university of connecticut

Project Description

research project on stress and coping, mindfulness and compassion

Project Abstract

This study proposes to examine the combined effects of a writing and breathing/meditation intervention promoting compassion on symptoms of distress and coping behaviors following a stressful or traumatic experience. It will extend research on positive psychological factors that moderate or mediate the effects of stress. It will also examine whether certain coping strategies, such as meaning-making and meaning-repair, promote emotional regulation by transforming the nature and meaning of feeling states during stressful or distressing situations. In this study, we will assess the effects of the interventions as well as examine whether high and low distress groups differ in levels of meaning. Specific aims are (1) To examine whether the promotion of compassion through writing or through a breath practice will enhance well-being and positive health behaviors; (2) A secondary aim is to examine whether people who have experienced life altering events and are still currently distressed by it, will be helped by an intervention promoting compassion; (3) A third aim is to examine whether people who have experienced life altering events show greater mindfulness and increased life meaning as a result of their experience. The following hypotheses will be examined: (1) the promotion of compassion through the interventions will result in higher self-regulation and less negative health behaviors through both meaning-repair and the broaden and build effect of positive emotions resulting in increased positive affect and increased prosocial behaviors; (2) participants already high in composite mindfulness and meaning-making will have higher positive affect as well as positive health indicators; (3) High past distress and low current distress is predicted to be associated with greater mindfulness and meaning-making; (4) Mindfulness will be indirectly increased by both interventions, resulting in an increase in positive physical and psychological well-being and positive health indicators across participants with and without history of stressful experience. Information on health and well-being will be collected at baseline. Participants are then instructed to follow four weeks of exercise depending on their group assignment. Follow-up data will be collected at the end of four weeks, at six months and at a year. The proposed study is relevant for well-being, coping and adjustment. In particular, it might foster self-regulation of behavior resulting in mood repair (quicker recovery from unpleasant moods, shorter duration of “bad” moods”) and promote positive emotions which have been shown to have positive impact on behavioral and physiological functioning.

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