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Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance: A Review of the Literature

7 February 2010


Research over the past several decades suggests that mindfulness-based interventions facilitate reductions in psychological distress associated with a range of clinical presentations. Although there have been a significant number of studies looking at the impact of mindfulness on symptom reduction, there have been far fewer studies looking at the effect of mindfulness training on distress tolerance. Distress tolerance refers to the ability to tolerate and withstand negative or unpleasant experiences, and involves a fundamental shift in the relationship that one has with their current experience. This review aims to take a closer look at the existing literature on mindfulness-based interventions, including the multifaceted construct of mindfulness itself, clinical applications, and the mechanisms of change believed to mediate positive treatment outcomes. The current state of research on distress tolerance is reviewed, as well as the mechanisms by which mindfulness is believed to facilitate increased distress tolerance and nonjudgmental acceptance of unpleasant experiences. Although mindfulness research on this topic appears to be promising, the precise mechanisms by which this shift occurs are yet to be clearly understood. The empirical research examining the relationship between mindfulness and distress tolerance is also discussed and future directions for research are identified.


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