Deconstructing Mindfulness and Constructing Mental Health: Understanding Mindfulness and Its Mechanisms of Action Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Coffey, Kimberly A.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Mindfulness is associated with improved mental health, but the mechanisms by which it influences mental health are currently unclear. The sequence of two studies presented here attempted to better understand mindfulness, as a construct, and explored the potential mechanisms by which it might influence mental health. These studies examined mindfulness as a naturally-varying, individual difference in a non-clinical sample of undergraduate participants. The first study examined the factor structure of current measures of mindfulness and emotion regulation. Results indicated that the terms mindfulness and emotion regulation refer to heterogeneous and overlapping constructs, and may be more accurately thought of as present-centered attention, acceptance of experience, clarity about one's internal experience, and the ability to manage negative emotions. Furthermore, clarity and the ability to manage negative emotions may be sequelae of the two most commonly-recognized components of mindfulness, present-centered attention and acceptance of experience. The second study explored the possible mediating roles of clarity about one's internal life, the ability to manage negative emotions, non-attachment (or the extent to which one's happiness is independent of specific outcomes and events), and rumination in the relationship between mindfulness and two aspects of mental health, psychological distress and flourishing mental health. Results indicated that present-centered attention and acceptance of one's experience contributed to greater clarity about one's internal life, which in turn contributed to an increased ability to regulate negative affect. This ability was associated with a decreased tendency to view one's happiness as contingent upon external circumstances, which was in turn associated with less rumination. Increased ability to manage negative affect and less rumination were associated with less psychological distress and greater flourishing mental health. Attention exhibited a complex and paradoxical relationship with psychological distress, whereby an increased tendency to observe one's present-moment experience was directly associated with greater psychological distress, but indirectly associated with diminished distress via Attention's salubrious impact on intervening variables in the model.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy in the Department of Psychology (Clinical Psychology)."
  • Fredrickson, Barbara
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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