What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state of increased focus, heightened awareness and openness. It receives more and more attention within psychology as a means for reducing stress, improving well-being, and the ability to flow with a given situation, enabling to react with an appropriate emotional response.
- focused in the reality of the present moment
- enhanced awareness of moment-to-moment experience
- acknowledging without getting caught up in emotional reactions
- reduced negative affect and improved vitality
- flexibility in coping with a given situation
The ability to notice what is going on as it arises and to pause before we respond is an important skill in coping with potentially stressful demands at work and at home. Mindfulness meditation training has been shown to foster the ability to recognise very quick emotional impulses and provide the inner freedom to let them go.
A plethora of research has meanwhile shown positive effects of mindfulness training in various patient groups, including patients suffering from chronic pain, cancer, anxiety disorders, depression and the stresses of contexts as diverse as medical school and prison life. In non-clinical populations it has also been shown to induce positive affect and appears to improve the responsiveness of the immune system.
The roots of mindfulness
Mindfulness training is an integral part of Buddhist meditation practices that have been developed, tested and successfully employed for more than 2500 years.
However, developing mindfulness and being mindful in ones daily activities does not require converting to Buddhism or embracing the whole of Buddhist teachings, as it relies on universal principles of the functions of our mind.
Mindfulness training aims at refining our attention and awareness, enabling us to stay focused even in situations of outer or inner turmoil, to observe the interplay of the multitude of influences that shape a given situation and to gain the inner space that allows making the most beneficial decisions.