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Mindful Emotion Regulation: A Theoretical and Empirical Review

9 December 2011


The aim of the present theoretical and empirical literature review is to evaluate the efficacy of mindfulness as an emotion regulation strategy. The adaptive significance of human emotion is first presented within an evolutionary framework. Neural correlates of emotion from recent fMRI and PET findings and their structural implications are then briefly reviewed to provide a common conceptual foundation. Next, one- versus two-factor models of emotion regulation are introduced, followed by a description of the emotion regulation strategies under examination: (a) incidental emotion regulation, (b) experiential avoidance or distraction, (c) expressive suppression, (d) thought suppression, (e) cognitive reappraisal, and (f) mindfulness, or mindful emotion regulation. The construct of mindfulness is considered within the context of both Tibetan Buddhism and Western Psychology. Findings from recently published (< 3 years) empirical research on mindfulness and other cognitive-behavioral emotion regulation strategies are summarized and some general conclusions are drawn regarding their efficacy. Lastly, the utility of mindfulness in contrast to the other cognitive-behavioral emotion regulation strategies is discussed before considering future directions in psychological research, theory, and practice.


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