Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Relationship between Mindfulness and Positive Affect of Chinese Older Adults: Optimism as Mediator

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Relationship between Mindfulness and Positive Affect of Chinese Older Adults: Optimism as Mediator

Article excerpt

Positive affect, which reflects the extent to which an individual feels alert, enthusiastic, and active (Miller, 2012), has physical and psychological benefits for older adults. For example, longitudinal researchers found that positive affect protected older adults from stroke incidence (Ostir, Markides, Peek, & Goodwin, 2001), and positive affect was positively associated with happiness and longevity in Diener and Chan's (2011) study. In addition, Gallegos et al. (2013) and Geiger et al. (2015) have conducted research to determine factors that are associated with, or causal of, positive affect in older adults.

In recent years, researchers have suggested that mindfulness plays a significant role in improving older adults' positive affect (Geiger et al., 2015). Mindfulness is described as the state of being attentive to, and aware of, what is taking place in the present (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Moynihan et al. (2013) suggested that as greater mindfulness enhances older people's attention to their presentmoment experience and emotions, this may reinforce their attentional control of emotional experience (see also Aine et al., 2011), thereby promoting positive affect. This proposition is supported by the results of a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention program (Gallegos et al., 2013) that showed that mindfulness practices improved positive affect in older adults. In cross-sectional studies, researchers have also reported finding a moderately positive association between mindfulness and positive affect in older people (Bränström, Duncan, & Moskowitz, 2011). Aine et al. (2011), Geiger et al. (2015), and Moynihan et al. (2013) all suggested that the enhancement of mindfulness would be a promising intervention strategy for improving older adults' positive affect.

Optimism, defined as people's expectancy for good outcomes (Efklides & Moraitou, 2012), is another important psychological construct that promotes older people's well-being. For example, greater optimism prospectively predicted a reduced incidence of heart failure in older adults (Kim, Smith, & Kubzansky, 2014). Further, in longitudinal research it has been suggested that strong optimism predicted an increased level of positive affect in both younger and older adults (Fitzgerald, Prochaska, & Pransky, 2000).

Indeed, it has been found in intervention studies that optimism levels in older adults can be increased by mindfulness practices, such as meditation (Barrett et al., 2012). In a study conducted by Sullivan et al. (2009), older adults receiving a mindfulness-based intervention reported more positive emotion and less negative affect (e.g., depression and anxiety) than did those in the control group. This could have resulted from the fact that mindfulness plays a crucial role in people's emotional intelligence (Aine et al., 2011; Moynihan et al., 2013). Individuals with high mindfulness can regulate their emotions more effectively than others can, resulting in high emotional intelligence and greater well-being (Wang & Kong, 2014). Also, high mindfulness leads to enhanced self-compassion, which is conducive to people's happiness (Hollis-Walker & Colosimo, 2011), including optimism (Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007).

According to the broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 2001), individuals pay diffuse attention to a wide range of information and possibilities during times of relative calm (Fredrickson, 2001), thereby encouraging them to develop relationships and skills that are beneficial to their future (Ong & van Dulmen, 2007). These authors reasoned that because optimism is a cognitive-affective construct, and owing to the diffuse attention that is generated by having a peaceful mind, people will anticipate more positive outcomes (e.g., mutual relationships and advanced social and working skills) in an unpressured situation than they will when under pressure. This will, in turn, improve those individuals' positive affect (Ong & van Dulmen, 2007). …

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