Can Mindfulness Change How We Interpret Emotional Situations?

When we're facing uncertainty, mindfulness skills may help us to interpret situations as more positive than negative, a recent publication shows.

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Throughout the day, our brain must interpret the meaning of many kinds of emotional, physical, and social stimuli. Research in the field of psychology has found that people tend to have a default negative reaction to these cues, especially when it isn’t clear if a situation is positive or negative, or when the information we’re receiving about the world around us is continuously changing.

Nicholas Harp from the Psychology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says that our appraisal of stimuli or events is what we call our valence bias, which he explains “really refers to whether you tend to see these kinds of emotional ambiguities or uncertainties in a more positive or negative light.” Harp says that individuals who have a negative valence bias are at a greater risk of developing symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders.

The good news is that it may be possible for us to reduce our tendency toward a negative bias, and shift to a more positive interpretation of uncertainty. One of the ways that researchers believe we can achieve this change is through mindfulness practice.

A Look at the Mindfulness Literature…