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Cross-sectional and intervention research have shown that mindfulness is inversely associated with difficulties in controlling alcohol use. However, little is known regarding the mechanisms through which mindfulness is related to increased control over drinking. One potential mechanism consists of the way individuals represent their drinking behaviour. Action identification theory proposes that self-control of behaviour is improved by shifting from high-level representations regarding the meaning of a behaviour to lower-level representations regarding “how-to” aspects of a behaviour. Because mindfulness involves present-moment awareness, it may help to facilitate such shifts. We hypothesized that an inverse relation between mindfulness and dyscontrolled drinking would be partially accounted for by the way individuals mentally represent their drinking behaviour — i.e., reduced levels of high-level action identification and increased levels of low-level action identification. One hundred and twenty five undergraduate psychology students completed self-report measures of mindful awareness, action identification of alcohol use, and difficulty in controlling alcohol use. Results supported the hypothesis that high-level action identification partially mediates the relation between mindfulness and dyscontrolled drinking but did not support a mediating role for low-level action identification. These results suggest that mindfulness can improve self-control of alcohol by changing the way we think about our drinking behaviour.
Evidence is growing that vulnerability to depression may be characterized by strong negative feedback loops between mental states. It is unknown whether such dynamics between mental states can be altered by treatment. This study examined whether treatment with imipramine or treatment with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) reduces the connectivity within dynamic networks of mental states in individuals with depressive symptoms. In the Imipramine trial, individuals diagnosed with major depression were randomized to imipramine treatment or placebo-pill treatment (n = 50). In the Mind-Maastricht trial, individuals with residual depressive symptoms were randomized to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or to a waiting-list control condition (n = 119). Lagged associations among mental states, as assessed with the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), were estimated at baseline and post-intervention. The results show that few of the dynamic network connections changed significantly over time and few of the changes after MBCT and imipramine treatment differed significantly from the control groups. The decrease in average node connectivity after MBCT did not differ from the decrease observed in the waiting-list control group. Our findings suggest that imipramine treatment and MBCT do not greatly change the dynamic network structure of mental states, even though they do reduce depressive symptomatology.