The Science Behind Mindfulness

Mindfulness is emerging as an important focus of psychological, biological, and neurological research. Allocation of grants from NIH between 2000 and 2010 has exploded from fewer than 50 in the year 2000 to nearly 250 in 2010.

Publications in peer-reviewed journals grew from 1 in 1982 to 397 in 2011 (source: David Black, Mindfulness Research Guide.  These numbers are only continuing to grow as more scientists and researchers recognize the medical, social, educational and biological benefits of mindfulness in a multitude of contemporary settings.

EDUCATION:

During 2011-12, Mindful Schools, partnering with the University of California, Davis, conducted the largest randomized-controlled study to date on mindfulness and children. The study included 937 children and 47 teachers in Oakland public elementary schools. The outcomes demonstrated that including as little as 4 hours worth of mindfulness practices in the classroom over several weeks produced significant improvements in children’s behavior, decreasing aggression and increasing their self-control and self-care.

NEUROSCIENCE:

In 2011, Dr. Sara Lazar of Harvard University published an article with her colleagues in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, demonstrating physical changes in the brain after participating in mindfulness training. Specifically, she found changes in gray matter in brain regions involved in learning, memory, emotional regulation, empathy, and perspective taking.  Here is a summary of Sara Lazar’s meditation research.

HEALTH:

A 2012 Newsweek Magazine article describes the impact of mindfulness on physical and mental health.

MEDICINE:

A New York Times article documents the benefits of mindfulness for physicians. “How Mindfulness Can Make for Better Doctors”.

The Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles is conducting research on the impact of mindfulness on sleep problems and healing from breast cancer. They have completed work on mindfulness and ADHD.

MIT and Harvard neuroscientists explain why mindfulness practice helps tune out distractions and relieve pain. “The Benefits of Meditation

BUSINESS:

Even businesses are embracing the proven benefits of mindfulness.  Janice Maturano of Mindful Leadership presented at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Google offers a mindfulness class to their employees, which was covered by the New York Times in April 2012.   “O.K., Google, Take a Deep Breath”

The engineer who established the class, Chade-Meng Tan, published the book Search Inside Yourself, which is now the foundation of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.