Since the creation of the MBSR and MBCT programs a significant amount of scientific research has been carried out in relation to the benefits of mindfulness based interventions. Some studies are well designed and stand up to rigorous scrutiny while others are more questionable. We have only begun to scratch the surface in terms of our scientific understanding on how practicing mindfulness positively affects our physical and mental wellbeing. Consequently, a lot more research is required and as with anything, we should be wary of catchy headlines which promise immediate and guaranteed results. That said, there is a significant body of scientific evidence which has been gathered over the last 30 years by some of the most well respected universities and institutions outlining the benefits of mindfulness practices.
The following extracts are drawn from a broad sweep of that scientific research and the complete research papers can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlink in the heading of each article.
Publication: Journal of Psychosomatic Research (2004)
Authors: Grossmana, Niemannb, Schmidt and Walach
“Our findings suggest the usefulness of MBSR as an intervention for a broad range of chronic disorders and problems. In fact, the consistent and relatively strong level of effect sizes across very different types of sample indicates that mindfulness training might enhance general features of coping with distress and disability in everyday life, as well as under more extraordinary conditions of serious disorder or stress”
Publication: NeuroQuantology (2017)
Author: Hong Ye
“…in the non-MBSR group, students reported an increase of anxiety symptoms in the social situations. In the MBSR group, it decreased. Thus, the first hypothesis of this paper could be partially supported. As our second hypothesis, students in the non-MBSR group reported an increase of avoidance, whereas the students of the MBSR group reported a decrease. For our third hypothesis, the findings give evidence for the expected increase in reduced stress in the MBSR group, while we found a decrease in the non-MBSR group”.
How Effective is MBSR?
Publication: Healthlink BC. (2016)
Author: Healthwise staff
“Studies show that MBSR can reduce stress and help people relax. Studies of people who have type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, chronic pain, and other problems show that MBSR helped some people cope better with symptoms and improved their quality of life.
Research also shows that MBSR helped people sleep better and feel less anxious, and it helped ease depression symptoms. In some people, MBSR also helped improve blood sugar and blood pressure. Taking part in MBSR has been linked to positive changes in the areas of the brain that affect how you pay attention, how you feel, and how you think”.
Publication: Science and Studies (2016)
“One of the first studies to explore this question was conducted by Zindel and his colleagues, published in 2010, in which they compared MBCT to antidepressant medication. People with histories of depression who had been successfully treated with medication were randomly assigned to receive MBCT, maintenance medication, or pill placebo. Although people who got MBCT knew that was the intervention, the people who were assigned to a pharmacotherapy group didn’t know if they were getting an active medication or a sugar pill.
Among people who had residual depressive symptoms, MBCT and maintenance medication helped prevent depression to the same extent, and both did significantly better than placebo. This suggests that the relapse prevention effects are specific to something about MBCT and cannot be explained simply by factors that were present also in the placebo condition of the study, such as having a credible rationale, clear steps for what one can do to help prevent depression, expectancies for improvement, and a positive relationship with a professional clinician”.
Publication: Europe’s Journal of Psychology (2010)
Authors: Soons, Brouwers and Tomic
“… the findings support the primary hypothesis that training highly sensitive persons in MBSR can increase levels of self-acceptance, emotional empathy, personal growth, and self-transcendence and can reduce levels of stress and social anxiety. These results are worthwhile”
Publication: The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2015)
Authors: Smoski, Suarez, Brantley, Wolever and Greeson,
“Our results confirm the appropriateness of MBSR as an intervention for older adults…Overall MBSR is an accessible and beneficial intervention for older adults experiencing psychological distress”
Publication: Cognitive Therapy and Research (2012)
Authors: Crane, Winder, Hargus, Amarasinghe and Barnhofer
“…the data presented here suggests that MBCT is able to increase both the specification of important life goals and the perceived likelihood of their attainment, changes which may have significant implications for a person’s ability to move forward in life with confidence”
The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Anxiety and Aggression
Publication: NYU Steinhardt: OPUS, Department of applied psychology (2014)
“The mindfulness component of MBSR has been found to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of worry associated with anxiety by helping individuals focus their attention on more present thoughts, and control their emotions and tendency towards worry and rumination”
Publication: The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) (2011)
Authors: Holzel, Carmody, Vangel, Congleton, Yerramsetti, Gard and Lazar
“An extensive body of research during the last decade has established that MBSR leads to improvements in psychological health and well-being. Demonstrating morphological increases in regions associated with mental health, the data presented here suggest a plausible underlying neural mechanism, namely, that such increases represent enduring changes in brain structure that could support improved mental functioning”