MINDFULNESS-BASED STRESS REDUCTION THERAPY
The future depends on present-moment living.
Mindfulness helps to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness which encourages individuals to connect to the present moment, rather than living in the past or the future. It is based on the ancient practice of mindfulness which is about slowing down and being fully alive and present in the richness of each moment of our life. Mindfulness helps in gaining access to deep inner resources for living, healing and coping with stress through mindful practices, and meditation. Research shows that mindfulness practices help with a variety of ailments including stress, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and chronic pain.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular, inspiring countless programs to adapt the MBSR model for schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and beyond.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some of these benefits, which extend across many different settings.
Mindfulness is good for our bodies: A seminal study found that, after just eight weeks of training, practicing mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
Mindfulness is good for our minds: Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress. Indeed, at least one study suggests it may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression and preventing relapse.
Mindfulness changes our brains: Research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills..
Mindfulness fosters compassion and altruism: Research suggests mindfulness training makes us more likely to help someone in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions. Evidence suggests it might boost self-compassion as well.
Mindfulness fights obesity: Practicing “mindful eating” encourages healthier eating habits, helps people lose weight, and helps them savor the food they do eat.
Mindfulness helps health care professionals cope with stress, connect with their patients , and improve their general quality of life. It also helps mental health professionals by reducing negative emotions and anxiety, and increasing their positive emotions and feelings of self-compassion.
Mindfulness helps veterans: Studies suggest it can reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of war.
How to Cultivate Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn emphasizes that although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. “It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he says, “It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”
Here are a few key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify:
Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.
How does Mindfulness work in a therapy setting?
Verbal cues help the person in therapy maintain awareness of movement, breathing, and sensations throughout several different exercises. Breathing exercises, body scan meditations, and guided imagery are also often used in mindfulness approaches.
Eventually, the person in therapy is encouraged to practice mindfulness in daily life. This continuation of the therapeutic process allows the individual to observe, explore, and experience mindfulness in a non-clinical environment and later examine, in session, the effects and obstacles encountered during daily life. The combined observations and examination can often become a catalyst for behavior and thought modification.
Designed to deliberately focus a person’s attention on the present experience in a way that is non-judgmental, mindfulness-based interventions, offer several positive mental health benefits. These benefits can help enhance your journey toward self-actualization and feeling happily and usefully whole.
How Mindful Are You?
Find out by taking the Greater Good mindfulness quiz which is based on the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale.