Is Mindfulness Useful? Dec ’15 Updates

The American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA) publishes a monthly newsletter called the Mindfulness Research Monthly that lists recent research publications and studies. Quite a few of these research investigations bear on issues that might be interesting to members of the Reed community so I will start publishing short lists of my top picks from the newsletter.

What follows is a list of articles mentioned in the December ’15 issue that describe how mindfulness interventions affect academic performance, working memory, emotional resilience, and more. (Note: only a few articles are ever available through our library’s subscriptions so be prepared to file interlibrary loan requests.)

A study with 282 participants showed that a one-semester mindfulness meditation course was able to improve learning effectiveness and both attention and memory aspects of cognitive performance among Taiwanese university students.

Considerable research has revealed that much of our waking hours are spent in a state of “mind wandering” characterized by uncontrolled thoughts that have little to do with our concrete present engagements, and that mind wandering has mostly negative effects on our well-being and performance. This article explores the educational implications of this curricular blind spot.

Previous research has shown that workers start to progress through the three components of burnout (emotional exhaustion -> cynicism -> reduced professional efficacy) when they perceive their workplace demands exceed their workplace resources and personal traits. This study found that different facets of mindfulness predicted different components of burnout.

Abstract: A pilot study was conducted with clients at a university student counseling center stress management and biofeedback clinic to determine whether mindfulness and compassion-based instruction in relaxation strategies, along with peripheral biofeedback, would reduce perceived stress, enhance perceived coping, and lead to improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and academic distress. Results support that the inclusion of mindfulness and compassion-based biofeedback may enhance treatment efficacy for stress and its associated problems above and beyond that of mindfulness and compassion-based relaxation skills training provided in the absence of biofeedback.

Latent profile analysis (LPA) has distinguished four subgroups of college students based on five facets of mindfulness: high mindfulness group, low mindfulness group, judgmentally observing group, and non-judgmentally aware group. Previous research has shown that on emotional outcomes, the judgmentally observing group had the most maladaptive emotional outcomes followed by the low mindfulness group.

198 students from a large public middle school in southwest United States were randomly assigned to mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga, or a waitlist control groups. Participants in the mindfulness meditation condition showed significant improvements in working memory capacity (WMC), whereas those in the hatha yoga and waitlist control groups did not. No statistically significant between-group differences were found for stress or anxiety.