Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Lead

10 health benefits of mindfulness

9 April 2024

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation have a number of health benefits, both physical and mental, from coping with stress to helping the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Eugene Farrell, AXA Health’s Mental Health Lead, highlights what mindfulness can help with and how.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposeful focussing of our attention towards a moment, and as that moment passes towards the next moment and so on. We can use our breathing as the activator of focus.  It can also be directing our attention to our own thoughts, feelings and emotions as an external observer.

We can learn to observe and accept without judgement, and let go by not responding or interacting.

This can be done in an informal way as we go about day to day tasks, through intentional sessions, or through instructed or practiced meditations.

What can mindfulness help manage?

There have been 100s of studies conducted to investigate and examine the benefits of mindfulness, meaning there is evidence to support the fact it can help with a variety of health problems1

That said, much work is still to be done to explain whether this is cause, effect or a correlation. But it is thought that mindfulness can help with:

  1. Resilience
  2. Stress, anxiety and depression
  3. Heart health
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  5. Pain
  6. Fibromyalgia
  7. Addiction
  8. Mental function
  9. Your immune system
  10. Anger

Meditation and mindfulness are starting to make a difference to how people think and react in a variety of situations – from school children to professional athletes and even the military.2

We take a closer look at some ways it could help you:

1. Resilience

We can all find ourselves jumping to negative thoughts. This often happens automatically and can take a toll on our mental wellbeing. 

Mindfulness gives us the tools to become aware of this so that we can ‘rewire’ that thinking.

Research also suggests that mindfulness meditation can help with sleep by supporting those who suffer from insomnia3. Sleep – alongside other factors, such as building your emotional intelligence – can help you build your resilience.

2. Stress, depression and anxiety

A common myth about mindfulness is that it is only good for your physical health, but research suggests this underestimates the practice.

Researchers at Boston University did an analysis of 39 studies, totalling 1,140 participants, who received mindfulness-based therapy for conditions such as cancer, generalised anxiety disorder and depression. It found mindfulness to be a “promising intervention” for treating anxiety and mood problems4.

A meta-analysis of over 200 studies found that mindfulness based therapy was especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression and stress.12

3. Heart health

If you want to look after your heart, maintaining a healthy blood pressure is a good place to start. 

The British Heart Foundation highlight a five-year study which asked 201 patients with coronary heart disease to do transcendental meditation (a technique where you sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and silently repeat a sound called a mantra, in your head) for 15 minutes a day.

The researchers found that this reduced the risk of death, heart attack, and stroke by 48 per cent. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and lower stress levels.5

4. IBS

A 2015 study in America, consisted of a nine-week training programme for those that suffer with IBS. It included both mindfulness and meditation therapy and found that the programme had a “significant impact” on people’s symptoms of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)6.

>Read more about IBS

5. Managing pain

A review of 10 studies in 2011 focused on how mindfulness can help patients manage chronic pain, and the depression that often accompanies it. 

A 2018 analysis of 142 studies found that mindfulness was useful in the treatment of pain as well as anxiety, depression, addiction and smoking.13

6. Fibromyalgia

In 2007, researchers from Switzerland’s University of Basel Hospital, investigated the effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme on fibromyalgia sufferers (a musculoskeletal condition that causes stiff joints, pain and tenderness throughout the body).

They asked 58 female patients with the condition to take part over an eight-week study, and discovered evidence that mindfulness has the potential to help with symptoms such as pain, anxiety, depression and somatic complaints.

A further study in 2019 found that “Mindfulness is associated with less pain interference, lower impact of fibromyalgia, and better psychological health and quality of life”.15

7. Treating addiction

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that mindfulness is an effective tool to reduce stress. 

This helps people with substance addictions as it gives them a healthy coping mechanism, which can steer them away from relapse.

A study by specialists at the University of Utah in 2017 backed this up. They found that mindfulness is useful in the recovery of chronic pain patients who are at risk of becoming addicted to opiates.

8. Improving mental function

Research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School showed that after an eight-week programme, mindfulness training increased the amount of grey matter in subjects' brains. This type of brain tissue is associated with memory, learning, the regulation of emotions and the ability to see the world from multiple perspectives.10

9. Boosting the immune system

There are numerous studies and teachings on how useful mindfulness can be to help keep a healthy immune system.14

Robert A. Emmons, a leading expert on the science of gratitude and professor of psychology at UC Davis highlights how one aspect of mindfulness – gratitude – can have a “dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life.

“It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.”11

10. Controlling anger

Anger is an unmoderated emotional response, most often inappropriately. It happens when we react to situations in a habitual or learned response. Manner.

“Mindfulness can help us to control our learned response, like anger,” says Eugene, “by learning how to manage these emotions, it helps us to ‘get off the train’ and can improve our relationships.”

Further reading

Mindful breathing tips - AXA Health

Everyday mindfulness - AXA Health 


  1. Meditation and Coronary Heart Disease - National Library of Medicine
  2. Mindfulness for the military – Human Performance Resources
  3. Mindfulness and sleep – Sleep Health Foundation
  4. The Effect of Mindfulness - Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression – National Library of Medicine
  5. Can meditation help people with heart disease? – British Heart Foundation
  6. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms – National Library of Medicine
  7. Mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain – National Library of Medicine
  8. Mindfulness training as an intervention for fibromyalgia – National Library of Medicine
  9. Pain, hedonic regulation, and opioid misuse – National Library of Medicine
  10. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density – National Library of Medicine
  11. 3 Ways to Boost Your Immune System With Mindfulness Science – Mindful Text
  12. Mindfulness based Therapy A comprehensive meta-analysis Khoury B et al 2013
  13. Mindfulness- based interventions for psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis Goldberg S B et al 2018
  14. Black D S, Slavich G M  2016 Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review or randomized controlled trials
  15. Pleman B et al 2019 Mindfulness is associated with psychological health and moderates the impact of Fibromyalgia.

Ask our health professionals

You’re not alone. We’re here to help you take care of your health. 

Our email service allows allows you to ask our team of experienced health professionals, including nurses, midwives, counsellors, pharmacists and dieticians, your health related question. 

You don’t have to be a member, and you can ask for yourself or anyone in your family. We’ll get back to you via email, usually within 24 hours, with clear information and support.