Stress Reappraisal and Mindfulness Buffer Psychobiological Responses to Social Threat
AuthorErazo, Eddie C.
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Trait mindfulness and positive appraisals of stress have been shown to buffer psychobiological reactivity to social threat. Yet, public health messages about stress often emphasize the harmful effects of stress and brief mindfulness interventions before stressors have yielded mixed findings. Therefore, the present study was designed to manipulate pre-task stress beliefs in a social threat context and implement mindfulness practice post-task to enhance recovery, rather than pre-task to buffer reactivity. Participants (N = 62) were randomly assigned to complete a social threat laboratory stressor after receiving 1) a stress reappraisal or 2) a lay beliefs prime, involving readings about the adaptive nature or harmful effects of stress, respectively. After the laboratory stressor, participants were randomized again to either rest or practice mindful breathing using a recording. Compared to lay beliefs, the stress reappraisal condition was associated with lower cortisol, self-conscious emotion, somatic arousal, experiential avoidance, anxiety, and negative rumination. In addition, post-task mindful breathing was associated with greater state mindfulness and lower cortisol than resting. These results imply the need for a shift in public health messages from the harmful effects of stress on health to the adaptive function of somatic arousal in coping with stress. Also, brief mindfulness interventions may provide a tool for enhancing recovery from stress. Stress reappraisal and post-stress mindfulness present viable, brief interventions for mental and physical health.