Professor Norman Farb

The role of meditation practice in mindful emotion regulation

Norman Farb is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada. His proposal was to assess the role of meditation practice in mindful emotion regulation.

In the past decade, interest in mindfulness training (MT) has surged to unprecedented heights of popularity. While in principle the spread of MT is beneficial, this rapid expansion also promotes concerns over training integrity. Unfortunately, we lack empirical evidence as to what components are necessary for safe and effective mindfulness practice. This project will investigate one of these components, the idea that formal meditation practice is necessary for training benefits. While the need to actually sit and meditate seems to be an obvious MT requirement, we know little about how much practice is needed to promote training benefits, both during and following training programs.

To address this issue, the project will recruit a large sample of participants enrolling in MT courses. These participants will provide data on their practice habits, as well as daily experiences of stress and mood, both during the course and over a four month follow-up period. It will specifically investigate how formal meditation frequency, duration, and quality impact the relationship between stress and mood throughout a person’s day. Professor Farb hypothesizes that better practice habits will lead to a weaker relationship between daily stressors and overall mood, a real-world sign of stress resilience. From this study, he hopes to identify ‘minimum dose’ recommendations for realizing and maintaining MT benefits.

Professor Farb adds, “This research is important in informing practitioners and teachers alike as to the importance of daily practice, in the hopes of forming consistent training recommendations based on empirical evidence rather than intuition alone. I am very grateful to the Mindful Trust for this opportunity, as I am increasingly convinced that we must test our most deeply-held assumptions about MT to continue to improve and popularize this rich contemplative tradition. By setting evidence-based expectations for formal practice, we may better motivate appropriate training practices, to the benefit of mindfulness practitioners and their communities“.


Progress at April 2017

Professor Farb writes:

We have confirmed partnerships with 3 major sites now, Centre for Mindfulness Studies, the University Health Network, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and think we should have a throughput of over 500 participants per year from which to recruit.

We are attending staff meetings at each site to pitch the project to the facilitators (even though we have buy in at the top level, we feel it is important to get individual facilitators on board too). Our next step is to begin recruitment to the study, possibly beginning as early as November. Then, it depends on enrolment to get up to 200 participants who at least get through their 8 week courses. On the measures side, we are almost done getting our assessments online and finalized, after a lot of consultation with our social psychologist colleagues around social welfare indicators.

So, things have taken a while to get rolling, but I feel like we are in good shape now, and there is a slowly growing sense of excitement about the study!

Watch a recent presentation at the OMC by Professor Farb about his research.