As we often hear about mindfulness, many have doubted its effectiveness. Mindfulness is impactful on its own, but it can also be combined with other interventions to aid in the exploration of better Mental Health. Mindfulness originated from Hindu and Buddhist teachings, the practice was then popularized in the West through the work of Job Kabat-Zinn. Zinn ultimately brought mindfulness into his clinical practice. He found that pain, anxiety, and stress can be reduced through his creation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Mindfulness encompasses two major ingredients, which are acceptance and awareness. Acceptance indicates accepting our thoughts and feelings, regardless of being positive and negative, and involving ourselves in the present moment without judgment. As for the awareness component, one must learn to pay attention to the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or thinking about the future. The conscious awareness includes being mindful of one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors.
According to Psychology Today, the goal of mindfulness is to cultivate perspective on one’s consciousness and identity which can bring greater peace mentally and relationally. On the other hand, the opposite of mindfulness would be those moments we are familiar with. These are those moments when our body works on “autopilot”. For example, you may notice that you would say something rude out of anger, without realizing that your actions were driven by your emotions, until it was too late. To prevent acting on impulse, one way to practice is through mindfulness-based techniques. Not only are mindfulness-based treatments widely used in psychotherapy, but individuals are also highly encouraged to utilize mindfulness for non-clinical issues due to the wide range of benefits.
Here are some scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness:
- Mindfulness helps to relieve symptoms of depression and may help prevent these symptoms from relapse. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a form of therapy that incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR); MBCT includes activities such as meditation, yoga, body scan exercises to help individuals put their attention on awareness and acceptance.
- Research has shown that mindfulness may enhance one’s emotional regulation by helping the individual to identify and manage their feelings. Emotional regulation refers to the ability to effectively respond and manage to an emotional experience. With the increase of emotional regulation, one will find it easier to cope with their feelings, notice ultimate results in many areas of their life, including their relationships and wellbeing.
- In a research in 2019, research found that mindfulness practices are related to improvements in short-term memory. If you’ve ever forgotten an event or misplaced your items, it may be due to the long-term autopilot mode. These moments of forgetfulness are due to proactive interference. Proactive interference is when your older memories interfere with the brain’s ability to process new ones. Other cognitive improvements that can be found through mindfulness practices are sustained attention (i.e. ability to focus your attention for longer period), cognitive flexibility (i.e. ability to shift your thoughts and attention even when distractions are present), and cognitive inhibition (i.e., ability to suppress other thoughts that may interfere with your focus).
- Individuals who practice mindfulness are shown to have a positive impact on their interpersonal relationships. Mindfulness may help individuals to be more accepting of others’ flaws and imperfections, which then lead to a higher satisfaction of their relationships. Mindfulness may make it easier for individuals to accept that people are not always perfect, instead of focusing on their flaws and wanting to change them.
- Research has suggested that mindfulness practices help to relieve symptoms of many health conditions. Mindfulness is linked to improvements in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, pain management, and Type II diabetes. Mindfulness has shown potential impact on improving one’s mood and relieving stress, it is especially helpful for those who are dealing with chronic illness.
There are many mindfulness activities for you to consider. If you can incorporate them into your daily routine, you will notice positive changes as time goes on. People often conclude that meditation is the only way to practice mindfulness however this is not entirely true. While mindful meditation is one of them, there are also other mindfulness activities such as practicing gratitude, mindful driving, mindful eating, five senses scavenger hunt, breathing exercises, and body scanning. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and incorporating it into your routine, do not hesitate to reach out to Capital EAP and speak with one of our clinicians to find out more.
By, Jessica Lau, MHC, EAP Clinician