The present study examines psychological and physiological indices of emotional regulation in non-clinical high worriers after a mindfulness-based training programme aimed at reducing worry. Thirty-six female university students with high Penn State Worry Questionnaire scores were split into two equal intervention groups: (a) mindfulness, and (b) progressive muscle relaxation plus self-instruction to postpone worrying to a specific time of the day. Assessment included clinical questionnaires, daily self-report of number/duration of worry episodes and indices of emotional meta-cognition. A set of somatic and autonomic measures was recorded (a) during resting, mindfulness/relaxation and worrying periods, and (b) during cued and non-cued affective modulation of defence reactions (cardiac defence and eye-blink startle). Both groups showed equal post-treatment improvement in the clinical and daily self-report measures. However, mindfulness participants reported better emotional meta-cognition (emotional comprehension) and showed improved indices of somatic and autonomic regulation (reduced breathing pattern and increased vagal reactivity during evocation of cardiac defense). These findings suggest that mindfulness reduces chronic worry by promoting emotional and physiological regulatory mechanisms contrary to those maintaining chronic worry.
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