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Title:Mindfulness and insight: A Buddhist-informed process of healing from trauma
Author(s):Leipow, Rachel A
Director of Research:Heller, Wendy
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Laurent, Heidemarie
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Kwapil, Thomas; Cohen, Dov; Mayer, Alexander
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
experience sampling
daily diary
multilevel mediation
ambulatory assessment
mindfulness-based intervention
mindfulness based cognitive therapy
Abstract:Few studies have proposed a mechanistic explanation of mindfulness grounded in a theoretical framework. Most studies that propose mechanisms are limited to data collection over one or two time points, and therefore change processes have not been fully assessed over time. As such, it is possible that the proposed mechanisms are actually short-term outcomes of mindfulness that may not fully explain the process by which mindfulness leads to increased well-being. Borrowing from Buddhist literature on the subject, insight is proposed as a mediator for the relationship between mindfulness and wellbeing. Although mindfulness is currently a widespread psychological construct and intervention, it was originally explained in Buddhist contexts. Rather than reinvent the wheel, preexisting Buddhist theories precisely and comprehensively explain the relationship between mindfulness and insight, and may result in testable psychological hypotheses. Insight is defined as an understanding of the idiographic way that current emotions, cognitions, and/or behavior are influenced by specific past experiences. It is a compelling explanatory mechanism because the process of paying attention to thoughts and sensations in a specific way (i.e. mindfulness) increases the likelihood that these sensations and thoughts are understood in relation to past causes (i.e. insight). Because insight is an understanding of how past experience influences the present, this investigation is focused on people who have experienced trauma, as this population was greatly impacted by a past experience. Given that there are limited viable measures of insight, wisdom was also measured, as wisdom can be considered an accumulation of insight. A process of healing in which the impact of mindfulness on wellbeing is mediated by insight was tested in two studies. Study 1 involved a single-time point correlational design to test main effects of the relationships between insight/wisdom, mindfulness, trauma, and wellbeing. In Study 2, these constructs along with common alternative mediators of mindfulness were examined as they change within individuals over the course of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Results of both studies indicate that there is a connection between mindfulness and wisdom and decreased symptoms when wisdom is conceptualized as self-transcendence, but not when wisdom is conceptualized as wise reasoning. Insight as measured in Study 2 did not show consistent associations with either mindfulness or wellbeing, and insight did not predict changes in wisdom. There was partial support for some pathways of the mediation model, which at times countered the direction of the hypothesized paths. Ultimately insight did not mediate the relationship between mindfulness and wellbeing. Notably, neither relaxation nor exposure appeared to better explain the relationship between mindfulness and wellbeing, as neither of these constructs predicted both pathways (i.e. X to M path and M to Y path) of the mediation model.
Issue Date:2020-04-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Rachel Leipow
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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