There’s a lot of buzz about mindfulness and how we should be practicing it more often. It’s frequently linked with meditation because meditating is one of the best ways of doing it.
But maybe there’s a nagging doubt in the back of your mind – does it live up to the hype and are there any benefits from doing mindfulness and meditation?
There was a study in 2013 that set out to find out whether mindfulness could reduce anxiety. It found out that there was a significicant reduction in anxiety in the group who practiced mindfulness meditation versus the control group.
Which is great news if you’re thinking of using mindfulness to reduce your anxiety levels as there’s an excellent chance that it will work for you.
There are lots of things that can lead to depression – much like anxiety, it’s not helped by uncertain times and it can easily get overbearing.
A multi centre study led by Professor Willem Kuyken compared mindfulness to the more normal option of antidepressants. It tracked the results over two years, which is a very long time for this kind of study.
The mindfulness group spent 8 weeks on their mindfulness course and most of them came off their antidepressants during that time.
Longer term, there were similar results for the mindfulness and the antidepressant groups but the group taking the tablets continued to do so for the two years of the experiment whereas the mindfulness group stopped their sessions after only 8 weeks.
To my mind, that means mindfulness worked exceptionally well with the added benefit that it didn’t use medication.
A study in 2010 gave 24 people just four sessions of mindfulness meditation and they showed a more positive mood than the control group as well as suffering less anxiety.
They also had a much better memory than the control group and were also better at holding their attention when they needed to focus.
The researchers concluded that their “findings suggest that four days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.”
And that was after just 4 days.
Separately, Harvard University have found that mindfulness meditation can general improve mental ability and also memory.
If you practice mindfulness meditation for longer than the four days of the study, you can expect even better results.
Our brains get distracted all the time – it’s part of our modern day lives because there are just too many distractions.
Another study decided to check whether practicing mindfulness meditation improved the brain’s ability to ignore distractions – it found that they did and that their minds were generally more focused than the control group.
Sleep is important – it’s the time when our bodies repair themselves and our minds process what’s happened during the day.
If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’re not setting yourself up properly for the following day.
A study in 2015 found that the subjects who practiced mindfulness showed significant improvement in their sleep patterns.
So if you want a good night’s sleep, I’d strongly suggest including mindfulness meditation in your daily routine.
These have been measured and tested in at least 47 different trials including psychological stress and health problems related to stress.
The trials were run differently (that’s how these things work as different scientists have different ideas) but the general conclusion was that there was at least some reduction in stress – anything from a relatively small (but still useful) reduction through to a moderate one which would be good news if you were taking medication for your stress as it could mean that your doctor might recommend a reduction in the tablets you’re taking.
This one surprised me – I know that meditating generally calms me (I’ve been doing it for a long time now) but I hadn’t thought about it reducing pain levels.
But tests have shown that mindfulness not only helps with stress and anxiety, it also helps with reducing pain levels, including people suffering from chronic pain.
Anything that can help reduce a dependence on (often addictive) pain killers has to be worth investigating.
How to practice mindfulness meditation
You could attend a course locally – they are run in lots of places at different times and prices.
Or you could practice in the comfort of your own home – this is my preferred method as it’s a one off payment (often less than the cost of one face-to-face session or a handful of classes) and it’s available on demand because it’s recorded.
You can check out this mindfulness meditation set and prove to yourself that this technique works for you.