Evidence and Research

Here you can find out about Mindfulness in a little more depth and there are links to find out yet more. It’s worth bearing in mind though that trying it out for yourself is the best evidence you’ll find.

This is a work in progress where, over time, I will feature particular research studies that seem interesting and important in some way. There are hundreds of new research studies into the benefits of mindfulness being published every year and growing in number so keeping track of them all would be a full-time job. I do not take an academic approach here with proper detailed references etc but will provide some links to the main studies in case you want to check them out.

A good place to start is with a well-known 2008 review of around 55 research papers by Jeffrey M Greeson. This identified definite benefits of mindfulness practice in several different key areas of human health:

Mental Health – establishing links between mindfulness training and decreased anxiety, depression, worry and rumination (a habit of thinking linked to depression and other mood disorders). More serious mental health problems have been helped with a variety of mindfulness- based programmes, such as anxiety disorders, recurrent major depression, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders.

Physical structure of the brain – an increased ability to pay attention in the present moment, improved concentration and emotional regulation, all reflected in changes in brain structure and interconnectivity between different areas in the brain. Likewise, greater self-awareness is reflected in increased neural activity in the brain regions associated with this plus an increase in brain grey matter. Another aspect of mindfulness training – the practice of loving kindness meditation – has also been associated with increased activation in brain regions associated with positive feelings towards others.

The Body – beneficial effects have been found for a wide variety of stress-related medical conditions from psoriasis, to fibromyalgia, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and back pain. Reducing stress and low mood at the same time as increasing well-being and quality of life has proved helpful to people suffering chronic illnesses and conditions such as hypertension, heart problems, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, and HIV. Mindfulness training has also been shown to increase the immune response, as well as lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Relaxation Effects – mindfulness meditation practices seem to help to bring about a more pronounced relaxation response in the body than specific relaxation techniques themselves do.

Behaviour – mindfulness training focuses on stepping out of reactivity to stress and helps people break out of old patterns and habits of coping that can be harmful. This has been shown to be helpful in stopping or reducing habits like smoking tobacco, harmful alcohol use or other substance misuse. An improvement in sleep quality has also been found.