As mindfulness practices become mainstream, it is increasingly common for participants in mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) to have previous meditation experience. The primary aim of this study was to assess whether the impacts of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program on a variety of self-report measures differed for novice meditators (NM) and regular meditators (RM).
A total of 158 Japanese participants in 10 cohorts completed questionnaires before and after an 8-week community-based MBSR program. The questionnaire consisted of Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), Total Mood Disturbance (TMD) from Profile of Mood States 2, Mental Component Summary (MCS) and Physical Component Summary (PCS) of the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (2nd version), and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Baseline scores and pre-post change scores were compared for RM (participants who had reported meditating ≥ 45 min/week prior to MBSR) and NM (< 45 min/week).
At baseline, RM (38.0% of the sample) had significantly higher scores than NM on FFMQ, SCS, and MCS, and lower scores on TMD and PSS (i.e., less mood disturbance and less stress). Post-program, both groups showed significant improvements in all measures except PCS, with NM’s post-MBSR scores comparable to RM’s baseline scores. A significant Group (NM vs. RM) × Time (pre- vs. post-) interaction was observed only for FFMQ.
Regular meditators, who show greater self-compassion and better mental health than novice meditators at baseline, can benefit from MBSR to a similar extent in measures of self-compassion and other aspects of well-being.