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How Mindfulness Enhances Meaning in Life: A Meta-Analysis of Correlational Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials

  • Steven Tsun-Wai Chu
  • Winnie W. S. MakEmail author



Mindfulness-based interventions have been widely applied to various populations with demonstrated effects in reducing physical and psychological distress. However, it is equally important to investigate whether, and how, mindfulness might enhance people’s psychological well-being. One important dimension of well-being is meaning in life. We systematically analyzed the correlational relationship between mindfulness and meaning in life and whether randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions could enhance meaning in life.


A comprehensive literature search identified 22 studies (25 samples, N = 7895) for the meta-analysis of the relationship between mindfulness and meaning in life, and 9 studies (11 samples, N = 912) for the meta-analysis of the effects of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of mindfulness-based interventions on meaning in life.


Cross-sectional correlation between mindfulness and meaning was estimated to be .37, a moderate effect size. RCTs of mindfulness-based interventions had a moderate effect size on meaning (Hedge’s g = 0.53). Our systematic review indicated that the effect of mindfulness on meaning was mediated by decentering, authentic self-awareness, and attention to positive experience.


Overall, these findings showed the promise of applying mindfulness-based interventions to enhance meaning in life. However, more empirical studies with an active control group are required to establish the effects of mindfulness-based interventions above and beyond placebo effect.


Mindfulness Mindfulness-based interventions Psychological well-being Meaning in life Eudaimonia Existential Treatment effectiveness 



The authors thank (in alphabetical order of their last names): Tiffany Fong, Gu Qing, and Arsum Wong for their involvement in the initial abstract screening, coding, and coordination of the research tasks of the present study.

Author Contributions

SC and WM together formulated the research question. SC executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote up the paper. WM provided guidance and consultation and revised the paper. Both authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

12671_2019_1258_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong KongSha TinHong Kong

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