The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)

Five Facet Mindfulness QuestionnaireMindfulness is the connecting bridge between our mind and the present moment. It is the art of staying aware of what is happening right now, what we are thinking about this very moment, and how we are feeling at present.

Jon Kabat Zinn, the proponent and one of the most eminent figures in the field of applied mindfulness, defined it as a ‘process of being involved and accepting the internal and external moment-to-moment experience in a decentered manner.’ (Zinn, 1994).

Mindfulness is secular in every aspect, which is why different branches of mental health interventions have embraced mindful practices for enhancing well-being (Ludwig and Kabat-Zinn, 2008). As practical measures of mindfulness, there are two most popular techniques that many psychologists and health professionals use today:

  1. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Techniques (MBSR) for helping people get rid of burnout and establish a deeper connection to their mind and body.
  2. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) that helps people catch the negative automatic thoughts that cause stress and allows them to successfully replace them with positive and self-enhancing thinking (Segal, Williams, and Teasdale, 2002).

All formal and informal mindfulness-based practices aim to:

  • Alleviate stress.
  • Promote positive thinking.
  • Develop a deep and meaningful insight.
  • Prevent breakdown from anxiety and distress.
  • Help people recover from chronic physical illnesses.
  • Develop robust coping mechanisms and build emotional resilience.

Studies have found that mindfulness is effective and offers a permanent solution to adverse mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, postpartum diseases, and substance abuse.

Besides recovery, it also reduces the chances of relapse, which is another reason behind the immense popularity of mindfulness-based practices (Chiesa and Serretti, 2009; Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, and Oh, 2010; Piet and Hougaard, 2011; Strauss, Cavanagh, Oliver, and Pettman, 2014).

In this article, we will have a look at the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, which is an objective test on mindfulness and its impact on the vital aspects of life. It is a brief but in-depth study on the analysis with some great online resources and evidence-supported explanations of how the test works in real life.

What is the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire?

The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) is a self-help and self-scorable measurement on the five aspects (or facets) of mindfulness namely:

  1. observation
  2. description
  3. aware actions
  4. non-judgmental inner experience, and
  5. non-reactivity.

The test consists of 39 items that measure the five facets, and the scores provide an estimate of where we stand in terms of mindfulness and self-awareness.

Besides assessing how we are, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire also provides an accurate judgment of the impact of any previous mindful practices that we have practiced before. The development of this questionnaire was crucially important as it was one of the earliest measures that explored the efficacy of mindfulness in overcoming real-life problems (Baer, Smith, and Allen, 2004).

The original long-form version of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire contains 39 statements that relate to our thoughts, experiences, and actions in daily life. Ruth Baer, a professor and mindfulness researcher, based at the Kentucky University, developed this scale along with her team, to measure the factors that help us stay mindful in daily life.

The test originates from an exploratory analysis of similar tests such as the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scales (Brown and Ryan, 2003), Cognitive Affective Mindfulness Scale (Hayes and Feldman 2004), Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (Baer, Smith, and Allen, 2004), and Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (Walach, Buchheld, Buttenmuller, Kleinknetch, and Schmidt, 2006).

Each of the five facets of the FFMQ provides a closer look at our inner faculties. The overall scores of all five subscales of the FFMQ give a reliable measure of self-awareness and suggest how effective mindfulness practices have proved to us.

 

What Versions Are There? Short and Long Form?

The Five Facet Mindfulness Scale that Baer developed was incorporated in different languages and forms. The original assessment consisted of 39 self-scorable statements, each investigating one of the five main aspects (observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonreactivity, and non-judgment).

Some shorter versions of the tests in other languages also became popular. They used a system known as the Rasch analysis to measure the outcome of the results and predict their implications. The smaller subscales of the test consisted around 18-24 items that were selected after eliminating statements that researchers felt were inappropriate for the particular population (Baer et al., 2012).

Subscales of this test include:

  • A Dutch version with 24 items (FFMQ – Short Form).
  • A German version consisting of 20 statements (FFMQ – Short).
  • A Chinese version with 20 statements.

The short and long forms of the FFMQ test is useful for comparing different mindful interventions and predicting which technique is ideal for a particular mental health condition. The scales are recommended for comparing pre and post interventions and estimating the level of mindfulness of subjects at present (Medvedev et al. 2018; Tran et al. 2013).

The Five Facet Mindfulness Scale consists of positive and negative worded statements that hold for practitioners and beginners. Baer and other professionals working on the test admit that both the short and long versions of the test are helpful for clinical and non-clinical population across cultures.

