Research into health benefits
- A healthy old age: Mindfulness has been found to improve the density of grey matter in the brain of older meditators, preventing the effects of degeneration associated with ageing and through increasing the amount of the enzyme telomerase it may even help with longevity.
- Reduced anxiety: regular practice of 10 minutes a day or more reduces activity in the amygdala – the part of the brain associated with worry and anxiety.
- Improved immune system: Participants on an 8 week course were found to be better able to withstand contracting flu than the control group when researchers injected them with the flu virus at the end of the course. A group of HIV patients taught mindfulness were found to have maintained their CDT4 cells (the core of the immune system) whereas the control group registered a 25% decrease.
- Pain management: Research found it helped cancer patients manage pain and reduce some of the negative effects of treatment. Four 20 minute session s reduced pain sensitivity by 57%, more than morphine!
- Depression: MBCT has been recommended by NICE for the management of recuring depression and recent research has shown it to be as effective as medication to prevent relapse and to assist when dropping the dose of medication for depression.
- Addiction: 20 minutes of mindfulness practice pre day over 4 weeks was found to be more effective in helping a group of smokers quit or reduce than the treatment of choice. 35% quit entirely and others saw a 90% reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked, from 18 to 2 per day.
- Mindfulness has been found to be effective for those with ADHD, OCD and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) through reducing the tendency to let go of ruminative thoughts.
Increased Productivity and team work
Mindfulness has been found to help in improving productivity and ability to focus on a task, making it effective for people wanting to improve their output through increased efficiency rather than working extra hours, thereby improving their life-work balance as a whole.
A Harvard study found that on average the mind wanders for 50% of the time. Regular mindfulness practice was found to reduce activity in the area associate with this tendency, the medial prefrontal cortex, and to enhance the ability to notice the mind wandering and bring it back to a focus. This is one of the reasons Apple, Google, the Bank Of England and NASA and many other companies now teach mindfulness in the workplace.
Working effectively under stress
University of Pennsylvania research into how mindfulness could improve thinking under stress used a group of marines prior to deployment into Iraq. They found that those practicing for ten minutes a day or more were able to maintain their mental abilities under stress, whereas those who did it less then ten minutes or the control group could not.
Improved Emotional Intelligence
Mindfulness improves the ability to be self aware and more fully present to others and their feelings. It is being taught to CEOs and managers to help improve team building skills and the ability to relate with compassion to others through learning to relate differently to themselves. This ability to stay present without falling into judgement, second guessing or blaming also has obvious benefits in terms of social life and relationships.