ChapterPDF Available

Meditation and Positive Psychology

Authors:

Abstract

Mental health, once defined in terms of absence of illness, has gradually become understood in a more holistic way, which includes the positive qualities that help people flourish. This evolving definition of mental health has led to an exploration of other traditions and practices, including mindfulness meditation, which for thousands of years have been devoted to developing an expanded vision of human potential. One result was the introduction of the practice of mindfulness into Western scientific study. However, the original intentions of mindfulness meditation, to catalyze our potential for healing and development, have been largely ignored by the scientific community. Yet a small number of researchers and theorists have explored and continue to explore the positive effects of mindfulness practice. The chapter focuses on this pioneering work.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 1 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Abstract and Keywords
Mental health, once defined in terms of absence of illness, has gradually become
understood in a more holistic way, which includes the positive qualities that help people
flourish. This evolving definition of mental health has led to an exploration of other
traditions and practices, including mindfulness meditation, which for thousands of years
have been devoted to developing an expanded vision of human potential. One result was
the introduction of the practice of mindfulness into Western scientific study. However, the
original intentions of mindfulness meditation, to catalyze our potential for healing and
development, have been largely ignored by the scientific community. Yet a small number
of researchers and theorists have explored and continue to explore the positive effects of
mindfulness practice. The chapter focuses on this pioneering work.
Keywords: mindfulness, Buddhism, flourishing, intention, meditation, positive psychology
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Shauna L. Shapiro, Hooria Jazaieri, and Sarah de Sousa
The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 3rd Edition
Edited by C.R. Snyder, Shane J. Lopez, Lisa M. Edwards, and Susana C. Marques
Subject: Psychology, Social Psychology Online Publication Date: Jun 2016
DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199396511.013.50
Oxford Handbooks Online
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 2 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Mindfulness and Positive Psychology
Mental health, once defined in terms of the absence of illness (Ryff & Singer, 1998), has
gradually become understood in a more holistic way, which also includes the positive
qualities that help people flourish (e.g., Allport, 1961; Maslow, 1968; Seligman &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). This evolving definition of mental health led to an exploration of
other traditions, such as the Eastern, which for thousands of years have been devoted to
developing an expanded vision of human potential (Shapiro, 1980).
One result was the introduction of the Eastern practice of mindfulness into Western
scientific study. In the 1970s research on meditation began in earnest and has since
increased exponentially (Murphy, Donovan, & Taylor, 1997; Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). The
transplantation of meditation occurred, however, within a traditional behavioral
framework—emphasizing symptom reduction and alleviation—with little attention to
development, enhancement, growth, and cultivation of positive psychological qualities
and experiences (Shapiro & Walsh, 2003). As a result, one of the principal original goals
of meditation, to uncover the positive and to catalyze our internal potential for healing
and development, has been largely ignored (Alexander, Druker, & Langer, 1990; Shapiro
& Walsh, 1984; Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Yet a small number of researchers and theorists
have explored and continue to explore the positive effects of meditation. This chapter
focuses on such pioneering work.
Theoretical Foundations: What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is often referred to as a consciousness discipline. It is a way of training the
mind, heart, and body to be fully present with life. Although often associated with
meditation, mindfulness is much more than a meditation technique. Mindfulness is
fundamentally a way of being; it is a way of inhabiting our bodies, our minds, and our
moment-by-moment experience with openness and receptivity. It is a deep awareness––a
knowing and experiencing of life as it arises and passes away in each moment.
According to Shapiro and Carlson (2009), mindfulness can be defined as “the awareness
that arises through intentionally attending in an open, kind and discerning way” (p. 4).
Mindfulness can be understood as both an inherent and ever present awareness (mindful
awareness), and a series of specific practices designed to enhance mindful attention and
awareness (mindful practice).
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 3 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Three Core Elements of Mindfulness
Mindfulness comprises three core elements: intention, attention, and attitude (Shapiro &
Carlson, 2009). Intention involves knowing why we are doing what we are doing: our
ultimate aim, our vision, and our aspiration. Attention involves attending fully to the
present moment instead of allowing ourselves to become preoccupied with the past or
future. Attitude, or how we pay attention, enables us to stay open, kind, and curious.
These three elements are not separate—they are interwoven, each informing and
nurturing the others. Mindfulness is this moment-to-moment process.
Intention
The first core component of mindfulness is intention. Intention is simply knowing why we
are doing what we are doing. When we have identified our intentions and are able to
connect with them, our intentions help motivate us, reminding us of what is truly
important. Discerning our intentions involves inquiring into our deepest hopes, desires,
and aspirations. Explicitly reflecting on our intentions helps us bring unconscious values
to awareness and decide whether they are really the values we want to pursue. Intention,
in the context of mindfulness, is not the same as (and does not include) striving or
grasping for certain outcomes or goals. Rather, as meditation teacher and
psychotherapist Jack Kornfield puts it, “Intention is a direction not a
destination” (personal communication, 2012).
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 4 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Attention
The second fundamental component of mindfulness is attention. Mindfulness is about
seeing clearly, and if we want to see clearly, we must be able to pay attention to what is
here, now, in this present moment. Paying attention involves observing and experiencing
our moment-to-moment experience. And yet this is not so easy. Recent research
demonstrates that our mind wanders approximately 47% of the time (Killingsworth &
Gilbert, 2010). The human mind is often referred to as a “monkey mind,” swinging from
thought to thought as a monkey swings from limb to limb. Mindfulness is a tool that helps
us tame and train the mind so that attention becomes stable and focused, despite our
mind’s inclination to wander. Therefore, attention is the component of mindfulness that
facilitates a focused and clear seeing of what arises in our field of experience.
Often, as we try to pay attention, our attention becomes tense and contracted. This is
because we mistakenly think we have to be stressed or vigilant to focus our attention in a
rigorous way. However, the meditation traditions teach us of a different kind of attention,
a “relaxed alertness” that involves clarity and precision without stress or vigilance
(Wallace & Bodhi, 2006). This relaxed alertness is the kind of attention that is essential to
mindfulness. Mindful attention is also deep and penetrating; as Bhikkhu Bodhi notes: “…
whereas a mind without mindfulness ‘floats’ on the surface of its object the way a gourd
floats on water, mindfulness sinks into its object the way a stone placed on the surface of
water sinks to the bottom” (Wallace & Bodhi, 2006, p. 7).
Attitude
Attitude, how we pay attention, is essential to mindfulness. For example, attention can
have a cold, critical quality, or an openhearted, curious, and compassionate quality.
Attending without bringing the attitudinal qualities of curiosity, openness, acceptance,
and kindness into the practice may result in an attention that is condemning or shaming
of inner (or outer) experience. This may well have consequences contrary to the
intentions of the practice; for example, we may end up cultivating patterns of criticism
and striving instead of equanimity, openness, and acceptance.
Thus, the attitudes of mindfulness include a general sense of openness, kindness,
curiosity, and acceptance. These attitudes of mindfulness do not alter our experience, but
simply inform the quality of the awareness of the experience. For example, if while we are
practicing mindfulness impatience arises, we note the impatience with acceptance and
kindness. We do not attempt to substitute these qualities for the impatience, or use them
to make the impatience disappear. The attitudes are not an attempt to make things be a
certain way, but an attempt to relate to whatever is in a certain way. By intentionally
bringing the attitudes of mindfulness to our awareness of our own experience, we
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 5 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
relinquish the habit of striving for pleasant experiences or of pushing aversive
experiences away. Instead, we attend to and welcome whatever is here.
It may be useful to think of mindfulness as a presence of heart as well as mind. In fact the
Japanese kanji for mindfulness is composed of two symbols, the top meaning presence
and the bottom translated as “heart” or “mind.” Mindfulness involves bringing
heartfulness to each moment—bringing our full aliveness and care to all of our
experiences.
Formal and Informal Practice
What we practice becomes stronger. When we practice mindfulness, we strengthen our
capacity to be present moment by moment in a curious, accepting, and kind way. Mindful
practice can be categorized into formal and informal practice; each kind of practice
supports the other. The formal practice will support the ability to practice mindfulness in
day-to-day life, and the informal practice is meant to generalize to everyday life what is
learned during the formal practice.
Formal practices are geared toward cultivating mindfulness skills in focused and
systematic ways, and emphasize the specific and purposeful training of attention with
openness, acceptance, and curiosity. In mindful meditation, practitioners allow a state of
“fluid attention” to emerge, rather than focusing on any specific object or sensation
(Irving, Dobkin, & Park, 2009). Thoughts, emotions, and body sensations that arise during
this practice are accepted as they are, without being judged or manipulated.
Informal practice involves intentionally bringing an open, accepting, and discerning
attention to whatever we are engaged in, for example, reading, driving, or eating. As
Kabat-Zinn (2005) notes, the beauty of the informal practice is that all it requires is a
rotation in consciousness. This rotation in consciousness, although subtle, is significant.
And its implications for health care professionals and clinical work are profound.
Original Intentions of Mindfulness Meditation
Abraham Maslow (1968) stated, “what we call ‘normal’ in psychology is really a
psychopathology of the average, so undramatic and so widely spread that we don’t even
notice it ordinarily” (Maslow, 1968, p. 16). Wisdom traditions have been suggesting this
for over 2,500 years, teaching that our “normal” minds are untrained and often
unconscious, which inhibits us from reaching our fullest potential. The intention behind
mindfulness practice is to “wake up” from a suboptimal state of consciousness, to wake
up to our true nature.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 6 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Walsh (1983), a pioneer in the field of meditation research, identified the ultimate aims of
meditation practice as “the development of deep insight into the nature of mental
processes, consciousness, identity, and reality, and the development of optimal states of
psychological well-being and consciousness” (p. 19). From a psychological growth
perspective, it is essential to learn ways to free ourselves from the artificial and
unnecessary limits we impose on our own minds, as well as to learn to expand our
worldviews and consciousnesses. Mindfulness practice provides road maps to help
recognize and let go of old structures and evolve toward new ways of seeing and being as
we experience deep insights into the nature of mind and the path toward optimal health
and freedom from suffering.
