The Latch

Turns Out Mindfulness Isn’t for Everyone, According to Research

You’ve probably heard, well, pretty much everyone extol the benefits of mindfulness. There’s study after study, there are programs, there’s even a Netflix series about it.

What about those of you who have tried mindfulness — the meditation, intentional breathing, yoga, colouring books — and have found it to have no benefit whatsoever? Are your mental health and wellbeing just stagnant, forevermore?

Turns out there’s finally a study that’s on your side. A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that yes, mindfulness courses can reduce anxiety, depression and stress and increase mental wellbeing within most settings — but not all! Here’s to being part of the not all.

The team looked at 136 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on mindfulness training for mental health promotion in community settings. By bringing together and examining a wide variety of RCTs — that were often contradictory or underpowered —  they were able to provide more robust conclusions.

Their conclusion? That data suggests that in more than one in 20 trial settings, mindfulness-based programmes may not improve anxiety and depression.

The first author of the report, Dr Julieta Galante from the Department of Psychiatry at the university, said: “For the average person and setting, practising mindfulness appears to be better than doing nothing for improving our mental health, particularly when it comes to depression, anxiety and psychological distress – but we shouldn’t assume that it works for everyone, everywhere.”

In many cases, (unsurprisingly) mindfulness is often better than taking no action whatsoever. However, in comparison to other “feel good” options – like exercise – mindfulness isn’t ranked any higher.

“We found that there may be other effective ways of improving our mental health and wellbeing, such as exercise,” said senior author Professor Peter Jones, from the university’s Department of Psychiatry. “In many cases, these may prove to be more suitable alternatives if they are more effective, culturally more acceptable or are more feasible or cost-effective to implement.”

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