Evaluation of the causal relationship model of mindfulness with anxiety and depression by mediating unintentional mind wandering

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D. student in educational psychology, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

2 Associate professor of Department of Educational Psychology, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

3 Professor of Department of Educational Psychology, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

4 Assistant professor of Department of Educational Psychology, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran


Introduction: Past studies have found mindfulness to be associated with improved mental health. Anxiety and depression are the most common problems in the field of mental health. The present research aims to indicate that the unintentional mind wandering is a mechanism mediating the relationship of mindfulness with anxiety and depression.
Materials and Methods: In order to test the mediator model, 300 female students of Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz-Iran in 2017 were selected by multistage random sampling method. So, in the first stage of sampling, 5 faculties (psychology and education, engineering, literature and humanities, basic sciences, economics and social sciences) were selected randomly from 12 faculties of this university. Then, among the undergraduate students in 23 different disciplines, 300 students were selected. They fulfilled the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS), short-form of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (SSTAI), and the Intentional/Unintentional Mind Wandering Scale. Collected data were analyzed by SPSS and AMOS and using structural equations modeling method. In order to earn the suitable model fitness indices, the item parceling method was used.
Results: Based on the values of some indices (for example, RMSEA= 0.07 and GFI= 0.95), model had a good fit. Also, the results showed that mindfulness has significant relationships with unintentional mind wandering, depression, and anxiety and unintentional mind wandering has significant relationships with anxiety and depression (P≤ 0.01). In addition, the indirect effects of mindfulness on anxiety and depression were also significant through unintentional mind wandering.
Conclusion: Unintentional mind wandering is a factor that facilitating the anxiety and depression and mindfulness can affect the anxiety and depression with reducing the unintentional unrelated thoughts.


