Mindfulness originated from its eastern roots some 2.5 millennia ago. Initial adaptation to fit the Western culture emerged under the guise of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s programme of mindfulness practice to help those with chronic pain, known today as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). There now exists a plethora of mindfulness -based interventions serving differing populations, conditions and contexts.
Mindfulness’s experiential process makes it hard to define. Hence, an array of definitions exists to describe this process as mindfulness is more akin to a rainbow than an individual colour. Kabat-Zinn (1994) defines mindfulness as the awareness that emerges through;
‘paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally’.
Put simply, mindfulness is the cultivation of present moment awareness (metacognition), without judgement, which harnesses our inherent capacity to be aware of what is going on in the mind.
Neuroscience research confirms that mindfulness meditation is shown to alter brain structures and connections in multiple areas of the brain including those associated with, but not limited to, decision-making, attention, self- awareness, empathy and emotional regulation.
· Improve positivity and wellbeing
· Change relational aspect of thoughts
· Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
· Increase cognitive skills
· Increase Self-awareness
· Decreased levels of rumination
· Increase resilience
· Improve clarity and focus
· Improve decision making skills
· Improve ability to manage conflict and difficult situations
· Improve relationships
Compassion is the capacity to be sensitive to suffering in both ourselves and others, accompanied by the desire to alleviate and prevent it. Self-compassion is simply compassion directed inwards.
The heart is where we connect with what is seen, what we know and where we want to go. The heart does not lie. That is why compassion is so important to waking up.
Mindfulness meditation is shown to facilitate an organic emergence of kindness and compassion. While specific loving kindness and compassion meditations are oriented to enhancing unconditional, positive emotional states of kindness and compassion.
• Upregulates activity in the brain network associated with positive affect.
• Increases emotional resilience by moderating reaction to negative events.
• Reduces rumination and depressive symptoms.
• Reduces emotional avoidance, perfectionism, overidentification, egocentrism, and social isolation.
• Deactivates the threat system and engages the soothing system which has a calming effect on autonomic hyperarousal.
• Softens self-criticism, negative evaluation, and fear of failure.
My latest research on Mindfulness and Shame has just been published with Springer Nature in Mindfulness.
Westerman, G., McCann, E., & Sparkes, E. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Mindfulness and Compassion-Based Programs on Shame and Associated Psychological Distress with Potential Issues of Salience for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: a Systematic Review. Mindfulness (2020).