INTRODUCTION Religious coping has been empirically examined across many faith traditions (Phillips et al., under review), but not in Buddhism. Buddhism is a relevant religion in the United States, with an estimated 600, 000 to 1.8 million people practicing this faith (Smith, 2002). A key component of Buddhism is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the development of nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings (Bowen, 2006). A way to achieve mindfulness is with vipassana meditation, in which an individual focuses first on an object, eventually becoming aware of thoughts and feelings. Documented benefits of mindfulness meditation include emotion regulation (Walach, 2007), relief from physical problems such as chronic pain, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia, (Mason, 2001), and recovery from mental disorders (Kingston, 2007). For instance, mindfulness meditation was given as an adjunct to treatment in a prison population, most of which was male, to decrease substance use (Bowen, 2006). There was greater decreases in drug use (alcohol, crack cocaine, tobacco and marijuana) from pre to post-treatment for those offenders who received this additional treatment than for those who received treatment as usual. Mindfulness-based therapies have also been studied in the treatment of depression. Studies show that used with treatment as usual mindfulness therapy can decrease symptoms of depression more so than treatment as usual (Ivanovski, 2007).The studies on mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are taken outside of a Buddhist context. It would be interesting to note how effective mindfulness is as a form of religious coping in Buddhists. The present research is designed to study techniques of Buddhist methods of coping, such as mindfulness, and their effectiveness in relieving stress. The mindfulness items are hypothesized to form their own factor and will correlate with better adjustment with stress.
Of the 550 participants, 43% were males, 86% percent of the sample were European-American (the largest minority was Asian-American at 6.9%). The average age of participants was 45 years (SD=13.6). The largest reported Buddhist sect was Vajrayana (40%), second was Mahayana (28.4%), third Theravada (24%), and had practiced Buddhism for an average of 12 years (SD= 10.6). The sample on average reported that they were moderately spiritual, with a mean of 3.42 on a four-point scale (SD = 0.72). The majority of the sample was from the United States (87%), those not from this country had spent an average of 17.42 years in the U.S. (SD=15.24).
The Buddhist coping measure contained 95 items, with 18 subscales containing 5-8 items each. These items were created from a literature review of Buddhist coping, and from a previous qualitative study examining how Buddhists used their religion to cope with stress (Phillips et al., under review). Six items dealt with the subscale of mindfulness (e.g., “I try to be aware of my feelings toward the situation”). Participants in the current study were asked to consider a recent stressful life event and note how often they used each item to cope with that stressor, on a scale from 1 “not at all”, to 4, “a great deal.”To measure adjustment to the life stressor, participants completed the General Outcomes Scale, which has demonstrated good reliability and validity (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). This scale contains five items (e.g., “I felt better about myself after dealing with my stressor”), rated on a five-point Likert scale from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 5 (“strongly agree”).
Approval was sought from and granted by the Missouri Western State University Institutional Review Board. Participants were recruited from sanghas via e-mail and through an online social site (Facebook) containing a group of Buddhists. The measures were posted online at survey monkey.com. The survey consisted of three parts; demographics, Buddhist coping items, and the measures of adjustment to life stress, including the General Outcomes Scale. Participants were directed to a second survey after completion of the main survey, asking them for their email if they wished to be eligible for three drawing of a $50 gift card.
