What are the benefits of mindfulness and meditation?
There are different ways of evaluating the benefits of meditation, they include personal experience, common sense and empirical measurement. Despite a great deal of scientific inquiry (see the Science of Meditation website), there is little consensus regarding a causal relationship between meditation and specific wellbeing benefits. There are hundreds of studies that individually suggest meditation has an ‘effect’ on wellbeing. However results from different academic papers rarely converge to offer robust replicated findings. I raise this point as a committed long term meditator, certain of the value of meditation to human kind. The key point is not to simply believe claims made by individuals or organizations (spiritual or secular).
If you are thinking of joining an established group you may wish to consider if the experienced members reflect the kind of personal development you are looking for. Most reliable meditation and mindfulness teachers will be happy to ask questions like ‘what will this meditation do for me?’ or ‘how do I know if its working?’. If you have a specific meditation practice in mind there is likely to be some information available that will enable you to do some research and consider if it is right for you.
These few links illustrate the kind of wellbeing benefits associated with meditation from across the last decade, they are include for general interest only. As already mentioned current scientific issues are discussed on the Science of Meditation website. Relevant material is also included on our blog pages. You will also find reports through the mainstream media. My advice is to use a critical eye to judge claims regarding the benefits of meditation.
Biologic effects of mindfulness meditation: growing insights into neurobiologic aspects of the prevention of depression here.
- “There is increasing evidence that meditation is a useful and, for some people, a powerful therapy” Dr Adrian White, University of Exeter. Full article here.
- “Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), date to 1500 BC in Hindu Vedantism. Around 500-600 BC Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop meditative practices.” Wikipedia here.
- People who learn how to meditate using Buddhist techniques not only may find a bit of peace in life, but also can improve their attention and focus a study shows.” More details here.
- BBC Woman’s Hour presented by Jenni Murray. “We’re told that meditation is good for us but why is it meant to be so beneficial? Jenni explores these questions with a meditation teacher and a seasoned practitioner.” BBC Iplayer here.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness meditation as a technique to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. Full details here.
- “People who meditate say it induces well-being and emotional balance. In recent years, a group of neuroscientists has begun investigating the practice, dubbed ‘mindfulness’.” Full article here.