Mindfulness, in its simplest sense, is paying attention to the present moment as it unfolds without judging or trying to change what is happening. What began as a series of esoteric rituals and practices was transformed and introduced to the western world when curious travelers and seekers of spirituality met Buddhist monks who could perform marvelous feats of self-control all without breaking a sweat. Although living a life of austerity, these monks reported very high feelings of being satisfied with their lives, and claimed they were quite happy. Their bodies and minds seemed to support their claims.
Although breathing exercises have long been a part of any amateur psychologist’s treatment plan for anxiety, mindfulness goes beyond that. Not only does it calm the body but it also seems to train the mind to pay more attention at will to stimuli of interest, effectively quieting the “monkey-mind” of contemporary society, the constant notifications on our gadgets, and the burden of being over-connected.
Recently the benefits of Mindfulness are being explored through research as an aid not only in mental health issues but also in physical ones. With stress becoming a killer in modern times, mindfulness based interventions are showing their efficacy both in the lab and in the real world.
In psychotherapy, a more focused approach is being used to introduce the benefits of this practice to clients. MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, consists of an intense training regime that not only introduces the practice to the clients but ensures that the client is able to maintain the minimum frequency necessary to realize benefits. According to early trials, the level of peace of mind attained by some of the test subjects was so profound that they returned for a second or third set of trials even though they had mastered the technique and were able to maintain a regular practice on their own.
Another important application of mindfulness in psychotherapy is that of mCBT that combines elements of mindfulness with the already well established efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This newer therapy is being recognized for its effectiveness in the management of treatment resistant depression as well as depression prone to relapse.