Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor of medicine defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises from consciously paying attention to the present moment, and non-judgmentally. In other words, it is the practice of remaining in the present moment and accepting your feelings without judgment while focusing on bodily sensations. It can be practiced during meditation or while performing certain activities such as cleaning.
Becoming aware of our present moment can aid us in understanding ourselves better, we might begin to see things differently and appreciate the little things. Similarly, mindfulness has been suggested to be a lifesaver for rumination or overthinking, because it makes the person focus on the present moment, the individual instead of placing energy on his or her thoughts placing all the energy on focusing in the present, which can, in turn, stop the overthinking. Additionally, it has been noted that the practice of mindfulness can enhance awareness and thus improve the manner we react toward the environment or our thoughts.
There have suggested being certain health benefits concerning the practice of mindfulness:
- Stress reduction: consistent mindfulness practice is capable of reducing stress because it is capable of increasing positive affect (mood) and decreasing anxiety by decreasing negative affect.
- Working memory: in a study conducted by Jha et al. (2010) the researchers compared two military groups, one that practiced mindfulness for 8 weeks and another group that did not, both groups experienced high levels of stress and as a result, the authors found how the group that practiced meditation for 8 weeks had stable working memory capabilities whilst the group that did not practice mindfulness had working memory impairments.
- Attention: In another study conducted by Moore and Marinowski in 2009 two groups, expert meditators, and non-experts were compared to see which group has better attentional performance, the results suggested that experts on mindful meditation acquired better attention performance which was correlated with greater attentional functioning.
- Emotional reactivity: this phenomenon is related to emotional responses with different intensities and frequencies. In a study conducted by Jagannathan in 2013, the researcher aimed at looking at how mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of mindfulness, affected emotional reactivity to unpleasant and pleasant pictures. The results of the study suggested that individuals who practice MBSR present less emotionally intense evaluations of positive and negative valence-related pictures.
- Cognitive flexibility: other suggestions have been that mindfulness aids in acquiring greater cognitive flexibility. Indeed, individuals that practice mindfulness develop self-observation skills, besides being able to enable individuals to develop more adaptive responses to stressors.
Mindfulness originated from ancient eastern philosophy. It has been suggested by research to contribute towards a broad range of positive aspects regarding mental health. Therefore, it might be crucial for mental health experts to apply further research into how mindfulness could be applied in psychotherapy and how it could increase remission rates among patients with certain disorders.
by Marta Padron Pena, Mental Health Intern
Jagannathan, A. (2013). Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Reactivity and Self‐ Association with Emotional Stimuli. University of California San Diego. https://cogsci.ucsd.edu/_files/undergraduates/past-honors-theses/2013-2014/2014_thesis_akash_jagannathan.pdf
Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10(1), 54–64. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018438
Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and cognition, 18(1), 176–186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2008.12.008