What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the psychological process of paying close attention to and accepting experiences in the present moment with compassion, without judgment, and without acknowledgment of the past or future. It is thought that focusing on the present allows for individuals to increase their perception of self, which allows them to develop strategies for self-management and coping. This way of thinking also reduces the stress associated with regretting the past and being anxious about the future.
This concept originates from Buddhist philosophy, as it is one of the seven factors of enlightenment that brings a person to the state of nirvana. The way of thinking embodied by mindfulness was brought into Western medicine in 1979, when Jon Kabat-Zinn incorporated it in to stress-reduction therapy.
Is Mindfulness a Proven Technique?
Yes. Research shows that mindfulness-based therapies improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. It also improves quality of life and physical functioning in both adults and children. It can improve the health of individuals with a variety of conditions, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to depression and anxiety. Mindfulness has also been shown to prevent clinical disease brought on by stress. Studies indicate that this mental training increases the activity of regions in the brain that control self-regulation.
Mindfulness in Addiction Therapy
One integral component of group therapy is mindfulness. In addiction group therapy, people struggling with drug dependence are placed into a group with others who are faced with the same challenges. During group sessions, everyone gets the opportunity to talk about his/her personal current drug addiction issues, and the other members of the group then respond by supporting or disagreeing with the comments presented.
Everyone in the group has been asked to focus his/her comments on describing personal thoughts and feelings about things said/done in the group environment. For instance, if a person becomes mad at another group member, that person must explain to the other what he/she did and why it was hurtful. Incorporating the mindfulness mind-set into group therapy dynamics helps people to identify their “blind spots” or the things they do that they were unaware of that cause problems in interpersonal relationships. This helps them to understand and cope with their surroundings. By practicing during group sessions, people gain the skill of introspection, the art of analyzing the thoughts and feelings behind their actions, and they develop strategies necessary to behave in stressful conditions.
Mindfulness Integrated into In-patient Recovery
At Two Dreams, mindfulness is not just incorporated into therapy, it is incorporated into the residential way of life. Relaxing, stress-reducing activities (like walking on the beach, listening to music, and stretching) are performed daily and are considered times for introspection and thinking about the day.
Multiple times a day, clients perform H.A.L.T. checks, or thought exercises in which they evaluate their hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. This practice embodies mindfulness because it emphasizes thinking about and responding to present needs. Clients can address hunger and tiredness easily by eating or sleeping, and feelings of anger and loneliness can be addressed during one of the daily therapy sessions.
Meditation and Yoga
Another way to incorporate mindfulness exercises into daily life is by practicing meditation and yoga. Meditating helps bring about calmness and peacefulness of the mind while also helping people develop the ability to focus. These activities are best when practiced everyday and can help individuals lead lives that are more productive.
Meditating involves sitting in a comfortable position and reducing stimulation to the senses, so the mind can then focus on one single activity: breathing in-and-out. This practice of removing the distracting ideas and feelings from the mind leaves the individual more capable of concentrating and feeling clear and refreshed.
A similar method to meditation is yoga; one can practice mindfulness while engaging in various yoga poses. The sitting poses of yoga are the ones most similar to meditation, as they facilitate the feelings of inner peace and promote deep breathing. Other types of poses (standing, bending, twisting, and lying poses and inversions) can develop muscle strength, posture, and flexibility. Many of the poses stretch out the muscles, relieving stress and relaxing the body and spirit.
Mindfulness as a Way of Life
Mindfulness isn’t just something one should practice when trying to recover from drug addiction or while in therapy; it should be a general state of being. Healthy people should engage in mindfulness-based activities to reduce daily stress and prevent the onset of disease.
People experience less stress once they let go of things that happened in the past (things that cannot be changed) and things that might happen in the future. Focusing on the moment and thoughtfully, tactfully reacting is the most productive strategy for dealing with life circumstances and leads to a better future.