, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 574–588 | Cite as

How Does Mindfulness Reduce Anxiety, Depression, and Stress? An Exploratory Examination of Change Processes in Wait-List Controlled Mindfulness Meditation Training

  • Nicholas T. Van Dam
  • Andréa L. Hobkirk
  • Sean C. Sheppard
  • Rebecca Aviles-Andrews
  • Mitch Earleywine


The evidence base supporting mindfulness meditation training (MMT) as a potential intervention for anxiety, depression, and stress has grown dramatically in the last few decades. As MMT has grown in popularity, considerable variation has arisen in the way that mindfulness is conceptualized and in the trainings and interventions that have been included under this umbrella term. Increasing popularity has also raised concerns about how MMTs seem to have their effects. While previous studies have examined a wide variety of potential mechanisms, few studies have simultaneously examined these processes, potentially limiting conclusions about how MMTs might best be characterized as having their effects. The present study aimed to compare aspects of mindfulness, self-compassion, and emotion regulation, ascertaining which was most predictive of changes in anxiety, depression, and stress among 58 participants, randomly assigned on a 2:1 basis to MMT training or wait-list in a pre-/post-assessment design. The results indicated that the facets of overidentification and self-judgment (components of self-compassion) were most robustly predictive of changes in outcome variables, though mindfulness and emotion regulation also contributed. The findings suggest that mindfulness, as a process, may be more complicated than some have given credit and that attention and emotional balance may be particularly important aspects related to its effects.


Mindfulness Meditation Anxiety Depression Stress Self-compassion 



This project was supported by grant MLI-FJVRF-08-001, awarded to N.T.V.D. by Mind and Life Institute and by contributions from the Department of Psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY. The authors wish to thank Karen Beetle, M.A., LMHC, Lenore Flynn, RN, M.A., and Steve Flynn, M.A., for skillfully conducting the meditation training. We are also grateful to Sean Aucoin, Lynsey Avalone, Brynn Benishake, Patrick Clark, Christine Coyne, Justina Farley, Stacey Farmer, Alix Markoff, Robbie Orapello, Jenny Rella, Michelle Stiles, Ian Taras, and Laura Wynkoop for their invaluable technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas T. Van Dam
    • 1
  • Andréa L. Hobkirk
    • 1
  • Sean C. Sheppard
    • 2
  • Rebecca Aviles-Andrews
    • 1
  • Mitch Earleywine
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity at Albany, SUNYAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Veterans StudiesUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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