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“People who have greater levels of mindfulness — or the tendency to maintain attention on and awareness of the present moment — are better able to cope with the pain of being rejected by others, according to a new study led by a team of Virginia Commonwealth University researchers.
For the last third of the game, the participants stopped receiving any ball tosses from the other players, mimicking the conditions of social rejection.
After the scanning session, the participants were interviewed about how distressed they were during the game. Participants with higher levels of mindfulness reported less distress from being excluded.
“Our findings suggest that mindful people are not as distressed or pained by social rejection,” the researchers wrote. “The neural results imply that a reason for mindful individuals’ adaptive responses to rejection is that they do not excessively recruit (and therefore tax) ‘top-down’, inhibitory brain regions to inhibit social distress. Instead, mindful individuals may use more ‘bottom-up’ emotion-regulation strategies that prevent rejection from being distressing in the first place. Interventions that seek to help socially-isolated and rejected individuals may benefit from this mechanistic and biologically-informed information.”