Mindfulness and mindfulness is very popular in the West in recent years. However, a scientific meta-analysis has questioned the benefits many attribute to it.
The stakes are striking, because this approach is considered valid, not only in many texts but also in the daily practice of psychologists and other professionals.
Mindfulness is a kind of adaptation of transcendental meditation that comes from Buddhism and Hinduism. We started talking about it in the 1970s, when Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn created a technique called MBSR ( Mindfulness-based stress reduction ).
The word mindfulness is an archaic English term meaning “attention”. It has been understood as “mindfulness” because it refers to this principle of Zen philosophy. However, its creator never defined himself as a Buddhist or as a practitioner of Eastern traditions. You could say that mindfulness is a special interpretation of this.
Mindfulness and oriental traditions
Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism or practices such as Zen have a thousand-year-old tradition. What stood out the most in the West was the practice of meditation. It is very different from that practiced in mindfulness.
These practices have a meaning closely related to the religious and sacred beliefs of those who practice them in the context in which they were born. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is just a technique.
The reason why many people turn to this practice is for the purpose of reducing stress. The creator of mindfulness defined it as a technique for reducing stress.
However, this practice has taken on multiple forms and intermingled with countless other techniques and beliefs, giving rise to an enormous variety of practices. What is common in all its forms is this search for “inner peace” in anxious people.
Mindfulness called into question
Thousands of people around the world claim to have experienced great stress reduction and mindfulness-related “spiritual growth”. A group of neuroscientists from New Zealand and the UK then conducted a meta-analysis on the issue. The results have been published in scientific reports.
A meta-analysis is a survey of available studies. This means that all research publications on the subject are reviewed, their validity is assessed and their conclusions reviewed. Ultimately, this is a great report on the findings; it is a question of determining clear conclusions on all the available material.
The mindfulness meta-analysis found that many studies in this regard were seriously flawed. The most recurrent was the fact that the researcher behind the study was involved. Many of these surveys were indeed carried out by the instructors themselves. In addition, several studies did not start with a representative number of cases.
The limits of the technique according to the meta-analysis
Another flaw detected is that many of these surveys compared a group of people who practiced mindfulness with a group who did not. It would have been appropriate to offer an alternative of relaxation to the latter group to contrast the results, something which was not done in several of these studies.
The researchers of the meta-analysis ultimately concluded that mindfulness does not offer the benefits that many attribute to it. It does not allow you to show more empathy or compassion and be more spiritual. Neuroscientists have even said that it does not bring more well-being than physical exercise or psychotherapy.
Among the authors of the meta-analysis is Miguel Farías from Conventry University. The latter pointed out that mindfulness is a far cry from the Buddhism practiced in the East and that, in the Western Hemisphere, it has been approached as a kind of mental gymnastics. For the same reason, it does not have the scope of classical transcendental meditation.
So, what’s disturbing about this situation is that there are thousands of publications that extol the benefits of mindfulness. However, this meta-analysis provides rigorous conclusions that contradict these texts. However, this practice has been adopted by many people and the belief about its purported benefits outweighs the scientific evidence.