The research on mindfulness is booming. A search for the word mindfulness in Google Scholar yields over 355,000 results! In one month alone, the Mindfulness Research Journal reported on 48 new studies.
But with all this research--and surrounding media attention--there are issues and questions. It is not always clear what these reports consider “mindfulness”: what are these people actually doing? And some reports ignore the complexities of the mindfulness research or draw broad conclusions that aren’t justified. So let’s take a closer (and realistic) look at mindfulness research.
Types of mindfulness research
Here are some pieces of the research explosion:
- Researchers are conducting randomized control trials—the gold standard for assessing effectiveness of a treatment—and testing the impact of mindfulness programs against standard of care or other treatments for various symptoms or conditions.
- Other researchers are analyzing possible mechanisms that might explain why mindfulness helps, looking at behavior as well as biological measures, such as heart rate.
- Neuroscientists are exploring the impact of mindfulness on the structure and function of the brain using imaging techniques such as fMRI.
- There has been an explosion of summaries of the research with major systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and Cochrane Reviews.