Selfcompassion and acceptance of experiences may explain the link between meditation and mental health – PsyPost

Posted: March 15, 2020 at 3:46 am


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New research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology has identified several factors that could help explain the relationship between mindfulness meditation practice and mental well-being. The study suggests that meditation is associated with improved mental health because of its relationship with selfcompassion, meaning in life, and experiential avoidance.

My interest in this topic began in 2010, when I started reading an article about mental wandering: the fact that almost the entire half of our time is spent wandering, thinking about things in the past or the future caught my attention, said study author Jos Ramn Yela, a professor of psychology at the Pontifical University of Salamanca.

Understanding how this wandering is related to emotional distress and suffering led me to establish a relationship with mindfulness programs. I had the opportunity to participate in a TED talk, and since then I got more interested in mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program (MBCT).

Later I specialized as a trained teacher in the Mindfulness Self-Compassion (MSC) program. The desire to clarify the psychological variables responsible for the beneficial effects on health and psychological well-being produced by these programs and my interest in evidence-based psychological interventions currently guide my lines of research.

In the study, 414 meditators and 414 non-meditators from Latin America and Spain completed assessments of depressive symptoms, anxiety, self-compassion, meaning in life, and experiential avoidance.

The researchers found that people practicing meditation tended to report better mental health than non-meditators. But the overall difference between occasional meditators and non-meditators was small. The difference was slightly larger when comparing regular meditators (who practiced at least once per week) to non-meditators.

If you practice mindfulness and want to obtain a benefit in your mental health and psychological well-being, it is necessary to practice regularly. If you practice only when things are going bad, you may not benefit from it, Yela told PsyPost.

The researchers also found evidence that meditators tended to have higher levels of selfcompassion and meaning in life, and lower levels of experiential avoidance. In other words, meditators were more likely to agree with statements such as Im kind to myself when Im experiencing suffering, I have a good sense of what makes my life meaningful, and My thoughts and feelings do not get in the way of how I want to live my life.

The findings indicate that selfcompassionate attitudes, a sense of meaning, and acceptance of inner experiences play a key role in the relationship between meditation and mental health.

Mindfulness training produces positive effects because it facilitates the development of a compassionate attitude towards ourselves, which helps to clarify what is important in life (personal values/meaning of life), which in turn encourages us to accept events as they are, decreasing our tendency to avoid negative feelings/emotions/thoughts, Yela explained.

I think it is important to treat oneself with compassion under difficult situations. This has nothing to do with being conformist, weak, pusillanimous or self-indulgent. Self-compassion makes people more motivated, more assertive, less anxious and depressed, and more psychologically comfortable, Yela added.

Cultivating self-compassion requires a) taking a benevolent and warm attitude towards ourselves (as opposed to being extremely self-critical); b) understanding that suffering is part of life and not isolating oneself or being ashamed of it; and c) developing an attitude of openness or mindfulness to the emotions/sensations/thoughts that cause us discomfort, rather than entering into constant struggle/avoidance. To do this, it is useful to clarify our values to find more meaning in life and to take action by engaging in concrete activities that produce psychological well-being.

The study controlled for gender, age, education level, and labor status. But like all research, it includes some limitations. In particular, the study relied on correlational data. Future research using experimental and longitudinal methods is needed to pin down any causal relationships.

We must continue to develop explanatory models that continue to help clarify the role of other mediating variables, Yela said.

The study, Selfcompassion, meaning in life, and experiential avoidance explain the relationship between meditation and positive mental health outcomes, was authored by Jos Ramn Yela, Antonio Crego, Mara ngeles GmezMartnez, and Laura Jimnez.

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Selfcompassion and acceptance of experiences may explain the link between meditation and mental health - PsyPost

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March 15th, 2020 at 3:46 am

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