“MINDFULNESS” - Scientific Evidence Suggests It Works
Posted on January 06 2016
It is the practice of purposely focusing attention on the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future or getting caught up in making judgments about what’s happening. Thoughts are shifted away from distractions or preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment.
Mounting scientific evidence suggests mindfulness can increase enjoyment of life and improve emotional and physical health.
Most of us are multitaskers—working, volunteering, parenting, helping troubled partners, grieving friends, or aging parents. Then there are always those concerns about the economy and the world situation.
We feel pressured, stressed, and unable to concentrate. We rush through activities without paying attention, snack and overeat without noticing, and listen to friends or associates without really hearing them.
Life unfolds in the present, but so often we let the present slip away, squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. We’re always doing something and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.
Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened.
A common way of promoting mindfulness is through meditation, which typically involves sitting quietly for 20 minutes or so and using a repeated phrase, the breath, or an image to help focus attention and quiet the parade of distracting thoughts that arise. A cartoon I recall from The New Yorker sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”
Mindfulness in daily life
Try to make common daily occurrences a reminder to focus on the present, think about what you’re doing, and observe yourself doing it—even things like answering the phone or buckling your seat belt.
Pay attention to your breathing when you stop at red lights.
Find a task you usually do impatiently or unconsciously—like waiting in line or brushing your teeth—and devote your full attention to the thoughts, sensations, and feelings you’re experiencing.
Before going to sleep and on waking, take a few slow, “mindful” breaths. Focus on the effects of your breathing on your nostrils, lungs, and abdomen.
If the present moment is stressful—perhaps you’re about to have a medical test or give a speech—observe your thoughts and emotions and how they affect your body.
Many psychotherapists now incorporate mindfulness practices in the treatment of problems such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. Mindfulness doesn’t replace traditional therapies, but it helps these treatments work better.
I wish you calm and serenity now and throughout all your days.
For more extensive reading on Mindfulness see:
Gurantana, Henepola, (2011), Mindfulness in Plain English, Springfield, MA, Wisdom Publications
Langer, E.J., (1989), Mindfulness, Cambridge, MA, Perseus Books