What are the benefits of Mindfulness Meditation?
Hypnosis, mindfulness, meditation. They all have similarities and cross overs, and in my hypnosis sessions I incorporate elements of each of these, to give you the benefits of all three.
The evidence for the benefits of mindfulness meditation is vast. There are literally hundreds of studies that point to benefits in many different areas.
Did you know that there is an abundance of research showing that mindfulness assists with increased wellbeing, cognitive (brain) functioning, enhancing immune functions, enhancing the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic pain, fibromyalgia and HIV?
Mindfulness meditation can help the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, hot flushes, insomnia, stress. It can help diminish cravings for substance abuse, improve attention and memory. The list goes on and there are many other areas where research has demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can have significant benefits.
In this article I’m going to touch on a few areas and some of the research that provides evidence for the benefits in these areas.
Before we go into these areas, I’m going to start with a very brief over view of what mindfulness is.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of consciousness that is achieved by intentionally paying attention on the present – not letting your mind wonder to thoughts of previous experiences, or future goals. It is being present without judgement, and experiencing your present, moment by moment.
If you would like to experience this meditative state for yourself, make sure you enter your email address and I’ll send you access to my audio session, where I will take you through a short and effective guided mindfulness meditation session.
Not only is this session free, but you can also revisit it as often as you like and see for yourself the amazing benefits that can be achieved through incorporating mindfulness meditation into your life.
Now let’s look at just some of the studies that demonstrate how effective mindfulness and similar meditations can be in various aspects of our lives.
Mindfulness for Better Mood & Less Stress
The improvement upon mood and the reduction in stress that mindfulness can bring is probably the most researched, and what people most commonly understand to be the benefits of mindfulness. So, let’s start here!
A 2016 study by Remmers et al concluded that mindfulness meditation helped alleviate stress and led to better mood by improving emotion regulation and giving people the ability to handle stress better.
How about mindfulness for stressed out parents?
A study in 2016 found study looked specifically into mindful parenting and found that parents that practice mindfulness experience less parental stress (Gouveia et al, 2016).
… Or mindfulness for health care professionals looking to reduce stress?
Researchers at the University of Staffordshire found that mindfulness-based interventions have the potential to reduce stress among health care professionals (Burton et al, 2017).
… Or solders suffering with PTSD?
Another study published in the Frontiers of Psychology journal found that mindfulness produced large effects regarding the reduction of PTSD symptoms and helped soldiers to feel more distant from the traumatic event. Not just this but subjects also reported having more feelings of wellbeing and improvement regarding the handling of difficult situations (Muller-Engelmann et al, 2017).
… Mindfulness for police officers suffering from stress:
And for our boys and girls in blue, yet another study showing the benefits of mindfulness in countering stress. The study from Pacific University’s School of Professional Psychology looked at police officers over an eight week period whilst they incorporated mindfulness into their daily lives. The officers reported significant reductions in anger and stress. The officers also reported having greater psychological resilience(Bergman et al, 2016).
… Can mindfulness reduce stress in students?
A 2015 study investigated the effects of a 6-week mindfulness-based program on students. They found that the those that used the mindfulness techniques had significantly reduced psychological distress, significant increase in well-being, significant increases in self-control and significant increases in vitality (Canby et al, 2015).
These are just a few of the countless numbers of academic studies that have been carried out showing the effectiveness of mindfulness to improve mood and reduce stress.
Mindfulness Meditation and Immune Functions
Whilst improving stress and mood are very much psychological factors, what about making physical improvements to our lives? Could mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness techniques help to improve our immune function and help us against physical symptoms of illness?
These studies suggest that mindfulness and meditation can be very effective in these areas.
Mindfulness meditation helping the immune system of cancer patients:
Following studies with a group of cancer sufferers, researchers concluded that mindfulness techniques enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms. They were also able to show that mindfulness had assisted in improving cortisol and immune patterns in the body (Carlson et al, 2007).
Another study carried out at the Emory University School of Medicine in the US conducted research on 61 adults over a six-week period. They found that those that practiced meditation decreased stress hormones in their bodies (stress hormones such as cortisol were reduced). They concluded that meditation may reduce stress-induced immune and behavioural responses (Pace et al, 2009).
