ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (10): 1937-1951.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.01937

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The effects of mindfulness on eudaimonic well-being and its theoretical explanation

HE Qi, LIU Xiaoming()   

  1. School of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China
  • Received:2022-11-22 Online:2023-10-15 Published:2023-07-25


Eudaimonic well-being occurs when people’s life activities align with deeply held values, and they positively engage in activities to realize their potential. Eudaimonic well-being is characterized by a sense of purpose and meaning. It has become a flourishing arena of scientific inquiry and clinical practice. However, eudaimonic enhancement remains neglected in positive psychology. The self-determination theory (SDT) proposes that mindfulness is possibly the most centrally discussed intrapersonal factor influencing the pathway to enhance eudaimonic well-being. This review aims to explore the mechanisms by which mindfulness positively affects eudaimonic well-being. Investigating this question not only provides an essential extension of self-determination theory but also adds to our understanding of the value and generative manifestations of mindfulness. In addition, it may provide a theoretical foundation for developing mindfulness interventions focusing solely on eudaimonic enhancement. Recent research has found that mindfulness can be effective in improving well-being. Mindfulness traits were particularly strong in relation to eudaimonic well-being; meditators reported significantly higher levels of eudaimonic well-being orientation than non-meditators; and mindfulness traits moderated the negative relationship between stressful events and eudaimonic well-being. Attention awareness and acceptance can influence eudaimonic well-being by promoting positive qualities and experiencing fewer negative emotions in response to stress. Mindfulness-based training has been shown to improve eudaimonic well-being in clinical groups with psychological and physical symptoms, and non-clinical groups of middle school students, workers, and athletes. However, it is noteworthy that mindfulness training improved eudaimonic well-being only when practiced over a long period. The low intensity and short duration of this training may not have produced changes in eudaimonic well-being. Based on the S-ART model, self-determination theory, mindfulness-to-meaning theory, and empirical literature, this review proposed a model of mindfulness-self-regulation-eudaimonic well-being. Attention awareness and acceptance together explain how mindfulness positively affects eudaimonic well-being by improving cognitive regulation. Cognitive regulation processes include meta-awareness, Which reduces experiential fusion; cognitive reappraisal and perspective taking, which changes maladaptive self-schemas; and self-inquiry, which reduces cognitive reification. Moreover, mindfulness also positively affects eudaimonic well-being by improving emotional regulation. Emotional regulation processes include cognitive reappraisal, which reduces negative semantic narrative patterns and emotions during stressful events; savoring increasing positive emotions. Finally, mindfulness had a positive effect on eudaimonic well-being by improving behavioral regulation. Behavioral regulation processes include changing behavioral goals, such as increasing internal behavioral goals and decreasing external behavioral goals; and it also includes improving autonomous behavior, which involves reducing cognitive distortion and negative emotion-driven behavior, reducing automatic behavior, and transforming forced behavioral regulation. Furthermore, mindfulness positively affects eudaimonic well-being by promoting cognitive regulation, improving emotional regulation, and further improving behavioral regulation. Future research could focus on many aspects. First, different effects of the basic components of mindfulness could be analyzed, to further resolve the paradox between single-component and two-component views. Further analyzing of the role of attention awareness and acceptance is required when considering whether individuals experience stressful events and whether such events cause negative emotions. The single-component view of mindfulness requires an additional explanation of the differential roles of attention and awareness. Second, the mechanisms through which mindfulness benefits eudaimonic well-being can be explored. Mindfulness-to-meaning theory needs to be further validated using a variety of research methods, such as ecological momentary assessment, as the savoring and reappraisal hypotheses remain controversial. Besides improving autonomous behavior consistent with values in behavioral regulation, mindfulness may also improve behavioral abilities, like problem-focused thinking and coping competence. Third, researchers should develop targeted mindfulness-based training programs to improve eudaimonic well-being and identify the boundary conditions of the main effect from four aspects: practitioner, practice, relationship, and culture.

Key words: mindfulness, eudaimonic well-being, decentering, autonomy, self-regulation

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