Academic press: The science behind mindfulness

The Harvard Business Review and the Lancet are among the academic publications that have covered mindfulness

The busier you are, the more you need mindfulness
Harvard Business Review, 18 December 2015
Creating a ritual at the start of each day where you take the time to focus your mind, as well as acknowledging what you are grateful for, has enormous benefits. Ellen Langer, a Harvard researcher, discusses ways of weaving greater awareness into all aspects of life. The article also explores some of the costs of mindlessness.

Effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with antidepressant treatment
The Lancet, 20 April 2015
The world-renowned medical journal reports on how mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is considered as an alternative to long-term antidepressant medication for ongoing, recurrent episodes of depression.

Mindfulness can literally change your brain
Harvard Business Review, 8 January 2015
This article explores the benefits of mindfulness for busy executives, drawing on data from over 20 recent studies indicating that mindfulness consistently affects at least 8 different regions of the brain.
Two areas of the brain that are affected are of particular interest to business professionals. Firstly the Anterior Cingulate Cortex is associated with emotional self regulation, i.e. the ability to purposefully direct attention and behaviour, resulting in the ability to manage automatic reactions more skilfully. Secondly the Hippocampus, which is associated with emotion and memory, is covered in receptors for Cortisol, the stress hormone, and is therefore key for resilience.

Mindfulness in the age of complexity
Harvard Business Review, March 2014
In this Harvard Business Review article, Ellen Langer, a Harvard professor, discusses how her research into mindfulness has had major influences in areas as wide ranging as behavioural economics and positive psychology.  Her research indicates that by paying attention to what is happening around us and stepping out of autopilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity and boost performance. She explores scenarios where mindfulness has been invaluable:

  • A leader of a team in dissent, people arguing for different strategies and having to decide a way forward
  • An executive with lots of commitments facing a personal crisis
  • A boss conducting a performance review where the employee is underperforming
  • How one creates a mindful organisation

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011
This peer-reviewed research investigates the changes in grey-matter concentration in the brain after an eight-week Mindfulness programme. Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) were obtained before and after the participants underwent the programme. The results suggest that positive changes occurred in the brain regions involved with learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing and perspective.

Attending to the present: Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self referencing
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2007
In this paper, regarded as a key paper in the mindfulness community, Farb et al 2007 demonstrate that mindfulness facilitates and heightens an awareness of sensations in the body. This is known as the Direct Experiential Network.  When this is focussed upon, there is a ‘quietening down’ of the parts of the brain that are caught up in thinking – known as the Narrative Network.  Think of waking up at 2am with your mind racing: if you are able to bring your focus back to an awareness of your breathing and the sensations you experience in your body, you are far more likely to ‘quieten’ the chatter which increases your chances of being able to go back to sleep.

Alterations in brain and immune function produced by Mindfulness meditation
Psychosomatic Medicine, July 2003
This peer-reviewed article suggests that a short mindfulness programme produces demonstrable positive changes in brain and immune function.