Common Factors of Meditation, Focusing, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Longitudinal Relation of Self-Report Measures to Worry, Depressive, and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms Among Nonclinical Students

Mindfulness (N Y). 2015;6(3):610-623. doi: 10.1007/s12671-014-0296-0.


Meditation has a long tradition with substantial implications for many psychotherapies. It has been postulated that meditation may cultivate therapeutic processes similar to various psychotherapies. A previous study used joint factor analysis to identify five common factors of items of scales purported to capture psychological states cultivated by meditation, focusing, and cognitive behavioral therapy, namely, refraining from catastrophic thinking, logical objectivity, self-observation, acceptance, and detached coping. The present study aimed to extend previous research on these five factors by examining their longitudinal relationship to symptoms of depression, obsession and compulsion, and worrying, with two correlational surveys without intervention. Potential mediators of their effect on worrying were also explored. Longitudinal questionnaire studies from two student samples (n = 157 and 232, respectively) found that (a) detached coping was inversely related to obsessive-compulsive symptoms about 5 weeks later; (b) detached coping was inversely related to depressive symptoms about 5 weeks later; (c) refraining from catastrophic thinking was inversely related to worrying, while self-observation was positively related to worrying about 2 months later; and (d) the relation of refraining from catastrophic thinking to worrying was mediated by negative beliefs about worrying, while the relation of self-observation to worrying was mediated by negative beliefs about worrying and monitoring of one's cognitive processes. As refraining from catastrophic thinking involves being detached from one's negative thinking and detached coping involves distancing oneself from external circumstances and problems, the results suggest that distancing attitudes are useful for long-term reduction of various psychological symptoms.

Keywords: Detached coping; Longitudinal design; Mediator; Metacognitions; Refraining from catastrophic thinking; Self-observation.