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Exploring Mindfulness

In the recent decades, psychological treatment has become increasingly widespread and mainstream. Individuals are now adapting specific treatments into their personal, every day lives. One culturally relevant method that has seen a recent boom is mindfulness. Through the popularization of terms such as meditation, self-care, and journaling, the topic has become increasingly relevant in today’s culture. But what is mindfulness? And why is it so important? Through the upcoming weeks, we'll take a closer look into this area and its subgroups.

First, it's important to recognize the origins of mindfulness. In Indian Buddhism, vipassana means to “see things as they really are” and relates to an ancient form of meditation. Roots in mindfulness are typically attributed to the Bhagavad Gita in Hinduism and principles of Dalai Lama in Buddhism. However, its practices and ideals are distributed through prayers and hymns in a variety of Western and Eastern religions. During the mid-nineteenth century, Westerns began to take interest in to Buddhist teachings. More specifically, in 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced an eight-week program that dealt with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) into clinical treatment. He defined mindfulness as an “awareness” that comes through paying attention to your current situation without any judgement.

Today, the American Psychological Association has several empirically-supported benefits of mindfulness. Clinical treatments in mindfulness can reduce negative rumination (the act of repeatedly going over something in the mind) and increase compassion and empathy within its participants. Similarly, mindfulness-based therapy has been useful in reducing stress and anxiety. There's even been signs that it has physical benefits, such as boosting the immune system, increasing working memory and even reducing symptoms of pain.

Though clearly beneficial, it is interesting to note that most of these results have come from extensive clinical treatments. Not all of us have the time or money to go into eight-week training courses or weekly therapy. Luckily, the teachings of mindfulness can be incorporated into our daily rituals and personal well-being. So the question to ask is: how can we, as individuals, incorporate the teachings of mindfulness?

As noted earlier, the two central components of mindfulness are an awareness of the present and a non-judgmental view of your own thoughts. Several techniques incorporate these ideas, the most notable being meditation. However, you can apply these principals into other types of activities such as journaling, goal-setting, and yoga. Through these next few weeks, we'll take a look at different types of mindfulness techniques and examine the science of why they work, as well as how we can use them to benefit our mental and physical health.

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