International Mindfulness Day

Mindfulness Day is celebrated annually on September 12. It was created by Wisdom Publications in 2011 to raise awareness about the profound value and benefit of mindfulness. Mindfulnessis the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment and can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training. The term “mindfulness” is a translation of the Pali term sati, which is a significant element of Buddhist traditions. In Buddhist teachings, mindfulness is utilized to develop self-knowledge and wisdom that gradually lead to what is described as enlightenment or the complete freedom from suffering. The recent popularity of mindfulness in the West is generally considered to have been initiated by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Research studies have indicated that the practice of mindfulness is strongly correlated with greater well-being and perceived health. Studies have also shown that rumination and worry contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in the reduction of both rumination and worry.

Clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness which can help alleviate the symptoms of a variety of psychological conditions Such as depression, reducing stress or anxiety Mindfulness can help in the treatment of drug addiction, mindfulness also appears to provide numerous therapeutic benefits to people with psychosis, and may also be a preventive strategy to halt the development of mental health problems. Clinical studies have documented both physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in patients and healthy people. Programs based on Kabat-Zinn’s have been widely adopted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans’ centers, and other environments, and mindfulness programs can assist healthy aging, weight management, athletic performance, children with special needs, perinatal periods. The necessity for more high-quality research in this field has also been identified – such as the need for more randomized controlled studies, for providing more methodological details in reported studies and for the use of larger sample sizes.

Mindfulness meditation involves the process of developing the skill of bringing one’s attention to whatever is happening in the present moment. There are several meditation exercises designed to develop mindfulness meditation. One method is to sit on a straight-backed chair or sit cross-legged on the floor or a cushion, close one’s eyes and bring attention to either the sensations of breathing in the proximity of one’s nostrils or to the movements of the abdomen when breathing in and out. In this meditation practice, one does not try to control one’s breathing, but attempts to simply be aware of one’s natural breathing process/rhythm. When engaged in this practice, the mind will often run off to other thoughts and associations, and if this happens, one passively notices that the mind has wandered, and in an accepting, non-judgmental way, returns to focusing on breathing.

Other meditation exercises to develop mindfulness include body-scan meditation where attention is directed at various areas of the body and noting present body sensations. Engaging in yoga practices, while attending to movements and body sensations, as well as walking meditation are other methods of developing mindfulness. One could also focus on sounds, sensations, thoughts, feelings and actions that happen in the present. Meditators start with short periods of 10 minutes or so of meditation practice per day. As one practices regularly, it becomes easier to keep the attention focused on breathing.

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