What is Mindfulness?


“Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive and present with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning cup of tea.”

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Monk and Founder of the An Quang Buddhist Institute

Think about the things that have caused you anxiety, stress or depression in the past. Now ask yourself, “Was it the things themselves that caused the anxiety, stress and depression, or was it what I believed about those things?”

Can you think of anything that you’ve ever been worried about, that wasn’t a product of your thoughts and feelings? Isn’t it true, in fact, that the worries come from the thoughts and feelings themselves, and not from the situations in which you find yourself?

If it is true that anxiety and depression are rooted in our thoughts, then we should be able to change our thoughts and eliminate, or at least minimize, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is a way to change our thoughts. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your world.

The last two decades have seen an explosion in interest in the utility of Mindfulness for treating mental disorders. Consequently, there has been an interest in devising a clinical definition for the term ‘Mindfulness.’
Kabat-Zinn (2003) refers to Mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

Segal et al., (2004) describe Mindfulness as a state of being “fully present and attentive to the content of moment-by-moment experience.”

According to Baer (2003), “In general, while the specific focus of mindfulness may vary, individuals are instructed to be aware of thoughts but to be removed from the content of these thoughts.”

In short, mindfulness is a state of awareness in which we can choose to participate in the thought stream, or to simply observe it.

When we are able to be fully in the present, without worries, stress, or anxiety about the past or the future, we are being mindful. This doesn’t mean that we ignore or deny our thoughts or feelings. Instead, it just means that for now, in the present moment, we are consciously choosing how to respond to those thoughts and feelings.


REFERENCES

Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125-143.

Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schmacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., Urbanowski, F., Harringtron, A., Bonus, K., Sheridan , J.F., Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65: 564-570, 2003.

Segal, Z. V., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. G. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Theoretical rationale and empirical status. In S. G. Hayes, V. Follette, & M. Linehan (Eds.), Expanding the cognitive behavioral tradition. New York: Guilford Press.

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