The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Well-being
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a type of mind-body intervention that can enhance well-being by improving the awareness and control of our physiological and cognitive states. However, it is unclear how MBSR practice affects long-term physiological processes and whether these changes actually lead to improved well-being. In this study, we investigate the connection between respiration rate (RR), a measure that can be affected by meditation, and self-reported well-being including psychological well-being (PWB), distress, and medical symptoms.
The Study and Findings
We recruited 245 adults, including experienced meditators and individuals who had no prior experience with meditation, who were randomly assigned to MBSR, active control, or waitlist control groups. Data was collected at multiple time points: before the intervention, after the intervention (or waiting period), and during long-term follow-up.
We initially hypothesized that lower baseline RR in a non-meditative state would be associated with higher overall well-being. Interestingly, this was found to be true among long-term meditators, indicating a link between lower RR and lower psychological distress. However, this association was not observed in non-meditators before they underwent training.
MBSR was found to significantly decrease RR compared to the waitlist control group, indicating that mindfulness practices can have a positive impact on our breathing patterns. However, no significant difference was observed in RR between the MBSR group and the active control group.
Furthermore, the decrease in RR was associated with a reduction in medical symptoms for all participants, suggesting a potential health benefit associated with lower respiration rates.
After the training, lower RR was linked to higher levels of psychological well-being across all training groups compared to the waitlist control. However, there were no notable differences in the change of psychological well-being between the different intervention groups.
Implications and Conclusion
These findings imply that a lower respiration rate may indicate improved physical and/or psychological well-being for individuals who engage in mindfulness practices and meditation. By consciously regulating our breathing, we may have the ability to enhance our overall well-being.