Mindfulness meditation can even help our immune system at DNA level…
There were some very interesting results form a longer, 3-month study of meditation. In our bodies an increase of telomerase activity can physically improve our cells. Telomeres are part of are DNA and genetic make-up. Researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that their study showed that meditation was linked to an increase in telomerase activity which could contribute to immune cell longevity.
Mindfulness and Your Ability to Deal with Illness
… And it isn’t just the ability to fight off illness – a study by Zernicke et al (2016) found that mindfulness was able to enhance the quality of patients’ lives when they were suffering with cancer.
The study consisted of eight weekly 2 hour online classes for a group of 62 participants. Not only did the study show that the mindfulness techniques enhanced the quality of life of the patients, but specifically it showed improvements in the reduction of pain, improvement in fatigue and enhanced vigour.
…. And what about carers that help those dealing with illness?
A further study from Li et al (2016) also found excellent benefits of mindfulness to caregivers. The study showed how mindfulness led to a decrease in stress, depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness Aids Recovery from Significant Illnesses.
Being diagnosed with a significant illness such as cancer is likely to be an extremely difficult time for patients. What is often less well documented is how difficult the recovery can be.
Boyle et al (2017) found in their study of breast cancer survivors that used mindfulness techniques were more likely to be self-kind, have less rumination and less stress.
A further study from Zhang et al (2017) looked at 60 survivors of stages I-III breast cancer. They conducted an eight-week trial into the impact of mindfulness based stress reduction and were able to demonstrate significant enhancement of post-traumatic recovery. Also worthy of note were decreased stress and anxiety in the group using mindfulness techniques.
Mindfulness can Improve Focus and Attention
A study by the National Academy of Sciences in the United States were able to conclude that a group with just 5 days of meditation practice (20 minutes per day) showed significantly better attention than a group that were given relaxation exercises alone. Along with this the group that used meditation exercises had reduced anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue with a significant drop in the stress hormone cortisol (Tang et al, 2007).
Mindfulness Meditation for Weight Loss
All these wonderful improvements as a result of incorporation of mindfulness meditation into your life. How about weight loss?
A large study of 560 individuals found that mindfulness was effective for weight loss and had large effects at improving eating behaviours (Rogers et al. 2017). Another study group of 60 obese individuals concluded that mindfulness training had a considerable impact on weight loss amongst individuals with obesity (Asadollahi et al, 2015).
Interestingly Olson and Emery (2015) reviewed 19 separate studies into the link between mindfulness and weight loss. Their review concluded that of the 19 studies, 13 of them reported significant weight loss in participants.
Mindfulness Meditation for Better Sleep
When we are regularly sleeping well we take this natural process for granted. However, sleep is one of the most important processes our bodies and brains engage in. When we aren’t sleeping well it can cause all manner of physical and psychological problems. From irritability to lack of focus and from anxiety and depression to weight loss and weight gain.
So, when it comes to sleeping well could mindfulness meditation help?
Well, I think you are coming to realise just how beneficial mindfulness meditation can be, so I’m sure the following studies into the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques to improve your sleep patterns will come of no surprise.
Melatonin is the most important hormone released by our bodies to regulate our sleep patterns and a study by Tooley (2000) concluded that meditation can improve plasma melatonin levels.
Another study documented by Harvard Medical School cites a study by Black et al (2015). In this study they took 49 adults and gave half of them a sleep education program and the other half completed a mindfulness awareness course.
The study concluded that the mindfulness group had less insomnia, less fatigue and less depression at the end of the six-week study compared with the group who were given sleep education sessions.
Mindfulness for Decreasing Inflammation in the Body
Inflammation is a defence mechanism in the body where the immune system heals damaged cells, irritants and pathogens. Chronic inflammation can happen when the body mistakes normal healthy tissue for pathogens or damaged cells.
A study group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted an 8-week experiment using a mindfulness program to reduce stress and inflammation. Following the 8 weeks the researchers concluded that the mindfulness group resulted in a significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response compared to the group that did not do mindfulness meditation. They went on to say that the research shows that mindfulness meditation may be of therapeutic benefit and provide symptom relief in chronic inflammatory conditions (Rosenkranz et al, 2013).
