Scientific Benefits of Mindfulness
"Mindfulness" can refer to a psychological state, a way of processing information, or a personality trait. According to most of the research cited in this article, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment. Mindfulness is a state rather than a trait. Meditation may promote it, but it is distinct from it.
Several disciplines and practices, such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, can cultivate mindfulness, but the majority of the literature has focused on mindfulness developed through mindfulness meditation — self-regulation practices that train attention and awareness to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities like calmness, clarity, and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).
Researchers hypothesize that mindfulness meditation enhances metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination by disengaging from perseverative cognitive activities, and enhances working memory. Emotional regulation is aided by cognitive gains.
Among the many advantages of mindfulness are:
Decreased ruminating- Studies indicate that mindfulness decreases ruminating. Twenty novice meditators in one study participated in a 10-day mindfulness meditation retreat. The meditation group reported greater mindfulness and less negative affect than the control group following the retreat. Reduced depressive symptoms and ruminating. During a performance task, meditators' working memory and focus were superior to those of the control group.
De-stress- Studies show that mindfulness decreases stress. Hoffman et al. examined 39 studies on mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive therapy in 2010. According to researchers, mindfulness-based therapy can alter the affective and cognitive processes underlying a variety of clinical conditions. These findings confirm that mindfulness meditation enhances positive affect and reduces anxiety and negative affect. In one study, participants in a mindfulness-based stress reduction group were compared with controls on self-reported depression, anxiety, and psychopathology, as well as on fMRI neural reactivity after viewing sad films (Farb et al., 2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction reduced anxiety, depression, and somatic distress in the participants of the study. The mindfulness group had less neural reactivity to the films than the control group, and they exhibited different neural responses while viewing the films than they did prior to their training. These results indicate that mindfulness meditation alters people's ability to use emotion regulation strategies to selectively experience emotion and that their emotions may be processed differently in the brain (Farb et al., 2010; Williams, 2010).
Memory-boosting- Mindfulness enhances working memory, according to studies. Jha et al. documented the benefits of mindfulness meditation among meditating and nonmeditating military and civilian groups in their 2010 study. Each group was anxious prior to deployment. Over time, nonmeditating military members had a lower capacity for working memory than nonmeditating civilians. The meditating military personnel showed an increase in working memory. Meditation practice was also associated with both positive and negative self-reported affect.
Focus- Another study examined how mindfulness meditation affects concentration and distraction. A non-meditating control group was compared to mindfulness meditators with extensive experience. Meditation enhanced concentration and self-reported mindfulness. Cognitive flexibility and attentional functioning were associated with mindfulness meditation and self-reported mindfulness (Moore and Malinowski, 2009).
Less emotion- Research indicates that meditation lessens emotional reactivity. Compared to those who saw the pictures but did not meditate, those who practiced mindfulness meditation were able to disengage from emotionally distressing images and concentrate better on a cognitive task (Ortner et al., 2007).
Flexibility- According to additional research, mindfulness meditation could also enhance cognitive flexibility. One study found that those who practice mindfulness meditation cultivate self-observation, which disengages the automatic pathways created by prior learning and integrates present-moment input in a novel way (Siegel, 2007a). Meditation stimulates the brain region linked to adaptive stress responses (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003). This region's activation accelerates recovery from negative stimuli (Davidson, 2000; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000).
Relationships that satisfy- Several studies indicate that mindfulness can predict relationship satisfaction, including the capacity to respond well to relationship stress and effectively communicate feelings to a partner. Evidence suggests that mindfulness reduces the emotionally taxing effects of relationship conflict (Barnes et al., 2007), enhances social expression (Dekeyser et al., 2008), and predicts relationship satisfaction (Barnes et al., 2007; Wachs & Cordova, 2007).
Advantages- All functions of the prefrontal lobe are enhanced by mindfulness: self-awareness, morality, intuition, and fear modulation. Mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits, including increased immune functioning (Davidson et al., 2003; see Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004 for a review of physical health benefits), improved well-being (Carmody & Baer, 2008), and decreased psychological distress (Coffey & Hartman, 2008; Ostafin et al., 2006). The practice of mindfulness meditation increases information processing speed (Moore & Malinowski, 2009) and decreases task effort and irrelevant thoughts (Lutz et al., 2009).