According to the broaden-and-build theory, cultivating positive emotions can build personal resources that help individuals cope with stressors. Recent research suggests that dispositional mindfulness can promote an upward spiral of positive emotions. Mindfulness may also interrupt the downward spiral of negative emotions. Despite considerable research on mindfulness and stress, it remains unclear which facets of mindfulness drive this relationship. As such, we aimed to explore which facets of mindfulness predicted stress and to investigate the potential mediating role of affect and resilience. Extending an existing model of mindfulness in the workplace, we examined both positive and negative affect.
As part of a larger study testing a workplace mindfulness intervention, 193 full-time employees at a Fortune 100 company in the USA completed self-report measures of trait mindfulness, affect, resilience, and perceived stress.
Structural equation modelling was conducted to compare competing models. For mindfulness, non-reacting and non-judging significantly predicted stress. Contrary to hypotheses, resilience did not predict stress in the final model. Negative affect was the most robust predictor of stress.
Mindfulness may indirectly reduce stress by decreasing experiences of negative affect. Increased positive affect played less of a role in stress reduction. Interpreted through the lens of the broaden-and-build theory, mindfulness may help break the negative spiral by encouraging decentering (i.e., non-judging) and by reducing emotional reactivity to stressors (i.e., non-reacting).