There are now, quite literally, thousands of published research studies that support the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation. It has been shown not only to help relieve symptoms of mental illness, but also to greatly benefit those suffering from physical conditions as well as with pain control.
Those who meditate regularly actually beneficially alter the physical structure of their brains. Just as someone who spent years practising the piano would develop a physically denser area of the brain which is involved with the skills of piano playing, those who are experienced in meditation have been found to have undergone beneficial physical changes in the areas of the brain involved in meditation, in particular, the amygdalla (which is involved in emotional control/regulation), leading to the development of a generally much calmer disposition and, also, the insula (the part of the brain related to feelings of empathy) leading to not only greater empathy towards others but also towards oneself (this is of especial benefit to those who suffer clinical depression as such individuals are invariably highly self-critical, self-blaming and psychologically self-lacerating).
In this article, due to the theme of this website, I want to concentrate on the benefits of mindfulness meditation which are specifically related to mental health. As this is really an introductory article to the relevant research findings, I will list those mental health conditions which studies have so far shown can be ameliorated by it :
MENTAL CONDITIONS THAT CAN BE HELPED BY MINDFULNESS MEDITATION :
1) DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY (eg Hick and Chan, 2010)
2) SUBSTANCE ABUSE (eg Alterman et al, 2004)
3) STRESS REDUCTION (eg Austin, 1997)
4) EMOTIONAL SELF-CONTROL/SELF-REGULATION (eg Caldwell et al, 2010)
5) SLEEP DISORDERS (eg Ong et al, 2008)
6) RELAPSE OF CLINICAL DEPRESSION PREVENTION (eg Beckerman and Corbett, 2010)
7) POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (eg Lang et al, 2012)
8) DISTRESS ASSOCIATED WITH PERSONALITY DISORDERS (eg Nyklicek et al, 2012)
9) OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (eg Wilkinson, 2010)
10) EATING DISORDERS (eg Kristeller and Halleh, 1999)
11) BIPOLAR (eg Weber et al, 2010)
12) AGGRESSION (eg Borders et al, 2010)
In following posts I will look in more detail at what research has discovered in relation to how mindfulness meditation can act as an effective therapy for some of the above conditions.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).