, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 1623–1633 | Cite as

Positive Emotion Correlates of Meditation Practice: a Comparison of Mindfulness Meditation and Loving-Kindness Meditation

  • Barbara L. FredricksonEmail author
  • Aaron J. Boulton
  • Ann M. Firestine
  • Patty Van Cappellen
  • Sara B. Algoe
  • Mary M. Brantley
  • Sumi Loundon Kim
  • Jeffrey Brantley
  • Sharon Salzberg


The purpose of this study was to uncover the day-to-day emotional profiles and dose-response relations, both within persons and between persons, associated with initiating one of two meditation practices, either mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation. Data were pooled across two studies of midlife adults (N = 339) who were randomized to learn either mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation in a 6-week workshop. The duration and frequency of meditation practice was measured daily for 9 weeks, commencing with the first workshop session. Likewise, positive and negative emotions were also measured daily, using the modified Differential Emotions Scale (Fredrickson, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 47:1–53, 2013). Analysis of daily emotion reports over the targeted 9-week period showed significant gains in positive emotions and no change in negative emotions, regardless of meditation type. Multilevel models also revealed significant dose-response relations between duration of meditation practice and positive emotions, both within persons and between persons. Moreover, the within-person dose-response relation was stronger for loving-kindness meditation than for mindfulness meditation. Similar dose-response relations were observed for the frequency of meditation practice. In the context of prior research on the mental and physical health benefits produced by subtle increases in day-to-day experiences of positive emotions, the present research points to evidence-based practices—both mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation—that can improve emotional well-being.


Affect Contemplative science Mental health Positive psychology Midlife 



This research was supported by two research grants awarded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Barbara L. Fredrickson. These were, for study 1, a National Institute for Nursing Research Grant (R01NR012899), an award supported by the NIH Common Fund, which is managed by the NIH Office of the Director/Office of Strategic Coordination; and, for study 2, a National Cancer Institute Research Grant (R01CA170128). Additional support for the authors’ time came from an NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Research Grant (R01AT007884) and an NIH National Institute on Aging Research Grant (R01AG048811), each also awarded to Fredrickson. These funding agencies played no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors wish to thank Susan S. Girdler for sharing laboratory space and Cara Arizmendi for her role as study coordinator. Special thanks are offered to the study participants who devoted time and energy across months to be involved in this research.

Supplementary material

12671_2017_735_MOESM1_ESM.doc (237 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 237 kb)


