Taming the Wild Elephant: Mindfulness and Its Role in Overcoming Automatic Mental Processes

  • Brian D. Ostafin


There is increasing evidence that automatic mental processes contribute to self-regulation failures such as eating high-fat foods despite being on a diet and getting trapped in old ways of thinking about problems that require a novel response. Mindfulness meditation, which was developed to overcome habitual patterns of the mind that contribute to human suffering, holds great promise as a strategy to improve self-regulation. This chapter examines the idea that mindfulness may facilitate self-regulation by influencing automatic processes and their relation with subsequent cognition and behavior. After beginning with a discussion of the functional value of automatic processes, the chapter continues with a review of how these processes contribute to self-regulation failure. Next, a theoretical discussion is presented concerning mindfulness and how it might moderate automatic processes. After presenting a review of research addressing this topic, the chapter concludes with suggestions for future work.


Acceptance Addiction Automatic Craving Creativity Dual process models of cognition Executive Control Frames Habit Mindfulness Self-regulation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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