How does Mindfulness work?

Woman Smelling Red FlowerThere are many levels of mindfulness development through which we can progress. Mindfulness enables us to ‘defuse’ from disruptive thoughts and emotions and ‘reconnect’ and pursue our goals by cultivating two fundamental skills we all share:

  1.  Choosing where and how we focus our attention at any moment, including maintaining attention on a target; and
  2.  Choosing how to evaluate our experiences, thoughts, and feelings so that they don’t cause us much stress.

Many of us live most of our lives on autopilot, and do not exercise these skills. Practicing mindfulness puts us ‘back behind the wheel’. Cultivating these skills requires training and practice, but can be accomplished by anyone, and lead to dramatic improvements in mental health, happiness and effectiveness in life.

Mindfulness techniques involve concentration activities including assisted and at-home meditation and sometimes movement. These techniques can be incorporated into daily activities such as exercise, listening to music, and even cooking. Usually these activities have a calming effect but these techniques should not be confused with relaxation (although they can be used to achieve this state if that is the goal).

In psychological terms, mindfulness is described in a variety of ways that all converge around attentional and acceptance processes aimed at reducing ‘cognitive fusion’, or the literal interpretation of mental phenomenon, and the resulting experiential avoidance or control strategies. In other words, if we can step back from thoughts and take them less seriously, we can get on with life much more easily.

In 2006 Shapiro outlined mindfulness as a state of consciousness where intention, attention to the present moment, and an attitude of open, non-judging, non-interpretive, curiosity and acceptance are all simultaneously present. The presence of these three together is said to lead to a meta-cognitive state called ‘reperceiving’ (similar to diffusion in ACT) where one views psychological phenomenon (thought, feelings, sensations) and the self, or observer, as separate. This reperceiving transformation allows for changes that improve one’s wellbeing, like self-regulation, value awareness and enhancement.

Mindfulness is seen as a way to attend to objects, thoughts, sensations, and emotions in a way that distances the observer from the content of consciousness.

The goal of mindfulness is usually to reduce emotional reactivity and habitually conditioned responses that are maladaptive by increasing the awareness of a transcendent stable sense of self, disconnected from conscious events.

To make an appointment with a psychologist skilled and experienced in the use of mindfulness techniques, freecall 1800 877 924.