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Mindfulness (N Y). 2016;7(5):1182-1192. doi: 10.1007/s12671-016-0561-5. Epub 2016 Jul 2.

A RCT Comparing Daily Mindfulness Meditations, Biofeedback Exercises, and Daily Physical Exercise on Attention Control, Executive Functioning, Mindful Awareness, Self-Compassion, and Worrying in Stressed Young Adults.

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University of Amsterdam, Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE), Research Priority Area Yield, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, 1018 WS Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Clinical Developmental Psychology and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
UvA Minds, Academic Outpatient Child and Adolescent Treatment Center of the University of Amsterdam, Plantage Muidergracht 14, 1018 TV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Contributed equally


Our Western society is characterized by multitasking, competition, and constant time pressure. Negative effects of stress for the individual (anxiety, depression, somatic complaints) and for organizations and society (costs due to work absence) are very high. Thus, time-efficient self-help interventions to address these issues are necessary. This study assessed the effects of daily mindfulness meditations (MM) versus daily heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF) and daily physical exercise (PE) on attention control, executive functioning, mindful awareness, self-compassion, and worrying. Young adults (n = 75, age range 18 to 40) with elevated stress levels were randomized to MM, HRV-BF, or PE, and measurements were taken at pre-test, post-test, and follow-up. Interventions in all three groups were self-guided and lasted for 5 weeks. Generalized estimating equation analyses showed that overall, all three interventions were effective and did not differ from each other. However, practice time differed between groups, with participants in the PE group practicing much more than participants in the other two groups. Therefore, additional analyses were carried out in two subsamples. The optimal dose sample included only those participants who practiced for at least 70 % of the total prescribed time. In the equal dose sample, home practice intensity was equal for all three groups. Again, the effects of the three interventions did not differ. In conclusion, MM, HRV-BF, and PE are all effective self-help methods to improve attention control, executive functioning, mindful awareness, self-compassion, and worrying, and mindfulness meditation was not found to be more effective than HRV-biofeedback or physical exercise for these cognitive processes.


Attention control; Executive functioning; HRV-biofeedback; Mindful awareness; Mindfulness meditation; Physical exercise; Self-compassion; Worrying

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