Trait mindfulness modulates neuroendocrine and affective responses to social evaluative threat.
BACKGROUND: Individual differences in mindfulness have been associated with numerous self-report indicators of stress, but research has not examined how mindfulness may buffer neuroendocrine and psychological stress responses under controlled laboratory conditions. The present study investigated the role of trait mindfulness in buffering cortisol and affective responses to a social evaluative stress challenge versus a control task.
METHODS: Participants completed measures of trait mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation before being randomized to complete the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; Kirschbaum et al., 1993) or a control task. At points throughout the session, participants provided five saliva samples to assess cortisol response patterns, and completed four self-report measures of anxiety and negative affect to assess psychological responses.
RESULTS: In accord with hypotheses, higher trait mindfulness predicted lower cortisol responses to the TSST, relative to the control task, as well as lower anxiety and negative affect. These relations remained significant when controlling for the role of other variables that predicted cortisol and affective responses.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that trait mindfulness modulates cortisol and affective responses to an acute social stressor. Further research is needed to understand the neural pathways through which mindfulness impacts these responses.