Many people search for practical ways to help reduce or prevent physical and psychological health problems. Mindfulness, a form of complementary medicine, is a conscious and systematic approach that is said to be achieving good results and can be applied to stress, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), pain, illness and the demands of everyday living. *
Mindfulness is about focusing on where we are in the moment. It is not about the past, or where we need or want to be in the future, and neither is it about discriminating pleasant from unpleasant or neutral experiences. It aims to infuse awareness, restore a sense of health and equilibrium, and reduce the sense of living mechanically and mindlessly.
The roots of mindfulness-based approaches are in ancient Buddhist practices they are not taught in a religious fashion. The focus is towards meditation, breathing and stillness and ways to access an inner understanding of self.
Although we are much more aware about the relationship between mind and body it is often at a fairly theoretical or distant level. We know, for example, that perceived stress has a direct influence on physical health and that this can be measured. Mindfulness takes this relationship a step further by helping people to learn greater awareness of the ways their unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional and spiritual health.
Dr. John Kabat-Zinn and colleagues developed the teaching program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The Center for Mindfulness has been delivering mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to patients for over 25 years. The program, generally taught over eight weekly 2-hour sessions, is now delivered in settings as diverse as corporations, prisons, hospitals and poor inner-city areas. People teach classes from a variety of backgrounds including health workers, psychologists, doctors and nurses, and social workers.
*Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis by Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S and Walach, H. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2004 Jul 57(1): 35-43 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.