by Nick Bowles
PhD student, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences
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Meditation has exploded in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 14% of American adults engaging in the practice in 2017. This is up from 4% in 2012 (National Health Interview Survey, 2018).
Despite its increasing popularity, there is much we do not know about how people practice meditation in informal settings, for whom it is most likely to benefit or optimal the amount or ‘dose’ associated with particular outcomes (Van Dam et al. 2018).
The question of the dose-response effects of meditation has recently arisen as a major challenge to ongoing meditation research, with some suggesting too little may do nothing and too much may actually be harmful (Britton 2019).
Ascertaining the optimal amount of meditation is challenging for a number of reasons, particularly given that individuals may engage in varying practice types with varying levels of commitment. Defining response is also complex, as the ‘benefits’ of meditation have been proclaimed to be extremely wide-ranging (see e.g., Van Dam et al. 2018).
Much of the existing research of the dose-response effects of meditation use somewhat arbitrary practice durations as a function of existing programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and intensive Vipassana courses. It is critical therefore that we begin to establish the nature of the dose-response relationship in a range of practice settings and types.
A meaningful start can be made in this regard by exploring associations between duration and frequency of practice in relation to broad outcomes such as well-being and experiences of positive and negative affect. This is the principle aim of this present research.
At secondary aim of the study is to simply learn more about how people meditate during self-directed practice. This includes not only practice duration and frequency but also the relative weight of different practice goals, app use, other tools and methods used to support practice and the tradition within which people practice (i.e. religious versus secular).
We already have a sample size of over 1,000, and are hoping to increase this further to ensure a broad cross section of the meditation community is represented.
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