Research over the years has investigated a number of benefits of mindfulness training, and associations between increased mindfulness and higher physical and psychological functioning. This page briefly outlines some of this research and provides references and links for further reading.
Research over many years has established that meditation of various forms (e.g., mantra, Benson method, yoga) can lead to greater relaxation, improved mood, and regularly facilitates less anxiety in both regular populations and people with anxiety problems. Cahn and Polich (2006) reviewed meditation research and concluded that meditation appears to affect regions in the brain that involve attention and stimulus processing speed, and this may help to reduce the effect of stress and anxiety on psychophysical functioning. The MBSR program has also been shown to increase immune function and activation of brain regions associated with positive emotion and recovery from stressful events. Consistent with these research findings, Grossman et al. (2004) in a meta-analytic review of mindfulness-based stress reduction research concluded that mindfulness training is associated with increased coping with disability, reduced pain, and improved physical well-being for people with chronic and serious health conditions, like cancer and fibromyalgia.
Research also shows that meditation and mindfulness training is associated with improved perceived quality of life, reduced anxiety, increased relaxation, and coping. Likewise, mindfulness training has been shown to be associated with increased sense of control over emotion and internal experience, greater tolerance of uncertainty, and less fear of emotion (Astin, 1997; Craigie, 2005, 2006). It has been argued by a number of researchers (for more details see references and links below) that mindfulness training may improve one’s ability to self-regulate in terms of reducing negative focus on self, and increasing meta-cognitive awareness and control, self-compassion, wisdom, and resilience. These aspects may promote increased self-determination, meaning and positive emotion, and therefore quality of life and well-being. In sum, the research has shown that mindfulness training and higher self reported mindfulness is associated with a number of psychological benefits:
- Less negative emotion, negative thinking, and negative mood.
- More positive emotion and sense of control over emotion.
- Greater concentration and metacognitive awareness.
- Greater sense of vitality and well-being.
Meditation and mindfulness training more specifically may thus promote a range of psychological and psychophysical benefits.
Most recently, a number of meta-analyses of the scientific research literature (Hoffman et al., 2010; Koury et al., 2013; Piet & Hougaard, 2011) have shown that MBCT reduces the risk of depression relapse by 43% for those whom have experienced more than 3 previous episodes, and mindfulness-based interventions were an effective treatment for a variety of psychological problems, “and is especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression and stress”.