Around the world scientists are avidly researching the effects of mindfulness and meditation practice. The results are coming in and the are showing that they help you sleep better, avoid depression, make more rational decisions … and they change the shape of your brain


Mark Williams (Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University) and Danny Penman give an excellent roundup of research findings in their book, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Piatkus 2011). Summing up, they conclude that meditation makes you happier and healthier:

Numerous psychological studies have shown that regular meditators are happier and more contented than average. These are not just important results in themselves but have huge medical significance as positive emotions are linked to a healthier life.

Depression & anxiety etc

Anxiety, depression and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of meditation. Memory also improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase.

Stress Reduction & Blood pressure

Studies worldwide have found that meditation reduces the key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension.

Chronic pain & substance abuse

Meditation has also been found effective in reducing the impact of serious conditions such as chronic pain and cancer, and can even help relieve drug and alcohol dependence.

Here are links to specific studies.

People who meditate make more rational decisions

Scientists tracked people playing the Ultimatum Game (an economics-based game) and found that meditators react angrily half as often as non-meditators when they are on the receiving end of an unfair decision. They activate a different network of brain areas and that enables them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behaviour.

Mindfulness training increases brain grey matter concentration

Researchers measured the concentration of grey matter in important regions of the brain in a group of people about to start an eight wek MBSR mindfulness course. When they measured the same areas again after they had completed the course they found that they grey matter had grown denser, showing more connections and more activity, in regions involved in learning and memory, and the capacity to regulate emotion and have a realistic perspective on what is happening to you.

Mindfulness training increases left prefrontal cortex activation and boosts immune response

In this famous study, Richard Davidson and a team from the U Wisconsin Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience found that people taking an eight-week mindfulness course showed an increase in the activity in the left side of their brains: a pattern associated with positive feelings and responses. To their surprise they also found a significant boost to the immune system  among the  group.

Regular meditation reduces stress and increases emotional intelligence … and so does taking a mindfulness course

This survey of 350 adults found that participants with greater meditation experience showed higher emotional intelligence, felt less stress and enjoyed better mental health. And people who then undertook a course in meditation improved their scores.

Mindfulnet has an excellent listing of the growing evidence into the effectiveness of the mindfulness training for
ADHDAggressionAlcohol abuseBipolar disorderBlood pressureBrain injuries,  CancerChronic PainDepression & anxietyDiabetesEating disordersFibromyalgiaHeart Disease,Hepatitis/ HIV /AidsImmune SystemLearning difficultiesOCDParkingsons disease,   Quality of lifeOrgan transplantsPreventing relapsePregnancyPsoriasisMultiple SclerosisSleep problemsSmoking CessationStress ReductionSubstance abuse and addictionsTinnitusVisual sensitivity

Generic research into Mindfulness

The Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Mindfulness Report’ (2010) also offers a useful summary of this research.