Bracing Later and Coping Better: Benefits of Mindfulness During a Stressful Waiting Period

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2017 Oct;43(10):1399-1414. doi: 10.1177/0146167217713490. Epub 2017 Jun 18.

Abstract

People frequently await uncertain news, yet research reveals that the strategies people naturally use to cope with uncertainty are largely ineffective. We tested the role of mindfulness for improving the experience of a stressful waiting period. Law graduates awaiting their bar exam results either reported their trait mindfulness (Study 1; N = 150) or were instructed to practice mindfulness meditation (Study 2; N = 90). As hypothesized, participants who were naturally more mindful or who practiced mindfulness managed their expectations more effectively by bracing for the worst later in the waiting period and perceived themselves as coping better. Additionally, participants who were low in dispositional optimism and high in intolerance of uncertainty benefited most from mindfulness (relative to control) meditation. These findings point to a simple and effective way to wait better, particularly for those most vulnerable to distress.

Keywords: bar exam; bracing; coping; expectations; law school; meditation; mindfulness; waiting.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mindfulness*
  • Optimism
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Uncertainty
  • Young Adult