The shorter subscales have an advantage of quicker administration and can be applied to a large sample population. However, the extended version provides a detailed explanation of the scores and is a more reliable predictor of well-being.

 

What Does the FFMQ Measure?

As mentioned earlier, the FFMQ is a mindfulness-based intervention that tests whether mindfulness is related to a decrease in clinical symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The scale also measures the effectiveness of other mindfulness strategies such as MBCT and MBSR and establish their role in individual well-being (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, and Toney, 2006).

Recent studies are also investigating the psychometric characteristics of the short and long versions (FFMQ- SF, and FFMQ-LF) to support the association between the test and other MBIs (Mindfulness-Based Interventions) (Baer et al., 2006; Neff, 2003).

The 39 items of the original questionnaire measure five vital elements of mindfulness. Responses in the scale are made on a 5-point Likert Scale, and the summation of the direct and reverse-scored items give the total score.

The five facets, or five key aspects of mindfulness that the test measures acts as the mediator of therapeutic change and mindful interventions (Carmody and Baer, 2008).

Below is a brief description of the five factors that this test measures:

 

1. Observation

Observation entails in the ways we use our sensory awareness. It involves how we see, feel, and perceive the internal and external world around us and select the stimuli that require our attention and focus.

 

2. Description

The statements evaluating descriptive qualities study the way we label our experiences and express them in words to ourselves and others.

 

3. Mindful actions

Mindfulness is closely related to self-awareness and calculated actions. This facet of the test studies the movements we choose after attending to the information present at the moment. It delves deep into whether we can act out of quick judgment and get out of the autopilot mode before responding to a situation.

 

4. Non-judgmental inner experience

Non-judgmental experience is tied in with not letting the inner critic take a toll on our happiness and positive state of mind. It calls for self-acceptance and unconditional empathy for oneself and others.

 

5. Non-reactivity

This aspect refers to active detachment from negative thoughts and emotions so that we can accept their existence and choose not to react to them. Non-reactivity makes way for emotional resilience and restores mental balance (McManus, Surawy, Muse, Vazquez-Montes, and Williams, 2012).

 

Scoring and Interpretation

The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire is self-scorable and easily accessible.

There are two patterns of scoring involved in the Five Facet Mindfulness Test:

  • Direct Scoring – where the items are scored according to the Likert value (for example 1 would add a score of 1 and 4 adds a value of 4).
  • Reverse Scoring – where we score the items backward (for example, 1 adds a score of 5, 5 adds a score of 1, 4 would mean a score of 3, and likewise).

The items marked R are reverse scored. Summation of all the direct and reverse items adds up to the total value of the scale. They are negatively worded statements (for example – I don’t care what I am doing because I am distracted in day-dreaming, overthinking, or otherwise).

Here is a breakdown of all the statements of the long-form FFMQ questionnaire and what aspect they measure:

Facet Statements that measure it Scoring Pattern
1. Observation 1, 6, 11, 15, 20, 26, 31, 36 All directly scored
2. Description 2, 7, 12, 16, 22, 27, 32, 37 12, 16, and 22 – Reverse Items
3. Aware actions 5, 8, 13, 18, 23, 34, 38 All reverse-scored items
4. Non-judgmental inner critic 3, 10, 14, 17, 25, 30, 35, 39 All reverse-scored items
5. Non-reactivity 4, 9, 19, 21, 24, 29, 33 All directly scored items

 

Gu et al., 2016, created a shorter version of the test, the FFMQ-SF that had 15 items from the original Five Facet Questionnaire. Although there were arguments about the validity of the abridged form, researchers believed that the 15 statements included in it serve the test’s purpose as accurately as the original version.

The items and the scoring of the shorter adaptation are shown below:

Facet Statements that measure it Scoring Pattern
Observation 1, 6, 11 Direct
Description 2, 7, 12 7 – Reversed Scoring
Aware actions 3, 8, 13 Reverse
Non-judgmental experience 4, 9, 14 Reverse
Non-reactivity 5, 10, 15 Direct

 

A Look at the Validity

Evaluation of the psychological implications of the scale revealed that FFMQ has strong validity. Repeated administration of the test pointed at high test-retest reliability and internal consistency of the assessment; both for the long-form and shorter versions of it.

Studies on a large-scale population including students, professionals, and clinically depressed individuals proved that FFMQ is a predictor for positive thinking, an overall uplifted mood, and subjective feelings of well-being (Baer et al., 2006; Bohlmeijer, Klooster, Fledderus, Veehof, and Baer, 2011).

Furthermore, research on regular meditators and non-meditators who took the test indicated that regular practitioners had higher scores than non-meditators, proving the direct positive correlation between meditation and mindfulness (Bohlmeijer et al., 2011).

