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Decentering has been proposed as a potential mechanism of mindfulness-based interventions but has received limited empirical examination to date in experimental studies comparing mindfulness meditation to active comparison conditions. In the present study, we compared the immediate effects of mindful breathing (MB) to two alternative stress-management techniques: progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and loving-kindness meditation (LKM) to test whether decentering is unique to mindfulness meditation or common across approaches. Novice meditators (190 female undergraduates) were randomly assigned to complete one of three 15-min stress-management exercises (MB, PMR, or LKM) presented by audio recording. Immediately after the exercise, participants completed measures of decentering, frequency of repetitive thoughts during the exercise, and degree of negative reaction to thoughts. As predicted, participants in the MB condition reported greater decentering relative to the other two conditions. The association between frequency of repetitive thought and negative reactions to thoughts was relatively weaker in the MB condition than in the PMR and LKM conditions, in which these two variables were strongly and positively correlated. Consistent with the construct of decentering, the relative independence between these two variables in the MB condition suggests that mindful breathing may help to reduce reactivity to repetitive thoughts. Taken together, results help to provide further evidence of decentering as a potential mechanism that distinguishes mindfulness practice from other credible stress-management approaches.
Background Transcendental Meditation (TM), a sitting meditation technique designed to quiet the mind and induce physical and mental relaxation, has been widely studied in adults. Objective Our objective was to explore systematically the first-person experience of young adolescents who practice TM. Design A descriptive, qualitative study using semistructured interviews. Setting Middle school setting. Participants Participants included 10 seventh grade students who have practiced TM for a one-year period of time. Results Themes described by students resulting from meditation included the following: (1) an increasing state of restful alertness; (2) improvement in skills indicative of emotional intelligence (self-control, self-reflection/awareness, and flexibility in emotional response); and (3) improvement in academic performance. The state of restful alertness induced by meditation appeared central to facilitating growth in social-emotional capacities, academic performance, and flexibility in emotional response. The inner state of restful alertness provided students with greater capacity to expand their ways of looking inwardly at themselves and their relationships with others (emotional intelligence) as well as focusing their attention on controlling their behavior and keeping on task in school. Conclusions Students described beneficial effects of TM: an increased state of restful alertness and greater capacity for self-reflection, self-control, and flexibility as well as improved academic performance. The state of restful alertness induced by meditation may facilitate the growth of social-emotional capacities necessary for regulating the emotional labiality and interpersonal stress of adolescence. Future empirical validation is needed to analyze systematically the impact of this practice on students’ social-emotional and cognitive development and to determine whether its practice can serve as a protective function for helping students successfully meet the challenges of adolescence.