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Promoting Well-Being During Uncertain Waiting Periods: Comparing the Benefits of State Flow and Mindfulness

  • Author(s): Rankin, Kyla
  • Advisor(s): Sweeny, Kate
  • et al.
Abstract

Waiting for important news is a stressful experience that is often accompanied by poor well-being and attempts to cope. Across three studies, I examined the correlates and consequences of flow states (i.e., being so immersed in an activity that a person experiences loss of self-awareness) and mindfulness (i.e., full awareness of the self while maintaining non-judgmental acceptance of one’s internal and external present experience) and in Study 3 the effects of a flow and mindfulness intervention. I assessed flow and mindfulness, emotion, worry, and subjective coping leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election (Study 1), as law graduates waited for their bar exam results (Study 2), and as people waited to hear their results of a fictitious toxin risk assessment (Study 3). My findings suggest that flow and mindfulness predict well-being while waiting, with flow reliably predicting greater positive emotion and less negative emotion and mindfulness reliably predicting less negative emotion and worry and better subjective coping across the three waiting periods. I also found that state flow experienced during the wait did not reliably predict well-being following news. Although mindfulness reported during the wait also did not predict well-being following good news, people did report less positive emotion, more negative emotion, and poorer subjective coping following bad news. I also conducted an in-lab intervention study to examine the effects of a flow-inducing activity (playing a game) and mindfulness practice (guided meditation). Although people in the mindfulness condition reported greater mindfulness condition compared to the others, the flow intervention was not effective at promoting flow. Results from this experiment revealed that after engaging in a mindfulness meditation practice during the wait, people reported less negative emotion compared to engaging in a flow activity or doing nothing. Further, after receiving bad news, people in the flow and mindfulness conditions reported less negative emotion compared to doing nothing. In conclusion, findings suggest that flow and mindfulness are related to well-being during uncertain waiting periods and mindfulness may increase awareness of one’s poorer well-being following bad news or, in addition to engaging in a flow activity, may buffer the effects of bad news on negative emotions.

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