What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you and within you (in your body, heart, and mind) in the present moment. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment.”
(Chozen Bays, 2011).
“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
(Siegel, 2010; Kabat-Zinn, 1994).
It is not easy for many of us.
Does mindfulness work for me?
Mindfulness is a life skill and a human capacity - everybody can be mindfulness. Although mindfulness meditation practice is rooted prominently in Eastern wisdom traditions, the practice itself is not spiritual or religious. Psychology has studied the effects of mindfulness trainings and practices and identified multiple emotional, physiological, and social benefits (see articles in the Mindfulness Journal or similar psychology research journals).
Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections (Hanson, 2013; 2018). Mindfulness meditation helps to literally train neural networks in our brain and gut to form new connections and also increase body awareness. According to Hanson, "neurons in our brain fire together, and wire together". Mindfulness practice enhances our ability to stay present to whatever is happening, gain more clarity, be less judgmental and less blaming of others, and enhance overall health and well-being. Mindfulness correlates with focused attention and awareness.
Like many of us with a —
busy, chatter mind, distracted, confused, and somewhat mindless — you can benefit from mindfulness, too.
What do I need to do to become more mindful?
To become more mindful simply practice, practice longer, and practice more mindfulness.
When was the last time you were fully present in the moment and you did not have to make any effort to be mindful?
How mindful are you? 24/7? (just kidding, yeah you have to sleep sometime).
"Ups, I cannot remember the last time I was mindful" .........
..... "Wait a minute, I do not really have time for this, I am too busy and stressed."
"Can you please repeat that, right here and now; I was somewhat absent-minded; thinking about my daily to-do list."
Where is the evidence that mindfulness is effective?
There is ample evidence-based mindfulness research that has demonstrated positive effects of mindfulness practice. Here are few meta-analysis research studies that have shown the multi-faceted effects of mindfulness that encompass the whole person's health and well-being. Mindfulness research has been exploding with more evidence becoming available every year.
Grossman et al. (2004) — MBSR and health
Greeson (2009) — mindfulness and health (clinical trials and laboratory studies)
McDonald, Walsh, and Shapiro (2013) — review of various empirical mindfulness studies effects (physiological/somatic, relations/social, health and well-being)
Khoury et al. (2013) — mindfulness-based therapy
Goyal et al. (2014) — meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being
Zenner et al. (2014) — mindfulness-based interventions in schools
Khoury et al. (2017) — effectiveness of traditional meditation retreats
Vonderlin et al. (2020) — mindfulness-based programs at the workplace (randomized controlled trials)
What is evidence-based mindfulness?
Clinical trials and laboratory studies alike suggest that the mechanisms of mindfulness involve not only relaxation, but important shifts in cognition, emotion regulation, biology/physiology, and behavior that may work synergistically to improve health. Mindfulness practice can influence the brain, the autonomic nervous system, stress hormones, the immune system, and health behaviors.
Mindfulness meditation has been practiced In the East for more than 2,500 years and is a time-tested approach. Contemporary research has shown what mindfulness practitioners have known for centuries—that greater attention, awareness, acceptance, and compassion can facilitate more flexible, adaptive responses to stress, which, in turn, can help free us from pain, depression, perceived stress, or anxiety and realize greater health and well-being.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Mindfulness has shown to enhance:
Attention (focused concentration)
Feeling of well-being
Physical and mental health
Wisdom or insights ("aha moments")
Mindfulness has shown to reduce:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Pain, specifically chronic pain
Why chose mindfulness?
Higher education is especially demanding on students, faculty, and staff alike. It is an achievement corporate environment that is fast-paced with high expectations for success. Academia is hyper-focused on left-brain activities - advanced scientific and technical skills, theoretical thinking, scientific writing and publishing, logical argumentation, massive amounts of knowledge, and digital information overload. Mindfulness practice provides moments of relaxation, balance, destressing, calming, and tuning into ourselves. We give ourselves a gift to literally "no need to think about something", and we can let go and re-energize.
Disconnected right- and left brains, stress, learning anxiety, tunnel vision, and also mental health issues are common in student communities. Mindfulness practices can help to counteract them through suspending, focusing, breath by breath, connecting to the present moment, and aligning mind, body, heart, and spirit.
Contemporary academic life is infused with digital work, zooming, is fast-paced, and achievement demands and expectations run high. We are too often busy doing and forget being present. When our nervous system is on high alert, or when we are flushed with self-critical thoughts, then our working memories function poorly, our creative juices do not flow, and our collaborative capacities are stymied (Rechtschaffen, 2014). Anxiety and stress let us freeze, flee, or fight. In disembodied states, we are disconnected from our body, mind, and spirit which leads to dissatisfaction, experiences of meaninglessness or depression, numbness, and unfulfilled life.