Mindfulness: Is it a fad or a powerful life-changing coping skill? A look at the science

Posted on March 22, 2014

"Mindfulness seems to help inoculate against the arising of stress."

In mindfulness, you train your mind to focus on the present and respond with reason before emotion. It's about taking a pause and guiding yourself to become "aware enough in the moment so that before you react, you're aware of how you're responding to a situation," says Ronald Epstein, a professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. "That gives you the choice to blow up or not to blow up. You recognize and say, 'I'm about to lose my temper,' rather than losing your temper."

In our high-stress culture, the idea has caught on. Mindfulness is being practiced not just by New Age-types, celebrities and executives. Education leaders in many states have received training for how to incorporate mindfulness into K-12 curricula. Most medical schools now offer an elective in mindfulness in medicine, Epstein says.

Research shows that being mindful can have tangible benefits, such as alleviating chronic pain and helping to curb depression and anxiety. Various studies have linked mindfulness practice to improvements in attention, eating and sleeping habits, weight management, and recovery from substance abuse. Research also suggests that mindfulness can help people cope better with heart disease, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, asthma and other conditions.

One way to assess the validity of studies is to do a meta-analysis, a comprehensive review of multiple studies. One such analysis published this year in JAMA Internal Medicine found "moderate evidence" that mindfulness meditation programs can have small but significant effects on anxiety, depression and pain. But the review did not find sufficient evidence that mindfulness could help with other health problems.

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Source material from Washington Post

Mental Health News