Do you have difficulties being in the present moment? Do you feel like you are either caught in and remorseful about the past, or obsessed with and anxious about the future? Does your mind loop again and again on the same thoughts, feeling like it is caught in a broken film reel? Do you feel exhausted being in your own mind, and feel as if you waste energy looking before and after, rather than building your life? Are you always repeating the same old thoughts, schemes, and behaviours? Do you feel like you are going passively through your life rather than fully engaging in it?
All those and others are symptoms of mindlessness, a mode of being on automatic pilot, where only previously learned information is used and automatic reactions are repeated with little awareness or attention to novel information derived from the present context. Unfortunately, mindlessness, or being on automatic pilot, is a default mode of cognitive functioning. However, your mind can shift from mindlessness to mindfulness, a place where you embrace the present moment. With mindfulness you can be are aware of your internal states (your perceptions, sensations, emotions, and thoughts), your actions and external phenomena, whether positive or negative. Mindfulness can be enhanced via multiple practices including therapy (e.g., Mindfulness-Based Therapy), not only through meditation, although meditation is a very powerful mindfulness practice.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Cumulative research in the last 40 years has strongly shown that mindfulness has numerous undeniable positive effects on the mind and body. For example, Mindfulness-Based Therapy was found in multiple studies to change both the functioning of the brain and its structure, specifically when cultivated and practiced during a long period of time. Mindfulness can be seen as a type of “savings account” where the more you save, the more resilient you are during difficult and challenging times. In line with that, it has been shown across several studies that the practice of mindfulness can:
- increase awareness, creativity and mental flexibility allowing you to learn, to integrate new information, and to view past experiences from a different perspective;
- increase emotional stability, well-being and quality of life by augmenting acceptance of your internal states (including your thoughts, emotions, and unpleasant physical sensations) and external situations (including life stages and challenges);
- reduce stress and psychological distress for both physical/medical conditions (including chronic pain, headache, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, heart disease, tinnitus, multiple sclerosis, HIV, epilepsy, and rheumatoid arthritis) and psychological difficulties (including distress, depression and other mood problems, stress, anxiety, alcohol/substance use, attention deficit hyperactivity, sexual problems, borderline personality disorder, self-harming behaviours, suicide, abuse, and psychosis/schizophrenia);
- increase life satisfaction and happiness, namely marital satisfaction and parental abilities by decreasing emotional and behavioural reactivity and negative judgments and deepening understanding, empathy, kindness, and compassion toward others;
- create a deep and insightful contact with your true self and deep values, leading to profound changes and sincere life commitments;
- lead you toward a state of body-mind and thought-emotion balance characterized by internal calmness, satisfaction, acceptance, self-compassion, and equanimity;
- provide you with a safe place where difficult and even traumatic experiences (e.g., physical/sexual abuse/neglect) can be re-interpreted and transcended without reactivity or avoidance;
- reverse aging effects (including aging effects on memory and physical health), and even increases longevity.
In summary, mindfulness can have deep and lasting impacts on your physical and mental health, including longevity, interpersonal and intimate relationships, social behaviour, learning, and self-development. Mindfulness practice can have powerful effects on yourself and your loved ones. For more details, please read the following meta-analysis regarding the clinical effects of mindfulness-based therapy: Khoury, B. et al. (2013). Mindfulness-Based Therapy: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(6), 763-771. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005
Who can benefit from mindfulness-based therapy?
According to several scientific studies, Mindfulness-Based Therapy can be helpful for people of all ages. In fact, mindfulness-based therapy was tested in adults, adolescents, children, spouses, families, and the elderly, and results suggest noticeable benefits from learning and practicing mindfulness. You do not need to suffer from a physical illness or mental disorder to learn and benefit from mindfulness-based therapy; you neither need to have specific background or previous knowledge or experience. Mindfulness can be helpful for a child struggling at school, an athlete seeking to increase her endurance or performance, a married man looking to renew his relationship with his wife and children, a business woman wanting to excel at her trade, and a scientist pursuing academic excellence. Briefly, mindfulness can be for everyone, so it can be for you too!
How should I start learning mindfulness?
The best way to learn mindfulness and integrate it in your daily life is to be coached by a mindfulness teacher (with real and valid mindfulness credentials) or by a mental health professional (e.g., psychologist) with Mindfulness-Based Therapy knowledge and experience. It has been shown that patients of mindful therapists have better outcomes than non-mindful ones, even if both have similar clinical training and credentials. One way that mindfulness influences the therapy process is by increasing the presence of the therapist in the moment with the patient while countering negative judgment and rigid responses. A mindful therapy process can:
- make you feel fully accepted despite failures and difficulties, therefore increasing your confidence in the therapist and commitment in the therapeutic process;
- increase your self-compassion and flexibility;
- facilitate your process of change and your potential to attain your objectives.
Briefly, when going to therapy, the selection of a mindful therapist can contribute to improving your health and well-being.
Finally, it is noteworthy that mindfulness integrates well with other similar therapeutic approaches, in particular with cognitive and behavioural approaches (CBT), humanistic, and compassion-based approaches.
Why not give mindfulness-based therapy a try?
If you want to learn more how to be mindful and how to use mindfulness as a tool for well-being, happiness, and success, and you think I can help you a bit in that, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and answer questions about mindfulness therapy at: 514-632-7133.