Applying the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat, the present research investigated the differential cognitive, affective, behavioral, and psychophysiological responses of experienced mindfulness meditation practitioners and non-meditators in response to an acute laboratory stressor. We also tested whether perceptions of closeness link mindfulness practice with experiencing challenge rather than threat in response to acute psychosocial stress.
Experienced mindfulness practitioners (n = 40) and individuals interested in mindfulness but without a practice (n = 55) reported dispositional mindfulness and closeness before engaging with a validated psychosocial stressor (i.e., mental arithmetic). After receiving stressor instructions, participants reported appraisals and state affect. During the stressor, we assessed performance and cardiovascular reactivity.
Findings revealed that mindfulness practitioners, relative to non-meditators, reported greater dispositional mindfulness (ηp2 = 0.22) and closeness (ηp2 = 0.13). For mindfulness practitioners, the stressor evoked more challenge-like responses, including greater positive affect (ηp2 = 0.11) and better performance (ηp2 = 0.07), compared to non-meditators. There were no significant group differences in appraisals or cardiovascular reactivity. Rather than a direct link, we found that mindfulness meditation practice was indirectly associated with greater challenge appraisals, fully mediated by increased perceptions of closeness (CI [− 0.11, − 0.02]).
Findings suggest that a sustained mindfulness meditation practice confers some adaptive advantages in response to acute psychosocial stressors, such as increased positive affect and better performance. We also found that having a prolonged mindfulness meditation practice is linked to greater challenge appraisals in response to an acute stressor, but only due to having a sense of self that is characterized by greater interconnection and closeness with others.
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Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner contributed to this article in her personal capacity. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health or the US Government. The authors would like to acknowledge Drs. Patricia Schiml, Gary Burns, and Joseph Houpt for their input on the design, analysis, and interpretation of results. The authors would also like to acknowledge Jonathan Bellerive, Autumn Fredrick, and Brooklyn Mikesell for their assistance with data collection and recruitment.
All study procedures were approved by the Wright State University IRB and in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.
All participants gave their written approved consent prior to their inclusion in the study.
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Baumgartner, J.N., Schneider, T.R. Acute Biopsychosocial Stress Responses in Mindfulness Meditators and Non-Meditators: The Mediating Role of Closeness. Mindfulness 14, 1435–1445 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-023-02146-z