This week is an exciting week in the world of Mindfulness, Mindful Nation UK came out with their Mindfulness Initiative report, and it was presented in front of the Parliament in Britain. This week in my blogpost, I just want to introduce this report and some of the conversation going on right now about Mindfulness. I’d like to introduce you to the research a bit more through my blog posts. I know I have fellow geeks out there that want the proof!
The Mindful Nation Initiative, is an initiative by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group in Britain to determine if Mindfulness can help support mental healthcare in a more holistic way and at the same time support education, the workplace and the criminal justice system, within Great Britain. Mindfulness classes are actively offered to the Parliament and they’ve had 115 parliamentarians and 80 of their staff attend. Their key recommendations are on page 7-8 of the report. These recommendations encourage the country to test Mindfulness programs in healthcare, education, the workplace, and the criminal justice system.
To match the timing of the report release, Jon Kabat-Zinn published an article in The Guardian about Mindfulness and the dangers of it getting too popular. Mindfulness has huge health potential – but McMindfulness is no panacea. There is a concern that with widespread popularity Mindfulness will be watered down and ineffective. Really? Because even more people hesitating before they think; learning to recognize their emotions and determine what appropriate responses are to these emotions; and working to find more calm in their life in place of anxiety and hate – that isn’t a good thing? Please note, to be fair, I admit to a bias on the side of calm and less stress.
Everywhere we look we can find opinions, that Mindfulness is either great, or not great. It's important to note that while mindfulness is simple, it's not easy. It is a practice, not a miracle. The varied reports falls in line, with anything or anyone that has become popular in the past and involves a change of perception. This is one reason I like this new report and some of the other initiatives happening. The Mindfulness community is trying hard to really focus on the research and build on the research to determine if Mindfulness is actually helping.
Opinion aside, the recent research shows a few things that I’ll point out from the report, which can be found here.
- Mindfulness in healthcare has been studied since it first started being used in the late 1970’s. “The strongest evidence for Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBIs) …in healthcare… is in the
prevention of recurrent depression.” p. 19 “A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials for people who were currently well and who had a history of three or more episodes of depression found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) reduced the risk of relapse by almost half ( 43%) in comparison to control groups.” p. 20
- The evidence around Mindfulness use in Education is strong in many areas, but suffice it to say “There is promising evidence that mindfulness training has been shown to enhance executive control…the management of cognitive processes such as memory, problem solving, reasoning and planning… in children and adolescents.” p. 30 The United States is doing better in this area of bringing mindfulness to schools.
- The research from the studies surrounding mindfulness in the workplace need to continue, but “A number of randomized controlled trials of MBIs have found positive effects on burnout, well being and stress. Mindfulness can assist with focus and a range of cognitive skills. Studies have shown that those using mindfulness report lower levels of stress during multi-tasking tests and are able to concentrate longer without their attention being diverted.” p. 41
- The research around Mindfulness in the criminal justice system needs to be expanded, but the findings from small studies are showing improvement in self-discipline and reductions in aggression and substance abuse. In addition, “ nearly half the prison population have depression or anxiety, and 25% have both… given the impact of MBCT on preventing recurrent depression, it has considerable potential as an approach for offenders.” p. 53-54 And this report doesn’t even talk about the stress facing the providers in our criminal justice system.
Tell me again, why we would be so stubborn as to ignore the possibilities just because it was “popular”?
Here in America, can you imagine all members of the house and congress getting together to both practice and encourage practices that support the mental health of our nation? To be fair, it has begun. Congressman Tim Ryan out of Ohio has been practicing. He’s written a book called A Mindful Nation. He also has a nonprofit organization called Mindful Nation. But imagine what could be if all of congress joined him? Even after shootings and other traumas, our parties still insist on fighting as if they are mortal enemies, instead of working together to create a better America? No country is perfect, but I’m encouraged by this forward step in Britain.
(October, 2015) The Mindfulness Initiative. Mindful Nation UK. Found at http://themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/images/reports/Mindfulness-APPG-Report_Mindful-Nation-UK_Oct2015.pdf.