How Mindfulness Helps

Around the world scientists are researching the effects of mindfulness and meditation practice. The results are coming in and they’re showing that they help you sleep better, avoid depression, make more rational decisions … and they change the shape of your brain



Professor Mark Williams on the science of mindfulness

Many psychological studies have shown that regular meditators are happier and more contented than average. These are not just important results in themselves but have huge medical significance as positive emotions are linked to a healthier life. Depression, anxiety and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of meditation. Memory also improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase.

Studies worldwide have found that meditation and mindfulness reduce the key indicators of chronic stress including high blood pressure Meditation has also been found effective in reducing the impact of serious conditions such as chronic pain and cancer, and can  help relieve drug and alcohol dependence.

You can find a good summary of these findings in Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by  Mark Williams (Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University) and Danny Penman. They conclude that meditation makes you happier and healthier.

Mindfulness training increases left prefrontal cortex activation and boosts immune response

In this celebrated study, Richard Davidson and a team from the University of Wisconsin Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience found that people taking an eight-week mindfulness course showed an increase in the activity in the left side of their brains: a pattern associated with positive feelings and responses. To their surprise they also found a significant boost to the immune system among the group

People who meditate make more rational decisions

Scientists tracked people playing the Ultimatum Game (an economics-based game) and found that meditators react angrily half as often as non-meditators when they are on the receiving end of an unfair decision. They activate a different network of brain areas and that enables them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behaviour.

Regular meditation reduces stress and increases emotional intelligence … and so does taking a mindfulness course

This survey of 350 adults found that participants with greater meditation experience showed higher emotional intelligence, felt less stress and enjoyed better mental health. And people who then undertook a course in meditation improved their scores