Mindfulness, Heartfulness & Wellness

Words: Drs Martina RAHE, Fabian WOLFF & Petra JANSEN

Mindfulness is the awareness to be non-judgmental in the present moment. The scientific research on the broad term ‘mindfulness’ has increasingly grown in the last two decades. However, in many studies, poor methodology and lack of clarity in the definition of mindfulness has led to an exaggeration of the effects of mindfulness in some ways. Nevertheless, dispositional mindfulness, which describes mindfulness as a disposition, or trait, can be regarded as the ability to act with an open and receptive mind, including self-regulation of attention and an open and non-judgmental orientation to experience. Several measurements of mindfulness exist. The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire [FFMQ], for example, includes the aspects of non-reactivity, observing, describing, acting with awareness, and non-judging.

Heartfulness, which is sometimes conceptualised as the warm side of mindfulness, can be investigated with the concepts of self-compassion, which is an indicator of heartfulness towards the own person, and gratitude, which is an indicator of heartfulness towards others. Self-compassion means compassion for oneself while suffering. The concept of self-compassion can be differentiated into the aspects of self-kindness vs self-judgment, mindfulness vs over-identification, and common humanity vs isolation. Gratitude is the recognition of responding to others with grateful emotion due to their benevolence. Research has shown that mindfulness and gratitude are positively related.

Subjective well-being is a broad concept that can be differentiated into an affective and a cognitive component. The affective component can be understood as the emotional quality of one’s well-being. The cognitive aspect of well-being is measured mainly by the thoughts about one’s well-being. Among others, well-being can be measured with the Brief Inventory of Thriving. Well-being can also be differentiated between hedonic [subjective and emotional well-being] and eudaimonic well-being. The hedonic approach focuses on happiness in a way that pleasure attainment and pain avoidance is important for well-being; the eudaimonic approach addresses meaning and self-realisation and focuses on well-being as the degree to which a person is fully functioning. Flourishing shows parallelism with high eudaimonic well-being, which includes components like meaning, or purpose in life. Flourishing means “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.”

The Relation Between Mindfulness, Heartfulness & Wellness 

Several studies have investigated the relationship between mindfulness and well-being. For example, Josefsson et al, found an indirect effect of meditation experience on psychological well-being measured with the short version of Ryff’s Psychological Well-Being Scale. This effect has been mediated by the five mindfulness facets of the FFMQ [observing, non-reacting, acting with awareness, non-judging and describing while the mediation effect was the strongest for non-reacting]. Moreover, mindfulness was related to well-being and performance in the workplace. Several mediators in the relation between mindfulness and well-being have been found — such as emotional intelligence, resilience, and hope and optimism. Another relation could be found between dispositional mindfulness measured with the FFMQ and the concept of flourishing. However, Jon Kabat-Zinn has already stated that mindfulness, besides its awareness qualities, also has a gentle emotional quality and can be described as heartfulness.

Regarding heartfulness, it has already been shown that self-compassion is one possible mechanism through which mindfulness is related to well-being. Colosimo, Voci et al examined the role of self-compassion and gratitude in relation to mindfulness, heartfulness, and psychological well-being. In their study, self-compassion mediated the relation between mindfulness and self-acceptance, autonomy, environmental mastery, and positive relations. Gratitude mediated the association between mindfulness and self-acceptance, environmental mastery, and positive relations. The authors concluded that mindfulness seems to foster higher levels of psychological well-being through heartfulness. Desai et al used a specific heartfulness meditation practice [meditation practice bringing awareness to the heart and using the phone application called “heartsApp”]. They demonstrated that heartfulness intervention significantly reduces the perceived stress score and the sleep quality index.

Dr MARTINA RAHE, PhD, is Teacher for Special Tasks, Institute of Psychology, Universität Koblenz. Dr FABIAN WOLFF, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology and Empirical Research Methods, Universität Koblenz. Dr PETRA JANSEN, is Professor, Lehrstuhlinhaberin Sportwissenschaft, Universität Regensburg, Germany. This article [Relation of Mindfulness, Heartfulness and Well-Being in Students during the Coronavirus-Pandemic] was first published in International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, Aug 31, 2022, 7[3]:419-438, under a Creative Commons License.

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