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03-11-2021 | ORIGINAL PAPER

Improving Emotion Regulation, Well-being, and Neuro-cognitive Functioning in Teachers: a Matched Controlled Study Comparing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Health Enhancement Programs

Annemaree Carroll, Emma Sanders-O’Connor, Kylee Forrest, Samuel Fynes-Clinton, Ashley York, Maryam Ziaei, Libby Flynn, Julie Majella Bower, David Reutens
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s12671-021-01777-4.

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This study assessed the effectiveness of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) compared to an active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP) in reducing stress and burnout, and enhancing emotion regulation, well-being, and cognitive function in a group of Australian teachers experiencing work-related stress. The programs were evaluated across subjective and objective testing modalities including (1) teachers’ self-reported stress, burnout, psychological distress, emotion regulation, well-being, and mindfulness; (2) behavioural performance on cognitive tasks assessing attention, memory, emotion recognition, and cognitive control; and (3) the neural correlates of emotion regulation as identified using an emotion Stroop task administered during fMRI.


Utilising an independent groups, matched sample longitudinal design, a completer sample of 75 teachers participated in questionnaires and cognitive tasks at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 5-month follow-up. A subsample of 47 teachers also completed fMRI scans pre- and post-intervention.


Both programs resulted in equivalent significant, and sustained improvements for teachers on self-report measures of well-being, mindfulness, perceived stress, and intention to leave the profession, and in the cognitive domains of cognitive control and memory. Between group differences were found on the sustained attention task, with MBSR showing greater improvements than HEP. The fMRI analysis revealed that neural reactivity to generally negative stimuli on the emotional Stroop task was significantly reduced for MBSR participants after the intervention.


Although important subtle differences were found between the programs, results overwhelmingly suggest that both the MBSR and HEP programs are similarly and highly beneficial to teachers experiencing work-related stress.

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