Mindfulness for Decreasing Depression and Depressive Symptoms.
Overcoming depression and depressive symptoms is another area where mindfulness has received a lot of attention and praise. There are a significant number of studies that point to the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation and improvements in treatment of depression.
A study by Costa & Barnhofer (2016) investigated the effects of mindfulness on a group of 38 individuals. 19 were given brief training in mindfulness while 19 were given relaxation techniques. Of the two groups and after just one week, the mindfulness meditation participants’ symptoms of depression had significantly decreased.
Another study by Shawyer et al (2016) found that not only did participants utilising mindfulness-based cognitive therapy experience significantly less depressive episodes, they also experienced reduced healthcare costs and improved health overall.
Another study was found to assist in improving the feelings of people with chronic depression and suicidal thoughts.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts I would always suggest that you speak with your doctor to get the support that you need. However, it is very interesting to note that the study by Forkmann (2016) found that mindfulness-based therapy significantly reduced suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts).
Mindfulness for Improved Success at School, College and University
Are you a student that would like to improve your ability to study, retain knowledge, improve focus and decrease stress? Well, mindfulness has also been shown to help students to achieve more success in their studies and their exams.
From early on in their schooling a study by Harpin et al (2016) found that elementary students utilising mindfulness had significant improvements in prosocial behaviours, emotional regulation and academic performance.
There are various other studies documented in this article that show the benefits of mindfulness meditation for reducing stress, increasing focus, improving sleep and various other benefits that will be beneficial to students who want to improve their academic performance.
Mindfulness for Coping With Bullying
Schools, teachers, parents and the children themselves are becoming increasingly aware of the problems that bullying can cause. From social and academic development to self-esteem and depression, bullying can cause significant problems for the victims and their families.
Might mindfulness meditation is a technique that could be successfully used by any child, teenager or even adult that is suffering at the hands of bullies.
A Chinese study by Zhou et at (2017) investigated the depressive symptoms that children might suffer as the victims of bullying. The study concluded that mindfulness meditation can protect children against the depressive symptoms caused by bullying.
This benefits of mindfulness in respect of bullying was also backed up by research from Kaldis & Abramiuk (2016) who also suggest that it might be an effective tool for children to improve social and emotional learning abilities and stop bullies before they become bullies.
Mindfulness for Increasing Resilience
Improving resilience is another area that is likely to help children to deal better with bullies. However, resilience is something that can assist all of us in our lives and is a very effective skill to develop to help with self-esteem, mood regulation, confidence, self-belief, and the list goes on.
A study by Coholic and Eys (2016) found that the benefits of mindfulness on a group that they studied were: ability to regulate emotion better, improving mood, better ability to cope and improved social skills, better confidence and self-esteem, development of empathy and the ability to pay attention and focus.
Another earlier study in 2012 by Coholic et al looked at children aged 8-14. They concluded that mindfulness techniques helped the children to improve their reliance and the ability to regulate their own emotions.
Mindfulness for Better Performance and Enjoyment at Work
A study by Dane and Brummel (2013) observed the effects of mindfulness in the workplace. They concluded that workers who adopted mindfulness were less likely to want to leave their jobs and also have improved performance at work.
Another study by Shonin et al (2014) conducted an eight-week trial to find the impact of meditation awareness on employees. The study involved 152 office based middle-hierarchy managers.
They concluded that those who utilised the meditation awareness techniques demonstrated significant and sustainable improvements in levels of work-place stress, job satisfaction psychological distress and employer-rated job performance.
Other Health Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
There are a significant number of other benefits that can be attained by utilising mindfulness meditation such as a study at the University of Calgary in Canada found that mindfulness has a positive link to lowering blood pressure (Tomfohr et al, 2015).
However, I think you can see that if you haven’t tried mindfulness meditation for yourself yet, it is certainly something that you should check out and trial in your life.
Make sure you download my free guided mindfulness meditation session today and you could start getting the benefits for yourself in a matter of moments!
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