Science of Mindfulness

There are many reasons why people decide to learn more about Mindfulness. And one of the main reasons why more and more are getting attracted to it is that there’s a growing body of science behind it.


So what do we NEED TO KNOW?  Here are three main things in a nutshell:


A. Even though there’s a lot of research, the science of mindfulness is still in its infancy stage.

B. The hype over mindfulness can cause disillusionment when over-inflated expectations are not met. So it’s better to stick with what we actually know through evidence.

C. In practicing mindfulness, it’s important to let go of scientific results as personal expectations or goals to achieve.




So what do we ACTUALLY KNOW?


The biggest resource on the science of mindfulness is the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA). To date, AMRA provides over 4,000 academic publication references on Mindfulness. The following AMRA graph of Mindfulness Journal Publications per year shows you an exponential growth in publications from 1980 to 2016.

growing evidence base

science of mindfulness belfast

In an attempt to list and simplify what mindfulness can potentially do, here are some benefits of Mindfulness. It’s strongly recommended though that you get the material itself to understand the context and particulars of the research:

  1. Stress reduction. Hoffman et al. (2010)

  2. Decreased fatigue and anxiety. Rosenzweig, Reibel, Greeson, Brainard, & Hojat, (2003)

  3. Improved Mood and Attention. Bueno VF et al. (2015)

  4. Prevention of Relapse of Chronic Depression by up to 50%.  Kuyken, Hayes, Barrett (2015)

  5. Increased Immune Functioning. Davidson et al. (2003)   

  6. Better Focus. Moore and Malinowski (2009)

  7. Enhanced working memory. Jha et al. (2010)

  8. Improved Empathy. Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner (1998). Aiken (2006). Wang (2007) 

  9. Improved Well-Being. Baer & Carmody (2008)

  10. Increased information processing speed. Moore & Malinowski (2009)

  11. Less emotional reactivity. Ortner et al., (2007)

  12. More cognitive flexibility (ability to think about multiple concepts simultaneously). Siegel (2007). Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al. (2003). Davidson (2000); Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, (2000).

  13. Reduced rumination. Chambers et al. (2008)

  14. Relationship satisfaction. Dekeyser el al.(2008). (Barnes et al., 2007; Wachs & Cordova (2007)

  15. Better quality of life. Bruce, Young, Turner, Vander Wal, & Linden (2002)

For further reading and understanding the context, below are sample articles added to AMRA’s database in June 2017.

  1. Andreu, C. I., Moënne-Loccoz, C., López, V., Slagter, H. A., Franken, I. H., Cosmelli, D. (2017). Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence of enhanced performance monitoring in meditators. Mindfulness.

  2. Duncan, L. G., Cohn, M. A., Chao, M. T., Cook, J. G., Riccobono, J., Bardacke, N. (2017). Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: A randomized controlled trial with active comparison. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

  3. Gotink, R. A., Younge, J. O., Wery, M. F., Utens, E. M., Michels, M., Rizopoulos, D., . . . Hunink, M. M. (2017). Online mindfulness as a promising method to improve exercise capacity in heart disease: 12-month follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE.

  4. Grazzi, L., D’Amico, D., Raggi, A., Leonardi, M., Ciusani, E., Corsini, E., . . . Sansone, E. (2017). Mindfulness and pharmacological prophylaxis have comparable effect on biomarkers of inflammation and clinical indexes in chronic migraine with medication overuse: Results at 12 months after withdrawal. Neurological Sciences.

  5. Pogrebtsova, E., Craig, J., Chris, A., O’Shea, D., González-Morales, M. G. (2017). Exploring daily affective changes in university students with a mindful positive reappraisal intervention: A daily diary randomized controlled trial. Stress and Health.

  6. Reich, R. R., Lengacher, C. A., Klein, T. W., Newton, C., Shivers, S., Ramesar, S., . . . Park, J. Y. (2017). A randomized controlled trial of the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR [BC]) on levels of inflammatory biomarkers among recovering breast cancer survivors. Biological Research for Nursing.



The Media and the marketing machinery somehow created a hype explosion when mindfulness was featured on Time Magazine’s cover in 2014. The title was Mindful Revolution. And it hooked even sceptics when it said even the US army is getting trained in Mindfulness.


Then began the proliferation of everything mindful—from mindfulness books, courses, activities and colouring books to hundreds of mindfulness apps. The business bandwagon positioned it as almost a cure-all new thing from the East that unreservedly impacts personal lives, organisations and different facets of health. While part of that is true, the exaggeration is bound to disappoint.

In regard to its impact on the workplace, for example, the UK’s Mindful Initiative report blatantly puts it, “the excitement about mindfulness in the workplace ‘has outstripped the research evidence.'” 


What needs to happen is for us to patiently wait for proper evidence. There’s so much science needs to uncover and discover.



Our counter-intuitive suggestion in attending our courses is that you must let go of expectations. If you come to us to reduce anxiety, stress or even the possibility of relapsing into depression, you need to start with a mindset of letting go of these goals.


The big reason for this is that when we focus on results, goals or targets, we operate with what scientists call, the Doing Mode of mind. What the practice of mindfulness requires is that we operate with the Being Mode of mind. These two modes of mind utilise two distinct neural networks. Join one of our courses to find out more.


While the science of mindfulness is currently in its infancy stage and is clouded by the hype, we are experiencing an exponential outpouring of research papers world wide that we haven't seen before. There's a need to be cautious ,and at the same time, an openness to whatever results come. For the mean time, I would like to quote one Amazon reviewer's comment regarding a book on mindfulness, "How I wish to see people actually spending more time meditating than proving the benefits of mindfulness meditation."