There is not enough evidence to show mindfulness is beneficial to someone’s mental and physical health, a study claims.
A panel of 15 health experts led by a clinical psychologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia, analyzed mindfulness and if it actually helps with problems such as stress, depression, addiction and pain.
They found no sufficient evidence that mindfulness or meditation can impact the mental or physical health after 70 percent of clinical trials could not provide conclusive results.
Experts recommend for an improvement in studying mental practices in order to better determine the benefits for the body and mind.
Researchers analyzed if mindfulness helped with physical and mental health. They found a lack of evidence that there are benefits to certain practices. Experts recommend for research to be improved and for mindfulness to be better defined in order to determine the potential benefits. A group of women were meditating on the street in Bogota, Colombia, in June 2016
A group of 15 experts in a new article in Perspectives on Psychological Science analyzed mindfulness and meditation to see if it actually helps with physical and mental health.
They found the hype of certain therapies to help with problems such as depression, addiction and pain didn’t have the proper amount of evidence to back them up.
Co-author Willoughby Britton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University said: ‘We are sometimes overselling the benefits of mindfulness to pretty much any person who has any condition, without much caution, nuance or condition-specific modifications, instructor training criteria, and basic science around mechanism of action.’
The authors argue that appropriate checks and balances need to be implemented for these therapies.
‘The possibility of unsafe or adverse effects has been largely ignored,’ Britton said.
Among the biggest problems facing the field is that mindfulness is poorly and inconsistently defined both in popular media and the scientific literature.
According to the authors, there ‘is neither one universally accepted technical definition of ‘mindfulness’ nor any broad agreement about detailed aspects of the underlying concept to which it refers.’
As a result, research papers have varied widely in what they actually examine, and often, their focus can be hard to discern.
Lead author Nicholas Van Dam, a clinical psychologist and research fellow in psychological sciences at the University of Melbourne in Australia, said that the point of the article is not to disparage mindfulness and meditation practice or research, but to ensure that their practices for enhancing mental and physical health are backed up by scientific evidence.
‘The authors think there can be something beneficial about mindfulness and meditation,’ Van Dam said. ‘We think these practices might help people. But the rigor that should go along with developing and applying them just isn’t there yet.’
Contemplative practices have been studied in basic and clinical studies for mindfulness and mediation.
But researchers have rarely advanced to the stage where they could conclude if the practices were beneficial or not to the health.
Only 30 percent of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) moved past the first stage, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers and care providers involved with delivering MBIs have begun to become more vigilant about possible adverse effects, the authors wrote, but more needs to be done.
As of 2015, fewer than 25 percent of meditation trials actively monitored for negative or challenging experiences.
Ultimately, the authors said insufficient research may mislead people to think that the vague brands of ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ are practical for treating mental and physical health issues.
More, and much better, scientific studies are needed to clarify these matters.
Otherwise people may waste time and money, or worse, suffer needless adverse effects.
The authors said: ‘We recommend that future research on mindfulness aim to produce a body of work for describing and explaining what biological, emotional, cognitive, behavioral and social, as well as other such mental and physical functions, change with mindfulness training.’