Mindfulness and Creativity
Thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers prove that mindfulness improves mental and physical wellbeing while also enhancing creativity and decision making. Here are some of the main findings:
- Mindfulness improves creativity.1
- Mindfulness improves attention span, working memory and reaction speed. It also enhances mental stamina and resilience.2
- Mindfulness enhances decision making.3
- Meditation enhances brainfunction. It increases grey matter in areas associated with self-awareness, empathy, self-control and attention.4 It soothes the parts of the brain that produce stress hormones5 and builds those areas that lift mood and promote learning.6 It even reduces some of the thinning of certain areas of the brain that ‘naturally’ occurs with age.7
- Mindfulness is a potent antidote to anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability. In short, regular meditators are happier and more contented, while being far less likely to suffer from psychological distress.8
- Mindfulness is at least as good as drugs or counselling for the treatment of clinical-level depression. One structured programme known as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.9
- Meditation improves the immune system. Regular meditators are admitted to hospital less often for cancer, heart disease and numerous infectious diseases.10
- Meditation improves heart and circulatory health by reducing blood pressure and lowering the risk of hypertension. It also reduces the risks of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease and lowers its severity should it arise.11
- Mindfulness is very beneficial for chronic pain. Studies show that pain ‘unpleasantness’ can be reduced by 57 per cent. Experienced meditators can reduce it by 93 per cent.12
And perhaps surprising of all, the benefits of meditation begin to take root in the brain after just a few minutes of practice.
1 Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. and Hommel, B. (2012), ‘Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring train- ing on convergent and divergent thinking’, Frontiers in Psychology, 3:116, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116; Greenberg, J., Reiner, K. and Meiran, N. (2012), ‘“Mind the trap”: mindfulness practice reduces cognitive rigidity’, PLoS One, 7(5): e36206, doi: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0036206; Capurso, V., Fabbro, F. and Crescentini, C. (2014), ‘Mindful creativity: the influence of mindfulness meditation on creative thinking’, Frontiers in Psychology, 4:1020, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.01020.
2 Jha, A., Krompinger, J. and Baime, M. J. (2007), ‘Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention’, Cognitive Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, pp. 109–19; Tang, Y. Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S. and Lu, Q. (2007), ‘Short-term medi- tation training improves attention and self- regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(43), pp. 17152–6; Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z. and Goolkasian, P. (2010), ‘Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training’, Consciousness and Cognition, 19(2), pp. 597–605; McCracken, L. M. and Yang, S. Y. (2008), ‘A contextual cognitive–behavioral analysis of rehabilitation workers’ health and well-being: influences of acceptance, mindfulness and values-based action’, Rehabilitation Psychology, 53, pp. 479–85; Ortner, C. N. M., Kilner, S. J. and Zelazo, P. D. (2007), ‘Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task’, Motivation and Emotion, 31, pp. 271–83; Brefczynski-Lewis, J. A., Lutz, A., Schaefer, H. S., Levinson, D. B. and Davidson, R. J. (2007), ‘Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(27), pp. 11483–8
3 Hafenbrack, A. C., Kinias, Z. and Barsade, S. G. (2014), ‘Debiasing the mind through meditation: mindfulness and the sunk-cost bias’, Psychological Science, 25(2), p. 369; Hooria, J. (2014), ‘Can mindfulness improve decision making?’, Greater Good Science Center (University of California, Berkeley), at http://bit.ly/QMVF28.
4 Hölzel, B. K., Ott, U., Gard, T., Hempel, H., Weygandt, M., Morgen, K. and Vaitl, D. (2008), ‘Investigation of mindfulness med- itation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry’, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 3, pp. 55–61; Lazar, S., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J., Greve, D., Treadway, M., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B., Dusek, J., Benson, H., Rauch, S., Moore, C. and Fischl, B. (2005), ‘Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness’, NeuroReport, 16, pp. 1893–7; Luders, E., Toga, A. W., Lepore, N. and Gaser, C. (2009), ‘The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter’, Neuroimage, 45, pp. 672–8.
5 Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., Sui, D., Rothbart, M., Fan, M. and Posner, M. (2007), ‘Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, pp. 17152–6.
6 Davidson, R. J. (2004), ‘Well-being and affective style: neural sub- strates and biobehavioural correlates’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 359, pp. 1395–411.
7 Lazar, S., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J., Greve, D., Treadway, M., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B., Dusek, J., Benson, J., Rauch, S., Moore, C. and Fischl, B. (2005), ‘Meditation experience is asso- ciated with increased cortical thickness’, NeuroReport, 16, pp. 1893–7.
8 Ivanowski, B. and Malhi, G. S. (2007), ‘The psychological and neurophysiological concomitants of mindfulness forms of medita- tion’, Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 19, pp. 76–91; Shapiro, S. L., Oman, D., Thoresen, C. E., Plante, T. G. and Flinders, T. (2008), ‘Cultivating mindfulness: effects on well-being’, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(7), pp. 840–62; Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E. and Bonner, G. (1998), ‘Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and pre-medical students’, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, pp. 581–99.
9 See ‘Depression in adults: The treatment and management of depression in adults’, NICE clinical guideline 90, issued October 2009; Ma, J. and Teasdale, J. D. (2004), ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for depression: replication and exploration of differential relapse prevention effects’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, pp. 31–40; Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G. and Teasdale, J. D. (2002), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse (New York: Guilford Press); Kenny, M. A. and Williams, J. M. G. (2007), ‘Treatment-resistant depressed patients show a good response to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy’, Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, pp. 617–25; Eisendraeth, S. J., Delucchi, K., Bitner, R., Fenimore, P., Smit, M. and McLane, M. (2008), ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for treatment-resistant depression: a pilot study’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 77, pp. 319–20; Kingston, T., Dooley, B., Bates, A., Lawlor, E. and Malone, K. (2007), ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for residual depressive symptoms’, Psychology and Psychotherapy, 80(2), pp. 193–203.
10 Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K. and Sheridan, J. F. (2003), ‘Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, pp. 564–70; Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., Sui, D., Rothbart, M., Fan, M. and Posner, M. (2007), ‘Short-term meditation training improves atten- tion and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, pp. 17152–6. 11 Walsh, R. and Shapiro, S. L. (2006), ‘The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology: a mutually enriching dia- logue’, American Psychologist, 61, pp. 227–39.
12 Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., Gordon, N. S., McHaffie, J. G. and Coghill, R. C. (2011), ‘Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation’, Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14), pp. 5540–8.
13 Neal, D. T., Wood, W. and Quinn, J. M. (2006), ‘Habits: a repeat performance’, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(4), pp. 198–202; Verplanken, B. and Wood, W. (2006), ‘Interventions to break and create consumer habits’, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 25(1), pp. 90–103.
14 Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J. and Finkel, S. M. (2008), ‘Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, pp. 1045–62; see Barbara Fredrickson’s website at http://www.unc. edu/peplab/home.html.