Linguistic Predictors of Mindfulness in Written Self-Disclosure Narratives.

J Lang Soc Psychol. 2009 Sep;28(3):281-296. Epub 2009 Jan 5.

Moore SD1, Brody LR1.

This study investigated whether relative changes in cognitive, emotion, temporal, and self-reference word frequencies in repeated narratives predicted improvements in mindfulness skills (i.e., nonjudgmental acceptance of present-moment experiences, observing and describing present stimuli, and acting with awareness) subsequent to narrative self-disclosure. Participants wrote repeated narratives of traumatic or daily events over 3 days. Mindfulness was assessed at baseline and 4 to 8 weeks posttask. Results indicated that relative increases in cognitive processing words (among traumatic events participants and women in both conditions) and present tense words (among all participants) significantly predicted increases in nonjudgmental acceptance, describing, or overall mindfulness. Increases in present tense words appeared to partially mediate the higher mindfulness outcomes of participants writing about daily events when compared with those writing about trauma. The findings suggest that linguistic changes in self-disclosure narratives are associated with improvements in specific mindfulness skills.

Mindfulness and experiential avoidance as predictors and outcomes of the narrative emotional disclosure task.

J Clin Psychol. 2009 Sep;65(9):971-88. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20600.

Moore SD1, Brody LR, Dierberger AE.

This randomized study examined whether narrative emotional disclosure improves mindfulness, experiential avoidance, and mental health, and how baseline levels of and changes in mindfulness and experiential avoidance relate to mental health. Participants (N=233) wrote repeated traumatic (experimental condition) or unemotional daily events narratives (control condition). Regression analyses showed neither condition nor gender effects on mental health or experiential avoidance at a 1-month follow-up, although the control condition significantly increased in one component of mindfulness. Decreased experiential avoidance (across conditions) and increased mindfulness (in the experimental condition) significantly predicted improved mental health. Narrative disclosure thus did not improve outcomes measured here. However, increasing mindfulness when writing narratives with traumatic content, and decreasing experiential avoidance regardless of writing content, was associated with improved mental health.

The benefits of mindfulness-enhanced expressive writing among depression-vulnerable individuals

Baum, Emily Sylvain


An impressive body of research indicates expressive writing (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986) produces physiological and psychological benefits. One study found that expressive writing decreases depressive symptoms among formerly depressed college students (Gortner, Rude, & Pennebaker, 2006). Gortner et al. (2006) argue that expressive writing may produce changes by reducing negative evaluations of emotional experiences and self-judgment, often associated with depression, through instructions encouraging participants to delve into their “deepest thoughts and feelings.” In other words, the standard writing instructions appear to send an implicit message that individuals be accepting and non-judgmental towards emotions and cognitions. The mindfulness literature suggests that making this message explicit may improve the preventative power of expressive writing in depression-vulnerable populations (Baer, 2003; Kingston, Dooley, Bates, Lawlor, & Malone, 2007; Teasdale et al., 2000; Toneatto & Nguyen, 2007). Therefore, the specific goal of the present study was to examine the effects of a mindfulness-enhanced expressive writing intervention among depression-prone individuals. Depression-vulnerable participants (e.g., dysphoric or formerly depressed) were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Although writing instructions varied for each group, all participants wrote for 20 minutes across a three-day period. The mindfulness condition received writing instructions that encouraged participants to be non-judgmental, accepting, and self-compassionate as they wrote about distressing events. Participants in the traditional writing condition received standard writing instructions, which consisted of writing about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to an emotional incident. Finally, students in the control condition were instructed to write about what they did the previous day. Results showed marginally significant decreases in depressive symptoms among participants in the mindfulness group compared to the control condition. In addition, results indicated that low suppressive depression-vulnerable individuals in the mindfulness condition marginally improved their cognitive processing biases compared to their counterparts in the traditional and control groups. Results failed to support hypotheses that predicted improvements on self-compassion, rumination, and mindfulness skills. Further, self-compassion was not found to mediate the effects of treatment on depressive symptoms and rumination. Obviously more research needs to be conducted, however preliminary results suggest that brief mindfulness interventions may be beneficial for a depression-vulnerable population.

Mindfulness as a mediating factor of efficacy of therapeutic writing

Poon and Danoff-Burg (2011) offered mindfulness (“paying complete attention to the experiences occurring presently, in a nonjudgmental way or an accepting stance”) as a moderator that might deepen the writer’s capacity to create insight and meaning. Study participants completed the Freiberg Mindfulness Inventory and other measurements before following instructions to write three times over several days, for twenty minutes each time, about a stressful experience. Mindfulness influenced the extent of benefits produced by expressive writing. . . . [A] higher mindfulness score predicted greater change over time in decreased physical symptoms, decreased psychological symptoms, and decreased negative affect, but an increase in sleep quality and positive affect. These findings suggest that people who are more mindful benefit more from disclosing their emotions and thoughts regarding stressful experiences than do those who are less mindful (890).

(p. 28).

From “Your Brain on Ink”