by L. Chris Cannida, LPC – January 27, 2016
Recently, I ran across an article that defined mindfulness simply as the exercise of paying attention to deliberate and slow breathing. The article went on to dismiss mindfulness, given this minimized definition, as nothing more than a trend in the field of behavioral health. While diaphragmatic, or belly breathing, can be a result of or conduit to mindfulness, this definition did little to fully educate on the benefits of true mindfulness as an exercise in healthy living. Unfortunately, if this perception takes hold with the general public, we have stripped from them a wealth of information that can lead to life-changing benefits.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, describes mindfulness as a means of paying attention in a particular way, with purpose and without judgment.
Experts in the field of neuroscience have spent years studying the health benefits from the art (and science) of true mindfulness practice. Turns out, mindfulness involves a wide variety of mental and physiological exercises that positively affect not only our physical being, but also our social interactions, as well as improving our moods and cognitive function. There is now research being done on how teaching mindfulness exercises to students in school classrooms can enhance opportunities for learning.
Some benefits of mindfulness practice include:
- Increased mental focus and flexibility
- Improved working or short-term memory
- Strengthened immune system
- Decreased anxiety and depressed mood
- Physiological stress-reduction
- Psychological resilience
- Increases in relationship satisfaction
While I teach the aforementioned breathing techniques to nearly all of my clients as part of a strength-based, wellness portion to their psychotherapy, we also spend time learning many of the other exercises borrowed from the world of mindfulness practice. In doing so, we help them separate from painful ruminations that serve no positive purpose in their healing, empower them to manage their bodies and minds toward a stronger sense of self, and strengthen their physical selves in order to combat continued life stresses.
In recent years, I’ve even witnessed mindfulness practices being helpful to service members battling combat-fatigue and post-war/reintegration struggles. The simple exercise of learning more about how their body and brain interact toward creating a healthier and whole self gave them valuable tools in moving forward toward recovery from the most challenging of issues.
I encourage anyone reading this piece to explore the many ways mindfulness can bring benefit to your life. There is no shortage of legitimate, evidence-based information on the subject from which to draw. To help you get started on a daily dose of mindfulness in living, check out the following resources: