Testing the mindfulness-to-meaning theory: Evidence for mindful positive emotion regulation from a reanalysis of longitudinal data

Eric L. Garland, Adam W. Hanley, Philip R Goldin, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Background and objective: The Mindfulness to Meaning Theory (MMT) provides a detailed process model of mindful positive emotion regulation. Design: We conducted a post-hoc reanalysis of longitudinal data (N = 107) derived from a RCT of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) versus cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for social anxiety disorder to model the core constructs of the MMT (attentional control, decentering, broadened awareness, reappraisal, and positive affect) in a multivariate path analysis. Results: Findings indicated that increases in attentional control from baseline to post-training predicted increases in decentering by 3 months post-treatment (p<.01) that in turn predicted increases in broadened awareness of interoceptive and exteroceptive data by 6 months post-treatment (p<.001). In turn, broadened awareness predicted increases in the use of reappraisal by 9 months post-treatment (p<.01), which culminated in greater positive affect at 12 months post-treatment (p<.001). MBSR led to significantly greater increases in decentering (p<.05) and broadened awareness than CBT (p<.05). Significant indirect effects indicated that increases in decentering mediated the effect of mindfulness training on broadening awareness, which in turn mediated enhanced reappraisal efficacy. Conclusion: Results suggest that the mechanisms of change identified by the MMT form an iterative chain that promotes long-term increases in positive affectivity. Though these mechanisms may reflect common therapeutic factors that cut across mindfulness-based and cognitive-behavioral interventions, MBSR specifically boosts the MMT cycle by producing significantly greater increases in decentering and broadened awareness than CBT, providing support for the foundational assumption in the MMT that mindfulness training may be a key means of stimulating downstream positive psychological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0187727
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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