The benefits of mindfulness

The benefits of mindfulness

Serious research on mindfulness has really only begun to occur in the last two decades. In the vast majority of research, mindfulness training typically lasts eight weeks (or 30 minutes per day). Mindfulness has led to significant improvements in the following areas:

  • Mindfulness is linked to better concentration and a longer attention span[1][2].
  • Mindfulness improves memory and executive functioning[3][4].
  • Mindfulness is linked to enhanced well-being and contentment[5].
  • Mindfulness based therapy is effective in the treatment of recurrent depression, and at least as effective as medication[6].
  • Mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress, and improves adaptive functioning[7].
  • Mindfulness based therapy is effective in the treatment of insomnia, substance use[8] and weight loss [9][10].
  • Mindfulness improves emotional intelligence of compassion and altruism[11][12][13]
  • Mindfulness enhances relationship skills and improves relationships with others. Doctors who are trained in mindfulness are less judgmental, more self-aware and better listeners with their patients[14][15].
  • Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in the treatment of chronic health conditions including pain, heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis[16][17][18]
  • Mindfulness improves the body’s immunity[19][20]
  • Mindfulness lowers stress and the production of the stress hormone cortisol[21].
  • Mindfulness shrinks the amygdala, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, associated with fear, unhappiness and anger (and that this effect occurs even when you are not meditating)[22][23]

By far the most exciting and monumental findings on the long-term benefits of mindfulness, has come from research on Buddhist monks who had completed an estimated 10,000 to 40,000 hours of meditation over 15 to 40 years. The research involved MRI imaging of the brains of over 20 Buddhist monks during meditation compared to controls without meditation experience. Quite simply, it is believed that meditation changes the neuroplasticity of the brain. The monks’ brains were physically and functionally superior. Ricard (2003) [24] a French Geneticist and a Tibetan monk reports on the results, and the finding of “unheard of” dramatically high frequency gamma waves in the monks’ brains. The monks’ brains were far more powerful, had enhanced focus, memory, learning, consciousness, neural coordination and were less reactive, and amazingly showed no anxiety, depression, addiction or mental health issues. The left prefrontal cortex (associated with positive emotions of joy, altruism, enthusiasm) were found to be significantly far more active that the right prefrontal cortex (associated with negative emotions), and this difference compared with several hundred controls, was abnormally high. In other words, the monks’ happier side of the brain was far more active than in controls. Ricard conclude that “meditating is like lifting weights or exercising for the mind” and “anyone can be happy by simply training their brain”[25].

From this research it can be concluded that real benefits come from mindfulness practice of 30 minutes per day over about eight weeks. Relative to the average, the higher in mindfulness the individual, the more likely they are to be happy, optimistic and content, and less likely to be anxious, depressed, angry or stressed.  Research has shown that being mindful increases activation of the left prefrontal cortex which lifts positive mood, and decreases activation of the amygdala, the alarm bell of the brain. In experienced meditators, there is a complete absence of negative emotions and instead, feelings of joy, peace and wholeness.

Mindfulness is like a fruit that becomes ever sweeter as you eat it. There seems to be a deepening of the experience, and this deepening seems to run a long a continuum from a “silent mind” to “no-mind”. A silent mind means to keep quiet temporarily. It is simply the suppression of the objects of the mind, and can happen many times but it will not last. Meditation can result in a still mind. No mind is when the “I” which is the mind is rejected and gone. Mind is only a small aspect of consciousness and consciousness does need thinking to exist.  I understand “no-mind” is the state of nothingness, emptiness or nirvana referred to by the Buddha, or the Kingdom of Heaven (the dimension of space) referred to by Jesus. Few in history have reportedly attained this state.






[6] Williams, Teasdale and Kabat-Zinn (2007), The Mindful Way Through Depression. Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
















[22] Baer, R.A., Smith, G.T., Hopkins, J.K., Kreitemeyer, J. & Toney, L. (2006), ‘Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness’, Assessment, 13, pp. 27-45. (3


[24] Ricard (2003) A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill Happiness.