus of attention is detected by the salience network, and is associated with the task of monitoring the focus of attention. The associated brain regions include the cingulate cortex and the anterior insula [81]
  4. When a distracting thought grabs the focus of attention away from the chosen object, the executive function network is capable of inhibiting this from being further processed. This network reduces the distractibility of aspects of one’s environment, and is associated with the basal ganglia, lateral ventral cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) [82]
  5. The orienting network of attention, which controls stimulus selection, involves shifting the focus of attention back to the original object. The superior colliculus and frontal eye fields as well as the temporal parietal junction and the superior parietal cortex are implicated.[83]

Evidence for improvements in three areas of attention[edit]

Sustained attention Tasks of sustained attention relate to vigilance and the preparedness that aids completing a particular task goal. Psychological research into the relationship between mindfulness meditation and the sustained attention network have revealed the following:

  • Mindfulness meditators have demonstrated superior performance when the stimulus to be detected in a task was unexpected, relative to when it was expected. This suggests that attention resources were more readily available in order to perform well in the task. This was despite not receiving a visual cue to aid performance. (Valentine & Sweet, 1999).
  • In a Continuous performance task [84] an association was found between higher dispositional mindfulness and more stable maintenance of sustained attention.
  • In an EEG study,[85] the Attentional blink effect was reduced, and P3b ERP amplitude decreased in a group of participants that completed a mindfulness retreat.[86] The incidence of reduced attentional blink effect relates to an increase in detectability of a second target. This may have been due to a greater ability to allocate attentional resources for detecting the second target, reflected in a reduced P3b amplitude.
  • A greater degree of attentional resources may also be reflected in faster response times in task performance, as was found for participants with higher levels of mindfulness experience.[87]

Selective attention

  • Selective attention as linked with the orientation network, is involved in selecting the relevant stimuli to attend to.
  • Performance in the ability to limit attention to potentially sensory inputs (i.e. selective attention) was found to be higher following the completion of an 8-week MBSR course, compared to a one-month retreat and control group (with no mindfulness training).[87] The ANT task is a general applicable task designed to test the three attention networks, in which participants are required to determine the direction of a central arrow on a computer screen.[88] Efficiency in orienting that represent the capacity to selectively attend to stimuli was calculated by examining changes in the reaction time that accompanied cues indicating where the target would occur relative to the aid of no cues.
  • Meditation experience was found to correlate negatively with reaction times on a Eriksen flanker task measuring responses to global and local figures. Similar findings have been observed for correlations between mindfulness experience in an orienting score of response times taken from Attention Network Task performance.[89]

Executive control attention Executive control attention include functions of inhibiting the conscious processing of distracting information. In the context of mindful meditation, distracting information would relate to attention grabbing mental events such as thoughts related to the future or past.[75]

  • More than one study have reported findings of a reduced Stroop effect following mindfulness meditation training.[76][90][91] The Stroop effect indexes interference created by having words printed in colour that differ to the read semantic meaning e.g. green printed in red. However findings for this task are not consistently found.[92][93] For instance the MBSR may differ to how mindful one becomes relative to a person who is already high in trait mindfulness.[78]
  • Using the Attention Network Task (a version of Eriksen flanker task [88] it was found that error scores that indicate executive control performance were reduced in experienced meditators [87] and following a brief 5 session mindfulness training program.[90]
  • A neuroimaging study supports behavioural research findings that higher levels of mindfulness are associated with greater proficiency to inhibit distracting information. As greater activation of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was shown for mindfulness meditators than matched controls. .
  • Following a Stroop test, reduced amplitude of the P3 ERP component was found for a meditation group relative to control participants. This was taken to signify that mindfulness meditation improves executive control functions of attention. An increased amplitude in the N2 ERP component was also observed in the mindfulness meditation group, thought to reflect more efficient perceptual discrimination in earlier stages of perceptual processing.[94]

Emotion regulation and Mindfulness[edit]

