How might mindfulness help?
The theory is that by focusing fully on the present moment, that mindfulness can help to distract you from your negative thoughts.
And let’s face it, for the majority of us, there is a little chattering voice that runs in the background for most of our days. A voice that we could do with quieting from time to time.
But how useful is it? Does it really work? And if so, what can it really be used to help with?
We take a quick look.
What are they saying about mindfulness?
As with any novel intervention, people are often quick to jump on the bandwagon and make any number of claims about how it can help.
This can lead to stories about how a new superfood can cure any ailment under the sun. Or it may exaggerate how a superfood can burn belly fat overnight.
And the proponents of mindfulness often make similar claims. It has been said to help improve children’s school grades, reduce arthritis, and even help people lose weight.
But these slightly more tenuous benefits are hard to verify, especially from a scientific perspective.
There are, however, areas in which the scientific evidence is strong, and where there is a legitimate case for its benefits.
The known benefits of mindfulness
There is now strong scientific evidence that mindfulness is useful in helping to combat recurring depression.
More than a dozen randomised controlled trials suggest that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is effective in treating people with a history of depression. It is as effective in helping them to stay well as other active treatments.
It also enables you to see what is happening and take a step back. With depression, it can help you to respond in more resilient ways.
Two other areas in which the science provides evidence that mindfulness may be useful is for anxiety and insomnia. In both these instances, it is believed that mindfulness helps you to bring more awareness to your life and enables you to respond in more skilful ways to stresses.
How to make a start with mindfulness
Bear in mind that practicing mindfulness is a bit like exercise. Although you may start enthusiastically, it takes a certain level of commitment and discipline to keep it going. But as with exercise, the real benefits occur when you stick with it over time.
The basic principles are quite easy to put into practice, but you’re only really going to get the benefit if you do it regularly.
It’s fairly straight-forward to get started, and the real challenge is to keep going.