Individuals encounter a variety of emotional challenges daily, with optimal emotion modulation requiring adaptive choice among available means of regulation. However, individuals differ in the ability to flexibly and adaptively move between engaging and disengaging emotion regulation (ER) strategies as per contextual demands, referred to as regulatory choice flexibility. Greater regulatory choice flexibility is associated with greater mental health, well-being and resilience, warranting the development of interventions to increase such flexibility. We hypothesized that a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program would fulfill this goal. To test our hypothesis, we recruited college students to either participate in an 8-week MBSR workshop or join a waiting list for a later workshop (i.e., control participants). After the workshop's completion, all participants were invited to the laboratory and completed several computerized tasks examining their regulatory choice flexibility when exposed to universally emotion-laden stimuli as well as stimuli specifically related to the students' social and political environment. The regulatory choice patterns of participants who underwent MBSR training were found to be more flexible than those of participants who had not yet completed the workshop, with the former more likely than the latter to favor an engaging ER strategy (i.e., reappraisal) when faced with low-intensity stimuli and a disengaging strategy (i.e., distraction) when faced with high-intensity stimuli. The findings' importance is discussed.
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© 2018 American Psychological Association.
- emotion regulation, choice, flexibility, mindfulness, MBSR