What the Research Says
For A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments: Applying the Science of Mindfulness and Happiness I spent more than a decade drawing together the latest scientific research in support of building a mindful moment practice. In addition to mindfulness, positive psychology, happiness, optimism, gratitude, kindness, compassion and self-compassion all have abundant research providing evidence for cultivating practices in these areas. They each offer proven practices that when woven together can be a comprehensive wellness plan. Spreading out a mindful practice throughout the day with intentional and purposeful mindful moments can not only develop mindfulness, but also reduce stress, sustain optimism and happiness, cultivate kindness and gratitude, and promote compassion and self-compassion.
Here is a list of the key research findings from the book’s sections labeled “Research Recap” which present just a sentence or two highlighting the essence of what the research says.
Research Recap: Those with thousands of hours of meditation show increases in brain areas associated with sustaining attention and regulating emotions, and decreases in the normal reduction of age-related gray matter volume. These longtime meditators also develop the capacity to live in a calm state and to be more resilient to stress and adversity.
Research Recap: Mindfulness meditation has a greater effect on pain acceptance and related quality of life than it has on actually limiting pain intensity. But this can make an immense difference for chronic pain sufferers. Mindfulness meditation reduces pain by changing perceived self-control of pain. It offers a preferable alternative to pain medications given their adverse consequences.
Research Recap: The effectiveness for mindfulness-based and mindfulness-based cognitive programs for treating anxiety and depression are comparable to standard treatments and the use of antidepressants. While generally not better than traditional cognitive behavioral treatments, they offer an effective alternative. Some recent research suggests combining with an antidepressant may be better initially with gradual withdrawal of medication possible.
Research Recap: Those who have Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training typically report experiencing less stress, especially those with chronic health conditions. When compared to alternative training or interventions, mindfulness meditation is generally not any better at reducing stress. While people often report feeling less stressed, actual physiological stress measures are seldom affected.
Research Recap: Mindfulness meditation may increase self-perceptions of sleep quality and daytime fatigue, but has no significant effect on total sleep time, how long it takes to get to sleep, or waking up during the night. While the research evidence isn’t there, it’s worth exploring different mind-body approaches as individual experiences with such approaches vary greatly. But these strategies may not be enough for more chronic sleep problems.
Research Recap: The research does not support that either mindfulness meditation or compassion meditation leads to helping behavior or benevolent actions toward others, especially in more difficult situations.
Research Recap: While loving-kindness meditation and other types of compassion meditation can lead to immediate feelings of positive emotions, they don’t produce improvements in more stable measures of well-being, such as quality of life or life satisfaction. In comparisons of compassion meditation with alternative interventions, there are generally no significant differences. Compassion meditation doesn’t produce positive feelings for everyone and these feelings are not enduring.
Happiness, Positive Emotions & Practices
Research Recap: Shorter, more frequent mindful breaks may be just as beneficial as longer mindfulness meditation sessions. Taking brief breaks is restorative in many ways, including reducing your stress level, boosting your mood, and keeping you more alert and focused to improve your performance.
Research Recap: Research shows explicitly cultivating positive emotions reduces stress, helps you recovery more quickly when stress strikes, and builds up your resilience to future stress. You have to keep your mindful practices varied as novelty is what sparks new neural connections to keep growing your brain.
Research Recap: People who have more positive emotions live longer, regardless of whether they are healthy or suffering from chronic diseases. They have stronger immune systems, less inflammation, fewer cardiovascular diseases, and greater heart rate variability, an indication of a more balanced and resilient stress response system.
Research Recap: You’ll reap the most benefit trying out multiple mood-enhancing practices to find those best suited to your personality and preferences. Doing a variety of positive activities and enlisting social support will increase your success.
Research Recap: Optimists have greater success in life. They are healthier, happier, more socially connected, and live longer. Being an optimist also protects you from heart disease and speeds up recovery from illnesses as well as surgery.
Research Recap: Get in the habit of smiling more and you’ll not only boost your mood, you’ll become more capable of putting things in perspective to see the big picture. Smile and you’ll be able to snap out of a negative repetitive loop more quickly, be better able to handle stress, and recover sooner from a stressful event.
Research Recap: Smiling affects how we feel, has a contagious effect on others, and influences the positive qualities others ascribe to us. When we display a genuine smile, others think well of us, finding us more likable, authentic, kind, generous, and competent. Smiling more can affect our level of life satisfaction and may even influence how long we live.
Research Recap: You can increase your happiness by doing simple acts of kindness for just brief periods. Both the variety of kind acts and the frequency matter. You get more fulfillment from your kind acts by doing them in spurts and keeping them varied and novel will boost the benefits.
Research Recap: Simple gratitude practices can boost happiness, enhance life satisfaction, increase positive emotions, foster kindness, heighten feelings of connectedness, improve relationships, promote better sleep, as well as decrease stress, anxiety, and depression.
Research Recap: Those who practice self-compassion can temper their inner critic, have more enduring feelings of self-worth, and enjoy greater happiness and optimism. By practicing self-compassion you can improve your ability to sooth your negative emotions to reduce levels of related stress and anxiety and enhance your capacity to stay emotionally balanced in difficult situations.