Skip to main content

The Effects of a Short-term Mindfulness Based Intervention on Self-reported Mindfulness, Decentering, Executive Attention, Psychological Health, and Coping Style: Examining Unique Mindfulness Effects and Mediators

Abstract

The majority of mindfulness intervention studies do not include active control groups. To examine potential unique effects of mindfulness practice and to study the mechanism responsible for beneficial mental health effects associated with mindfulness-based interventions, the present study compared mindfulness meditation with an active control group in a randomised controlled trial. A short-term mindfulness-based intervention (n = 46) was compared with both an active control group—relaxation training (n = 40)—and an inactive wait-list group (n = 40) on self-reported mindfulness and decentering, executive attention, psychological well-being, anxiety, depression, and coping style, in an adult working population with no prior meditation experience. Analyses of covariance showed that the mindfulness group scored higher than the wait-list group on self-reported mindfulness and psychological well-being. However, no differences were found on decentering, anxiety, depression, executive attention, or coping style. Moreover, the study failed to distinguish any unique mindfulness effects since there were no differences between mindfulness and relaxation on any of the variables. Simple mediation analyses, using a bootstrap approach, revealed that decentering acted as a mediator between self-reported mindfulness and psychological well-being. The length of the intervention, the similarities between body scan exercises in MBI and relaxation, and the absence of decentering effects may partly explain the lack of distinct MBI effects, suggesting that MBIs aimed at increasing well-being and problem-focused coping whilst reducing psychological symptoms in a working population should be longer than merely 4 weeks and include more than seven sessions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27–45.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., Button, D., Krietemeyer, J., Sauer, S., et al. (2008). Construct validity of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment, 15, 329–342.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practise, 11, 230–241.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bjelland, I., Dahl, A. A., Tangen Haug, T., & Neckelman, D. (2002). The validity of the hospital anxiety and depression scale. An updated literature review. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 52, 69–77.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68, 539–544.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 822–848.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, D. J. (2007). Mindfulness: theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 211–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Canter, P. H. (2003). The therapeutic effects of meditation. The conditions treated are stress related, and the evidence is weak. BMJ, 326, 1049–1050.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31, 23–33.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2009). How long does a mindfulness-based stress reduction program need to be? A review of class contact hours and effect sizes for psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 627–638.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carmody, J., Baer, R. A., Lykins, E. B., & Olendzki, N. (2009). An empirical study of the mechanisms of mindfulness in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 613–626.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: a theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267–283.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cash, M., & Whittigham, K. (2010). What facets of mindfulness contribute to psychological well-being, and depressive, anxious, and stress-related symptomatology? Mindfulness, 1, 177–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15, 593–600.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chiesa, A., Calati, R., & Serretti, A. (2011). Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 449–464.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Claxton, G. (1987). Meditation in Buddhist psychology. In M. A. West (Ed.), The psychology of meditation (pp. 23–38). Oxford: Clarendon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cullen, M. (2011). Mindfulness-based interventions: an emerging phenomenon. Mindfulness, 2, 186–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Erisman, S. M., & Roemer, L. (2010). A preliminary investigation of the effects of experimentally induced mindfulness on emotional responding to film clips. Emotion, 10, 72–82.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fan, J., McCandliss, B. D., Sommer, T., Raz, A., & Posner, M. I. (2002). Testing the efficiency and independence of attentional networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14, 340–347.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feldner, M. T., Zvolensky, M. J., Eifert, G. H., & Spira, A. P. (2003). Emotional avoidance: an experimental test of individual differences and response suppression using biological challenge. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41, 403–411.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fjorback, L. O., Arendt, M., Örnböl, E., Fink, P., & Walach, H. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy – a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 124, 102–119.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fresco, D., Moore, M. T., van Dulmen, M. H. M., Segal, Z. V., Ma, H. S., Teasdale, J. D., et al. (2007). Initial psychometric properties of the experience questionnaire: validation of a self-report measure of decentering. Behaviour Therapy, 38, 234–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldstein, J., & Kornfield, J. (2001). Seeking the heart of wisdom: the path of insight meditation. Boston: Shambala.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grabovac, A. D., Lau, M. A., & Willett, B. R. (2011). Mechanisms of mindfulness: a Buddhist psychological model. Mindfulness, 2, 154–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, P. (2008). On measuring mindfulness. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 405–408.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, P., & Van Dam, N. T. (2011). Mindfulness, by any other name…: trials and tribulations of Sati in Western psychology and science. Contemporary Buddhism, 12, 219–239.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, S. C., Stroshal, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behaviour change. New York: Guildford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Herrmann, C. (1997). International experience with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale—a review of validation data and clinical results. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42, 17–41.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hofman, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 169–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jain, S., Shapiro, S. L., Swanick, S., Roesch, S. C., Mills, P. J., Bell, I., et al. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 11–21.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Javnbakht, M., Hejazi Kenari, R., & Ghazemi, M. (2009). Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 15, 102–104.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jorm, A. F., Morgan, A. J, & Hetrick, S. E. (2008). Relaxation for depression. Cochrane database for systematic reviews, 4. Art. No.: CD007142. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007142.pub2

