Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 758–774 | Cite as

Letting Go: Mindfulness and Negative Automatic Thinking

  • Paul A. Frewen
  • Elspeth M. Evans
  • Nicholas Maraj
  • David J. A. Dozois
  • Kate Partridge
Original Article


Cognitive theorists describe mindfulness as a form of attention-awareness in which thoughts can be observed in non-judging, de-centered, and non-attached ways. However, empirical research has not examined associations between mindfulness and responses to negative automatic thoughts, such as the ability to let go of negative cognition. In the first study reported in this article, measures of dispositional mindfulness were negatively correlated with negative thought frequency and perceptions of the ability to let go of negative thoughts in an unselected student sample. In the second study reported, these associations were replicated in a treatment-seeking student sample, where participation in a mindfulness meditation-based clinical intervention was shown to be associated with decreases in both frequency and perceptions of difficulty in letting-go of negative automatic thoughts. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.


Mindfulness Meditation Automatic Thoughts Depression Anxiety Stress 


  1. Antony, M. M., Bieling, P. J., Cox, B. J., Enns, M. W., & Swinson, R. P. (1998). Psychometric properties of the 42-item and 21-item versions of the depression anxiety stress scales in clinical groups and a community sample. Psychological Assessment, 10, 176–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Astin, J. A. (1997). Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation: Effects on psychological symptomatology, sense of control, and spiritual experiences. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, 66, 97–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., & Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: The Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Assessment, 11, 191–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bishop, S. R. (2002). What do we really know about mindfulness-based stress reduction? Psychosomatic Medicine, 64, 71–84.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Segal, Z. V., Abbey, S., Speca, M., Velting, D., & Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 11, 230–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Breslin, F. C., Zack, M., & McMain, S. (2002). An information-processing analysis of mindfulness: Implications for relapse prevention in the treatment of substance abuse. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 9, 275–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Broderick, P. C. (2005). Mindfulness and coping with dysphoric mood: Contrasts with rumination and distraction. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 29, 501–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 84, 822–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, T. A., Chorpita, B. F., Korotitsch, W., & Barlow, D. H. (1997). Psychometric properties of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) in clinical samples. Behaviour Research & Therapy, 35, 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clara, I. P., Cox, B. J., & Enns, M. W. (2001). Confirmatory factor analysis of the depression-anxiety-stress scales in depressed and anxious patients. Journal of Psychopathology & Behavioral Assessment, 23, 61–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Craske, M. G., & Hazlett-Stevens, H. (2002). Facilitating symptom reduction and behavior change in GAD: The issue of control. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 9, 69–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dimidjian, S., & Linehan, M. M. (2003). Defining an agenda for future research on the clinical application of mindfulness practice. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 10, 166–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hayes, S. C., & Wilson, K. G. (2003). Mindfulness: Method and process. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 10, 161–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hollon, S. D., & Kendall, P. C. (1980). Cognitive self-statements in depression: Development of an automatic thoughts questionnaire. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 4, 383–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrope living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Dell.Google Scholar
  18. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 10, 144–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York, NY: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  20. Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A. O., Kristeller, J., Peterson, L. G., Fletcher, K. E., Pbert, L., Lenderking, W. R., & Santorelli, S. F. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 936–943.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995a). Manual for the depression anxiety stress scales (2nd ed.). Sydney Australia: The Psychology Foundation of Australia.Google Scholar
  22. Lovibond, P. F., & Lovibond, S. H. (1995b). The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) with the beck depression and anxiety inventories. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 335–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mathews, A., & MacLeod, C. (2005). Cognitive vulnerability to emotional disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 167–195.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ramel, W., Goldin, P. R., Carmona, P. E., & McQuaid, J. R. (2004). The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 28, 433–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2003). Mindfulness: A promising intervention strategy in need of further study. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 10, 172–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Segal, Z. V., Williams, M., & Teasdale, J. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. Teasdale, J. D., Moore, R. G., Hayhurst, H., Pope, M., Williams, S., & Segal, Z. V. (2002). Metacognitive awareness and prevention of relapse in depression: Empirical evidence. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 70, 275–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., & Williams, J. M. G. (1995). How does cognitive therapy prevent depressive relapse and why should attentional control (mindfulness) training help? Behaviour Research & Therapy, 1, 25–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., & Williams, J. M. G. (2003). Mindfulness training and problem formulation. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 10, 157–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wallace, A. G., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). Mental balance and well-being: Building bridges between Buddhism and western psychology. American Psychologist, 61, 690–701.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wells, A. (2002). GAD, metacognition, and mindfulness: An information processing analysis. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 9, 95–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Woody, S. R., Taylor, S., McLean, P. D., & Koch, W. J. (1998). Cognitive specificity in panic and depression: Implications for comorbidity. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 22, 427–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. Frewen
    • 1
  • Elspeth M. Evans
    • 1
  • Nicholas Maraj
    • 1
  • David J. A. Dozois
    • 1
  • Kate Partridge
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations