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This study describes the effects of an 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; J. Kabat-Zinn, 1982, 1990) on affective symptoms (depression and anxiety), dysfunctional attitudes, and rumination. Given the focus of mindfulness meditation (MM) in modifying cognitive processes, it was hypothesized that the primary change in MM practice involves reductions in ruminative tendencies. We studied a sample of individuals with lifetime mood disorders who were assessed prior to and upon completion of an MBSR course. We also compared a waitlist sample matched with a subset of the MBSR completers. Overall, the results suggest that MM practice primarily leads to decreases in ruminative thinking, even after controlling for reductions in affective symptoms and dysfunctional beliefs.

Past research has shown that rumination exacerbates dysphoric mood whereas distraction attenuates it. This research examined whether the practice of mindfulness meditation could reduce dysphoric mood even more effectively than distraction. A dysphoric mood was induced in 139 female and 38 male participants who were then randomly assigned to a rumination, distraction, or meditation condition. As predicted, participants instructed to meditate reported significantly lower levels of negative mood than those in either of the two other conditions. Distraction was associated with a lessening of dysphoric mood when compared to rumination but was not as effective as mindfulness meditation. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a meditation-based maintenance therapy, reduces the relapse risk in individuals suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD). However, only a few studies investigated the psychophysiological mechanisms underlying this protective effect. We examined effects of MBCT on trait rumination and mindfulness, as indicators of global cognitive style, as well as on residual depressive symptoms in a group of recurrently depressed patients (n = 78) in remission. Additionally, alpha asymmetry in resting-state electroencephalogram (EEG) was assessed. Alpha asymmetry has been found to be predictive of affective style and a pattern indicative of stronger relative right-hemispheric anterior cortical activity may represent a trait marker for the vulnerability to develop MDD. In line with previous findings, residual depressive symptoms and trait rumination decreased, whereas trait mindfulness increased following MBCT, while no such changes took place in a wait-list control group. Mean values of alpha asymmetry, on the other hand, remained unaffected by training, and shifted systematically toward a pattern indicative of stronger relative right-hemispheric anterior cortical activity in the whole sample. These findings provide further support for the protective effect of MBCT. In the examined patients who were at an extremely high risk for relapse, however, this effect did not manifest itself on a neurophysiological level in terms of alpha asymmetry, where a shift, putatively indicative of increased vulnerability, was observed.

Background : Although mindfulness meditation interventions have recently shown benefits for reducing stress in various populations, little is known about their relative efficacy compared with relaxation interventions. Purpose : This randomized controlled trial examines the effects of a 1-month mindfulness meditation versus somatic relaxation training as compared to a control group in 83 students (M age=25; 16 men and 67 women) reporting distress. Method : Psychological distress, positive states of mind, distractive and ruminative thoughts and behaviors, and spiritual experience were measured, while controlling for social desirability. Results : Hierarchical linear modeling reveals that both meditation and relaxation groups experienced significant decreases in distress as well as increases in positive mood states over time, compared with the control group (p<.05 in all cases). There were no significant differences between meditation and relaxation on distress and positive mood states over time. Effect sizes for distress were large for both meditation and relaxation (Cohen’s d=1.36 and .91, respectively), whereas the meditation group showed a larger effect size for positive states of mind than relaxation (Cohen’s d=.71 and .25, respectively). The meditation group also demonstrated significant pre-post decreases in both distractive and ruminative thoughts/behaviors compared with the control group (p<.04 in all cases; Cohen’s d=.57 for rumination and .25 for distraction for the meditation group), with mediation models suggesting that mindfulness meditation’s effects on reducing distress were partially mediated by reducing rumination. No significant effects were found for spiritual experience. Conclusions : The data suggest that compared with a no-treatment control, brief training in mindfulness meditation or somatic relaxation reduces distress and improves positive mood states. However, mindfulness meditation may be specific in its ability to reduce distractive and ruminative thoughts and behaviors, and this ability may provide a unique mechanism by which mindfulness meditation reduces distress.