Mindfulness for mental health


For the past few decades the phrase mindfulness has been associated with spirituality, psychology and psychiatry as well as relaxation techniques and meditation. The philosophy’s overall premise is a simplistic view of focusing on the present moment. The word mindfulness comes from the Pali word sati, which translates to “awareness, attention and memory.” Mindfulness has been combined with other psychological therapies and has been used in conjunction with yoga and other physically based meditative exercises.

In simple terms, mindfulness is the daily practice of not allowing oneself to think or worry about what has happened in the past or what could happen in the future, thus allowing a person to simplify his or her thinking, alleviate concerns and take life as it comes. This is not to say that a person who practices mindfulness does not plan for the future but rather that any stressful thinking or feelings that result from constantly obsessing over past mistakes, or strategizing future situations, is brought to a halt for the sake of clarity of mind.

Combining mental meditation mindfulness principles with physical meditation (breathing techniques, yoga, walking, stretching or running) can be very beneficial to an addict, alcoholic or a person with mental health disorders. Very often, people with mental health disorders or addictions are able to utilize mindfulness meditation (usually combined with other therapies) and physical meditation in place of medication, drugs or alcohol.

Mindfulness has been brought into the field of psychology and psychiatry and combined with other known methods of therapy. Studies show Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to be particularly beneficial in gaining a greater awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, body and mind. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the MBSR program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This particular modality brings together mindfulness meditation and yoga. Typically, MBSR is an 8-week long intensive training period.

According to a study conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Ann O. Massion, M.D., Jean Kristeller, Ph.D., Linda Gay Peterson, M.D., Kenneth E. Fletcher, Ph.D., Lori Pbert, Ph.D., William R. Lenderking and Saki F. Santorellie, Ed.D., a mindfulness technique called ‘Transcendental Meditation’ was practiced on two controlled groups of patients with anxiety neurosis disorder (as defined by DSM II). The practitioner had the groups chant a one-word phrase mantra. This particular study suggested that Transcendental Meditation may be just as effective in treating anxiety as other techniques such as biofeedback or relaxation techniques.

Mindfulness meditation has also been aligned with cognitive therapy. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is actually a form of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), but focuses more on any negative automatic thoughts, harmful reactions to automatic thoughts and depression. According to a study done in 2012 by Dr. William R. Marchand, who’s the associate director of the Department of Veterans Affairs and assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the practice of physical meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction yoga and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy were effective in improving psychological health and well-being, as well as battling depression and pain.

According to a different study conducted by Dr. Christopher Germer and Dr. Daphne M. Davis, mindfulness can be used in psychotherapy in three different ways. For one, therapists can apply mindfulness practices by being present with clients. For two they apply Buddhist psychology and mindfulness theories to clinical work and lastly they can practice mindfulness-based psychotherapy. The foundation of this study was based on the idea that the therapists would need to have experienced mindfulness in their own lives in order to truly be able to teach these methods to their clients.

Mindfulness, when combined with physical, spiritual or psychological meditation and practice, is a very effective tool in decreasing anxiety and depression. When combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and stress reduction therapeutic principles it is helpful to patients overcoming their mental disorders one day at a time.

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