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Description: If not in your introductory psychology class you must’ve seen somewhere in the media any number of suggestions about the fundamental importance of mindfulness or of being in the moment as a means of coping more effectively with the complexity of life in the world today. Have you paused to wonder whether mindfulness is as effective as some of its proponents claim as a means for ensuring that we are overwhelmed by stress or that we do not get caught up with past issues and future concerns?  Before you read the article linked below think a little bit about what some of your concerns might be about the current strong positive push mindfulness is getting as a solution to a multitude of problems. Can you think of situations or circumstances where mindfulness, or being in the moment, may actually not be a good thing to do?

Source: Actually, Let’s Not to Be in the Moment, Ruth Wippman, Sunday Review, Opinion, New York Times.

Date: November 26, 2016


Photo Credit: Braulio Amado

Links:  Article Link —

Researchers and theorists who work in the area of language development talk about the profound evolutionary advantage provided to human beings by our ability to communicate through spoken communication. One of the primary advantages that is often suggested is that language and the types of thinking it supports makes it possible for us to break free of the here and now or of the “moment” and to reflect on the past, draw from it information that may be relevant for the current situation we are in and think about possible futures that may arise if we appropriately make use of this much broader array of information acquired by stepping out of the moment. What the author of this opinion piece is suggesting is that there may well be times or the best advice you could give people is to get the heck out of their moments immediately.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the advantages ascribed to mindfulness?
  2. What are some of the areas, inside and outside of psychology, in which you have run across references to mindfulness as an optimal way to proceed?
  3. What sorts of research do you think might need to be done for us to begin to sort out the limits of the usefulness of mindfulness or, put another way, if mindfulness is a tool how might we better understand its usefulness profile?

References (Read Further):

Wippman, Ruth, (2016) America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks, St. Martins Press.

Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., … & Ranasinghe, P. D. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA internal medicine, 174(3), 357-368.

Ospina, M. B., Bond, K., Karkhaneh, M., Tjosvold, L., Vandermeer, B., Liang, Y., … & Klassen, T. P. (2007). Meditation practices for health: state of the research. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep), 155(155), 1-263.

Christiansen, M. H., & Kirby, S. (2003). Language evolution: Consensus and controversies. Trends in cognitive sciences, 7(7), 300-307.

One Response to “Mindfulness: Are There Limits to its Usefulness?”

  1. kdn

    The meta-analyses that Ruth Whippman cites included only 41 trials (with 2,993 participants). The figure 18,000 is incorrect. Also, that meta-analyses included only very rigorous trials (only RCTs in which the control group was additionally matched in time and attention to the intervention group – note that this type of rigorous trials are not even employed when conducting physical activity trials for various population groups). Further, that meta-analyses used a highly heterogeneous group of meditation styles and many of the studies were short-term studies. On the other hand, a newer systematic review and meta-analysis, found that evidence supports the use of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs to alleviate symptoms of a variety of mental and physical disorders (see: Standardised Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Healthcare: An Overview of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses of RCTs. PLoS One 10 (4).). This review included a combined total of 8683 participants consisting of different patient categories as well as healthy adults and children.
    Additionally, we need to remember that there are other types of investigations for mindfulness that has revealed very interesting results such as structural changes in the brain (there are numerous studies that support this). The following 2016 neuroscience article shows that mindfulness interventions can alleviate depression: Greenberg, Jonathan, et al. “Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depressed individuals improves suppression of irrelevant mental-sets.” European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (2016): 1-6.

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