In the larger picture, mindfulness practice eventually brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and well-being. Scientific studies and research have shown that mindfulness training helps prevent depression and positively affects brain patterns underlying anxiety, stress, depression, and irritability. The data also shows that those who practice mindfulness meditation regularly see their doctors less often and spend fewer days overall in hospital.
Tests show that memory improves, creativity increases, and reaction times become faster. Mindfulness brings our awareness to many people and situations we may take for granted in our daily lives. It increases our feelings of connectedness and help us in responding to situations rather than reacting to them.
According to The Greater Good: the Science of a Meaningful Life, mindfulness practice has no fewer than 12 specific, studied, and documented benefits.
- Is good for our bodies: practicing mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system's ability to fight off illness.
- Is good for our minds: mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress and may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression.
- Changes our brains: mindfulness increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
- Helps with focus: mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves memory and attention.
- Fosters compassion and altruism: mindfulness training makes people more likely to help others in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others, in regulating emotions, and might boost self-compassion.
- Enhances relationships: mindfulness training makes couples more satisfied with their relationship, makes each partner feel more optimistic and relaxed, and makes them feel more accepting of and closer to one another.
- Is good for parents and parents-to-be: mindfulness may reduce pregnancy-related anxiety, stress, and depression in expectant parents. Parents who practice mindfulness report being happier with their parenting skills and their relationship with their kids, and their kids were found to have better social skills.
- Helps schools: teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students, and improves their happiness levels and ability to pay attention. Teachers trained in mindfulness also show lower blood pressure, less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, and greater compassion and empathy.
- Helps health-care professionals cope with stress, connect with their patients, and improve their general quality of life. It also helps mental health professionals by reducing negative emotions and anxiety, and increasing their positive emotions and feelings of self-compassion.
- Helps prisons: mindfulness reduces anger, hostility, and mood disturbances among prisoners by increasing their awareness of their thoughts and emotions, helping with their rehabilitation and reintegration.
- Helps veterans: mindfulness can reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of war.
- Fights obesity and eating disorders: "mindful eating" encourages healthier eating habits, helps people lose weight, and helps them savor the food they do eat.
(Adapted from the Greater Good website, edited for brevity.)
These benefits have been documented in people and groups that have been studied over weeks, months, or years. You can turn to the Mindfulness Research page on this website for information on where and how mindfulness research is conducted.