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The positive mental health correlates of mindfulness have become increasingly well-established. Recent literature has documented an association between the present-moment awareness and attention that is characteristic of mindfulness, and the capacity to adopt the emotions, cognitions, and perspectives of another individual, as displayed in empathy. The mechanisms underlying this relationship, however, are still poorly understood. This study aimed to examine alexithymia—or the difficulty identifying, labeling, understanding, and processing one’s own emotions—as a mediator of the relationship between five facets of dispositional mindfulness (i.e., observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging, and nonreacting) and empathy in a sample of 616 undergraduate college students. Results revealed that alexithymia mediated the relationships between the describing and acting with awareness domains of mindfulness and cognitive empathy, while accounting for the effects of the other mindfulness subscales and participant sex. These findings suggest that the relationship between specific mindfulness skills and greater understanding of another individual’s emotional and cognitive experiences may be explained in part by one’s emotional self-awareness.

Mindfulness has been associated with a range of positive mental health outcomes, including psychological well-being. Less well-understood, however, are the mechanisms by which mindfulness may improve psychological health and which specific aspects of mindfulness may be associated with psychological health. The present study examined emotion regulation and thought suppression as possible mediators of the association between four components of dispositional mindfulness (i.e., describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging, and nonreacting) and psychological well-being. One hundred eighty-five healthy female college students completed a series of self-report questionnaires measuring dispositional mindfulness, difficulties with emotion regulation, thought suppression, and psychological well-being. Overall, higher levels of mindfulness were associated with fewer difficulties with emotion regulation and less thought suppression, which in turn were inversely related to psychological well-being. Specifically, difficulties with emotion regulation and thought suppression together partially mediated the relationship between the acting with awareness mindfulness subscale and psychological well-being. Difficulties with emotion regulation and thought suppression together fully mediated the relationships between the describing mindfulness subscale and psychological well-being, as well as between the nonreacting mindfulness subscale and psychological well-being. These findings suggest that female college students exhibiting greater dispositional mindfulness skills demonstrate heightened emotional awareness and control, as well as a better ability to tolerate negative thoughts, skills which may improve psychological health.