04 Nov Mindfulness Series: Introduction
Medicine is continuously evolving. More and more, we read about holistic medicine and mindful healing, and there is a growing need for understanding what this will mean for the future of modern medicine. Individuals are now looking into meditative forms of healing, as appose to traditional treatment methods. What will this mean for those suffering from addiction? The following will be a series of posts on the science, understanding, and research that has been done on the study of mindfulness. As a sober living residence we want to incorporate evidence-based treatments and utilize more mindfulness to help those suffering from addiction.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice, which involves being aware of yourself and your environment moment-to-moment, of one’s own subjective being from a first-person perspective. Mindfulness involves the principle of acceptance, meaning we look at our own thoughts, emotions, and environment without judgment or prejudice. When we practice mindfulness we see the world as if there were no “right” or “wrong”. When we practice this technique we see what is happening to us in the moment and focus only on that, eliminating the past or future from our consciousness.
The concept of mindfulness has roots in Buddhist mediation, but a secular practice has entered the American mainstream, in recent years. The man credited with this initial movement, and through his work, is Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. This practice was launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since its immergence, it has catapulted studies that document the physical and mental health benefits of this practical form of healing. This practice has especially seen popularity in healing individuals who suffer from addiction, PTSD, depression, children with behavioral problems, and even those suffering from mood disorders.
Becoming skilled in this practice can be gradually developed using meditational practices. There is a Five-Aggregate Model, which is a helpful theoretical resource used to help guide mindfulness interventions. From Buddhist Meditative practices the term “mindfulness” is derived from the Pali-term sati, which is an essential element of Buddhist practice.
How do you do it?
Mindfulness meditation is conducted sitting down with your eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion or floor, or even on a chair, with your back straight. Special attention is paid to your abdominal muscles when breathing in and out. Also when breathing through the nostril, give special attention to the breath coming in and out on inhale and exhale. As you start to focus on your breathing, when and if you notice your mind start to wander, try to refocus on your breathing. This technique is a sort of training, if you will, a training of your mind to focus on something that will cause the psychology of your body to regain homeostasis (balance) during unintentional stressful situation.
There was a famous exercise introduce by the MBSR-program founder, Mr. Kabat-Zinn, that involves the tasting of a raisin, but doing so in a mindful manner. An individual would imagine eating a raisin and focus solely on the task. How did it taste? How did it feel on the tongue? How did it smell upon mindfully placing it in the mouth? When one meditates you are solely focusing on nothing, except solely your thoughts, body, and inner perspective.
Those who practice mindfulness start with short periods of 10 minutes or so meditation per day. The more this is practiced the better one gets at being able to solely focus on breathing. Eventually this awareness of the breath can transcend into awareness of thoughts, feelings, and actions.
For a more visual understanding of mindfulness, take a look at this 60 minutes interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn himself, as Anderson Cooper reports on what is mindfulness and how it came to be at the forefront of evidence-based treatments.