Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Be Mindful of the Gap

Credit: MarekPhotoDesign.com

Credit: MarekPhotoDesign.com

By Tim Hannan

The lack of evidence for mindfulness as a therapeutic technique raises serious questions for health and education professionals.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In recent years, mindfulness has been promoted widely as a technique for improving mental and physical health, maximising everyday functioning and, well, getting in touch with one’s inner self. Its benefits are spruiked in schools, health services, businesses and correctional facilities, with training provided through clinics, wellness centres or even - for those short of time – via a mobile phone app. Yet despite the ubiquity of its presence in the community, many who have watched the adoption of mindfulness in fields of health and education have noted the striking lack of scientific evidence for many of its claimed benefits.

The idea of mindfulness is understood to have derived largely from Buddhist meditation practices, in which focused awareness of the present is viewed as one of the elements of the eightfold path to enlightenment. Various traditions employed and expanded upon these techniques with the aim of enabling the practitioner to improve the mind, control the body and reduce the impact of transitory emotions and impulses.

The association with traditional Buddhist beliefs and practices has been viewed by some as a powerful argument for its utility: if generations of peace-loving Buddhists have embraced mindfulness, it must be good. On the other hand, some promoters ­ such as the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program ­– have...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.