Why all this fuss about mindfulness?
In the ‘Annual Review of Clinical Psychology Journal’, the psychologist Joseph Wielgosz and his team explore the recent strong interest of mindfulness practices in mental health treatment. Below I will describe three reasons why mindfulness is used.
- Mindfulness techniques are very varied and can be used for, anxiety, depression, pain management and substance use.
- Mindfulness approaches can used from clients who do not respond to traditional treatments.
- These techniques not only treat mental health issues, but also support the resilience and well-being of the general population (Wielgosz et al., 2019).
How does mindfulness affect my brain and my behavior?
Mindfulness is practicing paying attention to the present moment instead of letting our mind get captured by thoughts regarding the past of the future: evidence from neurobehavioral research shows that this mechanism seems to be what alleviates painful thoughts, feelings, and sensations (Wielgosz et al., 2019).
Do we need to meditate to learn mindfulness?
Many mindfulness-based models of therapy emphasise meditation, as this is a structured way to learn this new skill. Other approaches, as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) regards meditation as only one among many ways to learn practical mindfulness skills. This is good news for anyone that is not keen on practicing mindfulness meditation. As it has been creatively described, “meditating is a bit like going to the gym: we all know it is good for us, but few people sustain it on a regular long-term basis” (Harris, 2009).
Alternatives to mindfulness meditation
It can be easier to practice mindfulness skills if you link them with one of your daily activities. Some examples in how to do this include:
Harvard’s Medical School has a list of recommendations. These include bringing all your senses to your meal (appreciating the aroma, flavor, and texture of the food), either when cooking or eating. Ways to do this are trying to identify the ingredients and spices, take small bites, chew thoroughly and allowing yourself a few minutes before you start chatting with whoever is joining you for the meal (“8 steps to mindful eating – Harvard Health”, 2016).
The first rule for practicing walking or running mindfully is to unplug. Examples of this include instead of talking on the phone or listening to your favorite playlist, focus on the sidewalk or the treadmill. That’s a great start for tapping into your body sensations. Notice how the ground under your feet feels, the movement of your arms, the stretch of your muscles. You can also focus on the air and the sounds around you (Cameron, 2018).
Will you give it a go?
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Elena Marinopoulou is a Behaviour Analyst with Willingness Team. She works with children
and adults and has a strong interest in parent training, sleep and feeding issues emerging
during childhood, as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
8 steps to mindful eating – Harvard Health. Harvard Health Medical School. (2016). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating.
Cameron, L. (2018). How to Meditate through Exercise. Mindful. Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate-through-exercise/.
Harris, R. (2009). Mindfulness without meditation. Healthcare Counselling And Psychotherapy Journal, 21-24. Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.actmindfully.com.au/upimages/Mindfulness_without_meditation_–_Russ_Harris_–_HCPJ_Oct_09.pdf
Wielgosz, J., Goldberg, S., Kral, T., Dunne, J., & Davidson, R. (2019). Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology. Annual Review Of Clinical Psychology, 15(1), 285-316. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423