Posted 09.19.2017 | by AMRA

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are founded on the assumption that meditative practice increases mindfulness and that mindfulness, in turn, enhances psychological wellbeing. The evidence supporting this assumption is somewhat mixed. While some studies find that the extent and quality of a meditation practice is positively associated with improvement in mindfulness and wellbeing, others have not.

The methodology by which some studies measure a meditation practice may be one reason for these diverse findings. Some studies do not measure practice on a daily basis, but instead ask participants to estimate the quantity and quality of their practice over a period of weeks or months, increasing the likelihood of measurement error.

Lacaille et al. [Journal of Clinical Psychology] investigated the relationship between meditative practice, mindfulness, and wellbeing by having MBI (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR) participants complete daily diaries that rated these three variables.

The researchers studied the daily diaries of 117 MBSR participants (80% female, 86% Caucasian, 64% between 30-50 years of age) collected over a 49-day period. The MBSR program differed from the standard MBSR protocol by shortening at-home and in-class mindfulness meditation practice periods from 45-60 minutes to 20-30 minutes.

Participants were sent daily text messages reminding them to complete online diaries. If participants failed to complete a diary entry that night, they were text messaged again the following morning. If they failed to respond to the second message within 8 hours, they could no longer make an entry for that day.

In their diaries, participants indicated whether or not they had practiced, how long they had practiced, and the degree to which they had adhered to the practice instructions. They also responded to questions designed to rate how mindful they had been during the day and their degree of perceived stress, and positive and negative emotions.

The average participant completed 33 daily diary entries, practiced meditation for 29 minutes on 28 of those days, and rated their adherence to instructions as a “6.8” on a ten-point scale. Participants reported significantly greater mindfulness, less perceived stress, and more positive affect on days when they practiced meditation as compared to days when they did not.

On any given day, practicing the meditation, longer practice duration, and better practice adherence were significantly associated with greater mindfulness, less perceived stress, greater positive affect, and less negative affect. Analyses of the intercorrelations between variables showed that the effect of the practice was indirect: meditation was mostly associated with increased mindfulness, and increased mindfulness was mostly associated with decreased stress and improved affect.

Those participants who practiced meditation for longer periods over the course of the 49-day period reported being significantly more mindful and having significantly less negative affect than those who practiced for shorter periods.

These results support the hypothesis that meditation practice is an active ingredient of conventional MBI programs, providing evidence that the longer and more consistently participants practice meditation, the more mindful they become, and the better they feel. It also shows the importance of daily practice in MBIs since participants felt more mindful and felt better on days when they actually practiced meditation.

This study is limited by its correlational as opposed to experimental design. It can prove association between meditative practice and mindfulness and wellbeing, but not causation.

Reference:

Lacaille, J., Sadikaj, G., Nishioka, M., Carrière, K., Flanders, J., & Knäuper, B. (2017). Daily mindful responding mediates the effect of meditation practice on stress and mood: The role of practice duration and adherence. Journal of Clinical Psychology.

[Link to abstract]