The most widely used definition of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn:
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."
(From Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, page 4, Hyperion, 2005)
Mindfulness and different forms of mindfulness-based interventions has been investigated scientifically since the late 1970's. Research has shown a number of positive effects, including:
• Reduced stress
• Increased immune function
• Decreased pain
• More positive emotions
• Reduced risk of depression relapse
• Less anxiety
• Increased social connection and emotional intelligence
• Changes in the brain's structure and function
• Increased grey matter
• Increased volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions and self-control
• Improved ability to regulate emotions
• Improved memory
• Increased focus and attention
(Source where you can find links to each study: Psychology Today 2013-09-11)
The graph below shows how the number of scientific publications has increased in the last decades. The first paper in 1982 comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, as well as a number of other papers in the early years of the curve of scientific papers by year. At the end of the 1990's around 20 studies were published, and in 2012 that number had increased to 477 studies.
Source: DS Black (2013). Mindfulness Research Guide.