Mindfulness is a type of effective mediation for both children and adults and has as its aim dealing with problems associated with anxiety, sleep, depression, pain and drug addiction, thereby offering potential benefits in many spheres of everyday life.
In the following we’re going to tell you what mindfulness is –also called ‘full awareness’ and ‘full attention’ –and what the theoretical fundamentals are of this method, with a Buddhist origin but adopted by clinic psychology over the last few decades.
The concept of ‘mindfulness’ (full awareness or attention) has its origin in Buddhist meditation. It may be defined as the process through which we people focus our attention, in a complete fashion, on the experiences of the present moment. According to Buddhist teachings, mindfulness is considered as a necessary step to reach an enlightened state.
Despite the fact that those meditation exercises that nowadays are categorized as mindfulness have existed for millennia, the recent increase in popularity of this practice is due to the USA doctor Kabat-Zinn, who introduced mindfulness in the West by way of psychological therapy.
In concrete terms, this doctor knew how to apply in an efficacious manner mindfulness mediation in the fields of relaxation and stress reduction, anxiety and even pain experiencing. On the basis of Kabat-Zinn’s key contributions, which roughly go back to the 1980s, this type of mediation started to be introduced in different psychological therapies of third generation.
Therapies based on mindfulness use a pool of exercises with cognitive and behavioral components that have as their goal that the individual be able to reach a state of full awareness, thereby keeping down their levels of anxiety, their negative thoughts (not least mental worries) or their physical uneasiness.
In a highly succinctly manner, the basic traits of mindfulness meditation may be summarized in five basic fundamentals or principles. These guide the meditative process, which may vary in each specific case depending on the objectives and concrete difficulties.
In the context of mindfulness a key aspect is considered to be the fact of paying full attention to the present moment instead of to the past or the future –that is, to that which lays beyond control and is hypothetical.
The lack of contact with our daily experiences, including the bodily sensations, are understood as a pathological source by both Buddhist philosophy and some theoretical schools of psychology.
Although our perceptions, emotions and physiological reactions that we experience as the day unfolds are very complex, our lack of attention to these and the interference of language (that labels our experiences and constraints them) limit the richness of that which we live.
Another key component of mindfulness meditation is the radical acceptance, free of prejudice, of our experiences. This principle contradicts other ones that had been popular in clinical psychology in previous decades and that remain very popular in our society, such as the need to attempt to control our negative thoughts and emotions.
Accepting our experiences doesn’t mean taking a passive attitude in life. Rather, we must learn to choose what situations we undergo in line with our goals and values. Once our objectives have been established, we have to take responsibility for the possible uneasiness that reaching them may entail.
In mindfulness one must give up on any direct attempts to control emotions and physiological reactions. On the contrary, acceptance of everyday experience and attention to this will allow us that our innate mechanisms of self-regulation in our organism lead us to reach ‘indirect self-control.’
Among the psychological alterations where the therapies based on mindfulness are based, we find anxiety disorders, depression, addictions to substances, schizophrenia and other types of psychosis or to personality disorders. Dialectic behavioral therapy for borderline personality disorder or acceptance and commitment therapy are partially based on mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not only useful to deal with different problems among adults. What’s more, there are mindfulness meditation programs for children with or without special needs. In this context, it must be mentioned that some American states have started implementing these types of programs as part of their academic curriculum.
Other fields where mindfulness meditation is being applied and the psychological therapies based on latter are medicine (including the after-surgery pain management), prisons, nursing homes, programs to lose weight and even professional sport.
However, and although nowadays these are considered very promising options in the fields of mental health, recent scientific revisions have suggested that those therapies based on mindfulness require more studies of reliable efficacy and with a large number of participants so that their efficacy may be demonstrated for good (Keng, Smoski & Robins 2011).
Over the last few years a great variety of mindfulness meditation books for beginners have been published (both for adults and children) that are ideal to make the most of the benefits of this everyday relaxation technique.
In the following we provide a list with the best books on mindfulness in English to get yourself initiated into this practice together with the links to acquire the books online on Amazon.com. Reading them and applying their teachings may be very useful to sleep better and keep down anxiety, among other benefits.
Music is one of the best supports to undertake mindfulness exercises. Listening to relaxing music is a great way to keep anxiety down, thereby allowing better concentration on full attention exercises.
Listening to background mindfulness music whilst we’re meditating can help us eschew distractions which fill our mind involuntarily, given that this music brings to bear our attention focus on this ongoing sonorous and quiet stimulus.
To conclude our review of full awareness exercises we leave you with some examples of music to practice mindfulness and other types of meditation. In any case, there are obviously many other similar options that are just as relaxing.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012). Mindfulness for beginners: reclaiming the present moment--and your life. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc.
Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J. & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6): 1041-1056.
Vallejo Pareja, M. A. (2016). Manual de terapia de conducta. Tomo I (3ª Ed.). Madrid: Dykinson.