The intention behind mindfulness practice is to help develop and train the mind toward
optimal states of empathy, joy, compassion, awareness, and insight, with the ultimate
intention of total liberation. And yet research exploring the effects of mindfulness to
attain these goals has been scarce. With few exceptions, research has not measured the
deeper levels of meditation’s original intent, but instead has focused on traditional
psychological variables (e.g., reducing anxiety, depression). Eleanor Rosch (1999)
succinctly put it, “Yes, research on the meditation traditions can provide data to crunch
with the old mind set. But they have much more to offer, a new way of looking” (p. 224).
Mindfulness Research
Over the past three decades, there has been considerable research examining the
psychological and physiological effects of mindfulness-based interventions (Murphy et al.,
1997; Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Moreover, mindfulness-based therapies are being utilized
in a variety of health care settings (Baer, 2003; Shapiro & Carlson, 2009). Research
demonstrates that meditation is an effective intervention for cardiovascular disease
(Schneider et al., 2005; Zamarra, Schneider, Besseghini, Robinson, & Salerno, 1996);
chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn, 1982), anxiety and panic disorder (Edwards, 1991; Jazaieri et
al., 2012; Miller, Fletcher, & Kabat-Zinn, 1995), substance abuse (Gelderloos, Walton,
Orme-Johnson, & Alexander, 1991), dermatological disorders (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1998),
prevention of relapse of major depressive disorder (MDD), and reduction of anxiety and
depressive symptoms in nonclinical populations (Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998; for
reviews see Jazaieri & Shapiro, 2010; Shapiro & Jazaieri, 2014).
As noted, few researchers have examined mindfulness meditation’s original purpose as a
self-liberation strategy to enhance positive psychological qualities. Despite this, a small
number of pioneering studies have addressed the effects of mindfulness practice on
positive psychological health. The work described subsequently provides a valuable
foundation upon which to build future research. Below, we review specific studies,
starting with the microlevel (physiological) and moving to the macrolevel (transpersonal;
for a review see Murphy et al., 1997).
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 7 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Positive Physiological Findings
As Ryff and Singer (1998) aptly point out, “human wellness is at once about the mind and
the body and their interconnections” (p. 2). Although the implications of the physiological
correlates of meditation are as yet unclear, it seems likely that some of the changes
represent “physiological substrates of flourishing” (Ryff & Singer, 1998, p. 2).
Immune Function.
Improvements in immune system functioning or reversal of immune suppression may be
an important marker of such physiological substrates of health and well-being. For
example, a study by Davidson et al. (2003) found a greater increase in influenza
antibodies among participants in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
program than in waiting-list controls. Similarly, in cancer patients, MBSR had a number
of effects on immune parameters that are consistent with a shift to a more normal profile
(Carlson, Speca, Patel, & Goodey, 2004).
Recent research investigating the effects of mindfulness practice on telomerase activity
further enhances our understanding of the relationship between mindfulness and immune
function (Schutte & Malouff, 2014). Telomerase is an enzyme that impacts telomere
length, which is associated with cell regeneration and improved longevity (Epel et al.,
2009; Lin et al., 2012; Willeit et al., 2011). A study by Jacobs et al. (2011) evaluated the
effects of a 3-month meditation retreat on telomerase activity, utilizing a randomized
control trial design with 60 participants. Retreat participants were found to have
significantly higher levels of telomerase activity postretreat when compared with the
wait-list control group. Retreat participants further reported a greater sense of purpose
in life, increased perceived control, and decreased neuroticism, factors that may have
mediated the effect of meditation practice on telomerase activity (Jacobs et al., 2011).
Neuroplasticity.
Another indication of physiological flourishing comes from research suggesting that
meditation practice may enhance the left-to-right ratio of activation of the prefrontal
cortex, which has been linked to positive emotions and mental health (Davidson et al.,
2003). Participants in an 8-week MBSR program demonstrated increases in left frontal
electroencephalographic (EEG) activation as compared to a control group (Davidson et
al., 2003). These findings lend physiological evidence of the ability of meditation to
actually change the structure of the brain and support preliminary research
demonstrating that advanced meditators display unique degrees of lateralization of
prefrontal cortical activity (a neural indicator of positive affect) and a unique high gamma
EEG profile when cultivating compassion (Davidson et al., 2003; Lutz et al., 2004).
Further data providing structural evidence that meditation experience affects plasticity
come from a recent study examining the effects of mindfulness meditation practice on
changes in the brain’s physical structure (Lazar et al., 2005). Magnetic resonance
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 8 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive
mindfulness practice. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception, and sensory
processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the
prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula.
In a similar study, Hölzel and colleagues (2011) analyzed changes in gray matter density
when comparing 16 meditation-naive participants in an 8-week MBSR course to 17
participants in a wait-list control group. Analyses indicated significant pre to post
changes in regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion
regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. Comparisons revealed
increased gray matter concentration in the hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex,
cerebellum, and temporoparietal junction (Hölzel et al., 2011). These data provide
preliminary evidence that meditation contributes to the development of the physiological
structures that support intelligence, empathy, cognitive flexibility, and other important
indicators of psychological health.
Stress reactivity and recovery.
Goleman and Schwartz (1976) compared 30 experienced meditators’ and 30 control
subjects’ responses to laboratory stressors. Participants either meditated or relaxed with
eyes closed or with eyes open, then watched a stressor film. Stress response was
assessed by phasic skin conductance, heart rate, self-report, and personality scales.
Meditators demonstrated heightened initial reactivity, but their heart rate and phasic skin
conductance responses habituated more quickly to the stressor impacts and they
experienced less subjective anxiety in comparison to the nonmeditators.
MacLean et al. (1997) extended the research in stress reactivity and recovery. They
conducted a prospective random assignment study to examine the effects of
transcendental meditation (TM) on responses to laboratory stressors by four hormones:
cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and testosterone. Healthy
men were tested before and after 4 months of learning TM. The results indicated that
basal cortisol level and average cortisol across the stress session decreased from pretest
to posttest in the TM group but not in the control group. Cortisol responsiveness to
stressors, however, increased in the TM group compared to controls. The baselines
(stress responsiveness) for TSH and growth hormone as well as testosterone changed in
opposite directions for the two groups. The results support previous data suggesting that
“repeated practice of TM reverses effects of chronic stress” (MacLean et al., 1997, p.
277). Though further research is required, these findings provide preliminary support for
the hypothesis that meditation impacts physiological pathways that are modulated by
stress.
Positive Psychological Findings
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 9 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Memory and intelligence.
Meditation appears to result in improvements in intelligence, school grades, learning
ability, and short-term and long-term recall (see Cranson et al., 1991; Dillbeck, Assimakis,
& Raimondi, 1986; Lewis, 1978). For example, one study examined the effects of TM on
performance on the Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) and reaction time (RT) as
compared to a control group (Cranson et al., 1991). Even when controlling for age,
education level, level of interest in meditation, parents’ education level, and annual
income, the TM group improved significantly on both measures as compared to the
control group. The results suggest that TM is a “promising educational tool for enhancing
a learner’s ability to learn” (Cranson et al., 1991, p. 1105).
Hall (1999) randomly assigned 56 undergraduates to two study groups: one group
included meditation and the other did not. The meditation group was instructed in a
simple meditation process that consisted of natural breathing techniques, attention
focusing techniques, and relaxation exercises. The meditation process was practiced for a
duration of 10 minutes at the start and conclusion of a 1-hour study session. The
intervention included a 1-hour session of meditation instruction twice a week for the
academic semester. The meditation group was instructed to meditate before and after
studying and before examinations. The nonmeditation study group met for 1 hour a week
to study and was not introduced to meditation. Significantly higher grades were found in
the experimental group as compared to the control group.
A recent study by Mrazek, Franklin, Phillips, Bairrd, and Schooler (2013) utilized a
randomized controlled investigation to assess the effect of a 2-week mindfulness training
on working memory capacity (WMC), mind wandering, and reading comprehension
scores on the verbal reasoning section of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). When
compared to a nutrition class, mindfulness training produced statistically significant
improvements on the operation span task (OSPAN), a measure of WMC, and fewer self-
reported and probe-caught instances of mind wandering. Moreover, posttest results on
the GRE reflected an average improvement of 16 percentile points, further indicating that
mindfulness training has a positive effect on key underlying processes that impact
performance on measures of cognitive ability (Mrazek et al., 2013).
There is also evidence that improvements in memory and academic performance
associated with meditation apply across the life span. Chang and Heibert (1989), in a
review of relaxation procedures with children, reported that teaching meditation to
children in public schools increased academic performance. In another study of elderly
adults who were taught meditation, there were significant improvements in cognitive
flexibility as compared to a control group (Alexander, Langer, Newman, Chandler, &
Davies, 1989).
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 10 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Psychological flexibility.
Mindfulness offers an opportunity to respond to the situational demands of each new
moment in a way that is congruent with our deepest needs, interests, and values (Brown
& Ryan, 2003; Ryan & Deci, 2000). The skillful responding that results from a clear
seeing of each moment as it arises could also be understood as psychological flexibility,
one of the fundamental markers of psychological health (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2010).
As Kashdan and Rottenberg (2010) argue, “Although there is substantial research on the
value of particular [regulatory] strategies, the ability to modify responses to best match
the situation is intuitively of greater importance. Indeed, one might question whether any
regulatory strategy provides universal benefits, as opposed to contingent benefits that
hinge on the situation and the values and goals we import” (p. 866). Psychological
flexibility is a multifaceted construct necessitating robust executive functioning, openness
to experience, affect regulation, and attentional control, among other positive
psychological skills and traits. Though little research has investigated the relationship
between mindfulness and psychological flexibility as a coherent construct, a converging
body of evidence suggests that mindfulness supports increased flexibility in the form of
improved executive functioning (Creswell, Way, Eisenberger, & Lieberman, 2007;
DeYoung, Peterson, & Higgins, 2005; Ochsner & Gross, 2008), openness to the full range
of experience (Hayes, Wilson, Gifford, Follette, & Strosahl, 1996; Labouvie-Vief, 2003;
Wilson & Murrell, 2004), and the capacity to transcend conditioned responses and default
states (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Kashdan, 2009; Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Creativity.
Creativity is a complex construct consisting of various traits and capacities, including
perceptual skill, ideational fluency, openness to experience, and emotional flexibility, all of
which are theoretically fostered by mindfulness practice. Preliminary research confirms
that mindfulness practice can cultivate creativity.
An emerging field of research that touches on one aspect of the relationship between
mindfulness and creativity focuses on the influence of trait and state mindfulness on the
effects of social comparison (Langer, Pirson, & Delizonna, 2010). This field of research
also follows earlier research demonstrating that intrinsic motivation affects both “the
momentary focus of attention [and] long-term dedication to creative
endeavors” (Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi, & Gardner, 1994). In a study that emphasized the
relationship between mindfulness and social comparisons, Langer et al. (2010)
demonstrated that (1) downward and upward social comparisons were correlated with
negative self-assessments of artistic ability and (2) mindfulness training as well as trait
mindfulness buffered against the effects of social comparisons, reducing the effect of
downward social comparison to null, and reducing the effect of upward social comparison
by a statistically significant margin. In the case of this study, it was not the attitudinal
quality of nonjudgment that was proposed as the mechanism by which mindfulness
mitigates the effects of social comparison, but rather the capacity to perceive the
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 11 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
contextual nature of all social comparisons, and assess with flexibility the criteria by
which such comparisons are made (Langer, Pirson, & Delizonna, 2010).
A further field of research that sheds light on the relationship between mindfulness and
creativity focuses on creativity defined as insight problem solving. In a study designed to
evaluate the impact of mindfulness on insight problem solving, Ostafin and Kassman
(2012) hypothesized that mindfulness training as well as trait mindfulness would have no
effect on noninsight problem solving, a process that primarily relies on logic and
following predetermined steps, but would enhance insight problem solving, a process that
depends on the capacity to transcend automatic and habituated cognitive patterns. Both
hypotheses were confirmed in a series of experiments that subjected participants first to
a battery of self-assessments and then to a battery of problem-solving exercises,
precipitated either by a control audio track or by a guided meditation. As hypothesized,
even limited exposure to mindfulness practice enhanced the capacity to solve problems
that required the subject to transcend informational boundaries (Ostafin & Kassman,
2012).
Cowger and Torrance (1982) studied 24 college undergraduates who were taught Zen
meditation and 10 who were taught relaxation. The meditators attained statistically
significant gains in creativity as defined by heightened consciousness of problems,
perceived change, invention, sensory experience, expression of emotion/feeling, humor,
and fantasy.
A series of studies by So and Orme-Johnson (2001) examined the effects of TM on
cognition. One hundred and fifty-four Chinese high school students were randomized into
a TM group or a napping group (i.e., students were invited to lie down and rest or sleep).
The TM technique and napping were practiced for approximately 20 minutes twice a day.
At 6-month follow-up, the TM group demonstrated significantly increased practical
intelligence, field independence, creativity, and speed of information processing, as well
as significantly decreased anxiety compared to the control group. The results suggest
that TM’s effects extend beyond those of ordinary rest.
The findings of the above study were replicated in a sample of 118 junior high Chinese
students who were randomly assigned to a TM group, a contemplative meditation group
(involving reflection of specific insights and topics), or a no-treatment control group. All
students practiced their respective meditation techniques for 20 minutes twice a day. At
6-month follow-up, the TM group showed improvement on creativity compared to the two
other groups. Both the TM and contemplation group improved on information processing
time as compared to the control group.
Attention/concentration.
Research supporting the impact of mindfulness on attention and presence has found
greater cortical thickness in areas of the brain associated with sustained attention and
awareness in practitioners experienced in mindful meditation, compared to
nonmeditating participants (Lazar et al., 2005). Moreover, by measuring response times
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 12 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
on the Attention Network Test (ANT) after 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation training for
novices, and a month-long retreat for more experienced meditators, Jha, Krompinger, and
Baime (2007) found improvements in overall attention. Specifically, those who
participated in the 8-week training were more able to direct focused attention when
required, and those who attended the 1-month retreat showed an increased ability to
retain their focus when faced with distractions.
A study by McCollum and Gehart (2010) also found that graduate students trained in
mindfulness meditation as a component of their coursework were better able to
distinguish between what Segal, Williams, and Teasdale (2002) refer to as the doing and
the being modes of mind. The doing mode focuses on planning and resolving
discrepancies between our idea of how things should be versus how they actually are. In
contrast, the being mode centers on simply being present with whatever is occurring in
the moment, without feeling a need to change it. McCollum and Gehart (2010) point out
that both modes are essential. Through the cultivation of attention and presence,
mindfulness not only facilitates a being mode of mind, but also the ability to engage in the
doing mode when the moment requires, as well as to shift attentional focus.
Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation can enhance control over how
attention is distributed. For example, if too much attention is focused on one stimulus,
another stimulus might be missed. Mindfulness training can help us to allocate our
attention more efficiently, leading to greater clarity in information processing (see e.g.,
Slagter et al., 2007).
To examine the effects of meditation on attention, Valentine and Sweet (1999) conducted
an elegant study, which incorporated type of meditation (concentration vs. mindfulness),
length of practice (long-term meditators > 24 months, short-term meditators < 24
months), and expectancy effects (expected vs. unexpected stimuli). Participants consisted
of 24 controls, five short-term concentrative meditators, four short-term mindfulness
meditators, six long-term concentrative meditators, and four long-term mindfulness
meditators. A measure of sustained attention was employed with all participants. The
meditation group was tested following their usual meditation practice. Results
demonstrated that meditators’ attention and accuracy were greater than the controls.
Furthermore, long-term meditators demonstrated greater attention processes than short-
term meditators.
There were no differences in performance between concentrative and mindfulness
meditators when the stimulus was expected. However, when the stimulus was
unexpected, mindfulness meditators were superior to concentrative meditators. These
differences may be due to the fact that in concentration meditation, attention is focused
on an expected stimulus. Therefore attention is impaired when the stimulus is
unexpected. Conversely, in mindfulness meditation, attention is evenly distributed and
therefore no stimulus or set of stimuli becomes more salient than others.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 13 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Interpersonal relationships.
Practices for cultivation of love, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity have a long
tradition in the meditative disciplines (Walsh, 1999). Most notable are the Brahma Vihara
practices, which involve four distinct meditation practices focusing, respectively, on the
cultivation of lovingkindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity (Salzberg,
2002).
Lovingkindness (metta) involves a range of thoughts and visualizations, and it directly
evokes only select positive emotions (i.e., love, contentment, and compassion) and carries
some potential to evoke negative emotions. Lovingkindness meditation may well cultivate
a broadened attention in addition to positive emotions. In a study observing the effects of
a 9-week intervention of lovingkindness meditation at work, it was found to increase a
variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive
relations with others, and good physical health. These gains in personal resources were
consequential and enabled people to become more satisfied with their lives and to
experience fewer symptoms of depression (Johnson et al., 2011).
A study by Carson et al. (2004) incorporated the meditative practice of lovingkindness
into a mindfulness-based intervention for couples. Forty-four couples who were in well-
adjusted relationships and had been married an average of 11 years were randomly
assigned to a waiting-list control or the meditation intervention. The program consisted of
eight 2.5-hour sessions and a 6-hour retreat. In addition to components modeled on the
MBSR program (Kabat-Zinn, 1990), a number of elements related to enhancing the
relationship were added, including lovingkindness meditation, partner yoga exercises,
focused application of mindfulness to relationship issues, and group discussions. Results
demonstrated that the couples in the meditation intervention significantly improved
relationship satisfaction as well as relatedness to and acceptance of the partner. In
addition, individuals reported significant increases in optimism, engagement in exciting
self-expanding activities, spirituality, and relaxation. Interestingly, increases in
engagement in exciting self-expanding activities significantly mediated improvements in
relationship quality (Carson, Carson, Gil, & Baucom, 2006).
Wachs and Cordova (2007) also assessed the relationship between mindfulness and
emotional repertoires in intimate relationships. In their sample of married couples, higher
trait mindfulness was related to better marital quality. In addition, skills in identifying and
communicating emotions as well as the ability to regulate the expression of anger
mediated the relationship between mindfulness and marital quality. That is, greater
mindfulness skills allowed the couples to better communicate and control the expression
of their emotions, which led to happier marriages.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 14 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Relapse prevention.
To date, several mindfulness-based treatments have been created to address relapse
prevention. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Teasdale et al., 2000) is a group
treatment designed to reduce relapse or recurrence of MDD. In a recent meta-analysis of
593 participants across six randomized controlled trials (RCTs), MBCT significantly
reduced the risk of relapse/recurrence compared to treatment as usual (TAU) or placebo
controls by 34% (Piet & Hougaard, 2011). Interestingly, risk reduction was 43% for
participants with three or more major depressive episodes.
Another innovative use of mindfulness for prevention is mindfulness-based relapse
prevention (MBRP; Witkiewitz, Marlatt, & Walker, 2005), a synthesis of relapse
prevention and mindfulness meditation (MBSR and MBCT) for addictive behaviors. The
aim of MBRP is to help prevent relapse of substance abuse through developing awareness
and acceptance of thoughts, feelings, and sensations and to utilize mindfulness in the
face of high-risk situations. Bowen and colleagues (2009) conducted the first RCT of
MBRP compared to TAU. Participants included 168 adults with a variety of substance use
disorders who had completed inpatient or outpatient treatment. Participants in the MBRP
condition reported lower rates of substance use throughout the program and up to 4
months following MBRP. In addition, compared to TAU, MBRP participants reported
reductions in craving and increases in acceptance and acting with awareness.
Happiness and positive affect.
Smith, Compton, and West (1995) investigated the impact of adding meditation to
Fordyce’s (1983) Personal Happiness Enhancement Program (PHEP). Thirty-six subjects
were randomly assigned to an experimental group or a no-treatment control group.
Experimental subjects were divided into two groups, both of which received instruction
on the PHEP, but one experimental group was also taught meditation exercises that
resembled Benson’s Relaxation Response (Benson, 1975). Groups met for 12 sessions, 1.5
hour each, over a 6-week period. The meditation-plus-PHEP group significantly improved
on measures of happiness, state-trait anxiety, and depression as compared to the PHEP-
only group and the control group. Frequent meditators also report significantly higher
level of positive affect, significantly fewer stressors and illness symptoms, and lower
levels of anxiety, hostility, depression, and dysphoria (Beauchamp-Turner & Levinson,
1992).
In a study by Choi, Karremans, and Barendregt (2012) outside observers judged the
happiness of meditators and nonmeditators based on a 15-second clip of their behavior.
Results indicated that experienced meditators looked happier compared to controls. In a
separate study, the outside observers compared participants before and after a 9-day
meditation retreat; results indicated that novice meditators were rated by outside
observers to look happier following the 9-day retreat. A 9-week compassion meditation
program that utilizes mindfulness mediation as the foundation has also been associated
with increasing happiness compared to a waitlist control condition (Jazaieri et al., 2014).
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 15 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Optimism.
It has been well-documented in the literature that optimism is related to greater well-
being (e.g., Carver, Scheier, & Segerstrom, 2010). A recent study evaluated the
effectiveness of a 10-day silent vipassana (mindfulness) meditation course on substance
use and positive psychosocial outcomes in an incarcerated population (Bowen et al.,
2006). Participants completed assessments 1 week before the start of the course, 1 week
after the course, and 3 months following release from jail. Results indicated that
participants in the meditation course, as compared to those in a TAU control condition,
showed significant increases in optimism as measured by The Life Orientation Test (LOT;
Scheier & Carver, 1985) 3 months after release. In addition, compared to the control
condition, meditation participants demonstrated reductions in alcohol, marijuana, and
crack cocaine use, as well as decreases in alcohol-related problems and psychiatric
symptoms 3 months after release from jail.
Experimentally, brief mindfulness inductions have been associated with increases in
optimism and positive judgments when compared to control conditions (Kiken & Shook,
2011). Another study found that meditation experience (measured both by hours spent
meditating as well as by state mindfulness) was associated with greater optimism in
participants (Gootjes & Rassin, 2014).
Empathy.
All schools of meditation have emphasized concern for the condition of others and an
intention to “promote an empathy with created things that leads toward oneness with
them” (Murphy et al., 1997, p. 82). Recent research suggests that in general, meditation
practice does indeed lead to greater levels of empathy.
In a randomized controlled study, Shapiro et al. (1998) examined the effects of a
mindfulness meditation-based program on 78 medical and premedical students. Results
indicated increased levels of empathy and decreased levels of anxiety and depression in
the meditation group as compared to the waiting-list control group. Furthermore, the
results were found during the students’ examination period, which is a stressful time, and
thus reinforce the hypothesis that mindfulness training helps one cope with stress. The
findings were replicated when participants in the waiting-list control group received the
mindfulness intervention.
The findings of this study are supported by another study examining the effects of MBSR
on counseling psychology students’ empathy. Counseling students who participated in an
8-week MBSR course demonstrated significant pre-post increases in empathic concern
for others as compared to a matched control group (Shapiro et al., 2006). In another
MBSR study, Birnie, Speca, and Carlson (2010) found that some aspects of empathy
(increase in perspective taking and decreases in personal distress) changed following the
program; however, empathic concern did not change.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 16 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Compassion mediation has also been shown to increase empathic accuracy (Mascaro et
al., 2013). It should be noted that studies examining the effects of mindfulness and
meditation programs on empathy have also provided mixed results. For example, Beddoe
and Murphy (2004) examined stress and empathy in nursing students and found that
following MBSR although stress decreased, empathy did not change. Similarly, Galantino
and colleagues (2005) did not find significant changes in empathy following a mindfulness
intervention for health care professionals. A more recent randomized control study
evaluated the effects of compassion meditation (CM) on neuroendocrine, innate immune,
and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress (Pace et al., 2009). Plasma
concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6 and cortisol, as well as total distress scores on the
Profile of Mood States (POMS), were measured in response to the Trier social stress test
(TSST). Though no main effect of group was found when comparing the CM group to the
wait-list control, significant decreases in stress response were found within the CM
group; increased meditation practice was correlated with decreased TSST induced stress
response (Pace et al., 2009).
Additional RCTs with large, generalizable samples examining the effects of mindfulness
programs on empathy are needed to better understand how mindfulness influences
empathy.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 17 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Self-compassion.
Self-compassion is defined as being kind and understanding toward yourself in instances
of pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical, perceiving your experiences as
part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as isolating, and holding
painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than overidentifying with
them (Neff, Kirkpatrick, & Rude, 2007). Studies have found that mindfulness meditation-
based interventions significantly increases self-compassion (Shapiro, Astin, Bishop, &
Cordova, 2005; Shapiro, Brown, & Biegel, 2007). In the first study, health care
professionals were randomly assigned to an MBSR intervention or a waiting-list control
group. Participants in the intervention group demonstrated significant increases in self-
compassion as compared to the control group (Shapiro et al., 2005). The second study
was a matched controlled design examining the effects of MBSR for counseling
psychology students. Results support the findings of the health care professional study,
with participants in the MBSR intervention demonstrating higher levels of self-
compassion compared to the control group (Shapiro et al., 2006).
Another study found that self-compassion is significantly predictive of other positive
psychological variables including wisdom, personal initiative, curiosity and exploration,
happiness, optimism, and positive affect (Neff et al., 2007). Furthermore, self-compassion
remained a significant predictor of psychological health after controlling for shared
variance with positive affect and personality. Therefore, self-compassion seems to be an
important positive psychological variable that merits further research. In one study
examining MBSR, participants reported greater self-compassion following the program
and changes in self-compassion were predicted by changes in mindfulness. Self-
compassion also revealed strong associations with psychological functioning (Birnie,
Speca, & Carlson, 2010). In an RCT of a 9-week compassion meditation program,
participants reported increased compassion for themself as well as reductions in the fear
of giving compassion to themself (Jazaieri et al., 2013).
Self-actualization.
Meditation has been described as a “technique to actualize and integrate the personality
of human kind to those fulfilled states of personal integration” (Ferguson, 1981, p. 68).
Important positive characteristics demonstrating self-actualization include “increased
acceptance of self, of others and of nature … superior perception of reality” (Maslow,
1968, p. 26). These characteristics parallel some of the fundamental objectives of
meditation. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most widely measured positive
psychological outcome in the meditation literature is self-actualization (Alexander et al.,
1991).
Alexander and colleagues (1991) performed a meta-analysis of studies examining the
effects of TM and other meditation and relaxation interventions on self-actualization. The
analysis included 42 independent treatment outcome studies (18 TM, 18 other meditation
studies, and six relaxation studies). The authors found significant improvements in self-
actualization across all of the studies. Extending Brown and Ryan’s (2003) finding of a
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 18 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
positive association between mindfulness and self-actualization, a recent cross-sectional
self-report study of 204 students found that mindfulness and self-actualization are
positively related (Beitel et al., 2014).
Moral maturity.
Few questions in psychology are of greater social and global significance than how to
foster moral maturity, but unfortunately traditional interventions, such as instruction in
moral thinking, usually produce only modest gains. Meditative traditions emphasize the
importance of moral development and regard moral maturity as both an essential
foundation and product of practice. Meditation is said to enhance ethical motivation and
behavior via several mechanisms. These include sensitizing awareness to the costs of
unethical acts (such as guilt in yourself and pain produced in others), reducing
problematic motives and emotions (such as greed and anger), strengthening morality-
supporting emotions (such as love and compassion), cultivating altruism, and
identification with others via transpersonal experience (Walsh, 1999). Initial research
support comes from reports of TM practitioners whose increased scores on scales of
moral development correlate with duration of practice (Nidich, Ryncarz, Abrams, Orme-
Johnson, & Wallace, 1983).
Shapiro, Jazaieri, and Goldin (2012) argue and provide preliminary empirical evidence
that the cultivation of states of discernment and awareness even in the absence of explicit
training in ethics (e.g., within the context of MBSR) can affect moral reasoning and
decision making in an implicit way. An experimental study suggests that dispositional
mindfulness modulates the automatic transference of disgust into moral judgment (Sato
& Sugiura, 2014). Empirical research on this topic is in its infancy—further research on
this topic deserves high priority.
Spirituality.
