Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

The Role of Mindfulness in Cardiovascular Recovery from Stress

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

William O'Brien (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Howard Cromwell (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Joshua Grubbs (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Angela Nelson (Other)


A number of studies suggest that mindfulness may affect the cardiovascular system via autonomic pathways (Suchday, Dziok, Katzenstein, Kaplan, & Kahan, 2012). The current study examined the relationship between mindfulness and cardiovascular recovery from a laboratory stressor. After completing questionnaires, participants’ heart rate variability data were collected during three phases: a baseline period, a cold pressor task, and a recovery period. Participants were stratified into less mindful and more mindful groups using a median split of the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale. Differences in heart rate variability between the two groups were examined across study phases. Although all the participants were reactive to the stressor, as evidenced by increased heart rate, pain and distress ratings, the group scoring higher in mindfulness appeared to recover more fully from the stressor in the second part of recovery. Mindfulness was also associated with greater decreases in heart rate variability from baseline to stressor task, and with greater increases in heart rate variability in the second part of recovery.