Where did mindfulness all begin?
In its Buddhist form, mindfulness is traditionally meditation through the form of sitting and seeking enlightenment and wisdom. This is based upon the notion that suffering causes pain and the more we block out suffering the more unhappiness we feel. Individuals create a pretend identity whereby convincing themselves and others that they are happy and fine when in fact they are not, they are blocking out suffering and thus is manifests.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. Mindfulness techniques include ones such as yoga, breathing exercises and meditation. It can promote both positive physical and mental health.
The term “mindfulness” is used frequently in the field of Psychology and is usually presumed to be synonymous with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). As CBT has progressed and developed over the decades, mindfulness has earned itself a salient role in current CBT approaches otherwise known as “third wave CBT”.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a modern phenomenon which encompasses a combination of mindfulness and meditation and cognitive therapy (CT). MBCT can also be integrated into dialectical cognitive therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy too.
Founded by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, John Tisdale. MBCT is very effective in the treatment of depression. For depression is an episodic disorder whereby an individual can recover from a bout of depression and has a high chance of relapsing in the future.
Thus mindfulness and meditation as a form of therapy that can prevent the individual from dwelling on the past and their current relapse state of depression and instead focus on the present and acknowledging their emotions instead of trying to repress them.
MBCT is successful is treating and preventing relapse of depression through attempt to destroy the negative patterns of thoughts. Within research, MBCT has been found to significantly reduce the chance of a relapse in depression (Teasdale et al. 2000).
A Hybrid Therapy
The notion of mindfulness can be found in many other beliefs and cognitive techniques such as meta-cognition. Meta-cognition refers to tuning in to one’s own cognitive processes. Using the example of meta-cognition and learning skills, it can be understood as the ability to maximise your potential and adapt learning skills to improve one’s cognitive processing.
For instance, if one is self-regulated and has a meta-cognitive awareness of how their mind works, they will be aware of their strengths and the strategies needed to regulate learning processes. Therefore, by incorporating mindfulness, self- regulation and meta-cognitive strategies; one can effectively process academic texts/literature. The more these skills are used, the easier it will become to effectively train one’s mind into unconsciously putting these learning skills into practice each time a task occurs.
This same notion can be applied to being in tune and aware of one’s emotions. An awareness of stimuli that can evoke negative emotions will enable the individual to regulate and hold some form of control over the emotions they experience. As mentioned before, mindfulness, self-regulation and meta-cognition all fall under the same branch and can be combined together within a therapeutic approach. The integration of such approaches can evoke the best results in MBCT.
Who can use mindfulness?
Anyone and everyone! Mindfulness as a therapeutic technique does not have to be delivered by a trained professional in a clinical setting; it is a therapeutic activity that you can engage with, in your own time and in the comfort of your own home.
You most probably have used some of the core techniques of mindfulness at same point in your life without realising. For instance an example would be, just before an important exam- staying focused solely on the task ahead and nothing further ahead into the future.
Or perhaps before a promotion interview where you are acutely aware of your nerves, but you do not let them get the better of you. You simply, acknowledge the feeling of anxiety and accept this feeing and move on with your thoughts in answering the next question fired at you.
Mindlessness Vs. Mindfulness
Mindlessness is a state that most of us spend our daily lives in, thinking about the past, worrying about the future and not having the time to stop and fully appreciate the present moment. Mindfulness is the opposite to mindless, intentional observation of the environment and thought processes is encouraged. The way to change our emotions and state of depression or anxiety is to firstly challenge our thoughts which precede our emotions. At the core of mindfulness is the notion of accepting and not avoiding or challenging.
Consider this analogy: Where we cannot stop the noise of the city, we must learn to block out the noise and find our own inner harmony.
Thus, we must take an active stance in accepting our feelings and emotions and thus having an autonomous stance where we are in control of them. We are all capable of obtaining control of our thoughts and tuning into our emotions; it is a matter of temperament and self-reflection.
Written by Kate Beale