There has been an explosion of research into mindfulness in the last two decades. Thousands of peer-reviewed papers show that over time, mindfulness leads to enhanced mental and physical wellbeing.
Below are a number of health areas where research has been done with links to the relevant research papers.
In those with recurrent episodes of depression, mindfulness reduces relapse rates by about 40 per cent, which is similar to the success rates of antidepressants. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness-based cognitive behaviour therapy (MBCT) for recurrent depression.
Anxiety and Stress
A 3 year study showed that mindfulness meditation can have long-term beneficial effects in the treatment of anxiety.
Pain and the emotional reaction to having pain can be reduced with mindfulness training. Recent trials suggest that average pain levels can be reduced by more than 50 per cent while experienced meditators can have reductions in pain levels of up to 93 per cent.
Coronary heart disease
Mindfulness training reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, stress and blood pressure in patients with coronary heart disease.
Mindfulness improved quality of life and mood in long-term illnesses such as:
Cancer – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12883107
Fibromyalgia – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17570961
Multiple sclerosis – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20876468
Irritable bowel syndrome – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21691341, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22618308
Asthma – thorax.bmj.com/content/67/9/769.short
Addiction and self-destructive behaviour are reduced by mindfulness. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention programs have been developed.
Brain function- neuroscience research
After just 8 weeks of mindfulness training, neuroscientific research shows increased grey matter in parts of the brain associated with self-awareness, attention, empathy and self-control.
The parts of the brain that produce stress hormones show decreased reactivity. Neuroscientist Sarah Lazar gives a TED talk on her research showing how mindfulness meditation can reshape our brain.
Long-term meditators preserve the length of their telomeres which is the end part of the chromosome that protects us against age-related changes. Mindfulness may also reduce age-related illnesses.
Meditation improves the immune system, with higher antibody levels in those who have received even a short program in mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation increased the rate of resolution of psoriatic lesions in patients with psoriasis.
The carers of chronically ill children were given a short mindfulness programme and showed a substantial reduction in their stress symptoms and mood disturbance following the programme.
The Mindful Nation
The Government published an all-party initiative called The Mindful Nation recommending greater use of mindfulness in the health service, workplace, schools , and criminal justice system.