Scholars have been interested in mindfulness for the last 30 years, however, this is a small fraction of the 2500-year tradition of examining and practising mindfulness interventions in Buddhist cultures. A lot of the psychological research on mindfulness and its interventions have been impacted by Buddhist scholarship, yet mindfulness is not limited to Buddhism or Buddhist contemplative practices. Therefore, even though “mindfulness” has been gaining more attention over the past three decades, the practice itself has a long history…

Mindfulness as a Construct

Scholars have been discussing how to define mindfulness as a construct for quite some time, and one of the working definitions states that mindfulness is a practice of being consciously attentive to one’s current state. This is different from the daily routines many of us are used to, where our thoughts drift away, we act without thought, or we attempt to push away undesirable feelings. The mindless states that often occur in our day-to-day lives have been proven to be less than desirable; studies have found that our minds wander almost half the time and that this leads to unhappiness. In contrast, being mindful is linked to improved well-being.

Activating Consciousness

Mindfulness encourages being conscious and aware of the present moment. This can involve being conscious of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and perceptions which has also been referred to as “watchfulness” or a “lucid awareness of each experience that presents itself”. Additionally, having an attitude of acceptance towards whatever the present moment brings is essential. However, this does not mean simply accepting a situation without any change, but rather looking at the experience with a curious, nonreactive attitude.

Although anyone can practice mindfulness, formal mindfulness exercises can be difficult and strenuous initially. This is because our usual way of paying attention often involves letting our minds wander, being hard on ourselves, pondering the past, or fretting over the future. Formal mindfulness exercises necessitate making a conscious effort to focus on the present.

As research accumulates showing the positive results of mindfulness, we can categorize these advantages in several ways. Three of the most pertinent to psychotherapy are emotional regulation, interpersonal relationships, and intrapersonal benefits:

1) Emotional Regulation

It has been found that mindfulness meditation promotes more mindful awareness, decreases rumination (i.e., obsessional thinking involving excessive, repetitive thoughts or themes that interfere with other forms of mental activity) by disconnecting from obsessive cognitive activities, and boosts attention capacities by increasing working memory (i.e., a cognitive system with a limited capacity that can hold information temporarily). These cognitive gains then contribute to better emotion regulation tactics.

2) Interpersonal Relationships

Research indicate that mindfulness is linked to increased relationship satisfaction, better ability to respond to relationship difficulties, increased ability to recognize and communicate emotions to one’s partner, and decreased levels of relationship conflict, negativity, and empathy. In addition, Barnes and colleagues (2007) found that people with higher trait mindfulness experienced less emotional stress during relationship disputes and expressed less anger and anxiety. All of this evidence suggests that mindfulness can protect against the negative effects of relationship conflict, increase one’s capacity to communicate effectively in social contexts and positively influence relationship satisfaction.

3) Intrapersonal Benefits

Mindfulness meditation has been linked to several intrapersonal benefits, both mental and physical. Mindfulness has been associated with increased self-awareness, as well as reduced psychological distress and improved well-being. Neuroplasticity, or the rewiring that occurs in the brain due to experience, also explains how regular mindfulness meditation can alter the brain’s structure and functioning. This includes thicker brain regions which are linked to attention, sensory processing, and sensitivity to internal stimuli. It has also been suggested that the longer one practices mindfulness meditation, the more one benefit from its effects.

In conclusion, from a psychological standpoint, mindfulness has been found to have a variety of benefits and this has been supported by empirical evidence. Mindfulness is a practice that anyone can do if they are willing to take the time to do so. As these results show, mindfulness is more than a passing trend and is a practice worthy of more attention.

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Seray Soyman is working as a Clinical Psychosexologist within the Willingness team, providing psychosexual education and sexual support sessions, as well as delivering training and workshops. She has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychosexology from the Sapienza University of Rome. Seray’s research interests are sexual communication, sex-positive behaviour, LGBTQIA+ studies, and sexual health.


Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of marital and family therapy, 33(4), 482-500.

Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness interventions. Annual review of psychology, 68, 491-516.

Corcoran, K. M., Farb, N., Anderson, A., & Segal, Z. V. (2010). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: Outcomes and possible mediating mechanisms. In A. M. Kring & D. M. Sloan (Eds.), Emotion regulation and psychopathology: A transdiagnostic approach to etiology and treatment (pp. 339–355). The Guilford Press.

Kang, Y., Gruber, J., & Gray, J. R. (2013). Mindfulness and de-automatization. Emotion review, 5(2), 192-201.

Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330(6006), 932-932.
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