Mindfulness: Really?

Cool Kid Meditating

The fast approaching summer holidays have a lot of parents anxious about the time at home with the kids. It’s tough, to handle kids all day long. Kids have a way of pushing buttons you didn’t even know you had, and before you know it, you “lose it” and say something you wouldn’t have if you were calm, or you yell even though you promised yourself you would never yell at your kid. It happens to me more than I would like to admit in public (though I guess I just did, so…)

Anyway. Along comes Headspace. A friend recommended this app to me, and I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve heard there was a lot of research showing that meditation and mindfulness is helpful and has all kinds of benefits. I’ve been using it for two months now, but I took a closer look at the research for this post, and I found that actually the evidence is not as clear-cut as the internet makes it sound. So let’s talk about the research first.

One recent meta-analysis found that meditation reduces stress in healthy adults. However, they looked at stress, depression, anxiety, and well-being (they also looked at mindfulness but I find that particular outcome a bit circular) and found no significant effects in healthy adults on the other outcomes. So meditation doesn’t reduce depression or anxiety, and does not increase well-being in healthy adults. It does help adults with physical and psychological symptoms, but that could be because these people are suffering greatly and really any kind of treatment would alleviate their pain somewhat.

In children, the research is even less clear. In 2011, a review article noted that there are no randomized studies that looked at the effects of meditation in a general population of children. There is also no scientific evidence that mindfulness training for parents helps parents or their children. So this is again a case of media and marketing arguing that there is “scientific evidence” where the evidence are neither scientific nor conclusive.

I’m still using Headspace, and I plan to continue. Why? Because despite my skepticism and regardless of my protests that this makes no sense whatsoever, it actually helps me. It actually reduced the number of times I “lose it” with the kids. I can’t say I’m calm 24/7; for instance, when I’m talking to the kids about why I need them to listen to me and they break into song when I’m mid-sentence, I lose it. But the amount of yelling definitely decreased. I also find meditation helpful when I have a lot of things on my mind and I get overwhelmed (a bit of family drama would do that every time).

So, bottom line conclusions: I find meditation helpful, but I’m completely and utterly bewildered as to why. If you are a parent who is interested in participating in a proper research about this, do drop me a line via email (developmentalmommy@gmail.com) or twitter (@galpod), and if there’s enough interest I might run the study myself, because this is ridiculous.

Happy Summer, and see you in September!! :smiley:

@2015 - Gal Podjarny