Psychological Functioning in a Sample of Long-Term Practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation

By Lykins, Emily L. B.; Baer, Ruth A. | Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, October 1, 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Psychological Functioning in a Sample of Long-Term Practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation

Lykins, Emily L. B., Baer, Ruth A., Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Although mindfulness meditation traditionally is viewed as a lifelong practice, much current knowledge about its effects is based on short-term practitioners who have participated in mindfulness-based treatment. In the current study, long-term meditators and demographically similar nonmeditators completed self-report measures of constructs expected to be related to the practice of mindfulness meditation. Extent of meditation experience was correlated in the expected directions with levels of mindfulness and with many other variables. Mean differences between meditators and nonmeditators were significant in most cases. Mediation analyses were consistent with the hypothesis that practicing meditation is associated with increased mindfulness in daily life, which is related to decreased rumination, decreased fear of emotion, and increased behavioral self-regulation. These mechanisms appear partially responsible for the relationships between mindfulness skills and psychological adjustment. Overall, the current study suggests that the long-term practice of mindfulness meditation may cultivate mindfulness skills and promote adaptive functioning.

Keywords: mindfulness; meditation; mechanisms; adaptive functioning

Mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an important phenomenon in both the clinical and the empirical domains. Commonly accepted definitions suggest that mindfulness involves intentionally bringing one's complete attention to the present moment's experiences in a nonjudgmental or accepting way (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Eastern spiritual traditions suggest that the cultivation of mindfulness through the regular practice of meditation leads to reduced suffering and increased well-being (Kabat-Zinn, 2000). A growing empirical literature supports the efficacy of several mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions for a wide range of populations and disorders (Baer, 2003; Grossman, Neimann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004; Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006; Robins & Chapman, 2004). As a group, these interventions have been described as the "third wave" of the cognitive-behavioral tradition (Hayes, 2004, p. 639) because they integrate cognitive and behavioral methods with an increased focus on contextual and experiential strategies, including mindfulness, acceptance, and values (Hayes, 2004).

Among empirically supported mindfulness-based treatments, the most intensive meditation training is provided by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1982, 1990), which are typically 8 weeks in duration. Many participants have little or no previous experience with mindfulness or meditation. Thus, much current knowledge about the effects of mindfulness practice on psychological functioning is based on relative novices or short-term practitioners. In addition, most studies have emphasized symptom reduction as the primary dependent variable. However, in the Buddhist traditions, meditation is viewed as a regular lifelong practice in which mindfulness is cultivated over a period of many years and a wide range of effects is expected, including increased awareness, insight, compassion, equanimity, and wisdom (Goldstein, 2002). Therefore, more comprehensive study of individuals who have practiced mindfulness meditation over extended periods of time could provide valuable information about its psychological effects (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).


Only a few studies of experienced meditators have appeared in the literature. Shapiro (1992) studied the motivations for and perceived outcomes of meditation in 27 practitioners with an average of 4.27 years of experience. Reported motivations included self-regulation, self-exploration, and self-liberation (sense of harmony with the universe and capacity for compassion and service). Changes in brain functions related to attentional processes in long-term meditators have been reported by Brefczynski-Lewis, Lutz, Schaefer, Levinson, and Davidson (2007) and Slagter et al.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Psychological Functioning in a Sample of Long-Term Practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?