Approaching emotions in an adaptive way relates to mindful emotion regulation, which aims to decrease avoidance or suppression of emotions, as well as decreasing over-arousal in emotional reactivity in response to events.[95] It is highlighted that emotion regulation is vital to mental stability.[96] Over-involvement with emotions may lead to critical over-analysis of thoughts and emotions, characterising rumination, predictive of poor mental health.[97] Reductions in rumination have been found following Mindfulness meditation practise.[98][99] Under-involvement with addressing difficult emotions -termed avoidance behaviours- also can be problematic [96] as these can bring about maladaptive defences such as denial, suppression, cognitive distortions, development of psychoses, and even substance abuse or self-harm as methods of avoidance.[100][101]

The mechanisms of Mindful emotion regulation[edit]

Through the initial foundations of attention control training, the focus of attention can more consciously be directed towards emotions that arise. Mindfulness combines this mechanism with a particular quality of attitudinal element,[102] of acceptance and non-judgemental awareness. This can range from acknowledging ‘tightness in the chest’ or ‘increases in heart rate’ as well as thought content and emotions that arise. Subsequently, during mindfulness meditation, difficult emotions that may arise become paired with a compassionate and accepting attitude,[95][103] which may gradually extinguish the fear of experiencing the emotions and any related thoughts. Mindfulness practise may lead to the development of metacognitive insight [102][104] or decentering.[103][105] These concepts relate the experiencing thoughts as they are, which is changeable and transient, and that they are not characteristic of absolute reality.[95] This may lead to increased cognitive flexibility [106] reflecting in more adaptively and consciously choosing mental content to identify with, rather than habitually responding. Alternatively a balanced and non-elaborative awareness of experience is cultivated,[95][103] that is not as easily disrupted by the magnitude of emotions experienced or provocative external events.

Evidence of mindfulness and emotion regulation outcomes[edit]

Emotional reactivity can be measured and reflected in brain regions related to the production of emotions.[107] It can also be reflected in tests of attentional performance, indexed in poorer performance in attention related tasks. The regulation of emotional reactivity as initiated by attentional control capacities can be taxing to performance, as attentional resources are limited [83]

  • Patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) exhibited reduced amygdala activation in response to negative self-beliefs following an MBSR intervention program that involves mindfulness meditation practise [108]
  • The LPP ERP component indexes arousal and is larger in amplitude for emotionally salient stimuli relative to neutral.[109][110][111] Individuals higher in trait mindfulness showed lower LPP responses to high arousal unpleasant images. These findings suggest that individuals with higher trait mindfulness were better able to regulate emotional reactivity to emotionally evocative stimuli.[112]
  • Participants that completed a 7-week mindfulness training program demonstrated a reduction in a measure of emotional interference (measured as slower responses times following the presentation of emotional relative to neutral pictures). This suggests a reduction in emotional interference.[113]
  • Following a MBSR intervention, decreases in social anxiety symptom severity were found, as well as increases in bilateral parietal cortex neural correlates. This is thought to reflect the increased employment of inhibitory attentional control capacities to regulate emotions [114][115]

Controversies in mindful emotion regulation[edit]

It is debated as to whether top-down executive control regions such as the Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC),[116] are required [115] or not [108] to inhibit reactivity of the amygdala activation related to the production of evoked emotional responses. Arguably an initial increase in activation of executive control regions developed during mindfulness training may lessen with increasing mindfulness expertise [117]

Future directions[edit]

A large part of mindfulness research is dependent on technology. As new technology continues to be developed, new imaging techniques will become useful in this field. It would be interesting to use real-time fMRI to help give immediate feedback and guide participants through the programs. It could also be used to more easily train and evaluate mental states during meditation itself.[118] The new technology in the upcoming years offers many exciting potentials for the continued research.


Various scholars have criticized how mindfulness has been defined or represented in recent western psychology publications. B. Alan Wallace has stated that an influential definition of mindfulness in the psychology literature (by Bishop et al.[18]) differs in significant ways from how mindfulness was defined by the Buddha and by much of Buddhist tradition.[119] Wallace concludes that

The modern description and practice of mindfulness are certainly valuable, as thousands of people have discovered for themselves through their own practice. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that the modern understanding departs significantly from the Buddha’s own account of sati, and from those of the most authoritative commentators in the Theravada and Indian Mahayana traditions.[119]:62