In the study by Carson and colleagues (2006) noted previously, the couples who received
the mindfulness meditation relationship enhancement intervention reported significant
increases in spirituality compared to the control group. This supports earlier findings that
MBSR intervention significantly increased spiritual experience in medical students as
compared to waiting-list controls (Shapiro et al., 1998). These results were replicated
when the control group received the same mindfulness intervention. Furthermore, Astin
(1997) demonstrated significant increases in spiritual experience in a randomized
controlled study comparing a mindfulness meditation intervention to a control group of
undergraduate students.
Greeson and colleagues (2011) examined 279 adults following MBSR and found that
changes in both spirituality and mindfulness were significantly related to improvement in
mental health. Other studies (e.g., Birnie et al., 2010; Carmody et al., 2008) have found
that MBSR is associated with increasing aspects of spirituality and this has been found to
be true in clinical populations such as cancer patients following MBSR (e.g., Labelle et
al., 2015).
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 19 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Mindfulness appears to enhance physiological, psychological, and transpersonal well-
being. Specific enhancements observed include physiological rest, happiness, acceptance,
sense of coherence, stress hardiness, empathy, and self-actualization. Thus, mindfulness
may help human beings identify and actualize their potential strengths.
The results of past research are qualified by their limitations in methodology. We suggest
the following criteria to ensure rigorous design: (1) an adequate sample size of subjects
should be randomized into experimental and control groups; (2) the type of meditation
technique taught should be made explicit (e.g., mindfulness or concentrative); (3) the
frequency and duration of meditation practice should be recorded (e.g., meditation
journals); (4) outcome variables should be included that are well established and
consistent with the original intentions of meditation; (5) follow-up should include long-
term as well as short-term assessment; and (6) researchers should include long-term
meditators as well as beginning meditators. Also, when matching control subjects to long-
term meditators in retrospective studies, in addition to age, gender, and education, it
would be important to consider matching subjects on the dimension of an alternative
attentional practice (e.g., playing a musical instrument). With such improvements, the
inferences that we could make from results would be substantially strengthened.
Future Directions
There are multiple directions for future research. Rigorous and sensitive designs are
needed that assess the multifaceted nature of health, including both the negative and the
positive. We briefly outline five directions for future research in meditation and positive
psychology.
First, in our research designs, we must examine dependent variables that more closely
parallel the original goals and objectives of meditation (e.g., self-actualization, cultivation
of empathy, meaning, purpose). Second, we should explore the physiological states
elicited during positive psychological experiences, including meditation practice, to
further augment the emerging concept of the “physiological substrates of
flourishing” (Ryff & Singer, 1998; for initial work in this area, see Davidson et al., 2003).
Third, it is crucial to determine the most effective way to teach meditation in clinical,
educational, and community settings by comparing differing lengths of meditation
intervention, as well as different formats for the intervention (e.g., group vs. individual).
Along these lines we must ask, “What works best for whom?” For example, are there
specific types of meditation that fit better with specific individuals or specific goals?
Different “types of meditation may have very different effects on the practitioner and thus
may have different clinical applications” (Bogart, 1991, p. 385). It is crucial to consider
what therapeutic goals (e.g., stress management, self-exploration, or transformative
transpersonal experiences) are being sought when determining which type of meditation
is most appropriate. Bogart (1991) suggests that concentration methods may allow the
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 20 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
participant to feel inner balance, calm, and the ability to transcend the continuous flow of
cognitions and emotions, whereas opening-up meditation may encourage insights into
maladaptive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns.
A fourth direction for future research involves operationalizing experience levels of
participants. Researchers must assess both length of practice and have some index of
depth of practice (e.g., teacher ratings). Fifth, we should ask, “What are the processes
through which meditation brings about positive psychological changes?” The explanatory
mechanisms of meditation are elusive and more attention needs to be given to them (for
initial work in this area, see Baer, 2003; Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006).
Conclusions
During the past four decades, research in meditation has developed a strong foundation,
demonstrating significant psychological, physiological, and therapeutic effects. The field
of positive psychology offers new opportunities and methodologies to examine the
original intentions of meditation. In fact, meditation can be considered an applied positive
psychology practice that has wide application for promoting positive health in medicine,
business, and education.
The aim of positive psychology, according to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), “is to
begin to catalyze a change in the focus of psychology from preoccupation only with
repairing the worst things in life to also building positive qualities” (p. 5). This aim of
cultivating positive qualities, including wisdom, compassion, and generosity, is at the
heart of the original intentions of meditation. Meditation offers paths to exceptional
states of mental well-being and attentional control that have been systematically
developed and practiced for 2,500 years. In this way, meditation may help positive
psychology examine and reevaluate the current definition of “normal” and expand
Western psychology’s concept of mental health. Future research into the positive effects
of meditation will help illuminate the richness and complexity of this age-old practice.
Questions for the Field
1. What is the role of Intention and Context in contemplative practices? How do
intention and context impact the way we teach and the outcomes of these practices?
2. What is the most effective way to teach meditation to children and young adults in
educational settings so that these positive psychological effects may be experienced
earlier in life?
3. What are the mechanisms through which meditation brings about positive
psychological change?
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 21 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
References
Alexander, C. N., Druker, S. M., & Langer, E. J. (1990). Major issues in the exploration of
adult growth. In C. N. Alexander & E. J. Langer (Eds.), Higher stages of human
development: Perspectives on adult growth (pp. 3–32). New York, NY: Oxford University
Press.
Alexander, C. N., Langer, E. J., Newman, R. I., Chandler, H. M., & Davies, J. L. (1989).
Transcendental meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: An experimental study with the
elderly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 950–964.
Alexander, C. N., Rainforth, M. V., & Gelderloos, P. (1991). Transcendental meditation,
self-actualization, and psychological health: A conceptual overview and statistical meta-
analysis. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6, 189–247.
Allport, G. W. (1961). Pattern and growth in personality. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart &
Winston.
Astin, J. A. (1997). Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation: Effects on
psychological symptomatology, sense of control, and spiritual experiences. Psychotherapy
and Psychosomatics, 66, 97–106.
Baer, R. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and
empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143.
Beauchamp-Turner, D. L., & Levinson, D. M. (1992). Effects of meditation on stress,
health, and affect. Medical Psychotherapy: An International Journal, 5, 123–131.
Beddoe, A. E., & Murphy, S. O. (2004). Does mindfulness decrease stress and foster
empathy among nursing students? Journal of Nursing Education, 43, 305–312.
Beitel, M., Bogus, S., Hutz, A., Green, D., Cecero, J. J., & Barry, D. T. (2014). Stillness and
motion: An empirical investigation of mindfulness and self-actualization. Person-Centered
& Experiential Psychotherapies, 13, 1–16.
Benson, H. (1975). The relaxation response. New York, NY: Morrow.
Birnie, K., Speca, M., & Carlson, L. E. (2010). Exploring self-compassion and empathy in
the context of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Stress and Health, 26, 359–
371.
Bogart, G. (1991). The use of meditation in psychotherapy: A review of the literature.
American Journal of Psychotherapy, XLV, 383–412.
Bowen, S., Chawla, N., Collins, S. E., Witkiewitz, K., Hsu, S., Grow, J., … Marlatt, A.
(2009). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for substance use disorders: A pilot efficacy
trial. Substance Abuse, 30, 295–305.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 22 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Bowen, S., Witkiewitz, K., Dillworth, T. M., Chawla, N., Simpson, T. L., Ostafin, B. D., …
Marlatt, G. A. (2006). Mindfulness meditation and substance use in an incarcerated
population. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 20, 343–347.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its
roles in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–
848.
Carlson, L. E., Speca, M., Patel, K. D., & Goodey, E. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress
reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol,
dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer
outpatients. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29, 448–474.
Carmody, J., Reed, G., Kristeller, J., & Merriam, P. (2008). Mindfulness, spirituality, and
health-related symptoms. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 393–403.
Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness based
relationship enhancement. Behavior Therapy, 35, 471–494.
Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gill, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2006). Mindfulness-based
relationship enhancement in couples. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment
approaches: Clinician’s guide to evidence base and applications (pp. 309–331).
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2010). Optimism. Clinical Psychology
Review, 30, 879–889.
Chang, J., & Heibert, B. (1989). Relaxation procedures with children: A review. Medical
Psychotherapy, An International Journal, 2, 163–176.
Choi, Y., Karremans, J. C., & Barendregt, H. (2012). The happy face of mindfulness:
Mindfulness meditation is associated with perceptions of happiness as rated by outside
observers. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7, 30–35.
Cowger, E. L., & Torrance, E. P. (1982). Further examination of the quality changes in
creative functioning resulting from meditation (zazen) training. The Creative Child and
Adult Quarterly, 7, 211–217.
Cranson, R. W., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Gackenbach, J., Dillbeck, M. C., Jones, C. H., &
Alexander, C. N. (1991). Transcendental meditation and improved performance on
intelligence-related measures: A longitudinal study. Personality and Individual
Differences, 12, 1105–1116.
Creswell, J. D., Way, B. M., Eisenberger, N. I., & Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Neural
correlates of dispositional mindfulness during affect labeling. Psychosomatic Medicine,
69, 560–565.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 23 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F.,
… Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by
mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570.
DeYoung, C. G., Peterson, J. B., & Higgins, D. M. (2005). Sources of openness/intellect:
Cognitive and neuropsychological correlates of the fifth factor of personality. Journal of
Personality, 73, 825–858.
Dillbeck, M. C., Assimakis, P. D., & Raimondi, D. (1986). Longitudinal effects of the
transcendental meditation and TM-Sidhi program on cognitive ability and cognitive style.
Perceptual Motor Skills, 62, 731–738.
Edwards, D. L. (1991). A meta-analysis of the effects of meditation and hypnosis on
measures of anxiety. Dissertation Abstracts International, 52, 1039–1040.
