In recent years the interest in mindfulness among the scientific community has grown exponentially, with leading researchers at institutions around the world – including Oxford, Cambridge, UCLA, Stanford, and Harvard – investigating the effects of mindfulness training. This surge in interest has been driven by an ever-growing body of evidence consistently demonstrating the beneficial effects of mindfulness practice. Numerous studies now show that a daily mindfulness practice of just 30 minutes can have a profound impact on our emotional wellbeing, our physical health, our ability to cope with stress and challenges, the quality of our relationships, and even our workplace performance. Mindfulness training is able to have such an impact because our brains are changeable.
New brain scanning technologies have revealed that not only does the activity of the brain change from moment to moment but that the actual architecture of the brain itself can change. New synaptic connections can form among brain cells and new brain cells can develop in a process called neurogenesis. It is a result of this capacity for growth that mindfulness training can cause such profound changes in the brain. Consistent practice has been shown to lead to growth of key brain regions associated with emotional regulation, concentration and self-control, and reductions in grey-matter density of the amygdala – the region of the brain central to the stress response, fear and anxiety.
Research in mindfulness is growing at an incredible rate. A substantial and growing body of evidence demonstrates myriad positive effects, from improvements in optimism, resilience, emotion wellbeing and positive relationships, to reductions in aggression, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. This graph, created by the Mindfulness Research Guide, shows how the number of scientific studies on mindfulness have grown over the last 3 decades.