The evidence base for mindfulness in western culture was founded on successfully treating – chronic and intractable physical pain for individuals where other methods, including pharmacological, had proved unsuccessful (JKZ,1). Thereafter, Mindfulness based interventions have accumulated a wealth of scientific evidence shown to effectively:
- Reduce stress
- Treat common mental health conditions including anxiety and depression
- Prevent relapse for individuals predisposed to recurrent depressive episodes.
- Reduce harmful addictive behaviours and prevent relapse
- Help smoking cessation
- Help to manage effects of PTSD
Over and above successfully treating stress and common mental health conditions, practicing mindfulness on a regular basis increases awareness, improves attention, focus and concentration mediated by tangible changes in the structure and function of areas of the brain which modulate the primary as well as well as secondary stress response (Pascoe et al., 2020). This means being less habitually reactive to the inevitable and unavoidable situational stresses of daily life, alongside more quickly returning to a non-stressed calm and balanced state when the stress response has been activated.
Put another way, while we're unable to avoid the inevitable and endless stresses, strains and challenges of modern life or control much of what goes on around us, we can learn to become aware of, control and change unhelpful habitual thoughts, emotions and behaviours, which if left unaddressed add to and maintain stress.
In other words mindfulness is an effective, tried and tested way of self-managing and controlling our stress response.