How Does Mindfulness Work?

Buddhist Mindfulness practice has been around for more than 2500 years. Now, revamped in a psychological and neuroscientific context, we start asking the question, how this practice actually works. Well, we are not talking about how it helps individuals to reach a state of liberation or even to move on to enlightenment, but we want to see whether some of the processes that lead to beneficial outcomes can be described in psychological and neuroscientific terminology.

Britta Hölzel with several colleagues from the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Giessen and from the Harvard Medical School in Boston recently published a theoretical paper that outlines their ideas of some of the main mechanisms of mindfulness meditation. Building on previous work by Shauna Shapiro, by Bishop et al, and also by Baer et al. they suggest that the interplay of four components is at the core of mindfulness meditation. These four components are: (1) Attention regulation, (2) Body awareness, (3) Emotion regulation and (4) Change in perspective on the self. The citation for this work and a link to the article are found below.

Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537-559.

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