Mindfulness is an effective practice, proven to reduce the suffering associated with physical and mental pain, stress and depression. Mindfulness teaches you that pain naturally comes and goes. You learn to observe it, rather than getting caught up in it and, as you do so, something remarkable happens. It begins to melt away!
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, recruited chronically ill patients that were not responding well to traditional treatments. They participated in a newly formed eight-week stress-reduction program, which we now call Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Since then, substantial research has proven how mindfulness-based interventions improve health for a very wide range of physical and mental health conditions.
The techniques of mindfulness have been proven to work. In fact, they are so effective, that doctors and many pain clinics throughout the world refer patients for mindfulness training and practice.
Researchers are continually finding new conditions that can be eased with mindfulness.
Proven Effectivness of Mindfulness Meditation
Thousands of scientific papers prove that mindfulness reduces pain, enhances physical and mental wellbeing and helps people deal with the stresses of daily life.
Clinical trials and studies have shown that mindfulness and mediation:
- dramatically reduce pain and the emotional reaction to it – pain unpleasantness levels can be reduced by up to 57% for most people and by more than 90% for accomplished meditators
- improves mood and quality of life in conditions such as fibromyalgia, lower back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple schlerosis and cancer
- Reduces labour pain during birthing
- improves memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds and enhances phsical and mental stamina
- improves emotional intelligence
- are a potent antidote to anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability, whatever their cause
- increases levels of contentment and reduces the likelihood of suffering from psychological distress
- are at least as good as drugs or counselling for the treatment of clinical level depression – Minfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, in particular, is now a preferred treatment recommended by NIACE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence)
- Reduces addictive and self-destructive behaviours, including abuse of drugs and excessive alcohol intake
- Enhances brain function in areas associated with self-awareness, empathy, self-control and attention – soothing the parts of the brain that produce stress hormones and building those that lift mood and promote learning
- Reduces the thinning of certain parts of the brain that occur naturally with ageing
- Improves the immune system – regular meditators are admitted to hospital far less often for cancer, heart disease and numerous infectious diseases
- Reduces ageing at the cellular level by promoting chromosomal health and resilience
- Improves control of blood sugar and type-2 diabetes
- Improves heart and circulatory health by reducing blood pressure
- Reduces the risks of developing cardio-vascular disease
- Dissolves the feelings of pain and suffering
How Mindfulness Works on the Body and Mind
Clinical trials show that mindfulness can be as effective as main prescription painkillers. Brain image studies show that it soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, alters the structure of the brain itself, so that you no longer feel pain with the same intensity.
Typical mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the breath as it flows in and out of the body and observing the body itself, along with the thoughts and feelings that float through the mind.
This allows you to see your mind and body in action, to observe painful sensations as they arise and to stop struggling with them.
Mindfulness teaches you that pain naturally comes and goes. You learn to observe it, rather than getting caught up in it and, as you do so, something remarkable happens. It begins to melt away!
With thanks to Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman, authors of Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing