New research reaffirms that mindfulness is an important and teachable component of personality

A new study published in Acta Psychologica finds that mindfulness, or the ability to focus on the present moment and be aware of inner and outer experiences before taking action, can have beneficial effects on an individual’s emotional and physical well-being. According to the researchers, this trait can be cultivated through mindfulness-based exercises and therapies, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

The following qualities can be identified in a highly “aware” individual:

  • Awareness of inner and outer experiences
  • An ability to behave productively even in stressful situations
  • A non-judgmental perspective toward one’s own thoughts and emotions (i.e., an acknowledgment that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings)

To better understand the benefits of mindfulness, a team of psychologists led by Lisa Best from the University of New Brunswick in Canada conducted an in-depth personality study of 781 Canadian adults.

“The goal of our lab is to determine how specific psychosocial factors, including mindfulness, affect psychological and physical well-being,” says Best.

While most mindfulness and personality research has focused on the connection between mindfulness and the “Big Five” personality dimensions (i.e., instead of focusing on the overarching trait of consciousness, the researchers looked at specific subcomponents of consciousness such as organization, productivity, and responsibility.

They found that mindfulness manifests in people’s personalities in two main ways:

  1. Through better regulation of emotions (i.e., allowing people to stay focused on their goals and ignore unpleasant experiences)
  2. And, through greater self-awareness (i.e. being aware of internal and external experiences and remaining open-minded)

Researchers point to a natural link between mindfulness, mental health, and physical health. For example, highly conscious people are more likely to engage in a variety of health-promoting behaviors, such as healthy eating and better sleep hygiene.

“Naturally, a person who can accept and observe their inner and outer events without judgment and behave in purposeful ways is more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, which leads to better physical health outcomes,” says Best.

According to Best, mindfulness is linked to psychological health in three main ways:

  • It is negatively associated with psychopathological symptoms (i.e., depression)
  • It is negatively associated with maladaptive coping mechanisms (i.e. Rumination)
  • And, it is positively linked to emotional regulation processes

“Because of the strong interdependence between physical and psychological health, the influence of mindfulness in one can enhance the other,” says Best.

For example, conscious people are more resilient to life stress, reducing the risk of physical illnesses like cardiovascular disease and weakened immune systems, as well as psychological distress like depression and anxiety symptoms.

“Our takeaway might be that mindfulness empowers people to enjoy their lives, despite physical and psychological challenges,” Best says. “And, what’s exciting about these findings is that while personality is seen as relatively stable throughout an individual’s lifetime, mindfulness can be malleable through practice and therapy. “

A full interview with psychologist Lisa Best can discuss this research can be found here: Learning this trait can help you rediscover your psychological center


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