Kristen Sparrow • January 11, 2020
The question is, as always, what is the risk/benefit assessment? I would assume the risk to be small, but that would probably depend on the “dosage” and individual’s mental make up. I’ve had a Vipassana practice off and on for decades, and have also done a lot of self-hypnosis and creative visualization. They’re quite different from each other in effects! My point is, that if you get benefit from the mindfulness, go for it! If it’s causing you to be more sedentary and upset, leave it be.
Two trials published in Science Advances also support mindfulness practices. The first found mindfulness-like attention training reduces self-perceived stress, but not levels of the hormone cortisol, a commonly used biological gauge of stress levels. The other trial links mindfulness-like attention training to increases in thickness of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with complex behavior, decision-making and shaping personality. The authors called for further research into what these findings could mean clinically.
Van Dam characterizes the research methods used in both of these studies as sound. Yet he points out both also represent the field’s larger problem—a lack of standardization. Varying mindfulness-like approaches have been investigated over the years, making comparisons of different studies difficult.