Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” Many credit him with bringing this practice into the mainstream (through his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program), but the practices have been around in many forms for thousands of years and can be found in various spiritual traditions, including Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga.
More than 300 peer-reviewed studies on mindfulness have been published to date, and the field of research is expanding to look beyond practices that involve sitting still to movement-based contemplative practices, such as yoga and tai chi.
Here are four studies published this year that may help you or a loved one on the path to better health and well-being. (To keep up on the latest in mindfulness research, see the American Mindfulness Research Association's database (subscription), Mindfulness journal (subscription), or Mindful.org.)
Relieving Chronic Back Pain
Nearly eight out 10 people in the United Stated will experience lower back pain in their lives. The back supports most of the body’s weight and with more and more people spending the majority of their day sitting, it’s all to easy to develop pain and discomfort.
In a study of 342 people aged 20 to 70 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that participants using Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had greater improvement in function and back pain compared to the group that remained in standard care.
Help With Postpartum Depression
Approximately one in eight women have postpartum depression after giving birth, according to the CDC. Symptoms include feeling hopeless, anxious, and irritable, and having low energy.
Dr. Sona Dimidjian, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, released research that offers hope to new moms. She found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, which utilizes mindfulness exercises, is as effective as conventional treatment when it comes to preventing postpartum depression.
Focus at Work
A recent analysis of mindfulness research found that a “corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.”
The researchers combed through 4,000 scientific papers to write "Contemplating Mindfulness at Work," which was published in the Journal of Management. Their main conclusion? Mindfulness is linked to better workplace function because it heightens the ability to concentrate, pay attention, and listen. Mindfulness also positively impacts work relationships and the ability to work in teams.
Resolving Relationship Conflict
Even the best romantic relationships go through challenging times. One recent study measured the impact of mindfulness practices during mild relationship conflicts and found promising results. In particular, the participants experienced quicker recovery time from their stress hormone levels, supporting the idea that mindfulness can lessen the physiological impacts of negative behaviors during tense times.
© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies