We live in times of uncertainty, anxiety and crisis: be it political, economic or personal. The fast pace of the modern world has filled our lives with constant pressures: to achieve the best results, to live “well”, to be fit and stylish. For some this stress has become a way of life. As a result, you can easily get caught up in a competition for false happiness, losing the concept of reality. This can lead to a loss of trust in yourself and of the feelings of empathy and compassion. It can leave you struggling to deal with the force of your emotions.
What is mindfulness?
Imagine a non-judgmental and ever present positive force. A child-like openness and curiosity for life. A deep emotional acceptance, allowing yourself and others to just be. A smooth ride on life's emotional roller coaster - consciously conquering every peak and accepting every trough. A connection to the present. A trust in yourself and life. An ability to dance life's dance, but to your own rhythm.
The benefits of meditation have been known for centuries, but only recently has the practice of mindfulness become integrated into psychotherapy, psychology and even neuroscience. The first scholars to integrate the practice into psychology were pioneers John Kabat-Zinn and Zindel Segal. Mindfulness is an awareness that arises through focusing attention – non-judgmentally - on the world inside (feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations) and around you (sounds, smells etc).
“Awareness of present experience with acceptance” (Christopher Germer, PhD, et al)
“A powerful act of participatory observation” (Rebecca Crane, PhD, MA, PFHEA, DipCot)
“A state of psychological freedom… without attachment to any particular point of
view” (Jeffery R. Martin, PhD)
A significant number of studies matching every requirement of evidence-based medicine, have confirmed the effectiveness of mindful meditation, not just for resolving psychological problems (stress, depression, anxiety, addictions), but also other health issues (cardiological, chronic pain, dermatological, respiratory disease, and oncological). The practice of mindfulness in one form or another has a positive effect on the health system itself and therefore leads to improvements in your personal and professional life.
Mindfulness can be defined as:
- A psychological process of "awareness",
- Improvement of concentration,
- Meditation practice,
- Personal or professional disposition,
- A specific mode of processing information ,
- A state of being
So what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a concerted non-judgmental effort to increase awareness and full appreciation and understanding of the world inside and around you.
“Awareness of present experience with acceptance” (Germe)
“A powerful act of participatory observation” (Crane)
“A state of psychological freedom…without attachment to any particular point of
The awareness of "the moment" is a goal in itself, and it is highly important not to judge the moment. It is neither good nor bad in the conventional sense. It is just how it is. However, it is also important to understand that mindfulness is not some magic pill that cures all ills. It must never become a substitute for a course of psychotherapy or psychiatric medication when required. In my opinion, mindfulness is a highly effective addition to the above, helping the individual adopt a more accepting and harmonious approach to living which ultimately leads to a more fulfilled life.
For those not yet ready for full counselling, mindfulness can be a first step towards adopting a more accepting approach to the negative forces in life. It can help maintain emotional balance, nipping negative thoughts in the bud and leading to improved social relationships, conflict resolution and generally a more positive outlook on life. It can help develop the qualities of compassion, kindness, acceptance, openness and curiosity.
The aforementioned process of awareness can be part of the counselling process or be specifically practiced during individual or group therapy, combining the world famous MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) or MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) programmes. The aim of these courses is for the individual to achieve stress relief and emotional balance.
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