Mindfulness

Original Editor - George Prudden

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Description[edit | edit source]

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Mindfulness is a stress-reducing strategy where an individual develops an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally and accepting them as they are. An individual attempts to control the focus and direction of their attention without rejecting or suppressing thoughts.[1] It has been proposed that mindfulness could be utilised in an integrated body-mind intervention for lower back pain for a subgroup of patients who have a higher disability due to increased emotional and psychological needs.[2] Kabat-Zinn describes seven core components of mindfulness practice which interact with each other. They are non-judging, patience, a beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.[1]

Non-Judging[edit | edit source]

A practitioner of mindfulness is required to recognise the constant stream of judging and reaction to any experience. They then need to distance themselves from this by becoming an 'impartial witness'. Kabat-Zinn states that we react to events and experiences often by labelling them as neutral, good or bad. Neutral things become background noise which we give little attention to. When judgmental thoughts enter the practitioners mind, they are advised to suspend judgement by simply observing them without pursuit or action.[1]

Patience[edit | edit source]

An individual taking part in mindfulness should understand that sometimes things unfold in their own time. The process of mindfulness allows us to cultivate patience toward our own minds and bodies. It is common that practitioners find that their minds have 'a mind of their own' and require a large amount of attentional demand as well as an emotional response. Patience is particularly helpful in these moments.[1]

A Beginner's Mind[edit | edit source]

This is a term to describe the mindset of a true beginner. When an individual tries to discover something new, it opens up his/her mind to learn and to develop understanding. During this state of mind, the individual is free of preconception of how anything works, free of expectations about what will happen, filled with curiosity to understand things more deeply, open to a world of possibilities and ask simple questions.

The challenge most people have is that they spend most of their lives trying to become experienced in a field, expert in a subject-area or skilled at a craft. The beginner's mind seems to run in opposition to that trajectory. Because of this, this mindset maybe uncomfortable at the beginning.

Trust[edit | edit source]

One aspect of trust is trusting in the practice of mindfulness itself. There is a great deal of evidence available to demonstrate the impact of mindfulness training, so what would the impact be if we trusted what we are learning and the practices we are undertaking? By doing this what would we let go of?

Secondly, through practising mindfulness we are learning to listen more and more to our inner wisdom and ourselves. We are developing more objectivity and faith in the validity of our own thoughts, feelings and intuition. Ultimately, we are learning to trust ourselves.

Non-striving[edit | edit source]

We spend so much of our lives striving to achieve a goal that often we are not truly present for the journey we are undertaking; rather we are judging where we are against the goal and comparing whether this is good or bad in terms of an ideal future state.

If we trust in the practice we are undertaking and by holding a mindset of patience we may find ourselves more contented with this moment. It is a willingness to allow the present to be the way it is, and for us to be the way we are. We are not trying to get anywhere or trying to fix problems, but rather attending to awareness of the actuality of experience.

Acceptance[edit | edit source]

When we accept our current situation, we are learning to allow things to be as they are without trying to change them or wishing them to be different.

This does not mean that this is a passive response or resignation. We are in fact awake to what we are experiencing, and how we are relating to it; we are more conscious of how we are responding.

This is a fundamental shift towards welcoming the difficult, altering radically our relationship with those things in our life that cause us hardship and pain. We are not resisting them, we are not creating our own suffering.

Letting go[edit | edit source]

This is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are. We let them be and in doing so, we let them go.

Allow one self to think about how he/she may hold onto things in difficult events and the impact this has upon our minds, he/she often becomes very distracted, reactive and rigid in our thinking.

The first step for the individual in letting go is to take a step back and observe what he/she is experiencing without judgement. By doing this, we experience that it will come to pass.

Gratitude[edit | edit source]

One area that the individual has experience in his/her practice of mindfulness is that it become more grateful for their lives. We often take for granted the miracle of life and that we are breathing and that the body is functioning right in this moment. When we bring gratitude to this present moment and notice this amazing body and that we are alive, our experience changes and this attitude is a way of reminding us of this.

Generosity[edit | edit source]

We the individual authentically give time and attention to others, it deepens his/her experience of interconnectivity.

