Is Mindfulness Useful? – Feb ’16 Updates

Here are my top picks from the Feb ’16 issue of the Mindfulness Research Monthly newsletter, a publication of the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA). The newsletter lists several interesting articles describing the effects of mindfulness interventions on military personnel. My top picks include studies of the connections between mindfulness practice and perceived stress in college students, successful parenting behaviors, and stress levels during romantic conflicts. I also picked out several review articles examining the status of mindfulness research with regard to job burnout, executive functioning, ADHD, and possible concerns about the suitability of mindfulness practice.

A survey of 101 college students probed their perceptions of stress, beliefs regarding health, and intentions to practice mindfulness meditation. The results suggest it could be helpful to “to communicate the perceived benefits of mindfulness-based practices, as opposed to the threat of future stress-related problems, when developing health promotion messages and interventions among college students, a relatively young and healthy population.”

Mindful partners tend to experience lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone) during disputes.

485 parents were enlisted in a study that looked at the connection between dispositional mindfulness and mindful parenting and co-parenting.

“Executive functioning” refers to several forms of mental self-control and self-regulation. This article reviews the status of research connecting executive functioning and mindfulness meditation and finds evidence for selective enhancement of certain types of executive function.

Articles reporting a broad spectrum of benefits from “mindfulness” and “meditation” have become a fixture of health advice columns, but the authors urge caution. “Mindfulness” is no panacea. There are competing, and possibly inconsistent, definitions of “mindfulness” practice, unresolved explanations for the benefits of practice, and sub-populations that might approach practice with caution.

This article summarizes results from 8 studies of the effect of mindfulness practice on job burnout in health care professionals and teachers. Beneficial effects from mindfulness practice were reported in 6 of 8 studies. The article also critically assesses the quality of these studies.

4-5% of the population manifests the symptoms of ADHD, a potentially life-long condition that is “characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity inconsistent with age.” This article reviews research on the effects of mindfulness meditation on ADHD. These studies suggest that “certain meditative practices improve attention and may ameliorate the symptoms of ADHD by activating brain regions implicated in both sustaining and directing attention.”