Home // The benefits of mindfulness – excerpts from research by The American Psychological Association
Research on mindfulness has identified these benefits:
Reduced rumination. Several studies have shown that mindfulness reduces rumination.
Stress reduction. Many studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces stress…Those findings are consistent with evidence that mindfulness meditation increases positive affect and decreases anxiety and negative affect. …. The researchers found that the participants who experienced mindfulness-based stress reduction had significantly less anxiety, depression and somatic distress compared with the control group
Boosts to working memory. Improvements to working memory appear to be another benefit of mindfulness, research finds.
Focus. Another study examined how mindfulness meditation affected participants’ ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information…. They found that the meditation group had significantly better performance on all measures of attention and had higher self-reported mindfulness
Less emotional reactivity. Research also supports the notion that mindfulness meditation decreases emotional reactivity.
More cognitive flexibility. Another line of research suggests that in addition to helping people become less reactive, mindfulness meditation may also give them greater cognitive flexibility. One study found that people who practice mindfulness meditation appear to develop the skill of self-observation, which neurologically disengages the automatic pathways that were created by prior learning and enables present-moment input to be integrated in a new way (Siegel, 2007a). Meditation also activates the brain region associated with more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003). Activation of this region corresponds with faster recovery to baseline after being negatively provoked (Davidson, 2000; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000)
Relationship satisfaction. Several studies find that a person’s ability to be mindful can help predict relationship satisfaction — the ability to respond well to relationship stress and the skill in communicating one’s emotions to a partner. Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflict (Barnes et al., 2007), is positively associated with the ability to express oneself in various social situations (Dekeyser el al., 2008) and predicts relationship satisfaction (Barnes et al., 2007; Wachs & Cordova, 2007).
Other benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to enhance:
- and fear modulation,
Evidence also suggests that mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits, including increased immune functioning.
In addition, mindfulness meditation practice appears to increase information processing speed (Moore & Malinowski, 2009), as well as decrease task effort and having thoughts that are unrelated to the task at hand (Lutz et al., 2009).
The effects of meditation on therapists and therapist trainees
While many studies have been conducted on the benefits of applying mindfulness approaches to psychotherapy clients (for reviews, see Didonna, 2009 and Baer, 2006), research on the effects of mindfulness on psychotherapists is just beginning to emerge. Specifically, research has identified these benefits for psychotherapists who practice mindfulness meditation:
Empathy. Several studies suggest that mindfulness promotes empathy.
Compassion. Mindfulness-based stress reduction training has also been found to enhance self-compassion among health-care professionals
Counseling skills. Empirical literature demonstrates that including mindfulness interventions in psychotherapy training may help therapists develop skills that make them more effective.
Decreased stress and anxiety
Better quality of life – using qualitative and quantitative measures, nursing students reported better quality of life and a significant decrease in negative psychological symptoms following exposure to mindfulness-based stress reduction training (Bruce, Young, Turner, Vander Wal, & Linden, 2002). Evidence from a study of counselor trainees exposed to interpersonal mindfulness training suggests that such interventions can foster emotional intelligence and social connectedness, and reduce stress and anxiety (Cohen & Miller, 2009).
Similarly, in a study of Chinese college students, those students who were randomly assigned to participate in a mindfulness meditation intervention had lower depression and anxiety, as well as less fatigue, anger and stress-related cortisol compared to a control group (Tang et al., 2007). These same students had greater attention, self-regulation and immunoreactivity. Another study assessed changes in symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder among New Orleans mental health workers following an eight-week meditation intervention that began 10 weeks after Hurricane Katrina.