What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a mental training that teaches you how to slow the pace of thoughts, let go of negativity and calm your mind and body. It is defined as a mental state that involves being so focused that one acknowledges and accepts one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations and judgments. For example, a 20-minute meditation to process anxiety, could combine breathing perception, body scanning and exploring the sources of stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is the practice of drawing attention without judgment to the present moment, a skill that can be developed through meditation or other training. Formal mindfulness meditation is a practice to maintain attention to the body, the breath and the sensations that arise in the moment. One of the core processes that influence mindfulness practice is our ability to observe thoughts, emotions and sensations without reacting, repairing, concealing or resolving them. In mindfulness meditation, once you have established concentration, you can observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions and sensations without judging them as bad or good.
Researchers believe mindfulness meditation improves meta-cognitive awareness, reduces rumination, withdrawal, improves attention and improves working memory. In addition, mindfulness meditation seems to increase the speed of information processing and reduce the perceived workload when thoughts are not actually related to the task. Mindfulness meditation is more and more present in mainstream medicine, because it brings improvements in physical and mental symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitude and behaviour.
How can we use mindfulness in therapy?
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a standard therapeutic approach that has been shown to be beneficial for a range of mental and physical disorders such as anxiety, depression and chronic pain. Detaching ourselves from our inner thoughts and feelings is an important part of acceptance and commitment therapy, as well as many other forms of therapy, and mindfulness plays a major role in achieving this. Mindful breathing is a common part of many forms of meditation and involves drawing attention to the physical sensations of breathing and its flow. Mindfulness can be practised by teenagers and adults, and simple meditations are also suitable for older children – for example counting breaths and in this way focusing more on the breathing.
Learning mindfulness meditation can be very easy. You can practise it alone or with a teacher, and there are programs and even apps that can get you started. You don’t have to practice mindfulness meditation every day, but it’s a practice you can come back to whenever you need it. For structured mindfulness exercises, such as body scan meditation or sitting meditation, it’s important to take your time for practising when you are calm and in a place free of distractions and interruptions.
Mindfulness practice involves the process of developing the ability to attenuate what is happening in the present moment consciously. There are more ways to practice mindfulness, but the goal of all mindfulness techniques is to achieve a state of alert concentration and relaxation, while paying attention without discernment to thoughts and sensations. Some mindfulness exercises include breathing techniques, guided images and other exercises that relax the body and mind and help relieve stress.
Mindfulness helps people to be present in the moment by helping them pause for a moment to perceive their own thoughts and feelings and choose a response that’s not only made based on their current emotions. Mindfulness is at all times available to all of us, whether through meditation, body scans or mindfulness practice or just by taking the time to pause and breathe. You can choose to practice structured mindfulness exercises such as body scan meditation or morning sitting meditation before starting your daily routine. Both meditation and body scanning exercises are quick to perform and useful. To start practising mindfulness meditation a little, you can first pay attention to your breathing instead of focusing on what is not there and what you are worried about.