Meaningless Mindfulness

Kate Sheridan, ‘Mindfulness’ is a meaningless word with shoddy science behind it, Newsweek, October 11, 2017

Shoddy Science

A new study by a multidisciplinary group of researchers at several universities calls out the “misinformation and propagation of poor research methodology” that pervade much of the evidence behind the benefits of mindfulness. They focus in particular on the problem of defining the word mindfulness and on how the effects of the practice are studied.

The revelation is particularly disconcerting in light of how big of a business meditation has become. A veritable industry, the practice brings in around $1 billion annually, according to Fortune. That industry includes apps, classes and medical treatments.

Through the WI lens

This article is of particular interest because it crystallizes many of the issues that beset the “wellness” industry. A growing number of academics now argue that much of the research around meditation and mindfulness has serious conceptual flaws: too many definitions for mindfulness; failure to use valid control groups of people who did not meditate and absence of a recognized scale to measure the benefits of mindfulness.
What does it tell us? The market is saturated with unnecessary offerings that provide little or no value to consumers. A cleanup is therefore in the offing. Meditation has become a USD1bn+ business globally, much of it based on flawed science. Most likely, the hype will fade, taking down many companies that thrived on trendiness and exploited a lack of common sense on the part of the customer. Hundreds of apps built on shaky ground will disappear. Many “empty” courses will follow suit.

On a broader note, the article suggests that some wellness “solutions” are either flawed or void of any content. So fashionable and in such demand, wellness runs the risk of falling foul to the “Emperor’s new clothes” syndrome. Moving forward, the wellness companies that are likely to survive and thrive will (1) embrace simplicity (walking, swimming, appreciating silence or admiring a landscape can be as efficient as meditation in terms of soothing our mind) and (2) be authentic in their offering, not b**** their clients with false claims and scientific pretences.

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What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation

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Home (working) Truths

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“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”

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