Prioritising someone else's needs over his/her own, and giving what will make him/her happy, has been shown time and time again in research to have strong association with psychological health and wellbeing.[3]

Indication[edit | edit source]

Modulating Pain Experience[edit | edit source]

Mindfulness has been described as an alternative strategy that can effectively modulate clinical and experimentally induced pain. In a study with 34 participants (17 mindfulness practitioners and 17 control), testing for mindfulness that involves neural mechanisms to modulate pain to see if modulation through mindfulness will involve a decreased level of activity in cognitive modulatory regions (such as the PFC) and increased activation in regions involved in sensory processing of pain, such as posterior insult, somatosensory cortex and thalamus. The result should that experienced mindfulness practitioners are able to substantially decrease experienced pain unpleasantness (22%) and anticipatory anxiety (29%) during a mindful state. it also suggest that pain and anxiety modulation through mindfulness involves a unique neural mechanism in the brain.[5]

Another study focused on a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects and safety of mindfulness mediation in treating with chronic pain due to migraine, headache, back pain, osteoarthritis or neuralgic pain. The summary showed that mindfulness was associated with a small effect of improved pain symptoms in comparison with usual passive control groups. Moreover, mindfulness mediation was associated with statistically significant improvement in depression physical health related quality of life and mental health related quality of life.[6]

Contraindications[edit | edit source]

There are no absolute contraindications however, there have been some documented cases of an adverse response to meditation. A cross-sectional study on the effects of intensive and long-term meditation reported that over 60% of individuals had at least one negative effect, which varied from increased anxiety to depression and full-blown psychosis.[7] Dobkin et al. performed a review and unable to answer the question who is to be contradicted from mindfulness due to paucity in the literature. [8]

Some has argued that a portion of individuals may react negatively to mindfulness practice. A possible explanation is that it amplifies inner problems. For instance, if an individual has a tendency to depression, bipolar disorder or psychosis, mindfulness meditation may heighten it. Another explanation is that mindfulness is not only about being aware but may also challenge the ordinary sense of self, as mindfulness meditation techniques were originally developed to assist with bring about a deep change in how individuals perceive themselves, others and the surrounding world.[9]

Clinical Presentation[edit | edit source]

Regular practice of Mindfulness mediation enhances an individual’s life in multiple aspects. For instance, increased happiness, greater self-awareness, improved performance, and greater alertness and concentration.  

A recent preliminary review of relevant clinical studies published in Korea summed up the essential considerations that will help design Mindfulness Meditation programs for the elderly. A session of 60 and 90 minutes delivered once a week over 8 weeks showed improvement in the participants' mindfulness level. Future practitioners or researchers can use as preliminary data these findings to design programs for the elderly. It could help policymakers integrate meditation strategies into integrated care programs to promote the well-being of elderly[10].

Resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Kabat-Zinn J. Full catastrophe living. New York: Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks; 2013.
  2. Mindfulness-Based Functional Therapy: a preliminary open trial of an integrated model of care for people with persistent low back pain. Schütze R, Slater H, O'Sullivan P, Thornton J, Finlay-Jones A, Rees CS. Front Psychol. 2014 Aug 4;5:839. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00839. eCollection 2014.
  3. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat‑Zinn
  4. Niazi, A. K., & Niazi, S. K. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a non-pharmacological approach for chronic illnesses. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, 3(1), 20–23. http://doi.org/10.4297/najms.2011.320
  5. Gard T, Hölzel BK, Sack AT, Hempel H, Lazar SW, Vaitl D, Ott U. Pain attenuation through mindfulness is associated with decreased cognitive control and increased sensory processing in the brain. Cerebral cortex. 2012 Nov 1;22(11):2692-702.
  6. Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, Apaydin E, Xenakis L, Newberry S, Colaiaco B, Maher AR, Shanman RM, Sorbero ME, Maglione MA. Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2017 Apr 1;51(2):199-213.
  7. Shapiro Jr DH. Adverse Effects of Meditation: A Preliminary Investigation ofLong-Tenn Meditators. International Journal of Psychosomatics. 1992;39(1-4):63.
  8. Dobkin PL, Irving JA, Amar S. For whom may participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program be contraindicated?. Mindfulness. 2012 Mar 1;3(1):44-50.
  9. Farias M, Wikholm C. Has the science of mindfulness lost its mind?. BJPsych Bulletin. 2016 Dec;40(6):329-32.
  10. Faber MJ, Bosscher RJ, Paw MJ, van Wieringen PC. Effects of exercise programs on falls and mobility in frail and pre-frail older adults: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation. 2006 Jul 1;87(7):885-96.