November 21, 2014

Evidence for the benefits of mindfulness-meditation

What evidence is there for the benefits of mindfulness meditation?

In this article I wrote about mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation helps to experience a state of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the conscious and non-judgmental awareness of what happens in the present moment which helps to interrupt automatic streams of thoughts. I also wrote that, in recent years, there have been quite a few studies into the benefits of mindfulness meditation. I mentioned that there is evidence that it might lead to benefits such as better resilience stress, a better immune function, better mental health, less negative affect, and better social functioning. Here, I want to explore the evidence for the benefits of mindfulness meditation a bit more.

Recent research (Santarnecchi, 2014) showed that participating in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training program led to structural changes in the brain and to a significant reduction of mental symptoms related to, among other things, anxiety and depression.
Also, Eberth & Sedlmeier (2012) did a meta-analysis to investigate the effects of mindfulness meditation. They found large differences in effect sizes between a complete MBSR program and pure meditation. MBSR was primarily associated with well-being and pure meditation with mindfulness.

Recently, Hempel et al (2014) have published a so-called evidence map of mindfulness. An evidence map is a condense visual representation of how many studies have shown certain effects of an intervention. Evidence maps are intended to help medical practitioners choose evidence based interventions for patients. On the right, there is a small picture showing this evidence map. For more details, read the report.

Within self-determination theory (SDT) mindfulness is also a relevant concept. Weinstein et al. (2013) describe mindful awareness as the degree to which people have open access to their own emotions, motives and values. These authors call this one of the three conditions for integration, the process of coordinating and increasing the congruence between one's behaviors and cognitions, and of how to integrate new experiences within one's existing web of self-knowledge

Schultz et al. (2014) demonstrated that mindfulness can contribute to well-being at work and work adjustment. Their research showed in particular that mindfulness can, to a certain degree, protect against the negative effects of controlling work environments. Normally, these types of work environments affect the well-being and performance of employees negatively but mindfulness can lessen these effects.

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