Science of Mindfulness

Hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted and published on the measurable benefits of mindfulness training. I’ve collected a few of them here.

Decreases Anxiety and Stress
In one study, participation in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program reduced symptoms of stress by 31% and overall mood disturbance (including depression and anger) by 65%, when compared with a group not participating. Another study concluded that “A group mindfulness meditation training program can effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic and can help maintain these reductions in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or panic disorder with agoraphobia.” These results held up for at least 90 days following completion of the program. Another study of 174 adults in an 8-week MBSR program showed improvement in measures of mindfulness and well-being, including decreases in stress-related symptoms like anxiety and chronic pain. A review of 20 previous studies found that “the results support the safety and potential efficacy of meditative practices for treating certain illnesses, particularly in nonpsychotic mood and anxiety disorders.”
Increases Happiness and Life Satisfaction
A study of 139 working adults found that meditation practice increased “daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms).” These led to higher measures of life satisfaction and less depression. One of the most effective ways to generate lasting positive emotions has been found to be loving-kindness (metta) meditation (included in our 4-week and 8-week classes). A follow-up survey of participants in loving-kindness meditation training found that those who had continued to meditate reported more positive emotions than those who had stopped or never started.
Boosts Focus and Concentration
One study, which has major implications¬†for businesses, found that workers trained in an 8-week MBSR course “reported lower levels of stress and showed better memory for the tasks they had performed; they also switched tasks less often and remained focused on tasks longer.” In a study of a specific measure of attentiveness, the results “demonstrate that meditative training can improve performance on a novel task that requires the trained attentional abilities.” Another study found that even as few as four days of meditation training “can enhance the ability to sustain attention.”
Improves Some Medical Conditions
At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health funds and reports on the effectiveness of meditation in treating medical conditions. Here’s an overview of some of their findings, including links to other resources.