A recent study found that practicing mindfulness, even over a short period, reduces feelings of paranoia. The study, which was published in Mindfulness, also showed which particular aspect of mindfulness is the one linked to predicting levels of paranoia.
Past research has found that paranoia can be more prevalent in students, which calls for investigating ways of alleviation of paranoia in this and other populations. The authors of the study note that in the last decade, third-wave cognitive-behavioural therapies have been gaining popularity in the treatment of paranoia and other distressing experiences. They add that mindfulness, or moment-to-moment awareness as it is often described, is a “common and core component of these therapies.”
One of the main aspects of mindfulness is the ability to respond to internal experiences in a non-judgement way. In earlier research, non-judgement has also been identified as an important factor in predicting the effect of paranoid thinking, which is why the authors of the study decided to investigate this particular aspect of mindfulness.
Through three different studies, two of which were questionnaire-based and one experimental, researchers investigated whether mindfulness was correlated with paranoia, whether one’s levels of non-judgemental thinking can predict their levels of paranoid thinking and finally if regularly practicing mindfulness can reduce paranoid thoughts.
The first two studies, with sample sizes of 410 and 84, showed that mindfulness indeed is correlated with paranoia through non-judgement, and in such a way that higher level of non-judgement predicted lower levels of paranoia, even in individuals who have a predisposition for paranoia.
The third part of the study is important because it tells us what can be done with this information – it shows that practicing mindfulness meditation, even over a period as short as a week, can reduce paranoid thinking. This was investigated by selecting 68 participants and allocating them to either a control or a mindfulness training group. At the beginning of the week-long experiment, the participants completed a survey measuring, among other things, their paranoia levels and were asked to go through a prerecorded guided mindfulness session once per day. The session consisted of a quick body scan, mindful breathing, and choiceless awareness.
The results showed that even a brief, one-week training reduced levels of paranoia. Additionally, the more the participants practiced at home, the greater the reductions in paranoia they demonstrated.
Although valuable, these research findings must be considered in light of some limitations. Namely, all of the studies recruited psychology students who were predominately white and female, which limits the generalisability of the study, including limitations in assuming the studies apply to clinical groups.
The study, “Mindfulness and Paranoia: A Cross-Sectional, Longitudinal and Experimental Analysis”, was authored by Jessica Kingston, Francesca Lassman, Carla Matias and Lyn Ellett.