Mindfulness has been described as “the practice of learning to focus attention on moment-by-moment experience with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”

A new review provides convincing evidence that specific types of “mindfulness practices” have benefits for patients with certain physical and mental health problems.

Dr William R. Marchand of the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City reviewed published studies and evaluated the health benefits of mindfulness-based practices.

“An extensive review of therapies that include meditation as a key component — referred to as mindfulness-based practices — shows convincing evidence that such interventions are effective in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and pain, when used in combination with more conventional therapies,” says Marchand.

His study is published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

As part of the research, Marchand reviewed published studies evaluating the health benefits of mindfulness-based practices.

Experts often say that “Practicing mindfulness is simply experiencing the present moment, without trying to change anything.”

Researchers assessed three popular techniques:

  • Zen meditation, a Buddhist spiritual practice that involves the practice of developing mindfulness by meditation, typically focusing on awareness of breathing patterns.
  • Mindfulness-based  stress reduction (MBSR), a secular method of using Buddhist mindfulness, combining meditation with elements of yoga and education about stress and  coping strategies.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which combines MBSR with principles of cognitive therapy (for example, recognizing and disengaging from negative thoughts) to prevent relapse of depression.

Investigators discovered evidence that MBSR and MBCT can help to relieve general psychological distress and mitigate depression and anxiety.

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”
―     Alan Wilson Watts