Epel, E. S., Merkin, S. S., Cawthon, R., Blackburn, E. H., Adler, N. E., Pletcher, M. J., &
Seeman, T. E. (2009). The rate of leukocyte telomere shortening predicts mortality from
cardiovascular disease in elderly men. Aging, 1, 81–88.
Feldman, D. H., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Gardner, H. (1994). Changing the world: A
framework for the study of creativity. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Ferguson, P. C. (1981). An integrative meta-analysis of psychological studies investigating
the treatment outcomes of meditation studies (Doctoral dissertation, University of
Colorado, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 1547.
Fordyce, M. W. (1983). A program to increase happiness: Further studies. Journal of
Counseling Psychology, 30, 483–498.
Galantino, M. L., Baime, M., Maguire, M., Szapary, P. O., & Farrar, J. T. (2005). Short
communication: Association of psychological and physiological measures of stress in
health-care professionals during an 8-week mindfulness meditation program: Mindfulness
in practice. Stress and Health, 21, 255–261.
Gelderloos, P., Walton, K., Orme-Johnson, D., & Alexander, C. (1991). Effectiveness of the
transcendental meditation program in preventing and treating substance misuse: A
review. International Journal of the Addictions, 26, 293–325.
Goleman, D. J., & Schwartz, G. E. (1976). Meditation as an intervention in stress
reactivity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 44, 456–466.
Gootjes, L., & Rassin, E. (2014). Perceived thought control mediates positive effects of
meditation experience on affective functioning. Mindfulness, 5, 1–9.
Greeson, J. M., Webber, D. M., Smoski, M. J., Brantley, J. G., Ekblad, A. G., Suarez, E. C., &
Wolever, R. Q. (2011). Changes in spirituality partly explain health-related quality of life
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 24 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
outcomes after mindfulness-based stress reduction. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 34,
508–518.
Hall, P. D. (1999). The effect of meditation on the academic performance of African
American college students. Journal of Black Studies, 29, 408–415.
Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. G., Gifford, E. V., Follette, V. M., & Strosahl, K. (1996).
Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to
diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1152–1168.
Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011).
How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a
conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 537–559.
Irving, J. A., Dobkin, P. L., & Park, J. (2009). Cultivating mindfulness in health care
professionals: A review of empirical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction.
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 15, 61–66.
Jacobs, T. L., Epel, E. S., Lin, J., Blackburn, E. H., Wolkowitz, O. M., Bridwell, D. A., …
Saron, C. D. (2011). Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and
psychological mediators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36, 664–681.
Jazaieri, H., Goldin, P. R., Werner, K., Ziv, M., & Gross, J. J. (2012). A randomized trial of
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction versus aerobic exercise for social anxiety disorder.
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68, 715–731.
Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, T. G., McGonigal, K. M., Rosenberg, E., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas,
E., … Goldin, P. R. (2013). Enhancing compassion: A randomized controlled trial of a
Compassion Cultivation Training program. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1113–1126.
Jazaieri, H., McGonigal, K. M., Jinpa, T. G., Doty, J. R., Gross, J. J., & Goldin, P. R. (2014). A
randomized controlled trial of Compassion Cultivation Training: Effects on mindfulness,
affect, and emotion regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 38, 23–35.
Jazaieri, H., & Shapiro, S. L. (2010). Managing stress mindfully. In T. G. Plante (Ed.),
Contemplative practices in action: Spirituality, meditation, and health (pp. 17–34). Santa
Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems
of attention. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, 109–119.
Johnson, D., Penn, D., Fredrickson, B., Kring, A., Meyer, P., Catalino, L., & Brantley, M.
(2011). A pilot study of loving-kindness meditation for the negative symptoms of
schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 129, 137–140.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 25 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain
patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and
preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4, 33–47.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living. New York, NY: Delacourte Press.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses. New York, NY: Hyperion.
Kabat-Zinn, J., Wheeler, E., Light, T., Skillings, A., Scharf, M. J., Cropley, T. G., …
Bernhard, J. D. (1998). Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction
intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis
undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosomatic
Medicine, 60, 625–632.
Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Curious? Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life. New
York, NY: William Morrow.
Kashdan, T. B., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect
of health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 865–878.
Kiken, L. G., & Shook, N. J. (2011). Looking up: Mindfulness increases positive judgments
and reduces negativity bias. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 425–431.
Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
Science, 12, 932.
Labelle, L. E., Lawlor-Savage, L., Campbell, T. S., Faris, P., & Carlson, L. E. (2015). Does
self-report mindfulness mediate the effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
on spirituality and posttraumatic growth in cancer patients? The Journal of Positive
Psychology, 10, 153–166.
Labouvie-Vief, G. (2003). Dynamic integration: Affect, cognition, and the self in adulthood.
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 201–206.
Langer, E., Pirson, M., & Delizonna, L. (2010). The mindlessness of social comparisons.
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 4, 68–74.
Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D., Treadway, M. T., … Fischl,
B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness.
NeuroReport, 16, 1893–1897.
Lewis, J. (1978). The effects of a group meditation technique upon degree of test anxiety
and level of digit-letter retention in high school students. Dissertation Abstracts
International, 38, 6015–6016.
Lin, J., Epel, E. S., & Blackburn, E. (2012). Telomeres and lifestyle factors: Roles in
cellular aging. Mutation Research, 730, 85–89.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 26 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Rawlings, N. B., Ricard, M., & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Long-term
meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101, 16369–16373.
MacLean, C., Walton, K. G., Wenneberg, S. R., Levitsky, D. K., Mandarino, J. P., Waziri, R.,
… Schneider, R. H. (1997). Effects of the transcendental meditation program on adaptive
mechanisms: Changes in hormone levels and responses to stress after 4 months of
practice. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 22, 277–295.
Mascaro, J. S., Rilling, J. K., Negi, L. T., & Raison, C. (2013). Compassion meditation
enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity. Social Cognitive and Affective
Neuroscience, 8, 48–55.
Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Van
Nostrand Reinhold.
McCollum, E. E., & Gehart, D. R. (2010). Mindfulness meditation to teach beginning
therapists’ therapeutic presence: A qualitative study. Journal of Marital and Family
Therapy, 36, 347–360.
Miller, J., Fletcher, K., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (1995). Three-year follow-up and clinical
implications of a mindfulness-based intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
General Hospital Psychiatry, 17, 192–200.
Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2013).
Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while
reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science, 24, 776–781.
Murphy, M., Donovan, S., & Taylor, E. (1997). The physical and psychological effects of
meditation: A review of contemporary research with a comprehensive bibliography.
Sausalito, CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive
psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154.
Nidich, S. I., Ryncarz, R. A., Abrams, A. I., Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Wallace, R. K. (1983).
Kohlbergian cosmic perspective responses, EEG coherence, and the TM and TM-Sidhi
program. Journal of Moral Education, 12, 166–173.
Ochsner, K. N., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Cognitive emotion regulation: Insights from social
cognitive and affective neuroscience. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17,
153–158.
Ostafin, B. D., & Kassman, K. T. (2012). Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves
insight problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition: An International Journal, 21, 1031–
1036.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 27 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Pace, T. W. W., Negi, L. T., Adame, D. D., Cole, S. P., Sivilli, T. I., Brown, T. D., … Raison, C.
L. (2009). Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and
behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 87–98.
Piet, J., & Hougaard, E. (2011). The effect of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for
prevention of relapse in recurrent major depressive disorder: A systematic review and
meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 1032–1040.
Rosch, E. (1999). Is wisdom in the brain? Psychological Science, 10, 222–224.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of
intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–
78.
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). Human health: New directions for the next millennium.
Psychological Inquiry, 9, 69–85.
Salzberg, S. (2002). Lovingkindness: The revolutionary art of happiness. Boston, MA:
Shambhala.
Sato, A., & Sugiura, Y. (2014). [Dispositional mindfulness modulates automatic
transference of disgust into moral judgment]. Shinrigaku kenkyu: The Japanese Journal of
Psychology, 84, 605–611.
Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1985). Optimism, coping, and health: Assessment and
implications of generalized outcomes expectancies. Health Psychology, 4, 219–247.
Schneider, R. H., Alexander, C. N., Staggers, F., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Rainforth, M.,
Salerno, W., … Nidich, R. H. (2005). A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction in
African Americans treated for hypertension for over one year. American Journal of
Hypertension, 18, 88–98.
Schutte, N., & Malouff, J. (2014). A meta-analytic review of the effects of mindfulness
meditation on telomerase activity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 42, 45–48.
Segal, Z. V., Williams, M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Seligman, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction.
American Psychologist, 55, 5–14.
Shapiro, D. H. (1980). Meditation: Self-regulation strategy and altered state of
consciousness. New York, NY: Aldine Publishing Company.
Shapiro, D. H., & Walsh, R. N. (Eds.) (1984). Meditation: Classic and contemporary
perspectives. New York, NY: Aldine Publishing Company.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 28 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Shapiro, S. L., Astin, J., Bishop, S., & Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress
reduction and health care professionals. International Journal of Stress Management, 12,
164–176.
Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers:
Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in
training. Training & Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 105–115.
Shapiro, S., & Carlson, L. (2009). The art and science of mindfulness: Integrating
mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association.
Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of
mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 373–386.
Shapiro, S. L., & Jazaieri, H. (2014). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for healthy
stressed adults. In K. W. Brown, D. Creswell, & R. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of mindfulness:
Theory and research. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Shapiro, S. L., Jazaieri, H., & Goldin, P. R. (2012). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
effects on moral reasoning and decision making. Journal of Positive Psychology, 7, 504–
515.
Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E. R., & Bonner, G. (1998). The effects of mindfulness-based
stress reduction on medical and pre-medical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21,
581–599.
