In contrast to formal meditation, which involves setting aside other activities to engage in contemplative practice, informal meditation can happen at any moment within the flow of daily activities. Whether informal meditation practice improves well-being is unclear. The purpose of this investigation was to test hypotheses about the day-to-day socioemotional profiles and dose–response relations, both within persons and between persons, associated with informal meditation practice.
Midlife adults (N = 231), new to meditation, were randomized to learn either mindfulness meditation or loving–kindness meditation in a 6-week workshop that taught both formal and informal meditation practices. The frequency of informal meditation practice was measured daily for 9 weeks. Likewise, formal meditation, emotions, and perceptions of social integration were also measured daily.
Multilevel models of daily reports over a 9-week period revealed significant dose–response relations between the frequency of informal meditation and positive emotions and perceived social integration—both within persons and between persons (positive emotions: within-person b = 0.05, 95% CI [0.03, 0.07], between-person b = 0.35, 95% CI [0.20, 0.51]; social integration: within-person b = 0.11, 95% CI [0.07, 0.14], between-person b = 0.41, 95% CI [0.12, 0.70]). Effects were comparable for the distinct informal practices of mindfulness and loving–kindness, and were statistically independent of the effects of formal meditation practice.
The present research demonstrated that, distinct from formal meditation practice, informal meditation practice is linked to both positive emotions and social integration in a dose–response manner.