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Leading experts share latest Mindfulness research

World-leading researchers into mindfulness will gather to present and consider ground-breaking research in this emerging field this week (3-7.7.15).

Organised by experts at Bangor University’s pioneering Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice, at the College of Health and Behavioural Sciences, the event will discuss how mindfulness can bring benefits to individuals and society.

Mindfulness has already been proven to reduce recurrent depression, offering real hope to the millions of people in the UK who suffer depression.

Dr Rebecca Crane from Bangor University said: “The cost of depression and anxiety to the UK economy is estimated at £17 billion or 1.5% of GDP. Targeting public spending on programmes which can improve people’s lives is important in its own right, and has the potential to deliver cost savings by reducing demand on public services.”

“Mindfulness programmes are also being used to help people experiencing a range of challenging situations, such as living with pain or long-term physical conditions or coping with addictions.  Programmes have been developed and researched for use in schools, workplaces, for people with cancer and in pregnancy.”

Among the latest research being presented are findings from studies conducted at Bangor University which show how mindfulness training brings beneficial changes in brain functioning of primary school pupils and sixth-formers. Summarising some of the results, Dr Dusana Dorjee says: “Our preliminary findings comparing children trained in mindfulness with those who did not receive mindfulness point to differences in the way they notice positive things around them and are able to cope.”

Dr Rebecca Crane added: “Modern life is fast paced and people experience multiple pressures. On a societal level it is vitally important that we equip people with skills which enable and empower them to skilfully manage their own minds.”

Research in the field of mindfulness and mindfulness-based programmes is still in its infancy, but offers extraordinary promise for a whole new field of enquiry. A recent analysis of 209 peer reviewed mindfulness studies with a total of 12,145 participants concluded that mindfulness-based interventions showed ‘large and clinically significant effects in treating anxiety and depression, and the gains were maintained at follow-up.’

Best described as a range of applied training programmes in meditation to build attention and self-regulation skills, mindfulness is one part of an overall approach to building people’s personal resources and mental and physical health. 

Professor Willem Kuyken at Oxford University put it this way, "We have already established the benefits of mindfulness in relation to recurrent depression. Current mindfulness research is addressing other areas of concern in contemporary society, including long-term physical health conditions, resilience in children and adolescence, healthy schools and workplaces. High quality science in the next 50 years will answer fundamental questions about mindfulness and its potential role in contemporary society."

Explaining mindfulness further, Professor Mark Williams, of Oxford University said:

“One way to understand mindfulness is to think of its opposite –‘mindlessness’ - those moments when we aren’t really aware of what we are doing from one moment to another.  All of us are absent-minded or on autopilot some of the time, but for many this is a constant state. It means that life is not as fulfilling as it could be, and for those vulnerable to emotional problems, brooding and worry can take over the mind in a damaging way. The capacity to be mindful can be developed. This releases the mind from habitual, ruminative patterns that lead to worry, depression and burn-out, and enables more intuitive and creative responses to new challenges. ” 

The Conference, organised by Bangor University in partnership with University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre, the University of Exeter, the Mindfulness in Schools Project and Breathworks, provides a forum to set out current research and discuss how mindfulness can develop for the future benefit of society.

Publication date: 1 July 2015