Shapiro, S. L., & Walsh, R. (2003). An analysis of recent meditation research and
suggestions for future directions. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 31, 86–114.
Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J. M., &
Davidson, R. J. (2007). Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources.
PLoS Biology, 5, e138.
Smith, W. P., Compton, W. C., & West, W. B. (1995). Meditation as an adjunct to a
happiness enhancement program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51, 269–273.
So, K., & Orme-Johnson, D. (2001). Three randomized experiments on the longitudinal
effects of the transcendental meditation technique on cognition. Intelligence, 29, 419–
440.
Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., Ridgeway, V. A., Soulsby, J. M., & Lau, M. A.
(2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based
cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 615–623.
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 29 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Valentine, E. R., & Sweet, P. L. G. (1999). Meditation and attention: A comparison of the
effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention. Mental
Health, Religion and Culture, 2, 59–70.
Wachs, K., & Cordova, J. V. (2007). Mindful relating: Exploring mindfulness and emotion
repertoires in intimate relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33, 464–481.
doi:10.1111/j.1752– 0606.2007.00032.x
Wallace, A. B., & Bodhi, B. (2006). The nature of mindfulness and its role in Buddhist
meditation: A correspondence between B. Alan Wallace and the venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi.
Unpublished manuscript, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, Santa
Barbara, CA.
Walsh, R. (1999). Essential spirituality: The seven central practices. New York, NY: Wiley.
Walsh, R. N. (1983). Meditation practice and research. Journal of Humanistic Psychology,
23, 18–50.
Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and western
psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61, 227–239.
Willeit, P., Willeit, J., Kloss-Brandstätter, A., Kronenberg, F., & Kiechl, S. (2011). Fifteen-
year follow-up of association between telomere length and incident cancer and cancer
mortality. JAMA, 306, 42–44.
Wilson, K. G., & Murrell, A. R. (2004). Values work in Acceptance and Commitment
Therapy: Setting a course for behavioral treatment. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M.
Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive–behavioral
tradition (pp. 120−151). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Witkiewitz, K., Marlatt, G. A., & Walker, D. (2005). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention
for alcohol and substance use disorders. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 19, 211–228.
Zamarra, J. W., Schneider, R. H., Besseghini, I., Robinson, D. K., & Salerno, J. W. (1996).
Usefulness of the transcendental meditation program in the treatment of patients with
coronary artery disease. American Journal of Cardiology, 77, 867–870.
Shauna L. Shapiro
Santa Clara University
Hooria Jazaieri
Hooria Jazaieri, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Psychology,
Berkeley, CA, United States
Sarah de Sousa
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Page 30 of 30
PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com).©Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights
Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in
Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).
Subscriber: OUP-Reference Gratis Access; date: 17 December 2018
Santa Clara University
... Despite some similarities, meditation and ASMR have very different goals. Meditation aims to observe personal thought patterns and increase awareness to promote a greater sense of peace for the individual [131][132][133]. Most participants in the current study, however, aimed to ignore their own thoughts and engage in a type of active distraction. ...
Article
Full-text available
This qualitative exploratory study investigated the embodied experiences and the meanings of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) from the viewer’s perspective. ASMR research has been sparse and largely quantitative, assuming it to be a predominantly fixed physiological response of “tingles”, despite the acronym being rooted in pseudoscience. A qualitative research design was adopted to facilitate the exploratory nature of the study in this under-researched area. In contrast to the mostly survey-based research on ASMR, this study employed semi-structured interviews as a means to understand the lived experience of ASMR and to promote participant agency. Six self-identifying ASMR consumers were recruited using a mixture of snowball and opportunity sampling. Semi-structured interviews were conducted both in person and using Skype to facilitate transnational data collection. Interview transcripts were analysed using an inductive, data-driven approach to thematic analysis. The analysis suggests that ASMR is felt to provide a social environment of comfort rather than a solely physiological-based experience. Three key themes emerged: who and what defines ASMR ? (reflecting the variety of what was classed as ASMR and what content was consumed to produce the response); “ real” intimacy tailored to me (reflecting the idiosyncratic perception of intimacy made possible through ASMR) ; and emotional relief on my terms (reflecting the role of ASMR in self-soothing). The present data reflect a rich, complex experience of the ASMR consumer, pointing to potential wider applications and informing further research.
... Ellen Langer (1989;2016) found that when one increases their mindfulness, it can result in greater health, positive affect, creativity, and competence. In addition, research has shown that mindfulness can improve relationships (Carson et al., 2004) and interpersonal functioning (Shapiro et al., 2016). Furthermore, in a review of empirical studies on mindfulness, Keng et al. (2011) found that mindfulness "brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective wellbeing, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation" (p.1). ...
Article
The youth corrections system is in need of reform. Emerging work from the field of positive criminology is working to shift the focus from retribution and risk management to strengths building and positive youth development. Research suggests, targeted strategies from positive psychology can provide youth with opportunities to counteract the potentially deleterious effects of incarceration, especially as adolescent neurobehavioral development offers a ripe opportunity for positive interventions that enhance wellbeing. Strengths-based compassion, the proposed positive intervention described within, uses mindfulness, character strengths, and the cultivation of compassion to improve self-regulation and self-discipline, increase self-esteem, improve social skills, and reduce recidivism. The proposed eight-week program is designed through a trauma-responsive lens that has been adapted for youth in a correctional facility and creates the potential for revolutionary change in the hearts and minds of young offenders. This change positions youth on a productive path in which they desist from future criminal activity and increase pathways for flourishing in their lives after incarceration.
... This process is a goal-oriented approach to aid in identifying and assessing beliefs that are contributing to current symptoms. Mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation are also popular approaches that address all three vertices (Shapiro, 2009;Shapiro, Jazaieri, & De Sousa, 2016;Smith, 2008) but have fallen short on research support for anxiety-related problems (Pinniger, Brown, Thorsteinsson, & McKinley, 2012;Strauss et al., 2018). On the other hand, exposure-based approaches have decades of research support for a variety of anxiety presentations, including phobias (Botella, Fernandez-Alvarez, Guillen, Garcia-Palacios, & Banos, 2017;Parsons & Rizzo, 2008), panic disorder (Botella et al., 2007;Fava et al., 2001), obsessive-compulsive disorder (Abramowitz, Franklin, & Foa, 2002;Kozak & Coles, 2005), and generalized anxiety disorder (Opris, Pintea, Botella, Szamoskozi, & David, 2011;Powers & Emmelkamp, 2008). ...
Article
Full-text available
Millions of college students across the United States experience anxiety disorders, evidencing a high need for evidence-based counseling techniques. At the same time, impairment resulting from anxiety often necessitates classroom accommodations at the postsecondary level. Cognitive-behavioral therapy with exposure (CBT ERP) involves a thorough assessment of the function of a client's behaviors and a personalized treatment plan that gradually exposes them to feared stimuli. Yet students often underutilize classroom accommodations, and accommodations may conflict with the theoretical underpinnings of CBT ERP. We present a brief and accessible explanation of CBT ERP, discuss common classroom accommodations, and suggest methods for successfully integrating accommodations into cognitive-behavioral interventions.
... The relationship between RM and stress reduction and feeling good about oneself has been reported in different studies [38,39,40], and it is in line with the results obtained in this study where RM and PIL test values are positively correlated, as well as there is a higher value of the PIL test for those people who practice RM at least 30 min/week. In this sense, people who practice RM for less than 30 min/week have a PIL test score of 112 ± 16, which is significantly lower than in the case of those who practice RM for more than 30 min/week, whose PIL test score is 119 ± 12. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction The pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus has led states to issue orders for confinement and suspension of activities such as education. The purpose of this study is to interpret the Purpose in Life Test (PIL) and its relationship to physical activity and mental relaxation/meditation in confinement. Material and methods A survey was conducted in an online form on 533 individuals (39 ± 11 years) using the Purpose in Life Test (PIL) and an ad-hoc questionnaire regarding physical activity time (PA), mental relaxation/meditation time (RM), hours of sleep (HS), number of people in confinement (NPC) and concerns and satisfaction during confinement. Results The overall mean of the PIL test was 114 ± 16, indicating a strong life purpose, and there were no differences by sex or by levels of physical activity, but for RM and age levels. The scores of the PIL test were positively correlated with the age, PA and time of RM. On the other hand, the main concern is the economy (50%) and health or getting sick by COVID-19 (37%), and what gives the greatest satisfaction is the family (40%) and sharing and spending time with the family (33%). People who perform RM activities at least 30 min/week have significantly higher PIL test scores. Conclusions Despite the drastic changes caused by confinement, individuals have a strong life purpose. Family companionship, home PA and RM act as a protective factor during confinement and in maintaining physical and mental health.
... Dambrun and Ricard's (2011) conceptualization of selflessness is consistent with psychology's recent shift toward incorporating multicultural perspectives. The movement of cognitive psychology in a more "positive" direction has led to the integration of Buddhist practices and ideas into an agnostic, scientific approach to well-being (Wallace and Shapiro, 2006;Segal and Teasdale, 2013;Shapiro et al., 2018). The theoretical foundation of Buddhist psychology is central to the current study's investigation of depression and essential for understanding the current study's relevance to literature on selflessness. ...
