Can practicing mindfulness support emotional processing? – study

Science and Health

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce the impact of intense negative emotions, a new study published on May 25 found. 

The peer-reviewed study, which is published in the academic journal Frontiers, found that the emotionally impact of fatigue can be heavily alleviated through using mindfulness. 

The study collected data from 145 participants from a Chinese university. All participants were healthy, right-handed and had normal or corrected-to-normal vision, with no history of psychiatric disorders or having used mindfulness.

The participants were randomly assigned to either a control group, that did not use mindfulness techniques, or a group that used the techniques. The two groups were then shown 135 images, which depicted something positive, negative, or neutral. They were then asked to answer questions which reflected their Late positive potential (LPP), which is an indicator of the effect an emotional stimulus has on an individual.

What is mindfulness? 

“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us,” according to It is often associated with meditation.

THERE’S STRESS in not knowing what to expect (credit: TNS)

Mindfulness techniques focus on present experiences, and it is increasingly being used in the workplace to help workers foster emotional regulation, according to the study.

Fatigue is a common experience in everyday life

People who experience fatigue have more intense negative emotion which can impair the individuals’ emotional processing ability.  

People who work in emotionally heavy fields, like nursing or counselling, will often suffer emotional fatigue more frequently and more intensely. The fatigue, and subsequent negativity, can go on to impact their job performance, efficiency, and their mental health. Fatigue can also cause slower reactions, reduced judgment, and deteriorating attention.

In some cases, extreme emotional fatigue can cause emotional numbness.

Measuring emotional responses

Emotional responses are physical manifestations that can be measured by event-related potentials (ERPs.) ERPs have noticeable and measurable indicators, such as neural responses. LPPs are a type of ERP which shows physical indications of emotional processing. 

On average, LPPs appear 300-1000 milli-seconds after a stimuli appears. When positive or negative imagery is shown, a greater LLP response occurs than if a neutral image is shown.

This study found that LPP responses were greater to positive or negative imagery, compared to neutral imagery. Overall, the LPP rate was highest in response to negative imagery.

The group that practiced mindfulness had a lower level of LPP than the control group. Fatigue had a negative correlation with LPP in each phase of emotional processing. Ultimately, the study proved that practicing mindfulness can improve the emotional responses of fatigued adults.

“By enabling individuals to shift their way of thinking and focus on feeling in the present moment to reduce the impacts of emotions that individuals perceive, mindfulness can avoid the tendency to process and react to emotions too quickly and facilitate the development of a more adaptive observational response stance,” the researchers explained in their study.

“Mindfulness meditation might also help individuals reduce the negative relationship between fatigue and emotions during emotional processing by being fully aware of the present fatigue state through open awareness and adjusting their awareness of emotional stimuli to better respond after emotional arousal.”

“Mindfulness benefits individuals’ present experience, and might directly promote higher-level processing of emotions.”