Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mind the Hype - Mindfulness and Meditation

Smith et al. point to and summarize an article by Van Dam et al. I pass on the Van Dam et al. abstract:
During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and “key to building more resilient soldiers.” Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting it have not gone without criticism. Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed. Addressing such concerns, the present article discusses the difficulties of defining mindfulness, delineates the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices, and explicates crucial methodological issues for interpreting results from investigations of mindfulness. For doing so, the authors draw on their diverse areas of expertise to review the present state of mindfulness research, comprehensively summarizing what we do and do not know, while providing a prescriptive agenda for contemplative science, with a particular focus on assessment, mindfulness training, possible adverse effects, and intersection with brain imaging. Our goals are to inform interested scientists, the news media, and the public, to minimize harm, curb poor research practices, and staunch the flow of misinformation about the benefits, costs, and future prospects of mindfulness meditation.
And also Smith et al.'s list of points that seem fairly settled (they provide supporting references):
-Meditation almost certainly does sharpen your attention. 
-Long-term, consistent meditation does seem to increase resiliency to stress. 
-Meditation does appear to increase compassion. It also makes our compassion more effective. 
-Meditation does seem to improve mental health—but it’s not necessarily more effective than other steps you can take. 
-Mindfulness could have a positive impact on your relationships. 
-Mindfulness seems to reduce many kinds of bias. 
-Meditation does have an impact on physical health—but it’s modest.  
-Meditation might not be good for everyone all the time. 
-What kind of meditation is right for you? That depends. 
-How much meditation is enough? That also depends.

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