Dr. Olisa Mak, ND

Mind over Matter Really Matters

Mindfulness increases one’s overall quality of life and alleviates symptoms of a number of health concerns including Diabetes1, joint pain2, cancer3, depression2 and eating disorders.4

Being mindful is a process. It involves paying purposeful, non-judgmental attention to the present moment.5   Simply noticing the thoughts, feelings and sensations that come into your consciousness at any given moment without trying to change or suppress them.6 Often, subconscious thought patterns are brought to the forefront.6 Over time, the mind becomes more focused, centered, flexible and adaptive.7

Mindfulness Works

Mindfulness has been shown to induce brain changes.6 Patients with depression, or bipolar disorder, who followed a mindfulness protocol for 8 weeks, showed increased left-sided prefrontal lobe activity.6 People who meditate show decreased hyperactivity in emotional regions of the brain.6 Cortisol, our body’s stress hormone also decreases with mindfulness training.Research continues to discover and validate the benefits of practicing mindfulness.

Mindful How-to-Do

Meditation brings to mind sitting in one spot, trying to focus and seemingly constantly failing to. It’s time to individualize your mindfulness practice to what works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to be mindful and no set amount of time that you must be mindful in order to reap its benefits.

Activities such as yoga, pilates, and Tai Chi are most commonly recommended.5 New research adds to this list aerobic exercises such as cycling, jogging, or swimming.5 These exercises are repetitive and allow the individual to notice their movements, breathing, feelings, and thoughts.5

With an abundance of apps, including meditation apps, the question is whether these interventions are equally useful. Research shows that online interventions are less effective than face-to-face mindfulness-based interventions.8

Mindfulness for all Ages

A youtube video of school-age children practicing mindfulness recently went viral – rightfully so. Implementing a mindfulness routine for young kids teaches them how to better control their emotions and behaviours. Schools with mindfulness-based interventions showed children with better cognitive performance, decreased stress, and increased resilience to stress.6

Mindfulness and Mental Health

Signs of mental health issues often emerge early on in childhood and adolescence, providing a window of opportunity for early intervention and prevention.9 Mindfulness has been associated with lower depression, anxiety, and stress.7

Mindfulness builds resilience to stress and equips young individuals with skills to cope with difficult life circumstances.7 They learn to constructively deal with distressing feelings, sensations, or thoughts, rather than to numb them with alcohol or drugs.

Mindfulness and Healthy Eating

Healthy eating promotes health and prevents disease by encouraging healthier, more natural, nutrient-dense food choices.4 The effect of mindfulness on eating habits has been researched extensively and is being used in eating disorder and obesity treatment.

Individuals with higher mindfulness scores chose smaller serving sizes but more energy-dense foods.4 College students were more like to choose fruit instead of sweets for a snack.4 Mindfulness leads to less emotional eating.4

Unfortunately, there is currently no standard as to what constitutes mindful eating. All mindful eating protocols encourage individuals to recognize signals of satiety to avoid overeating and an awareness of the relationships between food, our body, our feelings, and our mind.4

Mindfulness and Chronic Health

A number of chronic conditions, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), could be improved through mindfulness.1 PCOS is a complex, chronic endocrine disorder that affects reproductive-aged women, causing both physical and mental-emotional symptoms. A pilot, randomized controlled trial is looking to see if higher mindfulness scores are associated with a decrease in blood pressure, blood glucose, overall quality of life, anxiety and depression.1 Unfortunately, results are not out yet. The results of this study could pave the way for future research with implications for PCOS individuals and non-PCOS individuals who are overweight.

Mindfulness and Joint Pain

Mindfulness alters the way one copes with stress and pain.2 In knee osteoarthritis patients, mindfulness does not decrease the severity of pain but influences how one processes and perceives the pain.2 Higher mindfulness scores were associated with lower self-reported pain and a decrease in depression, stress, and increase in self-efficacy and quality of life.2 Similar results have been found in fibromyalgia, and low back pain studies.2 Recent meta-analysis studies show that interventions promoting mindfulness significantly reduced pain intensity and pain disability in chronic pain patients.2

Mindfulness and Cancer

The research on mindfulness and cancer is limited but what is there is reassuring. A small meta-analysis looked at randomized control trials and found statistically significant effects of mindfulness on reducing anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence, emotional well-being, fatigue, and physical function and health.10

The Benefits of Mindfulness go Beyond That of the Mind

Living a life of mindfulness paves the way to a healthier mind, body, and soul. It builds resiliences to stress, enables us to cope with pain and difficult life situations.

We’re Just Beginning to Understand the Benefits of Mindfulness

Current research strongly supports the use of mindfulness to reduce symptoms associated with a number of chronic health conditions such as depression, osteoarthritis, PCOS and anxiety. Future research needs to focus on standardizing mindfulness protocols that can be implemented in treatment protocols.


  1. Raja-Khan, Nazia et al. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction For Overweight/Obese Women With And Without Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Design And Methods Of A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial”. Contemporary Clinical Trials 41 (2015): 287-297. Web
  2. Lee, A.C. et al. “Mindfulness Is Associated With Psychological Health And Moderates Pain In Knee Osteoarthritis”. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage (2016): n. pag. Web.
  3. Zhang, Jun et al. “Effects Of Mindfulness-Based Therapy For Patients With Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis”. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 26 (2016): 1-10. Web.
  4. Fung, Teresa T. et al. “An Expanded Model For Mindful Eating For Health Promotion And Sustainability: Issues And Challenges For Dietetics Practice”. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 116.7 (2016): 1081-1086. Web.
  5. Mothes, Hendrik et al. “Regular Aerobic Exercise Increases Dispositional Mindfulness In Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. Mental Health and Physical Activity 7.2 (2014): 111-119. Web.
  6. Bostic, Jeff Q., et al. “Being present at school: implementing mindfulness in schools.” Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America 24.2 (2015): 245-259.
  7. Pepping, Christopher A. et al. “Adolescent Mindfulness And Psychopathology: The Role Of Emotion Regulation”. Personality and Individual Differences 99 (2016): 302-307. Web.
  8. P.J. Spijkerman, W.T.M. Pots, E.T. Bohlmeijer, Effectiveness of online mindfulness-based interventions in improving mental health: A review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 45, April 2016, Pages 102-114, ISSN 0272-7358, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2016.03.009.
  9. Britton, Willoughby B. et al. “A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial Of Classroom-Based Mindfulness Meditation Compared To An Active Control Condition In Sixth-Grade Children”. Journal of School Psychology 52.3 (2014): 263-278. Web.
  10. Zhang, Jun et al. “Effects Of Mindfulness-Based Therapy For Patients With Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis”. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 26 (2016): 1-10. Web.

    Dr. Olisa Mak is a licensed ND with a general family practice in downtown Vancouver.  She has a special interest in bringing awareness to the mind-body connection using homeopathy, botanicals and lifestyle counselling.
    She is driven to educate, inspire and empower those around her.  Everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams and goals but are often unable to because of their fears, perceptions and circumstances.  Dr. Mak strives to work with her patients to remove barriers, empowering patients to seize opportunities and to make the life they want a reality.

Website: www.olisamak.com and www.inspirithealth.ca
Facebook: DrOlisaMak.ND
Twitter: @DrOlisaMak

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