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Have We Reached Peak Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is in the thoughts of many people lately, including scientists. Small studies have shown promising results for the set of practices that include stillness, focused attention, and relaxation. Those early studies have led to an exponential rise in scientific and media attention—but has the excitement for mindfulness reached its peak?

A visualization of the rising hype for mindfulness (source: Van Dam et al., 2017)

Two recent papers have splashed some cold water on the hot mindfulness industry (and it is an industry, with many commercial entities selling it as an app or a service). Here’s a quick summary:

I’ve also addressed this before (see Be Mindful of Meditation and Yoga Hype), noting that one recent paper demonstrating the benefits of yoga and meditation contained some of the flaws mentioned in the review paper above.

This doesn’t mean that mindfulness is ineffective, or that it’s not worth trying out. It does mean that better research is needed in order to discover what effects it actually has, and who it is effective on. If you’ve been trying out mindfulness or related activities in hopes of becoming more focused and cognitively sharper, use Cambridge Brain Sciences to keep an ongoing record of your brain’s performance over time to discover what works for you. We’ll also continue to keep an eye on the latest mindfulness research as it comes in—if it is proven to be the next big thing, you’ll hear about it right here.


This post was written by Mike Battista, a staff scientist at Cambridge Brain Sciences.