Psychologists urge caution with “mindfulness” meditation

Avatar By Aaron Sims | 2 years ago

“Mindfulness” meditation has gained legions of followers among the public in recent years, and that’s not entirely a good thing, a new psychology study warns. The study, published Tuesday in Perspectives on Psychological Science, cautions that not enough rigorous study has taken place that can prove that it will give its practitioners all its purported health benefits—or that it won’t cause them unintended harms.

Mindfulness focuses on calm observation of one’s own breathing, thoughts, and physical sensations. Mindfulness proponents attribute the practice with not only lowering anxiety and depression but also treating a wide range of emotional and psychological disorders, from substance abuse to attention-deficit disorder and many others, and that it can lengthen life expectancies, ward off cancer, and boost brain function.

Some health benefits and improvements in mood may be attainable through mindfulness, according to the recently published paper, whose 15 authors are affiliated with 15 different institutions and include psychologists, psychiatrists, and mindfulness experts. But they express concern that mindfulness novices who take all the positive claims at face value may start with overly high expectations and give up on mindfulness altogether when it doesn’t meet them.

“Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed,” they write.

One of the authors, University of Melbourne research fellow Nicholas Van Dam, commented to Inverse magazine that many consumers and even some corporations, such as Google and Target, have invested large sums of money in mindfulness training. But he said that he has not seen enough research come out establishing that any of it actually works. He also warned that some patients with serious health or behavioral problems might substitute mindfulness for necessary treatments and end up sicker.