Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts.

“Social rejection can have a number of negative outcomes both for the rejected person’s own health and well-being, as well as their interpersonal relationships,” said lead author Alexandra Martelli at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). “Therefore it is critical that researchers find adaptive ways at responding to social rejection, and mindfulness may be one effective emotion regulation strategy.”

Researchers from VCU, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Kentucky conducted the study to determine whether mindfulness could help buffer against the distress and pain of social rejection.
The researchers observed the participants’ brain activity as they played a virtual ball-tossing game with what they believed to be two other partners.

Toward the end of the game, the participants stopped receiving any ball tosses from the other players, mimicking the conditions of social rejection. Then the participants were interviewed about how distressed they were during the game. The findings show that participants with higher levels of mindfulness reported less distress from being excluded.

The research leader David Chester, Ph.D., said specifically, the study suggests that mindful individuals are not as distressed by social rejection and that mindful individuals appear to successfully regulate such distressing emotions by not using effortful, inhibitory processes that suppress their feelings of social pain.

“Mindful people are likely using a more ‘bottom-up’ regulatory approach, which makes sense given these individuals’ tendency to focus on the organic origins of their feelings.”

The new findings also shed light on the underlying neural mechanisms of aggression and violence within interpersonal relationships.

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