According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading international expert in mindfulness-based stress reduction, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Have you ever reacted more intensely than a situation warranted? Walked into a room to get something, and forgotten why you are there? Spaced out during a conversation and lost track of what the other person said? Arrived at a destination, not remembering much of your drive? Most of us have had experiences like these. Mindfulness helps us stay aware of the present moment so that we can more richly savor the positive moments, and approach the more challenging ones in a calmer, wiser, more grounded way. It can also help us be more aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, behaviors, and patterns, listen to our bodies and intuition, and be thoughtful, rather than reactive, as we can consider negative feedback and reactions from others.
Often times, distress is not due to the present moment itself, but rather what our minds are telling us about that experience or ourselves, or worries about the future or past on which or minds may be focusing. Other times, distress comes from battling our thoughts and feelings, and fighting against a reality that can’t be changed. In these kinds of situations, changing our behaviors and perspectives can be helpful, but often isn’t enough. Life can be hard and painful, and mindfulness can train us to live in the present with more acceptance and curiosity and less judgment, which can make it much more manageable, tolerable, and fulfilling.
Over 40 years of scientific research shows that mindfulness-based approaches are effective in reducing stress and treating a variety of physical and mental health issues including anxiety and depression. In recent years, neuroscientific and clinical research have highlighted the positive effects of mindfulness on the brain and the mechanisms by which mindfulness practice exerts its effects. Two mindfulness-based treatments with a strong evidence-base include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Many other approaches, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also integrate mindfulness-based approaches. Although mindfulness has its origins in ancient meditation practices, and does not include religious components. People from a variety of religious backgrounds and spiritual orientations can benefit from mindfulness practices.
Body-based mindfulness practices, such as yoga and tai chi, are also extremely effective, and many people prefer these modalities to mindfulness-based talk therapies. If you are interested in pursuing some of these modalities as part of your treatment, let us know, and we can help offer suggestions for effective ways of integrating them into your overall treatment plan.