What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness as a practice has been around for thousands of years and has Buddhist origins. Since then it has been adapted to be used as part of a therapeutic approach for mental wellbeing. This means that you don’t have to be religious or spiritual for mindfulness to be effective.
How can it help?
Mindfulness was developed for use by mental health practitioners by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. He found that patients who were experiencing chronic pain often tried to fight or escape from the pain they were feeling and the thoughts that they were having, but that this in turn created more pain and distress. Mindfulness is a state which is achieved by focusing in on the here and now, acknowledging thoughts, feelings and sensations but not attempting to get rid of them or judge them. He found that by learning to accept the thoughts, feelings and sensations and adopting a mindful approach, the patients could relieve their mental distress and improve their overall functioning.
By being in the here and now and not judging our thoughts it is possible to create a space where it is possible to think calmly about situations in a new way and make well thought out decisions. This means that practicing mindfulness can also help us to enjoy the world around us more and to understand our own thoughts and feelings better.
More recently mindfulness has been found to be effective in the treatment of many mental health problems, when combined with other cognitive and behavioural approaches. There is evidence to suggest that regularly practicing mindfulness can lead to a reduction in stress, increases in ability to focus, a reduction in emotional reactivity, improved relationship satisfaction and improved cognitive flexibility (Davis & Hayes, 2012). Mindfulness is also now recommended in the NICE guidelines as a preventative measure for people who experience recurrent depression.
What can Mindfulness help with?
Mindfulness can be a useful part of the therapeutic process for:
- As part of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
- Chronic Pain
- Substance abuse
- Eating problems
- Interpersonal relationships
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders