Mindful attention can prevent individuals from becoming immersed in the experience of stressful thoughts and setting off a stress response. Mindful attention involves recognizing one’s thoughts are mental states that exist in one’s mind, but not in the external world. When one treats thoughts this way, they arise and dissipate without a stress response. Currently, we are exploring how mindful attention reduces the individual’s subjective experience of stress, and how this affects the neural representation of stress.
Understanding these mechanisms will inform why mindfulness-based interventions have a therapeutic effect, as well as inform the diagnosis and treatment of those experiencing both clinical and sub-clinical levels of stress-related disorders. Additionally, it may help identify those at risk for these disorders, thereby potentially enabling preventative care.