Dr. B's Blog

Mindfulness and affective experience

A recent study (.pdf link) published by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania points to the benefit of mindfulness practice on working memory and emotion.

In the MT [mindfulness training] group, WMC [working memory capacity] decreased over time in those with low MT practice time, but increased in those with high practice time. Higher MT practice time also corresponded to lower levels of negative affect and higher levels of positive affect (indexed by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule). The relationship between practice time and negative, but not positive, affect was mediated by WMC, indicating that MT-related improvements in WMC may support some but not all of MT’s salutary effects.

It seems like this blog is turning into one about mindfulness. This is really an unintentional side-effect of the fact that I have found mindfulness practice can be an integral part of many empirically supported psychological treatments.

Take for example CBT for panic disorder. Some core components are:

  • Identifying automatic thoughts
  • Challenging negative automatic thoughts
  • Identifying emotion associated with those thoughts
  • Interoceptive awareness and interoceptive exposure
  • Relaxation techniques

All of these key techniques are enhanced when one is practiced at being mindful. The same can be said for the treatment of depression and other types of anxiety. Further, I believe that the affective “stability” (for lack of a better word) afforded one practiced in mindfulness, can enhance life in a number of ways.

Does that mean that people who are “good” at being mindful don’t get depressed? No, but I believe that they don’t suffer nearly as much. And reducing suffering is what I try to do.