Mindfulness-based interventions have been widely applied to various populations with demonstrated effects in reducing physical and psychological distress. However, it is equally important to investigate whether, and how, mindfulness might enhance people’s psychological well-being. One important dimension of well-being is meaning in life. We systematically analyzed the correlational relationship between mindfulness and meaning in life and whether randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions could enhance meaning in life.
A comprehensive literature search identified 22 studies (25 samples, N = 7895) for the meta-analysis of the relationship between mindfulness and meaning in life, and 9 studies (11 samples, N = 912) for the meta-analysis of the effects of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of mindfulness-based interventions on meaning in life.
Cross-sectional correlation between mindfulness and meaning was estimated to be .37, a moderate effect size. RCTs of mindfulness-based interventions had a moderate effect size on meaning (Hedge’s g = 0.53). Our systematic review indicated that the effect of mindfulness on meaning was mediated by decentering, authentic self-awareness, and attention to positive experience.
Overall, these findings showed the promise of applying mindfulness-based interventions to enhance meaning in life. However, more empirical studies with an active control group are required to establish the effects of mindfulness-based interventions above and beyond placebo effect.
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The authors thank (in alphabetical order of their last names): Tiffany Fong, Gu Qing, and Arsum Wong for their involvement in the initial abstract screening, coding, and coordination of the research tasks of the present study.
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Chu, S.TW., Mak, W.W.S. How Mindfulness Enhances Meaning in Life: A Meta-Analysis of Correlational Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials. Mindfulness 11, 177–193 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01258-9