What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is recommended as a treatment for people with mental ill-health as well as those who want to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
There are also different sorts of mindfulness meditation which can help people in different ways. Evidence shows compelling support for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which helps people to cope with stress, and for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is designed to help people with recurring depression. They provide a flexible set of skills to manage mental health and support wellbeing.
Mindfulness can be useful for people from all different walks of life and the number of areas that mindfulness is being applied to is growing.
Mindfulness can be helpful for many mental and physical health problems, as well as for improving well-being more generally.
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. This makes it particularly relevant in an age when some of our main health-care challenges are stress-related — mental health problems, psychological impacts of chronic long-term illness and stress-related physical conditions.
In mindfulness we’re concerned with noticing what’s going on right now. That doesn’t mean we no longer think about the past or future, but when we do so we do by intentionally bringing our awareness, our sense of focus, towards our present moment experience, and we create spaciousness in our hearts and minds where choice, equanimity, compassion and a sense of liberation can flourish. A very important aspect of our mindfulness training is the development of compassion, relating to ourselves with a warm sense of curiosity and acceptance.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center talks of mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Mindfulness is a responsive state. We don’t judge that this experience is good and that one is bad; that would be reinforcing our likes/dislikes. Our practice is to turn towards whatever arises with a sense of acceptance and compassion. We observe mindfully, we notice our thoughts as self arising, self displaying and self liberating and ceasing to exist.
Meditation practices more generally have been shown to increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure and protect people at risk of developing hypertension, as well as reduce the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease, and to reduce its severity. People who meditate have fewer hospital admissions for heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases, and visit their doctor half as often compared to people who don’t meditate.
Mindfulness can also reduce addictive behaviour, and meditation practices generally have been found to help reduce use of illegal drugs, prescribed medication, alcohol and caffeine.