Mindfulness for perfectionists: measuring effect through heart rate variability


  • Heather Mason
  • Univadis Medical News
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Little research has been done on the link between physiological variables and measures of perfectionism. The high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV), used to measure recovery from stress during mindfulness meditation, has shown that perfectionists do not benefit from meditation.

HF-HRV is associated with the peripheral nervous system and may be especially relevant to perfectionism due to its relationship with emotion dysregulation, recovery from stress, and well-being. In the typical population, HF-HRV decreases relative to baseline and recovers to baseline or above on completion of a task.

A study of 1,793 psychology students (89% female) participated in an online survey measuring perfectionistic cognitions and demographic variables. The Perfectionism Cognitions Inventory (PCI) was used to screen for perfectionism. Those who scored ≥60 were selected for the study (n=120).

A failure task was set so that students perceived that they had failed. Participants then underwent either a mindfulness task with or without non-judgement focus, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), and/or a ‘do nothing’ group.

HF-HRV results indicated that nonjudgment mindfulness was associated with marginally higher HF-HRV during the last five minutes of meditation than the other conditions.

Thus, mindfulness with a focus on nonjudgment of emotions may be especially important to help perfectionists improve HF-HRV after failure.