June 14, 2004

Mindfulness and Mental Health

based on research by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan

Several major Eastern philosophies stress the importance of mindfulness, but is there really a mental health benefit to being more conscious and more focused on what's happening in the here and now?

Co-authors Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan researched the phenomenon of mindfulness and tracked indicators of psychological well-being. They designed a scale (MAAS) to measure this quality of consciousness and administered it to subjects from college students and working adults to people who meditate and those with cancer. "We've shown that mindfulness can be reliably and validly measured and has a significant role to play in mental health," says Brown, visiting assistant professor of psychology.

Participants who scored high on the scale also came through with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Results of the research showed that students of Zen, who actively cultivate a heightened awareness of the present moment, scored higher on the scale than a sample of adults of the same age and gender. With practice, there's evidence that mindfulness can be enhanced. In a clinical study with early-stage cancer patients, mindfulness was a central element in an eight-week stress reduction program for them.

The research was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Society of the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

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Posted on June 14, 2004 7:31 PM
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