What is mindfulness and does it work?
What is mindfulness, and is there evidence that it works?
Chris Smith put this question to mindfulness expert and psychiatrist Tom Mole…
Tom - Mindfulness is a simple skill that we’ve all got as humans to be aware of the present moment and to not judge it and just to allow it to be there as it is. Historically, it’s a practice of being aware. It’s been around for about 2½ thousand years originating out of South Asia. So historically, there’s a beautiful lineage of generation after generation of people saying, well actually if I just focus on what I’m experiencing right now. That might be the sound of my voice as you hear it or the sensations of your body right now if you’re sitting down or lying down, and just accepting them, and that teaching has really been passed on for generation after generation.
Over the last 10 to 20 years, it’s been more and more scientifically validated. In particular it’s most effective for stress reduction but it’s also been shown, and is in national guidelines now for venting mood problems and depression. And also helping people cope with anxiety and forming new habits and breaking habits whether it’s overeating or whether it’s smoking, so it’s quite an adaptive tool. But I do have to be careful not to overstep the evidence base and I think if you ever hear of someone saying that meditation mindfulness is something that can cure everything, a panacea, then then be careful, everything has its limitations but certainly, it’s a very strong technique for stress reduction and improving your sleep.
I think that, on balance, there’s an emerging evidence base that’s exciting and I think I’d just recommend getting out there and trying it for yourself.