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The problem with mindfulness for science

Only in the past few decades have Western researchers begun to think objectively about the efficacy of mindfulness meditation. They primarily investigate it in two ways: how people believe meditation makes them feel and how it might affect the brain. Mindfulness meditation can be any one of a variety of things, such as concentrating on one's breathing, silently reciting a mantra, or centering one's attention on feelings of love and kindness. It's still unclear whether some types of meditation are better than others.

That's a problem for science because it's hard to draw broad conclusions when different trials test the effects of "mindfulness" but don't treat "mindfulness" as the same thing. "It's such a broad definition that anyone can say what they're doing is mindfulness," said Nicholas Van Dam, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne and one of the authors of a new paper about the limits of mindfulness science. Also, the mindfulness practices that researchers study are probably very different from what you would do on your own at home. Apps like Headspace, which offer guided meditation for as little as three minutes a day, are a long way from the best studies' eight-week, 20-plus-hour mindfulness training.

Here are two terrific articles to read on mindfulness skepticism and the science of mindfulness: Mindfulness for Skeptics, and I was a Skeptic of Mindfulness.
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