Headspace (1x43)

I was interested to hear the chat about Headspace in the last episode.

I first heard about mindfulness from my long haired brother whilst sat in his flower covered caravan at a folk festival… I laughed and told him it sounded like a load of bollocks.

A year or so later I heard about Headspace (not making the connection at the time) on some tech podcasts and feeling like my head could do with being a bit less full I thought I’d give it a try. I was hooked after a few sessions and listened to all 10 of the free sessions several times (you can do that).

Then I persuaded some family members to buy me an annual subscription as a Christmas present and have been using it (on and off) since. I’ve racked up about 14 hours of meditation so far, moving on from the basic sessions to more targeted things like improving my focus. I’d say that although it can be hard to “find” time for it and it’s not something I’m naturally very good at, I see it as a good investment. After I’ve meditated I find I’m more focused and more productive, and I would argue happier.

Unfortunately for me when I made the connection that Headspace was actually the same mindfulness meditation my brother had told me about in his caravan I had to eat my words, along with a slice of humble pie.

Outside of my own experience, my fiancée is a Clinical Psychologist for the NHS and she actually now teaches basic mindfulness sessions and recommends it to her patients, sometimes including Headspace because it makes the techniques so bitesize and accessible. It turns out that mindfulness-based cognitive therapies are actually recommended by NICE as treatments for a range of depression and anxiety related problems, I assume backed by clinical trials. It might be something that Buddhists have known about for thousands of years, but there’s now actually scientific evidence to suggest it has real psychological and even physiological benefits.


Wow, this was really interesting. Thanks, @benfrancis, for sharing!

Phew, now we can stop ignoring the results that they’ve been getting for those thousands of years, because now the results are published. (Why has it taken so long?)

The scientific community are by no means perfect, and the journal publishing industry is downright corrupt a lot of the time, but the point here isn’t that the results are published, it’s that they’re verified. Whereas the notion that, say, thunder sours milk is not, which people also believed for thousands of years, no?

I recognize that I don’t know how to answer this question and acknowledge that it may not make sense. With that said…:

Can’t the proposition that “meditation is good for your mental health” be verified without the scientific method?

I’m not taking a swing at the journal industry (easy target these days, though), but rather at western medicine, which seems to think we’ve achieved a low ratio of unknown : known1 and seems to not acknowledge the high ratio of tradition : science in its procedures and decision-making2.


  1. Eastern medicine has been ignored and/or dismissed out of hand for a long time.
  2. Consider obstetrics. There’s a lot of acrimony on the Internet (big surprise!) around hospital-doctors-vs.-midwives.

I don’t think so, no. Obviously, answering questions about someone’s mental health is inherently fairly subjective and dependent on self-reporting. And there is a lot to be said for the idea that there is no difference between “this makes me feel better” and “I think this makes me feel better”; you still feel better, so who cares whether it had an objective effect? Feeling better is wholly subjective anyway. But mental health is at least partially quantifiable, I believe; it’s not pure subjectivity. We could do with some psychiatry expertise at this point. :slight_smile:

No, simply put the scientific method is how you verify a fact. There are studies which suggest that meditation can, at least with some types of mental illness - notably depression, help. But these are based on the statistical analysis showing that a statistically significant smaller percentage of people who meditate suffer with depression than the population taken as a whole.

This by its self does not proove that meditation helps depression however because its possible that people with depression are less likely to want to try meditation than people who do not suffer with depression.

This is simple to test however, take a bunch of people with depression and give them a range of treatments, suppliment it with meditation in exactly half the subjects and see how they get on.

Note it is essential that the person who evaluates the people at each stage has no idea who does or does not meditate. If when the data is evaluated at the end of the test shows a statistically significant difference between the two groups then you have evidence to suggest that meditation helps or makes things worse as appropriate.

This study may have already been done though I am not personally aware of one though I am no expert on mental illness.

To follow up on my previous post: following discussions with psychologist friend of mine there have been studies of the type I mentioned and there is evidence, though not conclusive, that meditation does help with some types of mental illness. Depression is sighted as one type that can benefit the most.

A new player enters the game


This is wonderful.

Thanks @sil I wasn’t having the best day - What with the budget here in the UK really hurting lots of of good friends of mine - I needed this.

You sir have helped me maintain my sense of perspective.

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