Construct validity, which is ideally one of the biggest concerns of psychometrists for proving the usefulness of a scale, is relatively high and stable for this test across cultures and different age groups (Crocker and Algina, 2008). Construct validation of the analysis offered substantial value to its definition and application. It standardized the results and asserted their efficacy for predicting mindful self-awareness (Levinson, Stoll, Kindy, Merry, and Davidson, 2014).

Dr. Ruth Baer conducted a factor analysis of the five facets of FFMQ in 2006. Her studies revealed that the hierarchical structure of the factors justify the traits that each element claims to measure (Baer et al., 2006; Baer et al., 2008; Khoury et al., 2013).

Overall, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire is an established and valid psychometric self-assessment for mindfulness. The five subscales of the test provide a meaningful estimate of how aware the respondent is at the moment. Besides, they also assess the impact of the mindful interventions he has undertaken earlier (Campbell and Fiske 1959).

 

Where Can I Find it Online? (+ PDF)

Mindfulness-Based self-help questionnaires such as the FFMQ are multifaceted and all-encompassing. They are designed in a way that can help individuals irrespective of whether they are undergoing a stressful phase or not. Below is a snippet of what the test looks like. You can also find a detailed description of this test from the toolkit or take it online.

Based on your general opinion about yourself, rate the following statements as is right for you:

Statements 1 (never) 2 (rarely true) 3 (sometimes true) 4 (often true) 5 (always true)
1. While walking, I am aware of the sensations in my body.
2. I can describe my feelings well.
3. I criticize myself for having irrational emotions and thoughts.
4. I can perceive emotions without reacting to them.
5. I am easily distracted.
6. I am aware of the bodily sensations when I take a bath.
7. I can easily talk about my thoughts and opinions.
8. I don’t pay attention to my work as I am busy daydreaming most of the time.
9. I can watch my feelings without getting attached to them.
10. I correct myself when I think the way I shouldn’t.
11. I can feel how eating and drinking affect my body and mind.
12. I find it hard to express what I feel.
13. I am easily distracted.
14. I am aware that some of my thoughts are not normal, and I know that I shouldn’t feel that way.
15. I can feel pure sensations like the wind or the sunlight touching my skin.
16. Sometimes I cannot find words to express what I feel.
17. I judge my thoughts as good or bad.
18. I find it difficult to sustain focus.
19. I step back when I catch myself thinking something negative or distressing.
20. I can pay attention to the clock ticking, birds chirping, and cars passing.
21. I think before reacting under stressful situations.
22. I find it difficult to describe my bodily sensations in words.
23. I sometimes feel that I am not in complete awareness of myself.
24. I can calm down soon after experiencing distressing thoughts and impulses.

 

A Take-Home Message

Mindfulness interventions or tests do not offer immediate relief, and neither do they guarantee a quick solution to distress. What they provide us is the reassurance that we are doing great and can keep any unwanted thoughts from de-persuading us.

The five aspects of awareness that the FFMQ investigates help in:

  • Clarifying goals.
  • Accepting negative thoughts but not reacting to them.
  • Cultivating openness and awareness of mind and body.
  • Dealing with stress and adversities.
  • Expressing and regulating emotions.
  • Problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Nurturing positive relationships.

The key to mindful living lies in observing everything and attending only to the positivity around. To quote Carl Gustav Jung:

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.

 

  • Baer, Carmody, and Hunsinger, 2012: Weekly change in mindfulness and perceived stress in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
  • Teasdale, Segal, and Williams, 1995: How does cognitive therapy prevent relapse and why should attentional control (mindfulness) training help.
  • Langer, 1991: Mindfulness: Choice and control in everyday life.
  • Kabat-Zinn, 1990: Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness.
  • Brown and Ryan (2003): The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being.
  • Ludwig and Kabat-Zinn 2008: Mindfulness in medicine.
  • Kuyken, Hayes, Barrett, Byng, Dalgleish, Kessler, et al., and Byford 2015: Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence
  • Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, and Oh 2010: The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression
  • Prazak, Critelli, Martin, Miranda, Purdum: Mindfulness and its Role in Physical and Psychological Health.
  • Williams, Dalgleish, Karl, and Kuyken 2014: Examining the Factor Structures of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Self-Compassion Scale.

About the Author

Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury is a certified psychiatric counselor and freelance mental health writer. She holds a masters degree in clinical psychology and is an experienced teacher and school counselor. She loves to help others through her work as a researcher, writer, and blogger and reach as many as possible.

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