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Mental Health Tips > Mindfulness Interventions

Mindfulness Interventions
(Special thanks to Dr. Cola Lo (Clinical Psychologist, Castle Peak Hospital) for authoring this article)

Being in a busy city with a hustling way of living, we are easily getting exhausted and trapped in the episodes of unhappiness. We may not be really present for much of our lives and we may also lose touch with what is going on around us. Living on “automatic pilot” mode of mind, we may have difficulties in getting what we want and achieving what we desire. The more effort we pay to control our life which is apparently uncertain and unpredictable, the more negative feelings may be resulted, such as being depressed, helpless and restless. Increasing scientific studies have demonstrated that regular practice of mindfulness techniques not only enhances psychological well-being but also results in significant stress and pain reduction. Applications of mindfulness training in psychological interventions on various emotional disorders are also growing with promising outcomes.

 



1. What is Mindfulness?
2. Benefits of Mindfulness Practices
3. Practices of Mindfulness
4. The Attitudinal Foundation of Mindfulness Practice
5. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
6. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)



1. What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2013). It enables us to keep in touch with our experiences in the present moment with openness and acceptance and it also allows us to develop more skilful choices and responses. Although mindfulness is a form of meditation originally developed in the Buddhist traditions of Asia, it involves a systematic training to increase self-awareness and to develop wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for paying attention, awareness and insight, and hence could be practiced by people with various religious backgrounds.

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2. Benefits of Mindfulness Practices

When we enter a phase in our lives that we are vulnerable to emotional distress, we lose touch with what is going on around us. It is a sort of tunnel vision that we can only see part of the landscape and we do not notice the moment when a spiral of low mood is starting. Patterns of negative thoughts and reactions may be triggered when we are under stress and hence our emotions and interpersonal relationship may be affected. Mindfulness practice helps us to see more clearly the patterns of the mind; and to learn to recognise when our mood begins to go down. It frees us from the compulsive and reactive pattern of our minds and hence we can ‘nip it in the bud’ much earlier than before. The current research does suggest that mindfulness practices are useful in the treatment of pain, stress, anxiety, depressive relapse, among others and they can also enhance quality of living and sense of well-being. Mindfulness has also been investigated for its potential benefit for individuals who do not experience these disorders, as well, with positive results. Mindfulness practice improves the immune system and alters activation symmetries in the prefrontal cortex, a change previously associated with an increase in positive affect and a faster recovery from a negative experience.

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3. Practices of Mindfulness

  • Body Scan
    The body scan guides us in paying attention directly and systematically to each part of the body in turn. It encourages us to be in a more intimate and friendly relationship with the body in the present moment.
  • Mindful Stretching
    We bring out attention to the range of sensations and feelings that arise in our bodies as we go through sequences of gentle standing and lying down yoga stretches. The challenge is to purposefully experience the body just as it is moment by moment, with openness and interest, and that includes sensing and gently exploring its limits in any given stretch or posture.
  • Sitting Meditation
    Sitting meditation invites us to first let our attention settle on the breath sensations themselves, and then gradually expand the field of awareness once it is relatively stable, to include a sense of the body as a whole or any particular regions that might be giving rise to intense sensations. The invitation also goes to the attention of other present experiences including our thoughts, emotions and sounds.
  • Mindful Walking
    Walking meditation is a powerful way to cultivate mindfulness while moving. One way to practise mindful walking is to focus attention on the sensations associated with the feet moving during walking and especially with the moments of contact with the floor or ground. The invitation is to be mindful with every step, to walk for its own sake, without any destination.
  • Mindfulness in daily life
    It is possible to bring mindfulness to the tasks, experiences, and encounters of ordinary living, such as setting the table, eating, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the house and going to work. You may find your mind calmer and less reactive, and you may also experience a better and closer connection with the surroundings.

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4. The Attitudinal Foundation of Mindfulness Practice

  • When practicing mindfulness, it is important to recognise the judging quality of mind when it appears and to intentionally assume the stance of an impartial witness (non-judging) by reminding yourself to just observe it.
  • Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.
  • We need to cultivate beginner’s mind, a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time. Each moment is unique and contains unique possibilities.
  • Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings.
  • It has no goal other than for you to be yourself in mindfulness by intentionally cultivating the attitude of non-striving.
  • Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present. We try not to impose our ideas about what we should be feeling or thinking or seeing based on our experience.
  • Letting go is a way of letting things be, and of accepting things as they are. When we observe our own mind grasping and pushing away, we remind ourselves to let go of those impulses on purpose.

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5. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

The MBSR was founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since its inception, thousands of people have completed the eight-week MBSR and learned how to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain and illness. Research shows that MBSR is enormously empowering for patients with chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as for psychological problems such as anxiety and panic.

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6. Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

MBCT was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, based on Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR programme. The MBCT programme was designed specifically to help people who had suffered repeated bouts of serious depression to overcome their illness. The programme brings together the latest understandings of modern science and forms of mediation that have been shown to be clinically effective within mainstream medicine and psychology. The UK National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has endorsed MBCT as an effective treatment for prevention of relapse. It has been clinical proven to halve the risk of depression and research has shown that people who have been clinically depressed three or more times (sometimes for 20 years or more) find that taking the programme and learning these skills help to reduce considerably their chances that depression will return.

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