RESULTS A Principal Components Analysis was conducted with a Promax rotation because the factors were expected to correlate (Pett, Lackey, & Sullivan, 2003). Given the high number of cases that had at least one Buddhist coping item missing, cases were excluded by replacing missing values with the mean item score. Participants who skipped five or more of the 95 Buddhist coping items were eliminated (9 cases were dropped). The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin statistic for sampling adequacy was adequate at .928, and Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was significant (÷2 = 25046.5, p < .01). The scree test revealed a cutoff of 3 factors, and the K-G rule would leave a total of 21 factors with eigenvalues over 1. Given the limitations of these two tests, statisticians have noted the importance of using theory to determine where to cut off the factor structure (Pett, Lackey, & Sullivan, 2003). The first 14 factors were interpretable when using the factor loadings minimum standard for oblique rotations of 0.45 and therefore kept. One item cross-loaded on the first 14 factors, and was eliminated. The final seven factors with eigenvalues over 1.0 were uninterpretable (i.e., multiple cross-loadings with previous factors, high load items with no particular pattern), or similar theoretically to the first 14 factors. Factor 12 of the factor analysis appeared to represent mindfulness, containing three items with factor loadings greater than 0.45 (three of the five mindfulness items in the survey). Table 1 lists the factor loadings for these items. Five hundred forty-two of the 550 participants completed the three items in Factor 12, with a mean of 8.97 (SD=1.7) for the total subscore and 3.0 for each individual item, an average rating of ‘Quite a Bit.’ Descriptive statistics for all major variables can be found in Table 2. Hierarchical regressions were conducted to determine the ability of mindfulness to predict adjustment to stress over and above demographic and general religious variables (See Table 3 for results). To correct for Type 1 error, a Bonferroni correction was conducted, meaning for ∆R² to be significant, p had to be less than .008 (.05/6). This was because there were originally six dependent variables – general outcomes and five other measures of adjustment to life stress. However, this study will only focus on the results of general outcomes from the stressor. Mindfulness predicted general outcomes from a stressful life event (∆R²= .101, p<.008) over and above demographic variables (e.g., age) and general religious (e.g., self-rated spirituality). Those participants who reported engaging in more mindfulness to deal with a stressor reported better outcomes from the stressful event (â = 0.325, p < .008).
DISCUSSION The goal of the present study was to create a reliable and valid measure of Buddhist coping, specifically to examine whether mindfulness was a unique form of religious coping, and whether it helped Buddhists cope with stress. Mindfulness items did form its own factor in a factor analysis. Mindfulness also predicted outcomes from stress, after controlling for general religious variables and demographic variables. Individuals who spent more time practicing mindfulness when facing a particular stressor reported better outcomes from the event. Due to the fact that this study is correlational, causal relationships cannot be assumed. The present study has only self-report instruments, therefore a monomethod bias could exist, in which the measures correlate because they are of a similar format, and not because the two variables truly relate. The limitations of this study do not compromise the significance that it lends to religious coping studies. This study created the first known reliable and valid measure of Buddhist coping. A longitudinal study in this area could demonstrate the temporal sequence of the relationship between Buddhist coping and outcomes, suggesting that such forms of religious coping might lead to adjustment to stress, and not vice versa. A Clinical implication of this study is the use of Mindful-based therapies. This is becoming more of a common practice in psychotherapy.
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Factor Loading from Factor Analysis for MindfulnessMindfulness Item Exploratory Factor Loading 55. I strive to accept the situation as it is, without needing to fix it .63284. I recognized where I am suffering in this situation .70487. I try to be aware of my feelings toward the situation .759
Descriptive Statistics for Major Variables
Variable Alpha M SD RangeAge N/A 45.0 13.6 18-75How spiritual Are You N/A 3.4 0.7 1-4Years practicing Buddhism N/A 12.4 10.6 1-59 Mindfulness 0.605 9.0 1.7 3-12General Outcomes 0.805 20.3 3.5 7-25
Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting General Outcomes from the Stressful Event________________________________________________________________________Variable B SEB â________________________________________________________________________Step 1: Demographic Variables Gender 0.194 0.310 0.027 Age -0.012 0.012 -0.045 Immigrant/US Native 0.790 0.444 0.075Step 2: Global Religious Measures Years Practicing Buddhism -0.015 0.016 -0.046 Spirituality 0.538 0.207 0.110 Step 3: Mindfulness 0.693* 0.091* 0.325*________________________________________________________________________Note. R2 = .016 for Step 1(p > .008); ÄR2 = .026 for Step 2 (p < .008); ÄR2 = .101 for Step 3 (p < .008).*p< .008