Mindfulness: Definition, Techniques & Benefits

Instructor: Veronika Polozkova

Masters in International Health. Lesson development experience on different levels from basic alimentary school to academic master level. Languages: English, Dutch, Russian

Have you ever practiced an open awareness meditation called mindfulness? It can actually help a lot in daily life and even relieve some emotional and physical tension. Read about its ancient origins and modern psychological applications in this lesson.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of meditation during which the attention is focused on mood, thoughts, physical sensations, and emotional experiences. Sometimes mindfulness is also called conscious attention practice. It is meant to reflect on the current state of the body and mind and to identify possible obstacles for physical and emotional well-being.

The term is a translation of the word Sati from the Pali language, which is Indian Sanskrit. It literally means mindfulness or awareness.

Mindfulness has been an essential part of Buddhist practice for over 2000 years. But in our time, a modern twist is given to this form of meditation and it is now widely applied during psychological consults and yoga sessions. Generally, therapists use mindfulness-based techniques to teach their patients to consciously deal with stress, disturbing thoughts, and unpleasant emotions. Sometimes it is also applied to reduce depression symptoms or prevent relapse. Because depression as a mental illness can have several causes, reducing symptoms is often not enough to treat the depression as a complex illness in itself, but it definitely helps to reduce the burden in everyday life.

Facing your problems in mindfulness meditation can help you deal with them
facing emotions, mindfulness

Mindfulness Training Courses

An American molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn started to study and apply mindfulness as attention training in his psychiatric practice in the late 1970s. He used mindfulness to develop an eight-week training called the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The MBSR method was found to be effective for reduction of stress, fear, and pain. Since then, many therapists have followed his method of applying mindfulness in therapy. Therefore we can say that Jon Kobat-Zinn re-kindled this ancient practice and made mindfulness popular again.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is another training course that also takes eight weeks and is similar to MBSR. However, MBCT is mainly used to reduce the chance of depression relapse, chronic pain, and phobias. The main difference between the MBSR and MBCT techniques is not in the content of the exercise but in the context in which they are applied. The essence of both training programs is that patients should consequently apply the techniques at home to learn how to perceive the reality with an open attitude.

Mindfulness In Practice

A common misassumption is that mindfulness is a kind of daydreaming. Rather, it teaches you to focus attention on your own body, breathing, senses, thoughts, and emotions in a given reality. Mindfulness can be practiced while sitting on a chair or lying down. The position is less relevant than feeling comfortable. It does not teach how to avoid stress or fear but rather teaches that those feelings are unavoidable and teaches how to deal with unpleasant occurrences.

Mindfulness helps you to embrace your emotions and deal with your thoughts
mindfulness, emotions

During a mindfulness session, you should try to stop the flow of thoughts by focusing on your breathing and relaxing your whole body. Then, depending on the session purpose, you should try to focus on how your different body parts are feeling (heavy or light, maybe painful etc.) or which thoughts come into your mind. Every time that your thoughts flow or physical sensations become intense, you should try to find your inner peace again by focusing on your breath. When you have managed to do that, you can continue with paying attention to your emotions and sensations again. This method aims to teach you how to stop the inner dialogue, emotional surges, or physical arousal by being aware of them.

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