What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

What can mindfulness really do?

January 20, 2013, 12:00 AM

A good friend--I'll call her Tandy here--is a huge fan of meditation.  She spends a good hour each day practicing "mindfulness."  She credits her practice with a more calm demeanor, a faster-working brain and a healthier body.  She's certainly not the first to do so.  Advocates of meditation claim myriad health benefits--and I know of more than a few ongoing clinical trials that are looking at the benefits of yoga and other meditative techniques on treatments for cancer and other chronic diseases.

Turns out Tandy--as well as the scores of other people who believe that meditation and mindfulness are having positive impact on their health--may be on to something.  A recent study by neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center have found that "mindfulness" may relieve chronic inflammation. The study was published in the Brain, Behavior and Immunity journal.

Melissa Rosenkranz, an assistant scientist at the center and lead author of the sutdy, compared two stress-reducing techniques.  The first was focused on health and involved nutritional information, walking, core-strengthening exercises and music therapy.  Basically, a lot of the stuff that is involved with common "mindfulness" techniques without actually invoking any of the "mindfulness" itself.  The second group got the same kind of information, but with a focus on meditation and "mindfulness."  They then measured psychological stress in each participant--as well as immune and endocrine measures.  They also induced inflammation on the skin using a capsaicin cream.

What did Rosencrantz and her colleagues find?  While both techniques helped to reduce stress, the "mindfulness" approach was better at decreasing the inflammation.  It's a result that may have some bearing on people who are suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma. 

Of course, "mindfulness" isn't the end-all-be-all.  Rosenkranz, in a press release for the study, was quoted as saying, "This is not a cure-all, but our study does show that there are specific ways that mindfulness can be beneficial, and that there are specific people who may be more likely to benefit from this approach than other interventions."

What do you think?  Is "mindfulness" a viable treatment for chronic conditions?  Should doctors be suggesting it to their patients?

Photo credit:  Pikoso.kz/shutterstock.com


What can mindfulness really...

Newsletter: Share: