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The word mindfulness stems from Buddhist Psychology, and originates from Pali language, and is synonymous with awareness, retention, and discernment (Shapiro and S.L., 2009). In simpler terms, it refers to paying attention to one’s immediate experience. The word slowly integrated with western science and people started associating it with meditation. However, after several years of scientific research, mindfulness is now considered an inherent quality of a human being’s consciousness.
Human life is not static, and keeps on changing. Mindfulness helps us in understanding that things can change and that we shouldn’t evaluate every happening, because changes should not be feared. By being mindful, we reduce the desire to control uncertainty in our lives, and we learn that we shouldn’t engage in evaluations of self and others. Mindfulness basically helps a person to overcome analysis paralysis, which is the state of overanalyzing a situation so much that a decision can’t be taken, which eventually paralyzes the whole outcome (Jeff Boss, 2015).
According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding member of ‘mindfulness science’, mindfulness refers to paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way (Kabat Zinn, J, 1994). It is state of focused attention and awareness that is directed to experience sensations, emotions, and memories.
Empirical evidence clearly measure the tremendous benefits of mindfulness to include a decrease level of depression and anxiety, an increase levels of empathy, greater relaxation and ultimately improve quality of life and relationships.
Mindful emotional regulation refers to the state of complete mental awareness irrespective of the emotion that one experiences. In that regards, mindfulness improves emotional regulation (Corcoran, Farb, Anderson, & Segal, 2010). It promotes meta-cognitive awareness and decreases the levels of disengagement. Furthermore, it enhances one’s attention, which helps in effective emotional regulation, even during the times that a person is stressed (Chambers et al, 2008).
Mindfulness, also, makes people less reactive and results in increased cognitive flexibility (Moore & Malinowski, 2009). Meditation causes activation of regions of the brain that is responsible for adaptive responding to stressful situations. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) also helps in regulating negative self-beliefs and emotional reactivity. It reduces negative emotion and increases attentional deployment.
Mindfulness leads to relationship satisfaction, ability to stay positive during relationship stress, easy communication of emotions to one’s partner, less negativity and relationship conflict, and increased empathy (Wachs & Cordova, 2007). Furthermore, mindfulness activates the area of the brain that is associated with morality, intuition, and self insight (Siegel, 2009). It also has several health benefits such as increased immunity, reduction of psychological stress, and general well being. (Carmody & Baer, 2008). Furthermore, mindfulness resulted in decreased task efforts and increases the speed of information processing (Lutz et al., 2009).
Mindfulness promotes empathy. Wang (2007) found out that mindful individuals scored better in measures of self-reported empathy than those who didn’t meditate.
MBSR helps individuals to be more compassionate (Shapiro, Astin, Bishop, & Cordova, 2005). There are two components of mindfulness, namely non-reacting and non-judging, and both of them have a strong correlation with compassion.
Thus, mindfulness has several mental benefits and helps one in improving the quality of their life. The following few additional benefits of mindfulness:
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Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31, 23–33.
Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322.
Cohen, J. S., & Miller, L. (2009). Interpersonal mindfulness training for well-being: A pilot study with psychology graduate students. Teachers College Record, 111, 2760 –2774.
Corcoran, K. M., Farb, N., Anderson, A., & Segal, Z. V. (2010). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: Outcomes and possible mediating mechanisms. In A. M. Kring & D. M. Sloan (Eds.), Emotion regulation and psychopathology: A transdiagnositc approach to etiology and treatment (pp. 339 –355). New York: Guilford Press.
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Jeff Boss, (2015) How to Overcome The “Analysis Paralysis” of Decision-Making
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Lutz, A., Slagter, H. A., Rawlings, N. B., Francis, A. D., Greischar, L. L., & Davidson, R. J. (2009). Mental training enhances attentional stability: Neural and behavioral evidence. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 13418 –13427.
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Ramel, W. Goldin, P. R., Carmona, P. E., & McQuaid, J. R. (2004). The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28, 433– 455.
Shapiro and S.L (2009) The integration of mindfulness and psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 555.
Shapiro, S. L., Astin, J. A., Bishop, S. R., & Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: Results from a randomized trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12, 164 –176.
Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 581–599.
Siegel, D. J. (2009). Mindful awareness, mindsight, and neural integration. The Humanistic Psychologist, 37, 137–158.
Wachs, K., & Cordova, J. V. (2007). Mindful relating: Exploring mindfulness and emotion repertoires in intimate relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33, 464 – 481.
Wang, S. J. (2007). Mindfulness meditation: Its personal and professional impact on psychotherapists. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: Science and Engineering, 67, 412