Intended for healthcare professionals


Does mindfulness work?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 29 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6919
  1. Edo Shonin, research director12,
  2. William Van Gordon, principal investigator 12,
  3. Mark D Griffiths, professor1
  1. 1 Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Nottinghamshire NG1 4BU, UK,
  2. 2Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to: E Shonin e.shonin{at}

Reasonably convincing evidence in depression and anxiety

Mindfulness has been defined as the process of paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental manner.1 In the early stages of mindfulness training, awareness of breathing is typically used as an attentional anchor to regulate ruminative thinking,2 but mindfulness encompasses much more than observing the breath. It derives from Buddhist practice and has been the subject of empirical investigation since the late 1970s, with over 700 scientific papers on mindfulness published in 2014.3

Evidence is most convincing for its use in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Meta-analyses assessing the efficacy of mindfulness in these two disorders have typically reported effect sizes in the moderate-strong to strong range (Cohen’s d ≥ 0.5).4 5 However, some of the studies included in these meta-analyses have failed to control for a placebo effect, so it is unsurprising that meta-analyses with more stringent inclusion criteria report more modest outcomes. For example, a recent meta-analysis of 36 randomised controlled trials of mindfulness based stress reduction, mindfulness based cognitive therapy, and other mindfulness based interventions—each with an …

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