  • Josefsson, T. (2010) Mindfulness and meditation experience in relation to attentional performance and psychological well-being among meditators and non-meditators. Unpublished licentiate dissertation, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

  • Josefsson, T., & Broberg, A. G. (2011). Meditators and non-meditators on sustained and executive attentional performance. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 14, 291–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Josefsson, T., Larsman, P., Broberg, A. G., & Lundh, L.-G. (2011). Self-reported mindfulness mediates the relation between meditation experience and psychological well-being. Mindfulness, 2, 49–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are. Mindfulness meditation in every day life. New York: Hyperion.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kabat-Zinn, J. (2004). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. London: Piatkus Books Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kabat-Zinn, J., Wheeler, E., Light, T., Skillings, A., Scharf, M. J., Cropley, T. G., et al. (1998). Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosomatic Medicine, 60, 625–630.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kaviani, H., Javaheri, F., & Hatami, N. (2011). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) reduces depression and anxiety induced by real stressful setting in non-clinical population. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 11, 285–296.

    Google Scholar 

  • Keng, S.-L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 1041–1056.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klatt, M., Buckworth, J., & Malarkey, W. B. (2009). Effects of low-dose mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR-ld) on working adults. Health Education & Behavior, 36, 601–614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lau, M. A., Bishop, S. R., Segal, Z. V., Buis, T., Anderson, N. D., Carlson, L., et al. (2006). The Toronto mindfulness scale: development and validation. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 1445–1467.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lilja, J. L., Frodi-Lundgren, A., Johansson Hanse, J., Josefsson, T., Lundh, L.-G., Sköld, C., et al. (2011). Five facet mindfulness questionnaire—reliability and factor structure: a Swedish version. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 40, 291–303.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindemann, H. (1986). Avspänning på ett enkelt sätt. Stockholm: Forum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindfors, P. (2002). Positive health in a group of Swedish white-collar workers. Psychological Reports, 91, 839–845.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lindfors, P., Berntsson, L., & Lundberg, U. (2006). Factor structure of Ryff’s psychological well-being scales in Swedish female and male white-collar workers. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 1213–1222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guildford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lykins, E. L. B., Baer, R. A., & Gottlob, L. (2012). Performance-based tests on attention and memory in long term mindfulness meditators and demographically matched nonmeditators. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36, 103–114.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacLeod, C. M. (2005). The Stroop Task in cognitive research. In A. Wenzel & D. C. Rubin (Eds.), Cognitive methods and their application to clinical research (pp. 17–40). Washington: American Psychological Association.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Manocha, R., Black, D., & Stough, C. (2011). A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full time workers. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 8. doi:10.1155/2011/960583.

