For the purpose of this article, we will refer to the term "mindfulness" as a mental state of being "aware" without being judgmental. And, "meditation" is the disciplined practice of being still, realized, and aware of the simple status your body and mind.
Mindfulness Meditation is the mental practice of being in the present, and focusing your thoughts on your internal physical and mental status as well as being. It's really a simple process that has been around forever, but in the last few years has comeback as a popular treatment for anxiety, depression, drug addiction, and just about issue related to the mind and emotions.
"People who practice mindfulness meditation start by finding a comfortable place to set and then focus on their breathing. It takes some practice, but over time people can learn to relax and replenish through meditation."
Most people who first begin mindfulness meditation find out how fast their mind tends to wander or obsess on pending issues. Thoughts begin to pop up and it's hard to focus on the present. For example, you might start thinking about all the things you must do this afternoon, or you might start thinkiing about issues such as paying the bills, needing to get milk, or pondering the mean statement that Rachel said to you this morning. When your mind wanders the mindfulness meditation protocol is to go back to focusing on your breathing.
"When you first start practicing mindfulness meditation you might be able to "be in the present" for about two minutes. But as you practice over time, most people can build up to 45 minutes to an hour of effective meditation based on mindfulness."
The important thing aboue Mindfulness Meditation is the premise that it is supposed to strengthen your immune system, and help you deal with stress. It is also supposed to help you relax, and therefore help you to improve social relationships with love ones, friends, co-workers and the thoughtless kid at McDonalds who gets your simple order wrong. Moreover, Mindfulness Meditation is supposed to help with self-control, personal objectivity, tolerance, concentration, emotional intelligence and the ability to be kind, compassionate and empathetic.
Mindfulness Meditation has experienced a huge surge in popularity over the last few years, especially in the professional therapeutic and treatment arena. Psychotherapists have come back to using this practice as an additional treatment modality for patients that suffer from anxiety, depression, and social phobias.
Advocates of Mindfulness Meditation believe that this type of treatment approach is useful for everyone regardless of their mental or emotional issue, including folks who have no issues at all. I came across an interesting article that I want to share with you. It's a good read, and shines some light on the topic. Very unique approach to understanding Mindfulness Meditation.
Ask an Expert: Are Mindfulness and Meditation Treatments Just a Fad?
Our expert discusses meditation's role in addiction recovery, AA, and cognitive therapy. Um...?
I am in psychotherapy for substance abuse with a therapist that I like. She is encouraging the use of mindfulness and other practices like meditation as part of my treatment. They seem foreign to me, as well as not in keeping with my usual ways of dealing with problems, which tend to be pretty concrete and direct. Are these ideas just fads or do you think that they deserve a place in addiction treatment?
William Berry: Thanks for your question. The idea of using meditation and mindfulness in psychotherapy may seem like a relatively new and fashionable idea, but it has been growing since the inception of psychotherapy itself.
The edited book, Mindfulness, Acceptance, and the Psychodynamic Evolution can be interpreted as an argument that this approach isn’t just the “third wave of behavior therapy,” but has been evident throughout the therapeutic tradition. A similar argument can be made about a mindfulness approach to addiction treatment.
To begin, a look at the benefit of meditation and mindfulness is in order. The benefits, as indicated by the abundance of research, seem endless. There have been numerous studies exuding the benefits of these interventions. These are summed nicely by Keng, Smoski, Robins:
“Benefits of mindfulness to psychological health report benefiting undergraduate students, community adults, and clinical populations (p.1043). Mindfulness has been associated with: higher levels of life satisfaction, agreeableness, conscientiousness, vitality, self-esteem, empathy, a sense of autonomy, competence, optimism, and pleasant affect.
Studies have also demonstrated significant negative correlations between mindfulness and depression, neuroticism, absent-mindedness, dissociation, rumination, cognitive reactivity, social anxiety, difficulties in emotion regulation, experiential avoidance, alexithymia, intensity of delusional experience in the context of psychosis and general psychological symptoms.” (p.1043).
Again citing Keng, Smoski, Robins, studies have also demonstrated that "meditators, as compared to non-meditators, reported significantly higher levels of mindfulness, self-compassion and overall sense of well-being, significantly lower levels of psychological symptoms, rumination, thought suppression, fear of emotion, and difficulties with emotion regulation. Changes in these variables were linearly associated with extent of meditation practice" (p.1043-1044). To continue reading this article scroll past the video below.
Mark Williams Talks About Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Depression
As if this weren’t enough, other studies indicate the benefits of mindfulness and meditation to biological functions. A study indicated the eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course increased positive affect and antibodies to an influenza vaccine. (Davidson, R; Kabat-Zinn, J; Schumacher, J; Et.al; 2003).
Another study suggests, “The rate of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis can be accelerated when subjects engage in an audiotape-guided, meditative stress reduction exercise during their UVB or PUVA treatment sessions.” (Kabat-Zinn, J; Wheeler, E; Light, T; Et.al; p.630).
A positive side effect of—or perhaps core component involved in—mindfulness is acceptance. When you non-judgmentally perceive the present moment, there is an underlying current of acceptance. Realizing this, and perhaps perceiving acceptance as one of the beneficial aspects of the mindfulness movement, a type of therapy was developed based on its use—Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. ACT consists of six core processes (Hayes). Without listing them here (you can get some helpful information from the link in the references) the core processes use mindfulness techniques to foster and deepen acceptance.
The evidence for the psychological benefits of mindfulness, meditation, and acceptance are clear. There are empirical studies supporting all three. These techniques lead to better psychological health, which in turn leads to a happier and healthier life. Though the studies are relatively new, the idea of using meditation, mindfulness (a non-judgmental purposeful awareness of the moment), and acceptance, has been around addiction recovery since the inception of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Perhaps one of the best short passages on acceptance in addiction comes from the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1939, the year the book (called “Alcoholics Anonymous” but commonly referred to as the “Big Book”) was published, Dr. Paul Ohliger penned the following:
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.
Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world, as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes. (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Ed., page 417).
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Guided Meditation and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
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