There has been a lot of evidence based research carried out in the area of Mindfulness over the last 35 years which indicates that a regular mindfulness practice helps the body/mind respond rather than react to stress, leaving resources for taking care of our general health and well-being.
Extensive research has shown that developing mindfulness has a significant positive effect on:
Studies from the University of Wisconsin showed that mindfulness practices lead to an increased activation in areas of the brain responsible for positive emotions and lowered anxiety states (Davidson et al, Psychosomatic Medicine 2003, vol.65).
Mindfulness programmes are also being used to treat and support the treatment of: addiction, cancer, eating disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, suicide, borderline personality disorder, relationship enhancement in couples and many other areas. There is a growing problem of depression and anxiety worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that by 2020, depression will be the second largest health issue globally. Zylowski et al., (2007) argue that mindfulness meditation “has emerged as a new approach to stress reduction and an important innovation in treating psychiatric disorders” (p.2).
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness prevents depression and also positively affects the brain patters underlying day-to-day stress, irritability and anxiety. Studies show regular meditators have improved attention, memory and faster reaction times, and even affects hypertension, the immune system, cancer and chronic pain (Williams, 2011).
Recent developments in neuroscience regarding the plasticity of the brain reveal that with mindfulness training the brain can change! Neuroplasticity, the rewiring that occurs in the brain as a result of experience, now explains how regular mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits including increased immune functioning (Davidson et al., 2003; Lazar et al., 2005; Siegal, 2007) and has been shown to also improve wellbeing (Carmody & Baer, 2008) and reduce psychological distress (Coffey & Hartman, 2008; Ostafin et al., 2006). Mindfulness involves nonjudgmental attention to present-moment experience. In its therapeutic forms, mindfulness interventions promote increased tolerance of negative affect and improved wellbeing (Farb, N.A., Anderson, A.K., & Segal, Z.V., (2012).