The practice of mindfulness dates back thousands of years with some of its origins rooted in the practices of early eastern religions including Hinduism and Buddhism.Since its secular introduction to the west by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the late 1970’s, scientific interest in the application of mindfulness interventions keeps growing. A number of mindfulness-based interventions have been developed and tested over a wide range of target populations, successfully treating both emotional and behavioral disorders. Some also enhance well-being for non-clinical populations.
Some of these include:
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (Kabat-Zinn)
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale)
- Mindfulness-based eating awareness (Kristeller, Bear, & Quillian-Wolever)
- Mindfulness-based strengths practice (Niemiec)
Attention to the Here and Now
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as
“the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
To broaden a participant’s self-awareness around the most important building blocks of mindfulness, attention, and the present moment, is the fundamental goal that many of these programs and interventions aim to achieve.
“The goal of mindfulness interventions is to teach participants to become aware of body sensations, thoughts, and emotions and to relate to them with an open, non-judgmental attitude.” (Shapiro, Astin, Bishop, & Cordova, 2005).
Increasing a participant’s awareness is achieved through a number of formal and informal techniques.
Formal techniques include meditative exercises that are central to a mindfulness intervention. They are generally performed in a group session with the supervision of a trainer. People are often encouraged to perform them at home daily with a guided audio file. Some examples include the body scan, which aims to make participants aware of each part of their bodies, and seated meditation, which highlights breath as the main focal point.
Informal techniques are mindfulness interventions that aim to enhance mindful awareness during everyday life situations. They require participants to maintain a single focus of attention and develop the ability to turn back to the object of attention if distraction should occur.Mindfulness X
The rise in scientific studies since the year 2000 has led to valuable insights into the underlying mechanisms and positive effects of mindfulness. As a result, many programs and resources have become widely accessible for helping professionals across all fields.
Mindfulness X was developed in the Netherlands by Dr. Hugo Alberts, psychologist, researcher, and entrepreneur. The program combines the practice and psychology behind mindfulness to help trainers apply a science-based mindfulness approach to their client bases. It divides mindfulness into eight different building blocks:
- Attention & The Now – cultivating attention to the present moment
- Automaticity – exploring the automatic nature of thoughts
- Judgment – exploring the judgmental nature of mind
- Acceptance – applying acceptance to difficult emotions
- Goals – finding a balance between being in the present moment and planning for the future
- Compassion – effectively cultivating a friendly and caring relationship with the self
- The Ego – defining the difference between the self as a story and the self as an observer
- Integration – integrating mindfulness into daily life
Benefits of Mindfulness Training
Research on mindfulness has shown many beneficial effects.
Zindel Segal Ph.D., founder of MCBT and professor of brain and therapeutics at the University of Toronto has shown that using meditation in psychotherapy can help participants with depression keep from relapsing.
Through studying the neuroscience of mindfulness, Sarah Lazar Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, has suggested that these practices could also make structural changes in the brain and possibly slow age-related atrophy.
From mindful interventions that aid in stress-reduction to mindful eating practices that could help counter obesity, further science-based research into mindfulness interventions will allow the field to continue to develop tools that help professionals understand how to treat some of the underlying causes of emotional or behavioral disorders, not just ameliorate the resulting physical symptoms.
Editor’s Note: Positive Psychology News has an affiliate arrangement with Mindfulness X. If you order it via this link, PPN gets an affiliate fee to apply to site maintenance.
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