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What Makes Mindfulness-Based Interventions Effective? An Examination of Common Components

Abstract

Objectives

Mindfulness-based approaches to meditation usually rely on not one but several specific techniques or elements, but what elements are responsible for which of the commonly found positive effects is not yet known. To help answer this question, we compared the effects of three different meditation techniques that are commonly used in mindfulness-based approaches.

Methods

Fifty-six students with no prior meditation experience participated in a breathing, body scan, or loving-kindness meditation condition. Participants followed meditation instructions that they were given on audio files, for daily practice and weekly meetings over a period of 6 weeks. Dependent variables were mindfulness, concentration, self-compassion, emotional regulation and experience, and life satisfaction.

Results

The body scan meditation condition reported greater effects on almost all dependent variables than those in the breathing meditation condition with effect sizes from β = .16 to .61. The group showed the highest increase in the mindfulness dimension acceptance but not presence. Loving-kindness meditation showed higher effect sizes in concentration than the breathing meditation group.

Conclusions

Specific meditation techniques may have effects other than expected on psychological variables. Considering the limitations of this study, further research is needed to assess the specific effects of single mindfulness techniques.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to Anita Todd, Ritesh Mariadas, and the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.

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AK designed and executed the study, performed data analyses, and wrote the paper.

PS collaborated with the design, writing of the paper, and editing of the final manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. There has been no further source of funding. The study has been conducted at the Technical University of Chemnitz. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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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. Study procedures were approved by the ethics commission of the Chemnitz University of Technology (V-109-15-BM-PS-Meditationstechniken-04112015).

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Kropp, A., Sedlmeier, P. What Makes Mindfulness-Based Interventions Effective? An Examination of Common Components. Mindfulness 10, 2060–2072 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01167-x

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Breathing meditation
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Body scan
  • Loving kindness meditation