Mindfulness and Experiential Avoidance: Targeting Avoidance Behaviors with a Short-Term Focused-Breathing Exercise.
- Previous research suggests that mindfulness holds promise as a treatment for anxiety-related disorders because it aids individuals in lowering their experiential avoidance (EA). In other words, mindfulness helps individuals approach stimuli which seem unpleasant, thus supporting adaptive exposure-based behaviors rather than strengthening avoidance behaviors. The current study is a partial replication ... read moreof a previous study (Carlin & Ahrens, 2014) designed to investigate whether engaging in a brief mindfulness-based focused-breathing exercise would result in decreased avoidance behavior. Undergraduate students were randomly assigned to listen to a mindfulness or mind-wandering audio file. They were then shown a fear-inducing film clip and subsequently given a series of frustrating math problems to solve. This study expands previous research by measuring avoidance behavior via three distinct indicators: persistence in the frustrating math task, willingness to repeat this task in the future, and latency to start working on each math problem. This study investigates whether a mindfulness induction inhibits experiential avoidance across all three aforementioned markers of EA. Participants in the mindfulness group were more willing to re-experience unpleasant stimuli as compared to participants in the control group; however, there was no effect of group on persistence or latency. These results demonstrate that this short focused-breathing exercise may increase an anxious person’s willingness to re-experience unpleasant stimuli. More research is needed to compare the effects of different mindfulness inductions on avoidance behaviors after an anxiety-inducing situation.read less