  • Manzoni, G. M., Pagnini, F., Castelnuovo, G., & Molinari, E. (2008). Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 8, 41. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mikulas, W. L. (2011). Mindfulness: significant common confusions. Mindfulness, 2, 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Muhonen, T., & Torkelson, E. (2001). A Swedish version of the Cope inventory. Psychological Reports 1(2), Department of Psychology, Lund University.

  • Murphy, G. E., Carney, R. M., Knesevich, M. A., Wetzel, R. D., & Whitworth, P. (1995). Cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training, and tricyclic antidepressant medication in the treatment of depression. Psychological Reports, 77, 403–420.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nyklicek, I., & Kuijpers, K. F. (2008). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention on psychological well-being and quality of life: is increased mindfulness indeed the mechanism? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 331–340.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilkington, K., Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., & Richardson, J. (2005). Yoga for depression: the research evidence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 89, 13–24.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, 717–731.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ramel, W., Goldin, P. R., Carmona, P. E., & McQuaid, J. R. (2004). The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28, 433–455.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rani, J. N., & Rao, K. P. (2000). Effects of meditation on attention processes. Journal of Indian Psychology, 18, 53–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds, W. M., & Coats, K. I. (1986). A comparison of cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation training for the treatment of depression in adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 653–660.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryberg, L. (1986). Lugn och harmonisk med psykisk träning. Västerås: ICA Förlaget.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryff, C. D. (1995). Psychological well-being in adult life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 99–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmertz, S. K. (2006). The relation between self-report mindfulness and performance on tasks of attention. Master’s thesis, Georgia State University.

  • Schultz, K. F., & Grimes, D. A. (2002). Generation of allocation sequences in randomised trials: chance, not choice. The Lancet, 359, 515–519.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sears, S., & Kraus, S. (2009). I think therefore I am: cognitive distortions and coping style as mediators for the effects of mindfulness meditation on anxiety, positive and negative affect, and hope. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 561–573.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: a new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guildford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Semple, R. J. (2010). Does mindfulness meditation enhance attention? A randomized controlled trial. Mindfulness, 1, 121–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 3, 378–386.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stetter, F., & Kupper, S. (2002). Autogenic training: a meta-analysis of clinical outcome studies. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 27, 45–98.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643–662.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tang, Y.-Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. PNAS, 104, 17152–17156.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thera, N. (1972). The power of mindfulness. San Francisco: Unity.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thera, N. (1996). The heart of Buddhist meditation. San Francisco: Weiser Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Toneatto, T., & Nguyen, L. (2007). Does mindfulness meditation improve anxiety and mood symptoms? A review of the controlled research. La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 52, 260–260.

    Google Scholar 

  • Uebelacker, L., Epstein-Lubow, G., Gaudiano, B., Tremont, G., Battle, C. L., & Miller, I. W. (2010). Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 16, 22–23.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walach, H., Nord, E., Zier, C., Dietz-Waschkowski, B., Kersig, S., & Schupbach, H. (2007). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a method for personnel development: a pilot evaluation. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 188–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weinstein, N., Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). A multi-method examination of the effects of mindfulness on stress attribution, coping, and emotional well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 374–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weiss, M., Nordlie, J. W., & Siegel, E. P. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as an adjunct to outpatient psychotherapy. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 74, 108–112.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, J. M. G., Alatiq, Y., Crane, C., Fennell, M. J. V., Duggan, D. S., Hepburn, S., et al. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in bipolar disorder: preliminary evaluation of immediate effects on between-episode functioning. Journal of Affective Disorders, 107, 275–279.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zigmond, A. S., & Snaith, R. P. (1983). The hospital anxiety and depression scale. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 67, 361–370.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Torbjörn Josefsson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Josefsson, T., Lindwall, M. & Broberg, A.G. The Effects of a Short-term Mindfulness Based Intervention on Self-reported Mindfulness, Decentering, Executive Attention, Psychological Health, and Coping Style: Examining Unique Mindfulness Effects and Mediators. Mindfulness 5, 18–35 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0142-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0142-1

Keywords

  • Decentering
  • Mechanism
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Relaxation
  • Psychological well-being