Mindfulness encompasses awareness and attention; for example, mindfulness occurs when we are conscious, aware and attentive to our present state. The mind is open, receptive and aware.
What is Mindfulness
Awareness monitors the inner and outer environment and attention is the process of focusing conscious awareness, providing heightened sensitivity within a limited range of experience. Mindfulness is about “paying attention in a particular way: in the present moment, on purpose and non-judgementally” (Jon Kabat-Zinn). It is enhanced attention to and awareness of the current experience or the present reality.
In contrast, mindlessness is blunted, restricted consciousness or obsessively thinking about the past. Having fantasies or anxieties about the future that have the effect of removing one from what is happening in the present is an example of mindlessness.
Mindfulness is not a belief, an ideology or a philosophy; it is a description of mind, emotion and suffering. It is an idea that develops over time and is greatly enhanced through regular disciplined practice, both formally and informally, on a daily basis. Mindfulness helps to disengage individuals from automatic thoughts, habits and unhealthy behaviour. (Pearls).
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been used by J. Teasdale, M. Williams and Z. Segal to develop relapse prevention in people who suffer from depression. The underlying theory is that depression can be prevented through meta-cognitive awareness or insight. It trains clients to control their attention by focussing on specific thoughts, feelings and sensations.
These thoughts, feelings and sensations can be positive, negative or neutral. In contrast to Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness does not try to alter content of beliefs; the aim is to loosen the patterns of negative thinking that escalate into depression.
The core skill of Mindfulness Therapy is to enhance the ability to step out of the negative thinking process by being mindful of the moment and letting go of the constant strive to escape unhappiness. Becoming aware of the moment discourages functioning on automatic pilot. Letting go of the need to judge the current moment and learning to accept the current state without judgment is the heart of mindfulness. Mindfulness focuses on the observation of thoughts and feelings and the recognition that thoughts are not facts; they simply are a result of being in the present moment.
- Developing non-attachment to outcome is crucial
- Experiencing non-goal directedness, staying with “whatever there is to be experienced”
- Achieving avoidance of experiential avoidance
- Moving towards painful experiences with willingness to experience whatever there may be to be experienced
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is also acceptable and applicable for more serious problems. Change may be mediated by metacognitive awareness.
Clients report from booster session
- “The mindful activities have made the most impact because I can appreciate the routine activities”
- “It helps me to focus on the present and away from ruminating on the past and future. It helps me to appreciate things/life in a way I’d forgotten.”