What is it?
Mindfulness is a practice from Buddhist theory that involves focusing the mind on the present. One popular form is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
MBSR is usually practiced over 8 weeks through group classes, group discussions, and home practice. A big aspect of mindfulness is focusing on thoughts, emotions, and feelings without judging what comes up. Different techniques are used to develop this awareness.
People commonly use mindfulness for stress, anxiety, pain, and insomnia. It is also used for obesity, Alzheimer disease, autism, depression, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these other uses.
Possibly Effective for …
- Anxiety. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) seems to help reduce anxiety. But it doesn’t seem to help more than psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mindfulness seems to improve attention, hyperactivity, and mood in adults and children with ADHD.
- Back pain. MBSR seems to help relieve back pain and improve function short-term. The long-term effects are not known.
- Tiredness in people with cancer. Using mindfulness seems to help improve symptoms in people experiencing fatigue during or after cancer treatment.
- Depression. Mindfulness improves symptoms of depression and helps prevent symptoms from coming back.
- Fibromyalgia. MBSR seems to help reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia, short-term. But it’s not clear if it helps long-term.
- Insomnia. Mindfulness seems to improve sleep quality in people with insomnia or cancer. But it doesn’t seem to work any better than other therapies, such as exercise.
- A type of anxiety that often develops after a terrifying event (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD). Mindfulness, particularly MBSR, seems to reduce symptoms of PTSD.
- Schizophrenia. Mindfulness seems to improve symptoms and reduce time spent in the hospital in people with schizophrenia.
- A type of anxiety marked by fear in some or all social settings (social anxiety disorder). Mindfulness seems to help reduce symptoms of social anxiety. MBSR and a mindfulness-based intervention specific to social anxiety disorder (MBI-SAD) seem to help most.
- Stress. Mindfulness seems to reduce stress in healthy people and in people with certain health conditions, such as cancer, organ transplants, and infertility.
Possibly Ineffective for …
- Obesity. Mindfulness might help improve bad eating habits, but it doesn’t seem to improve weight loss in people who are overweight or obese.
There is interest in using mindfulness for a number of other purposes, but there isn’t enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough information to know whether practicing mindfulness might affect pregnancy or breast-feeding. But there is no reason to expect any harm.
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