Applying the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat, the present research investigated the differential cognitive, affective, behavioral, and psychophysiological responses of experienced mindfulness meditation practitioners and non-meditators in response to an acute laboratory stressor. We also tested whether perceptions of closeness link mindfulness practice with experiencing challenge rather than threat in response to acute psychosocial stress.
Experienced mindfulness practitioners (n = 40) and individuals interested in mindfulness but without a practice (n = 55) reported dispositional mindfulness and closeness before engaging with a validated psychosocial stressor (i.e., mental arithmetic). After receiving stressor instructions, participants reported appraisals and state affect. During the stressor, we assessed performance and cardiovascular reactivity.
Findings revealed that mindfulness practitioners, relative to non-meditators, reported greater dispositional mindfulness (ηp2 = 0.22) and closeness (ηp2 = 0.13). For mindfulness practitioners, the stressor evoked more challenge-like responses, including greater positive affect (ηp2 = 0.11) and better performance (ηp2 = 0.07), compared to non-meditators. There were no significant group differences in appraisals or cardiovascular reactivity. Rather than a direct link, we found that mindfulness meditation practice was indirectly associated with greater challenge appraisals, fully mediated by increased perceptions of closeness (CI [− 0.11, − 0.02]).
Findings suggest that a sustained mindfulness meditation practice confers some adaptive advantages in response to acute psychosocial stressors, such as increased positive affect and better performance. We also found that having a prolonged mindfulness meditation practice is linked to greater challenge appraisals in response to an acute stressor, but only due to having a sense of self that is characterized by greater interconnection and closeness with others.
This study is not pre-registered.