The Practice of Mindfulness for a Better You
Mindfulness is the unsung hero of many medical and spiritual concerns.
Despite being founded originally a by Buddhists as a “spiritual or psychological faculty”, it is widely used today as an effective additional “healing” techniques to a number of psychological and physical struggles among patients.
Indeed, modern medicine has found its way to take advantage of this concept and practice.
But what exactly is mindfulness? What is the rich history of the concept? Can one person do it on his own? How does one actually practice this Buddhist brainchild?
According to a definition by the non-profit group HelpGuide.org, mindfulness is a “practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.”
For Buddhists, mindfulness is a vital teaching of Buddha in the path of enlightenment.
It is considered in their beliefs as one of the seven factors of enlightenment.
The other six are: Investigation of dhammas; Energy (viriya); Joy or rapture (pīti); Relaxation or tranquility (passaddhi) of both body and mind; Concentration (samādhi) a calm, one-pointed state of concentration of mind, and Equanimity.
Among these things, mindfulness comes in first.
It is also under the Buddha’s teachings that mindfulness should be established in a person’s day-to-day like in order to achieve a calm awareness of his body, mind, heart and his dharmas.
It is also according to the Buddha that mindfulness, or meditative stabilization, should be combined with liberating discernment.
Probably the earliest text that discusses mindfulness is a composition called the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.
Mindfulness meditation is in the mainstream medicine, thanks to professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
He is also the founder and former director of the campus’s Stress Reduction Clinic. Kabat-Zinn paved the way for the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine in the 1970s.
He proved that practicing mindfulness can provide improvements not just in both physical and psychological symptoms, but as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.
In fact, mindfulness, according to reports, has been prescribed by the NHS for depression since 2004.
The psychological benefits of mindfulness
Fast forward to this day, many doctors and spiritual mentors swear by the power of mindfulness in combating a number of mental and physical dilemmas, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, and drug addiction.
In fact, people with down syndrome are encouraged to do their share of practicing mindfulness for the betterment of their mind and body.
Across the globe, there have been training programs that aimed to help children and their care-givers to manage excessive stressors.
These activities that bolster mindfulness practice among patients are suggested to be done daily and on a regular time.
Believe it or not, toddlers are capable of practicing it as well.
In a website called Move-with-me.com, several You Tube videos are provided to help children make the most out of their skills.
The website has a curriculum that parents could follow, which would allow the children to have an active play and mindfulness practice at the same time.
Meanwhile, for drug addicts, people with eating disorder and other similar problems, psychotherapists have also turned to the wonders of mindfulness.
Doctors combine mindfulness with their conventional therapy methods like the cognitive behavioral therapy.
The use of these methods, especially meditation (mindfulness) complements each other as both share the common goal of helping people using positive thoughts.
Mindfulness, according to some experts, work like magic in terms of helping people because it prompts them to accept their good and bad instead of dealing with pain aversion and avoidance.
Romantic couples who have been in serious disputes and marital problems are also advised to get into meditation.
… and the health benefits
Apart from one’s well-being and improved spiritual life, a person could also benefit from mindfulness, health-wise.
Experts claim mindfulness help relieve stress, improve sleep and alleviate gastrointestinal problems.
It is also extremely healthy for the heart as it is able to treat heart disease, reduce chronic pain, and lower blood pressure.
While many might be skeptical, there is indeed a number of recent clinical evidence.
One of the many was published in 2011 by Jacob Piet and Esben Hougaard of Aarhus University, Denmark.
The duo looked at six clinical trials with 593 individuals.
In this study, both concluded that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy actually diminished “the risk of relapse for patients with at least three previous incidents of depression by 43% compared with people who received treatment as usual.”
Steps to follow in practicing mindfulness
There are several ways for one to meditate and practice proper mindfulness.
The good news is that all of them are relatively easy to be done.
One way to do it is by watching one’s breath.
The person must keep in mind that he or she should focus on a chosen object for awareness alone, discarding all possible nuisances.
No distractions should be entertained; otherwise, meditation will most likely fail its purpose.
If and when the mind starts to wander away from the intended object of focus or meditation, give your best to “take it back”.
Another way is by attending recollection seminars or retreats.
Amid one’s busy life, there should be a regular window time for retreat and recollection.
Ideal places for this activity should be far from noise and be as serene as possible.
If one does not have the luxury to go out of town and drive to the countryside for meditation, there are several yoga classes and spiritual wellness classes in local gyms and community centers.
In fact, one can do it at the comforts on his or her home!
However, like mentioned earlier, the house should be free of noise and distractions.
Put your phone in silent mode.
Better: turn it off.
Mindfulness meditation should not eat your time too much for it to be effective.
Serious focus the key, not the span of time spent.
A light dose of yoga sessions in itself through video channels like You Tube is a good alternative as it can be done at home too.
A good book on practicing mindfulness is Mindfulness – A Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World