What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness refers to our capacity for being present and attentive to what occurs within and around us, moment-to-moment.  Mindfulness also refers to our capacity for approaching our lives and the daily challenges and decisions we face in a reflective and ethical manner and with kindness and compassion for others and ourselves.  Being mindful increases engagement with the present moment and allows for a clearer understanding of how thoughts and emotions impact our state of mind, our behaviors and ultimately our overall health and quality of life. Mindfulness is a skill we can develop through practice that promotes overall well being and happiness and helps us more effectively manage the stress of our modern, busy lives.

Benefits

Consistent mindfulness practice increases our capacity for attentiveness, presence, awareness and emotion regulation and generally promotes a more open, relaxed, less reactive and more flexible and resilient state of mind.  Current neuroscience research indicates that consistent mindfulness practice significantly improves overall brain health, performance and resilience.

Definition of Mindfulness

Paying Attention

Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally (Kabat-Zinn, 1994)

Being Present

Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999)

Being Psychologically Free

A state of psychological freedom that occurs when attention remains quiet and limber, without attachment to any particular point of view (Martin, 1997).

Nonjudgmental Awareness/Acceptance

… a kind of non-elaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, 1998; Shapiro & Schwartz, 1999, 2000; Teasdale, 1999; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002; as cited in Bishop et al., 2004

Self-Regulated Attention

The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance (Bishop, Lau, and colleagues, 2004).

Research Findings

While the field of mindfulness research is still very much in its developmental phase, the evidence thus far points to many positive outcomes from mindfulness training and practice.  The “brief summary” below represent initial findings, which may or may not be conclusive.  Current neuroscience research is finding that the state of health and/or functioning of our brain impacts the quality of life in just about every dimension of our lives, including work performance, relationships, family life, physical and mental well being, healthy aging and so forth.  The good news is that mindfulness training shows great promise in improving brain health and functionality across most dimensions of brain activity.

Brain & Body Benefits

Attention and Sensor

The cortical regions of the brain related to attention and sensory processing are strengthened.

ADHD

The symptoms of Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder (ADHD) (i.e., lack of focus, sustained attention, and follow through, disorganization) are reduced.

Brain Structure

Our brain responds to mindfulness by making positive changes in its density and structure. Mindfulness is good for brain plasticity, or flexibility.

Immune system

There is evidence that mindfulness meditation strengthens our immune system.

Stress

Awareness allows the body to recover sooner from stressful situations because cortisol (the primary human stress hormone) levels decrease more quickly than in those who do not practice mindfulness.

Emotion & Mood Benefits

Strengthens Frontal Cortex

The frontal cortex of the brain that picks up on emotional cues is activated and becomes sharper.

Empathic Awareness

Long term mindfulness practitioners show higher levels of empathic awareness. (Empathic awareness is sensing another person’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions.)

Positivity

A person’s affect becomes generally more positive.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

Symptoms of anxiety and depression are reduced or minimized.

Less Relapse

People prone to depression are more likely to relapse

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