Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Mindfulness and Self-Regulation: A Comparison of Long-Term to Short-Term Meditators

Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Mindfulness and Self-Regulation: A Comparison of Long-Term to Short-Term Meditators

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: While Western researchers have mostly conceived of mindfulness as a way of regulating negative affect, Buddhist tradition and some recent studies suggest that mindfulness could be useful in regulating impulses as well. It was hypothesized that long-term meditators (≥5 years of committed practice) would demonstrate greater self-regulatory skills as measured by the Self Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ) than short-term meditators. However, no significant differences were found between the groups. Experienced and novice meditators could have different motivations for practicing mindfulness, and this could have affected both groups' SRQ scores in various ways. Also, it is possible that if mindfulness does decrease impulsive behavior, it does so by mechanisms other than those proffered by the social cognitive view of self-regulation as represented by the SRQ.

Over the past 20 years, and particularly over the past five years, mental health clinicians and researchers have become interested in mindfulness based interventions (MBIs). A 2003 issue of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice was devoted to mindfulness, and three compendia of writings on the therapeutic potential of mindfulness have recently been published (Baer, 2006; Hayes, Follette, & Linehan, 2004; Orsillo & Roemer, 2005). While much academic interest in mindfulness has been theoretical in nature, some of the interest has resulted in empirical research. Meta-analyses conducted by Baer (2003), Bishop (2002), and Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, and Walach (2004) show that most MBI studies have examined the effects of MBIs on stress and anxiety, and that MBIs are "probably efficacious" in the treatment of those conditions (Baer).

Mindfulness is commonly defined as the observing of mental phenomena in a nonjudgmental manner (see, for example, Bishop et al., 2004). So far, the mental phenomena in which researchers have shown most interest are emotions; mindfulness is widely viewed as a way to regulate affect. Although the mechanism of action is not known, several researchers suggest that mindfulness increases tolerance for negative emotions (see for example, Lynch, Chapman, Rosenthal, Kuo, & Linehan, 2006). According to this view, mindfulness, like exposure therapy, does not cure a patient of stress or anxiety but prevents stress or anxiety from escalating via familiarity with the associated unwanted sensations, thoughts, and feelings. The brain imaging studies of Davidson et al. (2003) and Lazar et al. (2005) support the general belief that mindfulness is a means of regulating affect. Buddhist tradition, from which current MBIs are derived, likewise predicts that a sustained mindfulness practice will decrease negative affect (Rinpoche, 1999).

Also predicted by Buddhist tradition as an outcome of regularmeditation, though, is behavioral regulation. In Buddhist psychology, an important outcome of meditation is the capacity to refrain from acting on (while also not suppressing) impulses. This is fully described in the Abidharma teachings on the twelve nidanas, or links - the subtle, rapid, usually unconscious process by which individuals perceive and conceive of something, develop an inclination toward or against it, then act on that inclination (Ray, 2000). Through sitting quietly and observing mental phenomena with a neutral attitude, the movement of the twelve nidanas - that is, of the mind - becomes "slowed-down," allowing one to be fully aware of impulses without acting on them (Ray, p. 386). Thus, in addition to increasing tolerance for negative emotions, mindfulness is said to increase tolerance for impulses that would lead to negative actions. Indeed, not only negative actions but many apparently neutral or positive actions are viewed by Buddhists as conditioned responses that are similarly susceptible to the liberating mechanisms of mindfulness.McLeod (2001) states that all mindfulness practices have only one end: "the freedom that comes from dismantling conditioned patterns" (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.