Jon Kabat-Zinn (founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic in America) famously says:
“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf.”
So to all the people who have ever said “Oh I don’t believe in that sort of stuff,” well actually, you don’t have to believe in it because it’s scientifically proven. It would be a bit like saying “Putting the fire on to keep warm? Oh I don’t believe in that sort of stuff.”
Mindfulness works because of something called NEUROPLASTICITY. The neuro represents neuron or the nerve cells that are present in our brain and nervous system. Plastic means that something can be changed or modified. Hence neuroplasticity – brains that can change.
MRI scans in empirical research studies have shown that the part of the brain responsible for ‘good’ feelings such as relaxation, self-esteem, creativity, empathy (the hippocampus) increases in size whilst the part responsible for all the ‘not so good’ stuff such as stress, anxiety and depression (the amygdala) – decreases in size in people who meditate regularly.
Mindfulness can work wonders (and all without the side effects that are possible when taking medication) and research is being carried out continually across the world, in all areas of health care from depression and mental health issues to oncology, immune response, and heart disease, to name but a few.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some nuggets of wisdom from people and organisations who hold a bit more sway than me:
For over a decade, the UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been recommending Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy as a treatment of choice for sufferers of depression relapse.
- National Institute of Health and Care Excellence
Mindfulness has been proved to be at least as good as medication for the treatment of clinical-level depression.
- Burch and Penman (2013)
When someone meditates regularly:
- Symptoms of anxiety and depression decrease
- Chronic stress symptoms, such as high blood pressure, decrease
- Chronic pain can be reduced
- Addictions can be alleviated
Mindfulness has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects and can decrease general psychological distress. It is beneficial for those with mental health issues as well as healthy individuals. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has a role to play in pain management.
- Journal of Psychiatric Practice (2012)
The evidence base on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction shows significant positive effect sizes with participants with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, generalised anxiety disorder and panic, and psoriasis.
- The Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice,
Bangor University (2015)
Mindfulness can improve the control of blood sugar in type II diabetes
- Burch and Penman (2013)
In head-to-head comparisons with antidepressants, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy provides effects comparable with staying on a maintenance dose of anti-depressants.
- The British Journal of Psychiatry (2012)
A recent ICM (International Conference on Mindfulness) survey showed that almost three quarters of doctors now think that all patients would benefit from learning mindfulness meditation skills.
- Ed Halliwell,
The Mental Health Foundation (2009)
So by all means, carry on not believing in ‘that sort of stuff’. But if you do, you’ll be denying a technique that is clinically and empirically evidence-based and, therefore, one that continues to grow in scientific credence.
You’ll also be missing out on a technique that can make you feel really good!