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03-09-2020 | ORIGINAL PAPER

A Qualitative Examination of the Developmental Trajectory of Learning Mindfulness Across an 8-Week Program

Ben Isbel, Tamara Sysak, Mathew J. Summers
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s12671-020-01484-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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While many mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are delivered in an 8-week program, little has been reported regarding the developmental trajectory of acquiring mindfulness proficiency. With the widespread adoption of mindfulness-based practices in both popular and therapeutic settings, greater knowledge regarding the trajectory of learning mindfulness is essential. The present study sought to investigate the developmental trajectory of mindfulness acquisition across an 8-week MBI through examination of home training diary reports.


Daily home practice diaries of 20 healthy MBI-naïve older adults randomly assigned to an 8-week mindfulness intervention as part of a larger RCT assessing the effects of mindfulness on cognition were analysed using qualitative content/thematic techniques. Rather than adopting an a priori coding scheme, an iterative process of coding was used to develop emergent themes from the data along with a standardized codebook manual. The frequency of codes was analysed by week of the intervention in order to permit an investigation of the temporal development of each theme.


Diary entries were exhaustively incorporated into four main themes: Difficulties with practice, Understanding the practice, Developing proficiency, and Benefits of mindfulness. Temporal analysis revealed that only after 4 weeks did the frequency of Developing proficiency outweigh Difficulties with practice. Participants continued to develop their mindfulness skills throughout, while Benefits of mindfulness appeared toward the conclusion of the program.


Diary data suggest that sufficient proficiency to overcome difficulties associated with mindfulness practice is achieved only after 4 weeks of daily training, and that participants continue to develop their understanding of the practice throughout an 8-week MBI.

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