What is Mindfulness and Why is it Important? Part 1

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.  

While it originated in ancient Buddhist meditation practices, people of all ages and belief systems can enjoy its many benefits (there is no necessary religious component).

Between efforts to juggle the demands of our work, home, marriages, and children, we are often “not present” in our own lives.  Our minds are easily distracted, constantly examining past events or attempting to anticipate what will happen in the future.  Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without judgment or criticism, can have a major positive impact on our lives.  The idea is that mindfulness helps us step away from our automatic, often unconscious, emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events, so that we can see situations more clearly and respond in more thoughtful and effective ways.  Not surprisingly, there is a strong body of research that supports the role of mindfulness in reducing stress, improving quality of life, and even helping to reduce mental health symptoms.   

How is mindfulness learned?

There are many different approaches to learning mindfulness that are effective.  The most widely recognized and researched modern forms of mindfulness are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), both of with are taught using a standard curriculum.  Both MBSR and MBCT are taught as 8 week programs with participants meeting for 2-3 hours per week as a group and practicing individually at home between sessions.  Most training includes a body scan exercise, two sitting meditations, a walking meditation, gentle stretching/body awareness exercises, and a three-minute mindfulness meditation.  

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I discuss how I learned mindfulness through the practice of yoga.  

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress-reduction/

Your Guide to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: http://mbct.com

Mindfulnet.org