, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 356–372 | Cite as

Moving Beyond Mindfulness: Defining Equanimity as an Outcome Measure in Meditation and Contemplative Research

  • Gaëlle Desbordes
  • Tim Gard
  • Elizabeth A. Hoge
  • Britta K. Hölzel
  • Catherine Kerr
  • Sara W. Lazar
  • Andrew Olendzki
  • David R. Vago


In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses multiple components, some of which, as we review here, may be better characterized as equanimity. Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral). In this article, we propose that equanimity be used as an outcome measure in contemplative research. We first define and discuss the inter-relationship between mindfulness and equanimity from the perspectives of both classical Buddhism and modern psychology and present existing meditation techniques for cultivating equanimity. We then review psychological, physiological, and neuroimaging methods that have been used to assess equanimity either directly or indirectly. In conclusion, we propose that equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being, and therefore should be a focus in future research studies.


Equanimity Mindfulness Emotion regulation Meditation Acceptance 



This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (grant number K23 AT004432 to Elizabeth Hoge) and the 7th European Community Framework Programme (Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship to Britta K. Hölzel). The authors would like to thank Andrea Grabovac for helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. All authors contributed equally to this work and are listed alphabetically.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaëlle Desbordes
    • 1
  • Tim Gard
    • 2
  • Elizabeth A. Hoge
    • 3
  • Britta K. Hölzel
    • 4
  • Catherine Kerr
    • 5
  • Sara W. Lazar
    • 3
  • Andrew Olendzki
    • 6
  • David R. Vago
    • 7
  1. 1.Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of RadiologyMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and NeuroscienceMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  4. 4.Institute for Medical PsychologyCharité - UniversitätsmedizinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Department of Family Medicine, Alpert Medical SchoolBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  6. 6.Barre Center for Buddhist StudiesBarreUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryBrigham & Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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