The Effects of Internal and External Mindfulness on Anxiety
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Mindfulness is gaining popularity as an intervention useful for reducing anxiety symptoms. It is proposed that mindfulness-based interventions can be separated into two categories: internal and external mindfulness. These two types of mindfulness are predicted to differentially change focus of attention and anxiety symptoms. Baylor undergraduate students were randomly assigned to complete either a single session of an internal or external mindfulness-based task. As predicted, the two tasks led to different changes in focus of attention, with the internal mindfulness-based task causing self-focused attention and the external mindfulness-based task causing an external focus of attention. However, contrary to predictions, both tasks led to similar reductions in anxiety symptoms. Although these results suggest that internal and external forms of mindfulness are equally effective for reducing anxiety symptoms, the two types of mindfulness cause different changes in focus of attention. Clinicians interested in reducing self-focused attention might consider using an external mindfulness-based intervention.