Mindfulness-based interventions and their effects on emotional clarity: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2018 Aug 1:235:265-276. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.04.018. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


Background: An inability to identify or describe internal emotional experience has been linked to a range of affective disorders. Despite burgeoning research on mindfulness-based interventions and their possible effects on emotion regulation, the effects of such interventions on emotional clarity is unclear. This review examines the evidence for the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on self-reported emotional clarity.

Method: Published studies indexed by PsycINFO, PubMed and Scopus, as available in April 2017, were systematically reviewed. Interventions that included mindfulness practice or philosophy, and reported a suitable measure of emotional clarity at pre- and post-intervention were selected. A random-effects meta-analysis was performed. Subgroup comparisons were also conducted to test for differences between clinical and non-clinical samples, between specific and approximate measures of emotional clarity, and between controlled and uncontrolled trials.

Results: Seventeen studies met the criteria for inclusion. The overall estimated effect size for pre- to post-intervention was small to moderate, Hedges' g = 0.42, 95% CI [0.25, 0.59] and for between groups results was small to large, Hedges' g = 0.52, 95% CI [0.15, 0.90].

Limitations: Studies varied substantially in design quality and study characteristics. Furthermore, while interventions in the reviewed studies all had mindfulness components, many had other components in addition to mindfulness. Consequently, this review is limited by the heterogeneity of studies and results should be interpreted with caution.

Conclusions: There is preliminary evidence to suggest that mindfulness-based interventions may increase emotional clarity. However, more homogenous and targeted experiments are required to confirm these initial findings.

Keywords: Alexithymia; Emotional clarity; Interventions; MBSR; Meta-analysis; Mindfulness.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Mood Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*