For years, experts have been saying that "mindful" activities like meditation, deep breathing, coloring, and just about any activity you focus on without distraction from things like your phone are basically brilliant. If you’re looking for proof that being more mindful (i.e., present in whatever you’re doing) is good for you, there’s a study out there that shows mindfulness can reduce the physiologic symptoms of stress, boost immunity, help reduce overeating, and temper depression.
But there’s good news for people who don’t have patience for anything that involves slowing down. A new review of existing research on mindfulness suggests supporting science may not be as solid as previously thought.
When McGill University researchers analyzed 124 published studies on mindfulness for mental health, and used statistical ~magic~ to estimate the outcomes, they found that the studies’ actual results were overwhelmingly – and perhaps, unrealistically – positive. They also found more than 20 studies sat around unpublished for more than 30 months after the experiments were finished, the implication being that researchers who study mindfulness may be guilty of reporting biases. In other words, they’re more likely to publish results that prove their hypotheses were on the money all along. While everyone wants to be right – particularly when testing therapies that can help people, big time – reporting bias is a common practice in psychology and psychiatry that can perpetuate weak science by clouding the facts, which can seriously tap the brakes on actual progress.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that mindfulness is a load of crap – so if you happen to find dishwashing meditative or recently bought colored pencils for therapeutic coloring, no harm done, and by all means, don’t stop. It just means that the research may overestimate the effectiveness of mindfulness – so there’s no reason to feel like a Bad Person just because you’d rather turn on the TV than meditate after a stressful day. (Whatever works!)