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Study Shows That Brief Mindfulness Training Helps

Teaching our patients some basic mindfulness skills can make a big difference.

Key points

  • A recent research study looked at the benefits of a brief mindfulness intervention.
  • A few weeks later, even a single manualized training resulted in improvements in depression and anxiety.
  • Health care professionals can and should leverage basic mindfulness training for our patients' well-being.
Source: CastOfThousands/Shutterstock

Today's avalanche of information requires some judicious digging and sifting. Especially in health care, the sheer mass of new studies and reviews can be overwhelming; we try our best to select a pile, dig through the rough, and hopefully discover some buried treasure. Yet, sometimes, the jewel is just sitting there in plain sight. I happened upon a recent example of this in a study on a brief mindfulness intervention. While the study reports on a supposedly failed metric regarding mindfulness' benefit, buried in the details is nevertheless some potent proof for including basic mindfulness training in treatment plans for our patients.

The research article in question examined the efficacy of a single-session mindfulness-based intervention. Its primary goal was to assess measures of improving "levels of loneliness" after subjects participated in the one-hour, manualized telehealth intervention that incorporated both a basic meditation exercise, and that same exercise combined with an additional exercise involving compassion meditation (and a control group on a waitlist, but no intervention). Their structured, one-hour-long intervention model included brief conceptual education in mindfulness and introductory tactics in breath meditation, identification of subjective feelings (including perceived "loneliness," and for some subjects an additional module in compassion meditation—followed by a request to practice daily (without assessment of whether that direction was adhered to).

Source: Image created with DALL-E / OpenAI; altered with PhotoMania
Source: Image created with DALL-E / OpenAI; altered with PhotoMania

Metrics measured one and two weeks after the intervention focused primarily on a self-report of degree of loneliness. Results showed "meaningful reductions in perceived stress, anxiety, and depression, but not loneliness," even with the compassion component. The discussion section, in my view, seemed to lament the lack of impact on perceived loneliness, as the intervention apparently was created to address the parallel pandemic of reported loneliness during the worst of the COVID-19 stretch.

To me, though, while the needle in this haystack that was focused on did not move, the authors didn't really celebrate enough the diamond in the rough: Even a single guided meditation session showed, again, "meaningful reductions in perceived stress, anxiety, and depression" at two weeks. This is not years of sitting, nor even the well-regarded MBSR protocol, which is 8+ weeks in most cases. The specific intervention treatment manual can be found here (my thanks to Mikael Rubin, Ph.D., for creating this accessible intervention, and his permission to link). Of course, there are many additional sources for brief mindfulness training for patients in health care settings. This training, as shown, helps in the near term and, if reinforced with regular practice, improves outcomes.

It may be that there's no cure for loneliness besides actual human connection. Yet, adaptation to loneliness and other states of stress, pandemic or not, can be entrained with some prudent, time-efficient strategies in working with our patients on mindfulness.


Rubin M, Fischer CM, Telch MJ (2024) Efficacy of a single session mindfulness based intervention: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS ONE 19(3): e0299300. pone.0299300

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