  1. Smallwood J, Schooler JW. The science of mind wandering: empirically navigating the stream of consciousness. Ann Rev Psychol 2015;3: 487-518.
  2. Engle RW, Kane MJ. Executive attention, working memory capacity, and a two-factor theory of cognitive control. New York: Elsevier; 2004: 145-99.
  3. Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT. A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science 2010; 330: 932-8.
  4. Schooler JW, Mooneyham BW. The costs and benefits of mind wandering: A review. Can J Exp Psychol 2013; 67: 11-18.
  5. Robison MK, Gath KI, Unsworth N. The neurotic wandering mind: An individual differences investigation of neuroticism, mind-wandering, and executive control. Q J Exp Psychol 2017; 70(4): 649-63.
  6. Seli P, Risko EF, Smilek D. On the necessity of distinguishing between unintentional and intentional mind wandering. Psychol Sci 2016; 27(5): 685-91. 
  7. Poerio GL, Totterdell P, Miles E. Mind-wandering and negative mood: does one thing really lead to another? Conscious Cogn 2013; 22(4): 1412-21.
  8. Deng YQ, Li S, Tang YY. The relationship between wandering mind, depression and mindfulness. Mindfulness 2014; 5: 124-8.
  9. Nolen-Hoeksema S. The response styles theory, in depressive rumination: Nature, theory, and treatment. Papageorgiou C, Wells A. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons; 2004: 107-24.
  10. Wang Y, Xu W, Zhuang C, Liu X. Does mind wandering mediate the association between mindfulness and negative mood? A preliminary study. Psychol Rep 2017; 120(1): 118-29.
  11. Fountain-Zaragoza S, Londeree A, Whitmoyer P, Prakash RS. Dispositional mindfulness and the wandering mind: Implications for attentional control in older adults. Conscious Cogn 2016; 44: 193-204.
  12. Levinson DB. The relationship of mind wandering to working memory and mindfulness. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Wisconsin, 2015: 1-95.
  13. Xu M, Purdon C, Seli P, Smilek D. Mindfulness and mind wandering: The protective effects of brief meditation in anxious individuals. Conscious Cogn 2017; 51: 157-65.
  14. Mrazek MD, Zedelius CM, Gross ME, Mrazek AJ, Phillips DT, Schooler JW. Mindfulness in education: Enhancing academic achievement and student well-being by reducing mind-wandering. Mindfulness in social psychology. Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Santa Barbara: University of California; 2017: 139-52.
  15. Kabat-Zinn J. Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York, NY: Hyperion; 2005: 1-29.
  16. Ryan RM, Deci EL. On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudemonic well-being. Ann Rev Psychol 2001; 52(1): 141-66.
  17. Bellinger DB, DeCaro MS, Ralston PAS. Mindfulness, anxiety, and high-stakes mathematics performance in the laboratory and classroom. Conscious Cogn 2015; 37: 123-32.
  18. Goldin PR, Gross JJ. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion 2010; 10(1): 83-91.
  19. Hofmann SGSawyer ATWitt AAOh D. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. J Cons Clin Psychol 2010; 78(2): 169-83.
  20. Holzel BK, Lazar SW, Gard T, Schuman-Olivier Z, Vago DR, Ott U. How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspect Psychol Sci 2011; 6: 537-59.
  21. Beshlideh K. [Research methods and statistical examples with SPSS and AMOS]. Ahvaz: Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz; 2014: 376-8. (Persian)
  22. Brown KW, Ryan RM. The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol 2003; 84(4): 822-48.
  23. Kotze M, Nel P. The psychometric properties of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) and Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) as measures of mindfulness and their relationship with burnout and work engagement. SA journal of industrial psychology 2016; 42(1): 1-11.
  24. Carriere J, Seli P, Smilek D. Wandering in both mind and body: Individual differences in mind wandering and in attention predict fidgeting. Can J Exp Psychol 2013; 67(1): 19-31.
  25. Marteau T, Bekker H. The development of a six-item short-form of the state scale of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Br J Psychol 1992; 31(3): 301-6.
  26. Lovibond PF, Lovibond SH. The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) with the Beck Depression and Anxiety Inventories. Behav Res Ther 1995; 33: 335-43.
  27. Sahebi A, Asghari MJ, Sadat Salari R. Validation of the Stress Depression Anxiety Scale (DASS-21) for the Iranian population. Dev Psychol 2005; 4(1): 299-312.
  28. Bandalos DL. The effects of item parceling on goodness-of-fit and parameter estimate bias in structural equation modeling. Struct Equ Modeling 2002; 9: 78-102.
  29. Hoogland AI. Mindfulness mediation and mind wandering. MS. Dissertation. Winston-Salem, Wake Forest University, 2011: 10-14.
  30. Kabat-Zinn J. Mindfulness-based interventions in context: past, present, and future. Clin Psychol Sci Pract 2003; 10(2): 144-56.
  31. Ariel J. What mindfulness brings to psychotherapy for anxiety and depression. Depress Anxiety 2013; 30: 409-12.
  32. Song Y, Lindquist R. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on depression, anxiety, stress and mindfulness in Korean nursing students. Nurse Educ Today 2015; 35: 86-90.

33. Soysa CK, Wilcomb CJ. Mindfulness, self-compassion, self-efficacy, and gender as predictors of depression, anxiety, stress, and well-being. Mindfulness 2015; 6(2): 217-26.

  1. Barlow DH. Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety and its disorders from the perspective of emotion theory. Am Psychologist 2000;55(11): 1247-63.
  2. Chouhan VL, Sharma P. Psychological models of depression and anxiety: Counselor’s perspectives. International journal of Indian psychology 2017; 4(2): 117-28.
  3. Desrosiers A, Vine V, David MS, Klemanski H, Nolen-Hoeksema S. Mindfulness and emotion regulation in depression and anxiety: Common and distinct mechanisms of action. Depress Anxiety 2013; 30: 654-61.
  4. Kabat-Zinn J. Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delacorte; 1990.
  5. Ryan RM, Rigby CS. Did the Buddha have a self? Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: Guilford; 2015.
  6. Brown KW, Ryan RM, Creswell JD. Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychol Inq 2007; 18(3): 211-237.
  7. Lang AJ. What mindfulness brings to psychotherapy for anxiety and depression. Depress Anxiety 2013; 30: 409-12.
  8. Marchetti I, Putte EV, Koster EHW. Self-generated thoughts and depression: from daydreaming to depressive symptoms. Front Hum Neurosci 2014; 8(131): 1-10.
  9. Ruby FJM, Smallwood J, Engen H, Singer T. How self-generated thought shapes mood-the relation between mind wandering and mood depends on the socio-temporal content of thoughts. PLoS One 2013; 8(10): 1-7.
  10. Smallwood J, Schooler JW. The restless mind. Psychol Bull 2006; 132(6): 946-58.