Mindfulness and Psychological Health
Mindfulness and Psychological Health By Dr. Jessica Killebrew
Mindfulness is described as “The awareness that emerges through paying attention in the present moment, nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment” (Jon Kabat‐Zinn, 1994). The interest in the concept of mindfulness has virtually exploded in Western psychological and medical research over the past twenty years (Brown, Ryan, Creswell, 2007).
Mindfulness is effective in treating depression, anxiety, and ADD amongst many other issues. Studies show mindfulness increases our ability to cope with stress, strengthens attention, selfcompassion, non‐judgment, acceptance, and most importantly cultivates awareness – a key component in the process of personal change (Germer et al 2005). It expands us beyond our perspective and creates flexibility in the way we see the world while promoting an overall sense of wellness. It helps us to live in the present moment, recognize our thinking patterns, let go of attachments, and gets us in touch with what it means to be more fully alive. Furthermore, mindfulness based interventions are shown to increase one’s ability to re‐frame, promote emotional stability, help clarify values, and create clarity (Shapiro 2009).
From a neuroscientific standpoint, mindfulness provides a measure of both mental and physical change such as increased attention, decreased heart rate, and better immunity and is often used with chronic diseases such as cancer as well as a general therapeutic approach. Mindfulness is the core component of many therapeutic interventions such as: (ACT) ‐ Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999), (DBT) ‐ Dialectic Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (Linehan, 1993), (MBCT) ‐ Mindfulness‐Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale 2002), (MBSR) ‐ Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (Kabat‐Zinn, 1990), and (MBRP) ‐ Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention for Substance Abuse (Marlatt & Gordon, 1985). These empirically validated interventions work with concepts such as acceptance, avoidance, rumination, and emotional dysregulation among others.
Studies show these treatment approaches to be very effective. Being present is available to all of us at any given moment! We all have the ability to pay attention in the moment to the moment. In a recent interview for the LA Times, founder of MBSR, Jon Kabat‐ Zinn stated, “Mindfulness principles are found on every continent in every culture”…”We're born with this capacity. It's about cultivating it" (2010). It is a quality of mind that is purposeful and aware. It is done with an attitude that is non‐judgmental with the intention of letting go and being the observer of your own thoughts. Not controlled by our past or future thoughts or feelings, we are grounded in the clarity of the present moment, creating a rock we can stand on when waters get rough. Freeing us from our often rigid thinking. Here, we are able to tolerate emotions and identify the thinking patterns that inhibit growth. Mindfulness gives us a place which is free from our often distorted thoughts. As Jon Kabat‐Zinn (1990) says: It creates a place which is neutral, a relationship that is permanent, and a sense of control that gives us what we need to understand that being right here, right now, everything really is “alright” and that if we are present‐moment focused, we inevitably find resources to deal with the quandaries of life. Once choices are realized, we can decide where we want to take our mind… this is where, standing on that rock, we can work toward growth, healing, balance, and peace. Here we begin to see clearly once again.