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Differential Treatment Mechanisms in Mindfulness Meditation and Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Liya Gao
  • Joshua Curtiss
  • Xinghua Liu
  • Stefan G. Hofmann


Mindfulness meditation and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) practices are both effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. To examine the mechanisms of change in mood in these two treatments, 95 participants were randomly assigned to present awareness mindfulness (PAM; N = 47) or PMR (N = 48). They were each given a 5-min audiotape of PAM or PMR and were asked to practice at least 5 min a day for 3 months. After attrition, 55 participants completed the post-intervention assessment. An additional 47 participants were assigned to a waitlist control group. Mindfulness, perceived stress, well-being, and mood symptoms were measured at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 1-month follow-up assessment periods. PAM and PMR both led to a significant improvement in mindfulness and reduction in stress. Results of the latent growth curve analyses revealed that mindfulness and non-reactivity mediated changes in mood for PAM more than for PMR. These results suggest that differential treatment mechanisms underlie PAM and PMR.


Present awareness mindfulness Progressive muscle relaxation Mechanisms Mediation Audio Self-help 



The authors thank Leigh Andrews for the proofreading work.

Author Contributions

The first two authors contributed equally to this paper. LYG and JC contributed to the study idea, drafting of the manuscript, and data analyses. XHL and SH contributed to the study idea and drafting of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study received ethical approval from the Academic Committee of College of Psychology, Capital Normal University. No adverse events were reported in this study. These participants were contacted by telephone to obtain verbal informed consent.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017
Corrected publication January/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Beijing Key Laboratory of Learning and Cognition, College of PsychologyCapital Normal UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of General Practice and Continuing EducationCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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