Mindfulness, Interest-Taking, and Self-Regulation: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective on the Role of Awareness in Optimal Functioning
By C. Scott Rigby, Patricia Schultz, & Richard Ryan
This chapter appears in the comprehensive Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, released in April 2014, which brings together the latest multi-disciplinary research on mindfulness from a group of international scholars. It examines the origins and key theories of the two dominant Western approaches to mindfulness, and discusses the implications for mindfulness across a range of fields.
CHAPTER ABSTRACT: For the past quarter century, there has been a steady escalation of interest in mindfulness, along with the circumstances that facilitate it, and its psychological, behav- ioral, and health-related outcomes. Across this work, the construct of mindfulness has been variously defined (e.g., see Baer, Smith, & Allen, 2004; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Langer, 1978), contingent on scholars’ line of research or theoretical perspective. Although differing in other respects, definitions of mindfulness across these schools of thought commonly recognize that the basic elements of mindfulness include atten- tion to present-moment experience along with an attitude of receptivity and openness. Furthermore, in all instances, mindfulness is seen as a state of high-quality awareness that can enhance self-functioning, explaining the burgeoning popularity of mindful- ness concepts, practices, and interventions.
In this chapter, we delve into the connections between high-quality awareness and self-regulation as researched and studied within our work on self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000), an established empirically based theory of human motivation and optimal self-functioning. In considering this issue, we discuss two forms of awareness considered within SDT to exemplify open, recep- tive, and nondefensive processing, and which have been shown to facilitate integrative self-regulation.
The first of these is mindful awareness viewed as an open and receptive awareness of what is presently occurring (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Ryan & Rigby, in press; Schultz & Ryan, in press). In mindfulness, what is occurring in the present is observed with- out being grasped, manipulated, or actively processed. Instead, one allows experiences, thoughts, and perceptions to pass before one without attachment or judgment. Mind- fulness so defined has been linked in numerous studies to enhanced self-regulation and wellness (Brown, Ryan & Creswell, 2007).