Daily Mindful Responding Mediates the Effect of Meditation Practice on Stress and Mood: The Role of Practice Duration and Adherence

J Clin Psychol. 2018 Jan;74(1):109-122. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22489. Epub 2017 Jul 31.


Objective: Although meditation practice is an important component of many mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), empirical findings of its effects on psychological functioning are mixed and the mechanisms for the effects remain unclear. Responding with mindfulness (i.e., returning one's attention back to a nonjudgmental, present-oriented awareness) is a fundamental skill practiced in meditations. With repeated meditation practice, this skill is thought to become internalized and be applied to one's daily life. We thus hypothesized that the extent to which individuals responded to daily events with mindfulness would mediate the effects of meditation practice (instance, duration, and adherence to instructions) on psychological well-being.

Method: Using a daily diary methodology, we tracked the meditation practice, use of mindful responding during the day, and psychological outcomes (perceived stress, negative and positive affect) of 117 mindfulness-based stress reduction program participants.

Results: We found that on days when participants meditated, they responded with greater mindfulness to daily events, which accounted for the beneficial effects of meditating on psychological outcomes. Furthermore, findings suggest that on meditation days, longer and more closely adhered meditation practices were independently associated with increases in mindful responding, which in turn were associated with better psychological outcomes.

Conclusion: These results suggest that regular, longer, and more closely adhered meditation practice is an important component of MBIs, in part because it leads to responding more mindfully in daily life, which promotes well-being.

Keywords: daily diary; mechanism; meditation; mindfulness; mindfulness-based intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*