Abstract: Mindfulness is an attribute of consciousness long believed to promote well-being. This research provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the role of mindfulness in psychological well-being. The development and psychometric properties of the dispositional Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) are described. Correlational, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies then show that the MAAS measures a unique quality of consciousness that is related to a variety of well-being constructs, that differentiates mindfulness practitioners from others, and that is associated with enhanced selfawareness. An experience-sampling study shows that both dispositional and state mindfulness predict self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states. Finally, a clinical intervention study with cancer patients demonstrates that increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress. Many philosophical, spiritual, and psychological traditions emphasize the importance of the quality of consciousness for the maintenance and enhancement of well-being (Wilber, 2000). Despite this, it is easy to overlook the importance of consciousness in human well-being because almost everyone exercises its primary capacities, that is, attention and awareness. Indeed, the relation between qualities of consciousness and well-being has received little empirical attention. One attribute of consciousness that has been much-discussed in relation to well-being is mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness has roots in Buddhist and other contemplative traditions where conscious attention and awareness are actively cultivated. It is most commonly defined as the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present. For example, Nyanaponika Thera (1972) called mindfulness “the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at the successive moments of perception” (p. 5). Hanh (1976) similarly defined mindfulness as “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality” (p. 11). Recent research has shown that the enhancement of mindfulness through training facilitates a variety of well-being outcomes (e.g., Kabat-Zinn, 1990). To date, however, there has been little work examining this attribute as a naturally occurring characteristic. Recognizing that most everyone has the capacity to attend and to be aware, we nonetheless assume (a) that individuals differ in their propensity or willingness to be aware and to sustain attention to what is occurring in the present and (b) that this mindful capacity varies within persons, because it can be sharpened or dulled by a variety of factors. The intent of the present research is to reliably identify these inter- and intrapersonal variations in mindfulness, establish their relations to other relevant psychological constructs, and demonstrate their importance to a variety of forms of psychological well-being.
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