Date of Submission
Donald, J. N. (2016). Mindfulness and coping with stress: A multi-method examination (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5a9db7cb3360f
Theories of mindfulness emphasise its role in enhancing self-regulation, including in the presence of negative emotion. However, most studies of mindfulness in social and clinical psychology have focused on its influence on affective outcomes such as stress, anxiety and well-being, rather than on outcomes relating to self-regulation. In this thesis I aim to address this gap by examining whether mindfulness enhances approach and inhibits avoidance coping responses following stressful events. In two studies, mindfulness was manipulated using a brief induction (Study 1) and a multi-session intervention (Study 2), and the effects of both manipulations on approach and avoidance coping were examined, relative to controls. In Studies 3 and 4, I examined the effects of two mindfulness components – acceptance and cognitive defusion – on coping responses. Study 3 manipulated acceptance and cognitive defusion via a brief induction and examined effects on behavioural measures of approach and avoidance. Study 4 measured the effects of acceptance and cognitive defusion as intra-individual difference variables on coping with daily stressful events. In addition, Studies 1 to 3 examined whether perceived stress moderated the effects of mindfulness manipulations on coping responses, which has not been done before. Across Studies 1 to 3, there were significant, small-to-medium main effects of mindfulness manipulations on coping responses, as well as consistent evidence for perceived stress as a moderator of these effects on avoidance coping. In Study 4, I found that cognitive defusion predicted greater approach and less avoidance coping both within the same day and across days. Together these findings suggest that mindfulness and mindfulness components have an important role to play in enhancing coping responses. Mindfulness appears to most consistently reduce avoidant forms of coping, and these effects are most substantial among relatively stressed individuals. These findings are consistent with theories of mindfulness which emphasise its role in behaviour-regulation, and provide novel evidence for these effects in the context of coping with stressful events. At a practical level, this research suggests that mindfulness interventions serve to reduce general avoidant behaviours such as blame-shifting, conflict-avoidance and defensive responding; and should have particular benefits in high-stress contexts.
Institute for Positive Psychology and Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Health Sciences