“Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.”
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation. However, in recent years and due to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) program, the secular practice of being mindful has reached mainstream America.
There a lot of confusion as to what being mindful is all about. This article aims to clear things up.
What is the meaning of mindfulness?
By definition, it is a quality or state of being aware or conscious of something. It is often achieved by being aware of the present moment and acknowledging and accepting thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations calmly.
In the world of clinical psychology and psychiatry, it is used as a basis for a number of therapeutic applications that are designed for people who are experiencing a variety of psychological conditions.
The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is also used to treat drug addiction.
What is the history of mindfulness?
The practice of mindfulness has been around for thousands of years with origins in Eastern philosophy. It was only in less than half a century when mindfulness was practiced in Western societies.
Mindfulness is a critical part of ancient meditation practices that are performed all over the world. Its history can be traced back throughout the history of religion.
- 1500 BCE – this marks the beginning of mindfulness in Hinduism, particularly in the yoga context.
- 6th c. BCE – in Daoism under the context of qì gong exercise
- 535 BCE – in Buddhism, with focus on breathing
- 1970 – during the latter part of the year, Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of modern-day Mindfulness, founded Umass Medical School’s Stress Reduction Clinic.
- 1990 – the year when the MBSR program was further developed by John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Seagal, giving birth to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which combines mindfulness with CBT.
The science behind mindfulness and how it works
“The inner peace of an alert and calm mind is the source of real happiness and good health.”
– Dalai Lama
It may seem hard to reconcile a Buddhist-inspired practice with science, but links have been established over the years. The number of scientists who studied mindfulness has certainly increased but the road to conclusive findings is still long.
What has been proven however, is the many benefits of mindfulness meditation.
- Sharpens attention
- Help counter habituation
- Reduce mind-wandering
- Improve problem-solving abilities
- Increase resiliency to stress
- Develop compassionate attitudes and increase compassion
- Improve mental health
A small pilot study conducted in 2016, looked into the impact of mindfulness practice in the parents’ brains. Researchers used neuroimaging. They also asked the children about their parents’ parenting quality following the study.
Turns out, the parent-child relationship improved because mindfulness activates the part of a parent’s brain that is involved in emotional regulation and empathy.
Where is mindfulness currently applied?
With the growing number of mindfulness programs, there is wide application of the practice as well.
- Schools – to teach students how to mindful engaged in focus concentration and self-regulate behavior.
- Business – improve employee well-being and workplace functioning.
- Prison – reduce mood disturbance, hostility, and substance use among inmates. This results in improved self-esteem, relaxation capacity, optimism, and self-regulation.
- Sports – to help athletes gain a competitive edge and maximize their performance by getting a “sense of flow.”
Military – reduce psychological stress response, enhance the ability to deal with the psychological impact of war, and to enhance post-stress recovery.