  1. Barnhofer, T., Chittka, T., Nightingale, H., Visser, C., & Crane, C. (2010). State effects of two forms of meditation on prefrontal EEG asymmetry in previously depressed individuals. Mindfulness, 1, 21–27. doi: 10.1007/s12671-010-0004-7.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Bolger, N., & Laurenceau, J.-P. (2013). Intensive longitudinal methods: an introduction to diary and experience sampling research. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  3. Catalino, L. I., Algoe, S. B., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2014). Prioritizing positivity: an effective approach to pursuing happiness? Emotion, 14, 1155–1161. doi: 10.1037/a0038029.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2008). Positive psychological well-being and mortality: a quantitative review of prospective observational studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 741–756. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818105ba.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cleveland, W. S., Grosse, E., & Shyu, W. M. (1992). Local regression models. In J. M. Chambers & T. J. Hastie (Eds.), Statistical models in S (pp. 309–376). New York: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  6. Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness unpacked: positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Emotion, 9, 361–368. doi: 10.1037/a0015952.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2011). The disaggregation of within-person and between-person effects in longitudinal models of change. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 583–619. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100356.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Curran, P. J., & Hussong, A. M. (2009). Integrative data analysis: the simultaneous analysis of multiple data sets. Psychological Methods, 14, 81–100. doi: 10.1037/a0015914.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Dimidjian, S., & Segal, Z. V. (2015). Prospects for a clinical science of mindfulness-based intervention. American Psychologist, 70, 593–620. doi: 10.1037/a0039589.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Edenfield, T. M., & Saeed, S. A. (2012). An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 5, 131–141. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S34937.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Enders, C. K., & Tofighi, D. (2007). Centering predictor variables in cross-sectional multilevel models: a new look at an old issue. Psychological Methods, 12, 121–138. doi: 10.1037/1082-989X.12.2.121.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Feldman, G., Greeson, J., & Senville, J. (2010). Differential effects of mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and loving-kindness meditation on decentering and negative reactions to repetitive thoughts. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 1002–1011. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2010.06.006.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Ford, B. Q., Shallcross, A. J., Mauss, I. B., Floerke, V. A., & Gruber, J. (2014). Desperately seeking happiness: valuing happiness is associated with symptoms and diagnosis of depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33, 890–905. doi: 10.1521/jscp20143310890.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680.2.3.300.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Positive emotions broaden and build. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1–53. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-407236-7.00001-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Love: positivity resonance as a fresh, evidence-based perspective on an age-old topic. In L. F. Barrett, M. Lewis, & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (4th ed., pp. 847–858). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  17. Fredrickson, B. L., & Levenson, R. W. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 191–220. doi: 10.1080/026999398379718.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24, 237–258. doi: 10.1023/A:1010796329158.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1045–1062. doi: 10.1037/a0013262.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M. G., Ma, J., & Cole, S. W. (2015). Psychological well-being and the human conserved transcriptional response to adversity. PloS One, 10, e0121839. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121839.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Galante, J., Galante, I., Bekkers, M.-J., & Gallacher, J. (2014). Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82, 1101–1114. doi: 10.1037/a0037249.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Galatzer-Levy, I. R., Brown, A. D., Henn-Haase, C., Metzler, T. J., Neylan, T. C., & Marmar, C. R. (2013). Positive and negative emotion prospectively predict trajectories of resilience and distress among high-exposure police officers. Emotion, 13, 545–553. doi: 10.1037/a0031314.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Garland, E. L., Farb, N. A., Goldin, P., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2015). Mindfulness broadens awareness and builds eudaimonic meaning: a process model of mindful positive emotion regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 26, 293–314. doi: 10.1080/1047840X.2015.1064294.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Geschwind, N., Nicolson, N. A., Peeters, F., van Os, J., Barge-Schaapveld, D., & Wichers, M. (2011a). Early improvement in positive rather than negative emotion predicts remission from depression after pharmacotherapy. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 21, 241–247. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2010.11.004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Geschwind, N., Peeters, F., Drukker, M., van Os, J., & Wichers, M. (2011b). Mindfulness training increases momentary positive emotions and reward experience in adults vulnerable to depression: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 618–628.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Gotink, R. A., Chu, P., Busschbach, J. J. V., Benson, H., Fricchione, G. L., & Hunink, M. G. M. (2015). Standardised mindfulness-based interventions in healthcare: an overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs. PloS One, 10, e0124344. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124344.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Hox, J. (2010). Multilevel analysis: techniques and applications. Mahway: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  28. Hussong, A. M., Cai, L., Curran, P. J., Flora, D. B., Chassin, L. A., & Zucker, R. A. (2008). Disaggregating the distal, proximal, and time-varying effects of parent alcoholism on children’s internalizing symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 335–346. doi: 10.1007/s10802-007-9181-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hussong, A. M., Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2013). Integrative data analysis in clinical psychology research. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 61–89. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185522.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8, 720–724. doi: 10.1037/a0013237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Isgett, S. F., Algoe, S. B., Boulton, A. J., Way, B., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Common variant in OXTR predicts growth in positive emotions from loving-kindness training. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 73, 244–251.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G. T., McGonigal, K., Rosenberg, E. L., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas, E., et al. (2013). Enhancing compassion: a randomized controlled trial of a compassion cultivation training program. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1113–1126. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9373-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4, 33–47. doi: 10.1016/0163-8343(82)90026-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Kanning, M. K., Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Schlicht, W. M. (2013). How to investigate within-subject associations between physical activity and momentary affective states in everyday life: a position statement based on a literature overview. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 187. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00187.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., et al. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 763–771. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Klimecki, O. M., Leiberg, S., Lamm, C., & Singer, T. (2013). Functional neural plasticity and associated changes in positive affect after compassion training. Cerebral Cortex, 23, 1552–1561. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs142.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Kok, B. E., Coffey, K. A., Cohn, M. A., Catalino, L. I., Vacharkulksemsuk, T., Algoe, S. B., et al. (2013). How positive emotions build physical health: perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychological Science, 24, 1123–1132. doi: 10.1177/0956797612470827.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Koopmann-Holm, B., Sze, J., Ochs, C., & Tsai, J. L. (2013). Buddhist-inspired meditation increases the value of calm. Emotion, 13, 497–505. doi: 10.1037/a0031070.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science, 23, 1372–1378. doi: 10.1177/0956797612445312.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Leiberg, S., Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (2011). Short-term compassion training increases prosocial behavior in a newly developed prosocial game. PloS One, 6, e17798. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017798.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Maas, C. J. M., & Hox, J. J. (2004). The influence of violations of assumptions on multilevel parameter estimates and their standard errors. Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, 46, 427–440. doi: 10.1016/j.csda.2003.08.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mauss, I. B., Tamir, M., Anderson, C. L., & Savino, N. S. (2011). Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion, 11, 807–815.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. May, C. J., Weyker, J. R., Spengel, S. K., Finkler, L. J., & Hendrix, S. E. (2014). Tracking longitudinal changes in affect and mindfulness caused by concentration and loving-kindness meditation with hierarchical linear modeling. Mindfulness, 5, 249–258. doi: 10.1007/s12671-012-0172-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. May, C. J., Johnson, K., & Weyker, J. R. (2016). Experimental approaches to loving-kindness meditation and mindfulness that bridge the gap between clinicians and researchers. In E. Shonin, W. Van Gordon, & M. D. Griffiths (Eds.), Mindfulness and Buddhist-derived approaches in mental health and addiction (pp. 85–93). Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K. A. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 730–749. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.91.4.730.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Ospina, M. B., Bond, K., Karkhaneh, M., Buscemi, N., Dryden, D. M., Barnes, V., et al. (2008). Clinical trials of meditation practices in health care: characteristics and quality. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14, 1199–1213. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0307.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Rice, E. L., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Of passions and positive spontaneous thoughts. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 40, 1–12. doi: 10.1007/s10608-016-9755-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Salzberg, S. (1995). Lovingkindness: the revolutionary art of happiness. Boston: Shambhala Publications.Google Scholar
  49. Salzberg, S. (2013). Real happiness. New York: Workman Publishing.Google Scholar
  50. Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  51. Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 373–386. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (2012). Multilevel analysis: an introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Steptoe, A., & Wardle, J. (2012). Enjoying life and living longer. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172, 273–275. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.1028.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 320–333. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.86.2.320.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Cappellen, P., Way, B., Isgett, S. F., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Effects of oxytocin administration on spirituality and emotional responses to meditation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11, 1579–1587. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw078.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang, L., & Maxwell, S. E. (2015). On disaggregating between-person and within-person effects with longitudinal data using multilevel models. Psychological Methods, 20, 63–83. doi: 10.1037/met0000030.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: the PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Shackman, A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z., Olson, M. C., et al. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24, 1171–1180. doi: 10.1177/0956797612469537.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  59. Zeng, X., Chiu, C. P. K., Wang, R., Oei, T. P. S., & Leung, F. Y. K. (2015). The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: a meta-analytic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1693. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01693.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara L. Fredrickson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aaron J. Boulton
    • 1
  • Ann M. Firestine
    • 1
  • Patty Van Cappellen
    • 1
  • Sara B. Algoe
    • 1
  • Mary M. Brantley
    • 2
  • Sumi Loundon Kim
    • 3
  • Jeffrey Brantley
    • 2
    • 4
  • Sharon Salzberg
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Duke Integrative MedicineDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Office of Religious LifeDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  5. 5.BarreUSA

Personalised recommendations