Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Has the science of mindfulness lost its mind?

  • Miguel Farias (a1) and Catherine Wikholm (a2)
Summary

The excitement about the application of mindfulness meditation in mental health settings has led to the proliferation of a literature pervaded by a lack of conceptual and methodological self-criticism. In this article we raise two major concerns. First, we consider the range of individual differences within the experience of meditation; although some people may benefit from its practice, others will not be affected in any substantive way, and a number of individuals may suffer moderate to serious adverse effects. Second, we address the insufficient or inconclusive evidence for its benefits, particularly when mindfulness-based interventions are compared with other activities or treatments. We end with suggestions on how to improve the quality of research into mindfulness interventions and outline key issues for clinicians considering referring patients for these interventions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Has the science of mindfulness lost its mind?
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Has the science of mindfulness lost its mind?
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Has the science of mindfulness lost its mind?
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence to Miguel Farias (miguel.farias@coventry.ac.uk)
Footnotes
Hide All

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
1 Ellis, A. The place of meditation in cognitive–behavior therapy and rational–emotive therapy. In Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (eds Shapiro, DH, Walsh, R): pp. 671–3. Aldine, 1984.
2 Harris, S. Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality without Religion. Penguin/Random House, 2014.
3 Lopez, DS. Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed. University of Chicago Press, 2008.
4 Wallace, RK. Physiological effects of transcendental meditation. Science 1970; 167: 1751–4.
5 Wallace, RK, Benson, H, Wilson, AF. A wakeful hypometabolic physiologic state. Am J Physiol 1971; 221: 795–9.
6 Baer, RA, Smith, GT, Hopkins, J, Krietemeyer, J, Toney, L. Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment 2006; 13: 2745.
7 Teasdale, JD, Segal, ZV, Williams, JMG, Ridgeway, VA, Soulsby, JM, Lau, MA. Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. J Consult Clin Psychol 2000; 68: 615–23.
8 Ma, S, Teasdale, J. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: replication and exploration of differential relapse prevention effects. J Consult Clin Psychol 2004; 72: 3140.
9 Williams, JM, Crane, C, Barnhofer, T, Brennan, K, Duggan, DS, Fennell, MJ, et al. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for preventing relapse in recurrent depression: a randomized dismantling trial. J Consult Clin Psychol 2014; 82: 275–86.
10 Kuyken, W, Hayes, R, Barrett, B, Byng, R, Dalgleish, T, Kessler, D, et al. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2015; 386: 6373.
11 Farias, M, Wikholm, C. The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? Watkins, 2015.
12 Shapiro, D. Adverse effects of meditation: a preliminary investigation of long-term meditators. Int J Psychosom 1992; 39: 62–7.
13 Lomas, T, Cartwright, T, Edginton, T, Ridge, D. A qualitative analysis of experiential challenges associated with meditation practice. Mindfulness 2015; 6: 848–60.
14 Dobkin, PL, Irving, JA, Amar, S. For whom may participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program be contraindicated? Mindfulness 2012; 3: 4450.
15 Creswell, J, Pacilio, L, Lindsay, E, Brown, K. Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014; 4: 112.
16 Goyal, M, Singh, S, Sibinga, EM, Gould, NF, Rowland-Seymour, A, Sharma, R, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and wellbeing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med 2014; 174: 357–68.
17 Khoury, B, Lecomte, T, Fortin, G, Masse, M, Therien, P, Bouchard, V, et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev 2013; 33: 763–71.
18 Davies, M. Meditation is ‘as effective as drugs for treating depression’: mindfulness could be offered as an alternative to antidepressants, study claims. Mail Online 2015; 21 April. Available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3047347/Meditation-effective-antidepressant-drugs-depression-treatment.html (accessed 6 June 2016).
19 Sedlmeier, P, Eberth, J, Schwarz, M, Zimmermann, D, Haarig, F, Jaeger, S, et al. The psychological effects of meditation: a meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 2012; 138: 1139–71.
20 Fox, KC, Savannah, N, Matthew, LD, James, L, Melissa, E, Samuel, P, et al. Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2014; 43: 4873.
21 Wellcome Trust. Large-scale trial will assess effectiveness of teaching mindfulness in UK schools (press release). Wellcome Trust 2015; 16 July. Available at http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media–office/Press–releases/2015/WTP059495.htm (accessed 6 June 2016).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2056-4694
  • EISSN: 2056-4708
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Has the science of mindfulness lost its mind?

  • Miguel Farias (a1) and Catherine Wikholm (a2)
Submit a response

eLetters

No eLetters have been published for this article.

×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *