When I was first introduced to the benefits of mindfulness I was very sceptical.
How on earth could spending ten minutes a day meditating improve concentration or reduce pain? It just didn’t seem feasible to me!
As I spent more time developing my own mindfulness practice I did find that I was feeling calmer, my mind was less busy and I was sleeping better.
But perhaps it was just coincidence?
At the same time as I was developing my mindfulness practice there was less happening in my life, it was Spring time and the sun was starting to peep out from behind the grey clouds so perhaps I would be feeling better about the world anyway.
I needed cold hard evidence before I could accept that mindfulness was the reason for my shift in mood.
And I found there is plenty of it!
Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness
Scientific studies have proven that:
- Mindfulness helps to decrease anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability if practiced regularly. (1)
- Mindfulness reduces insomnia and increases both physical and mental energy (4).
- Mindfulness is incredibly effective for pain management.(5)
- A recent trial suggest that average pain ‘unpleasantness’ levels can be reduced by 57 per cent while accomplished meditators report reductions of up to 93 per cent.(6)
- Mindfulness is a highly effective way of treating clinical level depression. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. (7)
- Mindfulness reduces addictive and self-destructive behaviour. (8)
- Mindfuness improves health and boosts the immune system (9) and has been proven to help control blood sugar in type II diabetes and in managing blood pressure.(10)
- Mindfulness improves your emotional intelligence and helps you to develop empathy and compassion (11)
In short, the more mindful you are the happier (and in many cases) the healthier you are.(12)
Doing this research on the benefits of mindfulness really blew me away. How can something so simple have such a profound effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing?
How Does Mindfulness Work?
There are many, many people including neuroscientists who are in a much better position than me to explain exactly how mindfulness works.
In very simple terms, scientists have found that we can actually change the structure of our brain and train our brain for the better with consistent mindfulness practice.
World-renowned neuroscientist Richie Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains:
“Researchers are beginning to see that “even short amounts of practice,” like 30 minutes of meditation per day, “can induce measurable changes in the brain” that can be tracked on a brain scanner.”
It’s these ‘measurable changes’ that restructure our neural pathways and allow us to change our thinking habits.
You can read more about his research here:
Mindful.org: How The Brain Changes When You Meditate
And for a more detailed insight into how mindfulness and meditation can impact your brain:
Harvard Medical School: Now and Zen: How Mindfulness Can Impact Your Brain And Improve Your Health
So the changes that I have experienced in my own mood and my own mind weren’t just coincidence – mindfulness works.
- Exploring Self Report Assessment Methods to Explore Facets of Mindfulness
- Mindfulness improves cognition including working memory study
- Mindfulness improves attentional control and focus study
- Greater good research digest: Mindfulness better than antidepressants
- Mindfulness based pain management study
- Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation
- Nice guidelines for management of depression
- Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use Study
- Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation
- The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue’
- The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being
- Harvard Gazette: Wandering mind not a happy mind