Article
Full-text available
Dominant theories of depression position self-concept as a central determinant of psychological functioning, but the relationship between the structure of self-concept and depression has not been extensively explored. The present study investigates the relationship between the structure of the self and psychopathological outcomes (depressive symptoms and neuroticism) with two methodological approaches. Using an established framework that draws insight from Buddhist psychology, the structure of the self is conceptualized in terms of selflessness and self-centeredness. Specifically, selflessness is construed as a multidimensional concept characterized by interdependence, outsider phenomenology, and impermanence. The three dimensions of the self were assessed at age 26 with inventories of self-transcendence, perspective-taking, and materialism, respectively (N = 814). First, a variable-centered approach was used to investigate potential interactions between the dimensions of selflessness. Self-transcendence negatively predicted depressive symptoms and neuroticism, whereas perspective-taking and materialism were positively associated with the outcomes. Self-transcendence moderated the relationship between perspective-taking and depressive symptoms. Perspective-taking was not statistically related to depressive symptoms for participants who exhibited higher levels of self-transcendence. The results clarify ambiguous associations between perspective-taking and depression found in previous research. Second, person-centered analyses were used to identify five profiles of self-structure: (1) Selfless, (2) Selfless Materialist, (3) Interdependent Insider, (4) Self-centered Non-materialist, and (5) Self-centered. As hypothesized, the Selfless cluster was associated with low levels of depressive symptoms and neuroticism, whereas the Self-centered cluster was associated with high levels. The profiles demonstrate the manifestation of several combinations of features of the self, which contributes to overall understanding of selflessness by complicating the traditional dichotomy between selflessness and self-centeredness.
Article
Purpose The study examines the role that societal levels of self-control – behavioral and cognitive self-control – play in shaping entrepreneurial intentions after both favorable and unfavorable prior exits. Design/methodology/approach Using Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) data set on the nature of entrepreneurial exits from 32 countries between 2007 and 2010 and supplementing this data set with country-level scores of behavioral and cognitive self-controls, the authors test five hypotheses on the effects of societal levels of self-control on post-exit entrepreneurial intentions. Findings The study finds that individuals who exit entrepreneurship for negative reasons (versus positive reasons) are more likely to form entrepreneurial intentions. Further, societal levels of self-control moderate this likelihood. Originality/value The study invokes the psychological construct of self-control in the context of entrepreneurship. The novelty lies in rendering self-control as also a higher order societal level construct and then also empirically testing the role that societal self-control plays in shaping entrepreneurial intentions after prior exits. Societal self-control accounts for cross-country variance in why individuals in some societies are better suited and capable to return to entrepreneurship despite unfavorable prior exits.
Article
Full-text available
京都大学人間・環境学研究科ドイツ語部会の学術雑誌 『ドイツ文学研究』 Ein holistischer Ansatz in der Universitätslehre ist mehr denn je gefragt und die Integration von Achtsamkeit und Meditation im Unterricht ist derzeit im Fokus der pädagogischen Forschung. Achtsamkeit kann hierbei helfen, die Lehrer-Schüler-Bindung zu stärken, indem auch soziale Bereiche des Lernens stimuliert werden. Der vorliegende Artikel soll bisherige Forschungsergebnisse zusammentragen, welche insbesondere für den Fremdsprachenunterricht von Interesse sind und gerne zur weiteren Forschung in diesem Bereich anregen. _________________________________________________________________________________ Please cite as: _________________________________________________________________________________ Zeilhofer, Luisa (2021), Achtsam im Fremdsprachenunterricht? Ein Forschungsüberblick über Meditation in der Hochschullehre. 『ドイツ文學研究』66: 1-28.
Article
Full-text available
This longitudinal waitlist-controlled study evaluated the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on spirituality, posttraumatic growth (PTG), and mindfulness in cancer patients. The study also assessed whether increased mindfulness mediated the effects of MBSR on spirituality and PTG. Patients were either registered for immediate participation in MBSR (n = 135), or were naturally waiting for the next program (n = 76). Participants completed questionnaires pre-, mid-, and post-MBSR, or waiting period. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was employed to assess changes over time as a function of condition (MBSR vs. waitlist). Mediation was tested using linear regression and bootstrapping. MBSR participants demonstrated increased spirituality, PTG, and mindfulness, relative to controls. Change in all mindfulness facets mediated the effect of MBSR on spirituality and PTG. The development of mindfulness skills through MBSR may facilitate a sense of meaning, peacefulness, connectedness, and personal growth in cancer patients. This investigation contributes to an emerging focus on determining ‘how’ mindfulness-based interventions work.
Article
Full-text available
The primary aim of this study was to promote an empirically-based dialogue between Western psychology and Buddhism. To this end, we explored one type of Western psychology (Humanistic Psychology, based on Rogers and Maslow) and one type of Buddhist tradition (a Westernized interpretation of Theravada). Even more specifically, we explored the empirical relationship between mindfulness and self-actualization (SA), exemplars of each discipline. A cross-sectional design was employed to assess correlations among study variables. Participants were 204 students attending midsize Eastern (Fordham) or Western (Boise State) US universities. Participants completed general measures of mindfulness (Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)) and SA (Short Index of Self-Actualization (SISA)). They also filled out multifaceted measures of each construct: the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) and the Brief Index of Self-Actualization - Revised (BISA-R). A demographic form was also administered. While mindfulness and SA were not associated with the demographic variables of age, gender, or ethnicity/race, they were associated with one another in various ways. The findings indicate similarities and differences between the two constructs. This study provides evidence for empirical links between mindfulness and SA, suggesting points of contact between Buddhist and humanistic psychologies more generally. Specifically, these findings provide an empirical starting point for increased cross-fertilization between these two traditions. © 2013 World Association for Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapy & Counseling.
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies showed that incidental feelings of disgust could make moral judgments more severe. In the present study, we investigated whether individual differences in mindfulness modulated automatic transference of disgust into moral judgment. Undergraduates were divided into high- and low-mindfulness groups based on the mean score on each subscale of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). Participants were asked to write about a disgusting experience or an emotionally neutral experience, and then to evaluate moral (impersonal vs. high-conflict personal) and non-moral scenarios. The results showed that the disgust induction made moral judgments more severe for the low "acting with awareness" participants, whereas it did not influence the moral judgments of the high "acting with awareness" participants irrespective of type of moral dilemma. The other facets of the FFMQ did not modulate the effect of disgust on moral judgment. These findings suggest that being present prevents automatic transference of disgust into moral judgment even when prepotent emotions elicited by the thought of killing one person to save several others and utilitarian reasoning conflict.
Article
Reports new studies (226 adult Ss) on increasing personal happiness. The studies are continuations of Studies 1, 2, and 3 reported in M. W. Fordyce (see record 1978-23415-001). The studies used a training program in happiness that centered on 14 fundamentals, including keeping busy, spending more time socializing, developing positive thinking, and working on a healthy personality. Adults at a community college participated in the programs. Measures of happiness included the Depression Adjective Check Lists and Happiness Measures. In Study 4, the complete program demonstrated significant happiness increases over a control group receiving summary instruction in the program. In Study 5, the complete program showed slight superiority over a control group receiving almost half the information. In Study 6, the full program was compared to groups receiving partial instruction from the program in their predetermined areas of "happiness weakness" and to a control receiving "placebo expectations" of greater happiness. All treatment groups demonstrated significant gains in happiness compared to controls, though no difference between the treatments was apparent. Study 7 involved a 9-28 mo follow-up of the program's effects on 69 past participants, with the vast majority of anonymous respondents reporting continued happiness increases. The collected findings indicate that the program had a long-lasting effect on happiness for most Ss and that this effect was due to the content of the information. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Meditation—that great and mysterious subject which in the past has always conjured up the image of the solitary Asian ascetic sitting in deep trance—is fast appearing in unexpected places throughout modern American culture. Secretaries are doing it as part of their daily noon yoga classes. Preadolescent teenagers dropped off at the YMCA by their mothers on a Saturday morning are learning it as part of their karate training. Truck drivers and housewives in the Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center are practicing a combination of Hindu yoga and Buddhist insight meditation to control hypertension. Star athletes prepare themselves for a demanding basketball game with centering techniques they learned in Zen. [1] Dhyana is the generic Sanskrit term for meditation, which in the Yoga Sutras refers to both the act of inward contemplation in the broadest sense and more technically to the intermediate state between mere attention to an object (dharana) and complete absorption in it (samadhi). [2] The earliest known reference to such practice on the Indian subcontinent occurs on one of the seals, a figure seated in the lotus posture, found in the ruins of the pre-Aryan civilizations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro which existed prior to 1500 BCE. Most of the orthodox Hindu schools of philosophy derive their meditation techniques from yoga, but superimpose their own theoretical understanding of consciousness onto the results of the practice. [3] Meditation is also referred to as a spiritual practice in China. Chinese forms of meditation have their origins in the early roots of popular Taoism which existed long before the codification of Taoism as a formal philosophy during the seventh century, B.C.. However, there is no concrete evidence to prove that meditation first arose in Hindu culture and then spread elsewhere. Thus, for the time being the original meditative traditions in China and India should be considered as separate and indigenous. To further complicate the issue, analogies between meditative states and trance consciousness suggest that even earlier precursors to the Asian meditative arts can be found in shamanic cultures such as those in Siberia and Africa. [4] As for modern developments, in trying to formulate a definition of meditation, a useful rule of thumb is to consider all meditative techniques to be culturally embedded. This means that any specific technique cannot be understood unless it is considered in the context of some particular spiritual tradition, situated in a specific historical time period, or codified in a specific text according to the philosophy of some particular individual. [5] Thus, to refer to Hindu meditation or Buddhist meditation is not enough, since the cultural traditions from which a particular kind of meditation comes are quite different and even within a single tradition differ in complex ways. The specific name of a school of thought or a teacher or the title of a specific text is often quite important for identifying a particular type of meditation. Vipassana, or insight meditation, for instance, as practiced in the United States is derived from the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, and is usually associated with the teachings of the Burmese monk Mahasi Sayadaw; Transcendental Meditation is associated exclusively with the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose tradition is Vedantic Hinduism; and so on.