Master's Theses

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Dr. Leo Herrman

Abstract

Previous research indicates that practicing mindfulness-based strategies over an extended period of time may positively impact individuals’ well-being, such as improved mood and cognitive performance (Chambers, Lo, & Allen, 2008; Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Mrazek, Franklin, Phillips, Baird, & Schooler, 2013). This research also indicates there may be immediate benefits to practicing mindfulness strategies; however, a majority of the existing literature on this topic has focused primarily on extended mindfulness-practices over several weeks with an in-person guide or trained researcher. The purpose of the current study was two-fold. First, how practicing one of two mindfulness-based strategies for a short period of time (e.g., less than two minutes per day over a one week period) influenced several psychological variables of interest (i.e., attention and awareness, depression, anxiety, stress, mood, and cognitive performance) was assessed. Second, the short mindfulness-based strategies were guided by a mobile-phone application; thus, the effectiveness of practicing mindfulness without the physical presence of a guide or researcher trained in meditation was assessed. Participants came to an initial lab session (Time 1) and completed self-report measures assessing the variables of interest along with a cognitive task to test their working memory capability. Participants either learned and practiced one mindfulness-based strategy (mindful breathing or a body scan) or engaged in a no-strategy (control) condition. After the initial lab session, participants in the mindfulness strategy conditions were instructed to practice the strategy on their own for three days using a mobile-phone application. Participants returned to the lab for a final lab session (Time 2) and once ii again practice the assigned mindfulness strategy, answered the self-report questionnaires, and completed the cognitive task. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that participants in the mindful breathing and body scan conditions compared to the control condition would show increases in attention and awareness, positive affect, and cognitive performance from the initial lab session (Time 1) to the final lab session (Time 2). It was also hypothesized that participants in the mindful breathing and body scan conditions compared to the control condition would show decreases in depression, anxiety, stress, and negative affect from Time 1 to Time 2. Seventy-four participants completed all parts of the current study; there were not significant differences across conditions and time on most of the self-report measures. However, there was a significant main effect of time on negative affect and performance on the cognitive task. Exploratory analyses were conducted to further probe the data for relationships between the variables of interest. A negative correlation between self-reported mindfulness, attention, and awareness was found in relation to depression, anxiety, stress, and negative affect. Although not significant, a positive correlation between self-reported mindfulness, attention, and awareness was found in relation to positive affect and cognitive performance. The results suggest that more research is needed on the effect of brief mindfulness practices guided by a mobile-phone application. Contributions of the current study, as well as future research and limitations, are discussed.

Rights

Copyright 2018 Katelyn J. Haschke

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