A 2013 review by Alberto Chiesa[120] in the journal Mindfulness concluded that

According to authors well versed in the original Buddhist literature, from which several MBIs [Mindfulness Based Interventions] are overtly or implicitly derived, modern attempts to operationalize mindfulness have consistently failed to provide an unequivocal definition of mindfulness which takes into account the complexity of the original definitions of mindfulness.... Probably, a more in-depth dialogue between Western researchers concerned with the topic of mindfulness and Eastern and Western long-term mindfulness meditation practitioners will be needed before advances into the understanding of mindfulness within Western psychological theoretical frameworks will be achieved.[120]:265

Eleanor Rosch has stated that contemporary "therapeutic systems that include mindfulness"[note 10] "could as much be called wisdom-based as mindfulness-based."[121]:262 In these therapeutic approaches

Mindfulness would seem to play two roles: as a part of the therapy itself and as an umbrella justification ("empirical") for the inclusion of other aspects of wisdom that may be beyond our present cultural assumptions. Where in this is mindfulness in its original sense of the mind adhering to an object of consciousness with a clear mental focus?[121]:262

William Mikulas, in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, stated that

In Western psychology, mindfulness and concentration are often confused and confounded because, although in the last few years there has been a moderate interest in mindfulness, there has not been a corresponding interest in concentration. Hence, many mindfulness-based programs are actually cultivating both concentration and mindfulness, but all results are attributed to mindfulness.[122]:20

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Black: "[S]everal decades of research methodology and scientific discovery have defrayed these myths; mindfulness is now widely considered to be an inherent quality of human consciousness. That is, a capacity of attention and awareness oriented to the present moment that varies in degree within and between individuals, and can be assessed empirically and independent of religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs.[9]
  2. ^ "Mindfulness meditation" may refer to either the secular, western practice of mindfulness,[1] or to modern Buddhist Vipassana-meditation.[12][13][14]
  3. ^ Vipassana as taught by teachers from the Vipassana movement is a 19th century development, inspired by and reacting against western modernism.[19][20] See also Buddhist modernism.
  4. ^ "The Stress Reduction Program, founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979..." - http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress/index.aspx
  5. ^ "Much of the interest in the clinical applications of mindfulness has been sparked by the introduction of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a manualized treatment program originally developed for the management of chronic pain[26]
  6. ^ "Historically a Buddhist practice, mindfulness can be considered a universal human capacity proposed to foster clear thinking and open-heartedness. As such, this form of meditation requires no particular religious or cultural belief system." - Mindfulness in Medicine by Ludwig and Kabat-Zinn, available at jama.ama-assn.org
  7. ^ "Kabat-Zinn (2000) suggests that mindfulness practice may be beneficial to many people in Western society who might be unwilling to adopt Buddhist traditions or vocabulary. Thus, Western researchers and clinicians who have introduced mindfulness practice into mental health treatment programs usually teach these skills independently of the religious and cultural traditions of their origins (Kabat-Zinn, 1982;Linehan, 1993b)." - Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review by Ruth A. Baer
  8. ^ See also Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness for a hand-out file
  9. ^ See also Linda Heuman (2014), Meditation Nation, TriCycle for an interpretation of these findings.
  10. ^ Rosch (2007) is discussing "the four therapeutic systems that include mindfulness training as a component. These systems are Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002; Teasdale &Barnard, 1993), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT; Linehan, 1993a,b), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; Hays, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999). (See also Baer, 2006; and Hayes, Jacobson, Follette, & Dougher, 1994.) Patients are never just given minimalist mindfulness instructions (such as "Pay bare attention to what comes into your mind") and then left to themselves—for good reason. I know of no cases where anyone has developed a meditation, or even relaxation, practice without considerable input." (p. 261)


  1. ^ a b c Zgierska 2009.
  2. ^ a b Wilson 2014.
  3. ^ "The Stress Reduction Program, founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979..." - umassmed.edu
  4. ^ http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/84/4/822/
  5. ^ Grossman (2004).
  6. ^ a b Brown, K. W.; Ryan, R. M.; Creswell, J. D. (2007). "Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects". Psychological Inquiry 18 (4): 211–237. doi:10.1080/10478400701598298. 
  7. ^ a b http://www.kirkwarrenbrown.vcu.edu/wp-content/pubs/Brown%20et%20al%20PI%202007.pdf
  8. ^ Gehart 2012, p. 7-8.
  9. ^ a b Black year unknown, p. 1.
  10. ^ a b c d Black year unknown, p. 2.
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