Mindful Emotion Regulation: Exploring the Neurocognitive Mechanisms behind Mindfulness

Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:670724. doi: 10.1155/2015/670724. Epub 2015 Jun 7.


The purpose of this paper is to review some of the psychological and neural mechanisms behind mindfulness practice in order to explore the unique factors that account for its positive impact on emotional regulation and health. After reviewing the mechanisms of mindfulness and its effects on clinical populations we will consider how the practice of mindfulness contributes to the regulation of emotions. We argue that mindfulness has achieved effective outcomes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other psychopathologies through the contribution of mindfulness to emotional regulation. We consider the unique factors that mindfulness meditation brings to the process of emotion regulation that may account for its effectiveness. We review experimental evidence that points towards the unique effects of mindfulness specifically operating over and above the regulatory effects of cognitive reappraisal mechanisms. A neuroanatomical circuit that leads to mindful emotion regulation is also suggested. This paper thereby aims to contribute to proposed models of mindfulness for research and theory building by proposing a specific model for the unique psychological and neural processes involved in mindful detachment that account for the effects of mindfulness over and above the effects accounted for by other well-established emotional regulation processes such as cognitive reappraisal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness*