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Does dispositional mindfulness predict perceived stress in daily life?
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Chronic stress in the mind-body system leads to frequent activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and sympathetic-adreno-medullar axes, creating excessive inflammation. This in turn increases a person’s vulnerability for a host of conditions that take root in the “common soil” of inflammation including anxiety disorders, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, major depressive disorder, obesity, asthma, and even the common cold. Mindful awareness, a purposeful, present moment awareness that is non-judgmental, likely serves as a protective factor against perceived stress. According to the mindfulness-to-meaning theory, open attention and awareness, a component of mindfulness, allows a person to dis-identify from a difficult situation and flexibly reappraise the event, interrupting default schemas to interpret the potential stressor within a fuller context. Previous studies have found a negative relationship between open attention and awareness and perceived stress. However, yet to be thoroughly tested is the theory that open attention and awareness can prospectively predict lower perceived stress in natural settings. The current study examined a sample of 73 undergraduate students using a daily diary design to better understand and predict perceived stress in response to difficult events. Participants completed a baseline survey capturing their demographics, levels of open attention and awareness, self-compassion, and neuroticism. Then, participants completed one week of daily surveys in which they indicated their levels of perceived stress and the number of difficult events they experienced that day. Regression analysis showed that open attention and awareness negatively predicted average perceived stress prospectively over the course of the week, even controlling for neuroticism. Using a multilevel modeling approach, several significant between- and within-subject variables were shown to predict daily fluctuations in perceived stress. The number of difficult events that a participant reported, relative to their own average, was a positive predictor of perceived stress. Open attention and awareness negatively predicted daily fluctuations in perceived stress, controlling for the effects of time, number of difficult events, and neuroticism. To test the theory that open attention and awareness may protect against the impact of difficult events in daily life on perceived stress, the interaction between open attention and awareness and daily difficult events was tested but proved non-significant. Visual analysis showed modest support for the moderation hypothesis. Finally, to better understand the relationship between open attention and awareness and perceived stress, self-compassion was tested as a possible mediator, this also proved non-significant. Results add to the mounting evidence that open attention and awareness is a significant predictor of perceived stress, including in natural settings and with a prospective time course. Findings presented here support the use of interventions that increase open attention and awareness, such as MBSR and MBCT, in clinical settings to lower perceived stress. Other healthcare professionals who are concerned about a patient’s stress-related health conditions, or physical conditions that are adversely impacted by stress, should consider administering measures of open attention and awareness and referring those with lower scores to mindfulness-based interventions including MBSR.
|Lancaster, Cynthia; Hughes Lansing, Amy; Stedham, Yvonne; Minarik, Melanie
|Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 United States