Excessive stress has become a common health concern that may result in deleterious physical and psychological conditions. Mindfulness has emerged as a practice that may buffer stress reactivity and researchers have progressively used an empirically validated laboratory protocol, the Trier Social Stress Test, to elicit stress reactivity to examine the buffering capacity of mindfulness. This systematic review aims to (1) summarize the literature on the effects of mindfulness interventions (MI) on stress reactivity measured via the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and (2) examine methodological variability across this literature and how variations in methodology may be influencing stress reactivity outcomes.
Various databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, and PsycArticles) were systematically searched to identify MI studies that included stress reactivity to the TSST as a dependent outcome.
Six out of 13 studies with physiological variables and seven out of 10 studies with self-report variables demonstrated the stress-buffering effects of MI on acute stress induction. Participant populations, differences in control groups, MI protocols, intervention dosage, and the number of TSST administrations seem to influence the stress-buffering effects of MI.
The ability of MI to buffer stress reactivity seems to be robust when measured via self-report, but stress-buffering effects are less clear for physiological measures. There is evidence that variations in study methodology may influence stress reactivity outcomes; the type of mindfulness practice and the dosage of practice seem to be particularly influential. Further research is necessary to more accurately characterize the relation between MI and stress reactivity.
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* denotes study included in systematic review
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Morton, M.L., Helminen, E.C. & Felver, J.C. A Systematic Review of Mindfulness Interventions on Psychophysiological Responses to Acute Stress. Mindfulness 11, 2039–2054 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01386-7