Skip to main content

The Relationship Between Wandering Mind, Depression and Mindfulness

Abstract

This study examined the relationship between wandering mind, depression and mindfulness. We used the Sustained Attention to Response Task to assess the wandering mind, while the online thought probes were employed as the subjective marker for mind-wandering. The Beck Depression Inventory and Mindfulness Attention and Awareness Scale were used to assess depression and dispositional mindfulness respectively. The results revealed that the wandering mind even without awareness was not only positively associated with depression, but also negatively related to dispositional mindfulness. Depression was negatively related to dispositional mindfulness. These results might provide evidence that a wandering mind is positively associated with depression and mindfulness.

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

References

  • Baars, B. J. (2010). Spontaneous repetitive thoughts can be adaptive: postscript on McKay and Vane (2010). Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 208–210. doi:10.1037/a0018726.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. New York: Harper and Row.

    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, 84(4), 822–848. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., Loverich, T. M., Biegel, G. M., & West, A. M. (2011). Out of the armchair and into the streets: measuring mindfulness advances knowledge and improves interventions: reply to Grossman (2011). Psychological Assessment, 23, 1041–1046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., West, A. M., Loverich, T. M., & Biegel, G. M. (2011). Assessing adolescent mindfulness: validation of an adapted mindful attention awareness scale in adolescent normative and psychiatric populations. Psychological Assessment, 23, 1023–1033.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., Goodman, R., & Inzlicht, M. (2012). Dispositional mindfulness and the attenuation of neural responses to emotional stimuli. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. doi:10.1093/scan/nss004.

  • Carriere, J. S. A., Cheyne, J. A., & Smilek, D. (2008). Everyday attention lapses and memory failures: the affective consequences of mindlessness. Consciousness and Cognition, 17(3), 835–847. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2007.04.008.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cheyne, J. A., Carriere, J. S. A., & Smilek, D. (2006). Absent-mindedness: lapses of conscious awareness and everyday cognitive failures. Consciousness and Cognition, 15(3), 578–592. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2005.11.009.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Christoff, K., Gordon, A., Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J. (2009). Experience sampling during fMRI reveals default network and executive system contributions to mind wandering. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(21), 8719–8724. doi:10.1073/pnas.0900234106.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davidson, R. J. (2010). Empirical explorations of mindfulness: conceptual and methodological conundrums. Emotion, 10(1), 8–11. doi:10.1037/a0018480.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deng, Y. Q., Li, S., Tang, Y. Y., Zhu, L. H., Ryan, R., & Brown, K. (2011). Psychometric properties of the Chinese translation of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). Mindfulness, 1–5. doi:10.1007/s12671-011-0074-1.

  • Hofmann, 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 Psychology, 78(2), 169–183. doi:10.1037/a0018555.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330(6006), 932. doi:10.1126/science.1192439.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Obsonsawin, M., Smallwood, J., Baracaia, S. F., Reid, H., O'Connor, R., & Heim, D. (2002). The relationship between rumination, dysphoria, and self-referent thinking: some preliminary findings. Imagination Cognition and Personality, 22(4), 317–342. doi:10.2190/2N80-AVM3-4A23-LEAJ.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robertson, I. H., Manly, T., Andrade, J., Baddeley, B. T., & Yiend, J. (1997). 'Oops!': performance correlates of everyday attentional failures in traumatic brain injured and normal subjects. Neuropsychologia, 35(6), 747–758. doi:10.1016/S0028-3932(97)00015-8.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., Beach, E., Schooler, J. W., & Handy, T. C. (2008a). Going AWOL in the brain: mind wandering reduces cortical analysis of external events. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3), 458–469. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20037.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., Fitzgerald, A., Miles, L. K., & Phillips, L. H. (2009). Shifting moods, wandering minds: negative moods lead the mind to wander. Emotion, 9(2), 271–276. doi:10.1037/a0014855.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., McSpadden, M., Luus, B., & Schooler, J. (2008b). Segmenting the stream of consciousness: the psychological correlates of temporal structures in the time series data of a continuous performance task. Brain and Cognition, 66(1), 50–56. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2007.05.004.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., McSpadden, M., & Schooler, J. W. (2007a). The lights are on but no one’s home: meta-awareness and the decoupling of attention when the mind wanders. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14(3), 527–533. doi:10.3758/BF03194102.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., McSpadden, M., & Schooler, J. W. (2008c). When attention matters: the curious incident of the wandering mind. Memory and Cognition, 36(6), doi: 10.3758/MC.36.6.1144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., O'Connor, R. C., & Heim, D. (2005). Rumination, dysphoria, and subjective experience. Imagination Cognition and Personality, 24(4), 355–367. doi:10.2190/AE18-AD1V-YF7L-EKBX.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., O’Connor, R. C., Sudberry, M. V., & Obonsawin, M. (2007b). Mind-wandering and dysphoria. Cognition and Emotion, 21(4), 816–842. doi:10.1080/02699930600911531.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J. W. (2006). The restless mind. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6), 946–958. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.132.6.946.

    PubMed  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. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152–17156. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707678104. 17152-17156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tang, Y. Y., & Posner, M. I. (2009). Attention training and attention state training. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(5), 222–227. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.01.009.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Williams, J., Ridgeway, V. A., Soulsby, J. M., & Lau, M. A. (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 615–623. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.68.4.615.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watts, F. N., MacLeod, A. K., & Morris, L. (1988). Associations between phenomenal and objective aspects of concentration problems in depressed patients. British Journal of Psychology, 79(2), 241–250. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1988.tb02285.x.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watts, F., & Sharrock, R. (1985). Description and measurement of concentration problems in depressed patients. Psychological Medicine, 15, 317–326. doi:10.1017/S003329170002359X.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, J. (2008). Mindfulness, depression and modes of mind. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 721–733. doi:10.1007/s10608-008-9204-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang, Y., Wang, Y., & Qian, M. Y. (1990). Reliability and validity of Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) examined in Chinese samples. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 4, 22–26.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by NSFC grant 60971096 and 973 Program 2012CB518200. Thanks INI staff, Michael I. Posner, and two reviewers for the insightful comments and suggestions.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yi-Yuan Tang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Deng, YQ., Li, S. & Tang, YY. The Relationship Between Wandering Mind, Depression and Mindfulness. Mindfulness 5, 124–128 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0157-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0157-7

Keywords

  • Mind-wandering
  • Depression
  • Mindfulness