Coyne of the Realm Takes a Skeptical Look at Mindfulness — Blurb

If you have ever wondered how solid the science is behind claims for mindfulness…

Practicing mindfulness can be a satisfying routine for some people. No one needs research findings to justify practicing mindfulness, any more than they need to cite research studies to justify taking up jogging or golf, or in deciding to take an evening stroll in the park, go to dinner with friends, or see a movie every Sunday.  

But mindfulness is increasingly recommended as a treatment in health care settings. It is offered in expensive programs, often with public funding and that require everyone participate. Promoters claim wondrous benefits - practicing mindfulness supposedly reduces stress and prevents depression, and improves physical health and productivity.

Where’s the evidence and how good is it?

Mindfulness is supposed to improve mental well-being and functioning. We are told it’s a surefire way to lose weight and keep it off, and that practicing mindfulness slows the progression of cancer. It will even help you avoid impulsive buying while holiday shopping.  Mindfulness supposedly works not only by making you more aware, but by changing your brain, boosting your immune system, and increasing your telomere length, reversing aging.

We should insist that anyone offering mindfulness as a treatment produce evidence of its effectiveness and safety. They should demonstrate these programs are worth the resources they consume and won’t have unintended consequences for other aims and goals in a setting. This book examines whether claims about mindfulness fit with the evidence that is available.

Is mindfulness more than a placebo? Does it work better than other things that we could do? Should practicing mindfulness be mandated? Do people even faithfully practice mindfulness when it is mandated? Mindfulness is now required in many schools and workplaces, and some military units.

Can mindfulness programs in the class room actually get unruly children calm and paying attention? Improve their reading skills and raise their grades? What else could be done instead with the scarce resources available for education? Corporations pay huge fees for speakers promoting mindfulness who claim it makes workers not only happier and healthier, but more productive. Promoters’ pitch mindfulness as good for business: it will make the corporations more competitive and profitable.  Does mindfulness training align the goals of corporations and workers in such harmony and mutual gain?  Mindfulness is also sold to the military with claims it makes personnel more resistant to post-traumatic stress disorder, better snipers, and effective drone pilots. Do these applications tarnish mindfulness as a spiritual practice?

Mindfulness supposedly unites the wisdom of Buddhism with modern science. But what would a Buddhist think of how mindfulness is being sold and the goals that it is supposed to achieve? And just how good is the science behind mindfulness?

Coyne of the Realm takes a skeptical look at the claims for mindfulness and the science behind them. He asks you to consider just who is recommending that you practice mindfulness and what they might gain if you do.  He traces the hype and the headlines back into the scientific literature. He shows how to evaluate scientific studies and reviews. Like he has done so often in popular posts at PLOS Mind the Brain, Science-Based Medicine, and Quick Thoughts blogs, he will show you things you somehow missed looking at research, but then leave you unable not to see these flaws in so many places you look. In his inimitable style, Coyne of the Realm wittingly challenges conclusions of bad research, but ultimately provides you with strategies for judging mindfulness for yourself. He teaches skepticism, not close-minded cynicism.

Coyne of the Realm Takes a Skeptical Look at Mindfulness is a book for those who want to know more about mindfulness. But the book is also an entertaining way to develop critical thinking , whether you are a professional, or a student. Or if you are simply a lay person wanting to develop yourself as a citizen scientist, possessing the skills to probe for yourself the claims bombarding you about things you must do to improve health and well being. But you cannot be even minimally an expert on everything you need to know. So, Coyne of the Realm shows you where to look when evaluating these claims that are beyond your expertise. Coyne of the Realm will help you cultivate a healthy skepticism of claims that seem too good to be true, and to follow that skepticism, even when others seem taken in by extravagant promises of magic and transformation.