Mindfulness Research: Adapting Stressful Events to Being Benign, Beneficial and Meaningful

This 2011 research “Positive Reappraisal Mediates the Stress-Reductive Effects of Mindfulness: An Upward Spiral Process” from Garland, Gaylord, and Frederickson takes an interesting approach to seeing how we can leverage our experience of the positive effects of mindfulness and meditation even further through a process called positive reappraisal by adapting stressful events. Essentially, what this work looks at is the “adaptive process through which stressful events are re-construed as benign, beneficial, and/or meaningful.’” This process entails finding the beneficial aspect of experiences in the past, or possibilities in the future, through releasing conditioned understandings about said events. The relationship between mindfulness and this process is that they go hand-in-hand. The researchers explain “when a given event is appraised as a threat that exceeds one’s capabilities, an individual may initiate an adaptive response by decentering from this stress appraisal via a process of mindfulness, which leads to a state of mindful awareness.” What this means is that we have the power to redefine our experiences and create a joyful life for ourselves through the process of redefining our reaction to experiences. Things that we are quick to deem negative may not be so, and should we choose to see them differently, it can actually have a tremendously positive effect on our lives. The best part is that, as this study shows, we can train ourselves to do this repeatedly. Eventually, it may just become our new conditioned response to events.

Basically, this study proves that with repeated practice “individuals can then more easily reappraise their circumstances and redefine or reframe them as meaningful or even beneficial and, in so doing, reduce stress while promoting the experience of positive emotions, such as hope or challenge.” So, it turns out that seeking the silver lining has more positive outcomes than we could have ever imagined. Though the participants of this study were in an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course, it would be easy to imagine that having a meditation practice and coupling it with reframing your negative associations would have a similar effect.


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Latest update: March 27, 2015
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