Mindfulness review finds it might not boost happiness

Why mindfulness might NOT be all it’s cracked up to be: Review finds no proof trendy, A-list loved programme boosts happiness

  • Mindfulness has been credited by many stars like Emma Watson and Katy Perry
  • READ MORE: Always late? You may have a ‘time blindness’, psychologists say

Trendy mindfulness practices beloved by Hollywood A-listers may not actually do anything to boost your happiness, a scientific review has found. 

Canadian experts analysed 57 high quality studies on five popularly recommended ways to boost happiness, including meditation and mindfulness.

Other methods assessed were exercising, expressing gratitude, being more social, and immersing yourself in nature.

While some evidence showed that gratitude and being social worked, experts found none of the other three tactics stood up to scrutiny.

University of British Columbia academics said the supposed benefits of mindfulness courses might actually be due to participants feeling less lonely by participating in classes, rather than any intrinsic mood-boosting. 

Mindfulness may not be the mental health revolution its cracked up to be with a scientific review of the evidence finding the evidence it boosts happiness is weak (stock image)

Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation among A-listers like Emma Watson, Katy Perry, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and Novak Djokovic. 

It uses controlled breathing exercises alongside guided imagery to supposedly relax the body and mind and reduce stress. 

While it’s been frequently touted as an easy way to boost your mental wellbeing, the authors who conducted the review found these benefits have likely been oversold.  

Writing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, they claimed many of the supposed benefits seen in experiments could be explained by other factors.

They used an example of a weekly mindfulness scheme run for two years for elderly people in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Myanmar.

What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment.

The practice involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

It is often touted as a universal tool for boosting mental wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness has become popular in recent years as a way to improve mental and physical well-being. 

Celebrities endorsing it include Emma Watson, Davina McCall, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey.

Participants involved had nearly three times the life satisfaction of those who didn’t, a result the review authors called ‘implausibly large’. Instead, they said this could be down to reduced loneliness the weekly classes brought to the elderly people. 

Another study on over 200 Canadian university students had similar issues. 

‘The present review reveals some of the most frequently recommended strategies for increasing happiness rest on a weak foundation of evidence,’ researchers said.

Similar problems were found on studies relating to exercise and happiness, despite a bout of physical activity often being recommended as mood-booster. 

They found most studies only  compared exercise to control groups where people did activates like watched footage of people work out or documentaries.   

The researchers added: ‘It is not clear whether exercising would beat watching a popular show on Netflix.’

The review’s authors said while practices like mindfulness wouldn’t do any patients direct harm, they still needed to be tested and supported.   

‘It is important to recognise that some happiness strategies, such as meditation programmes, require substantial time and energy, which are in limited supply for many people,’ they said. 

 Harry Potter star Emma Watson (pictured here at Wimbledon earlier this month) and Hollywood star and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees envoy Angelina Jolie are advocates of mindfulness

Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey said she believes mindfulness helps people ‘be present’ for those they love (pictured here at the ESSENCE Festival Of Culture in June) while Katy Perry has suggested she would have given up on the music industry without the technique 

Tennis player Novak Djokovic has said he used mindfulness as part of mental training regime as an athlete

‘And if these strategies are portrayed as being strongly supported by scientific evidence, individuals may be discouraged when the strategies fail to enhance their own wellbeing.

‘More broadly, the credibility of science may also be hampered if these strategies are recommended with an exuberance that outpaces existing empirical evidence.’

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