Mindfulness originates in Buddhism and is closely associated with meditation. It occurs when a person is aware of each moment of their experience in an accepting and non-judgmental way.

What Is Mindfulness? 

Originating from Buddhism, the concept of Mindfulness is closely associated with meditation. Mindfulness is awareness, control of actions and words, and the ability to be aware of the presence of an object or phenomenon without criticism, judgment, attachment, dislike for the object, underestimating, or making a big deal of it. Practicing mindfulness means focusing your mind on an object, knowing clearly what is happening inside, around, in the present, here, and now.

In psychology, the term “mindfulness” includes two components:

  • Self-regulation of attention concerns non-elaborative observation and awareness of sensations, considerations, or feelings from moment to moment. It requires both the ability to anchor one's attention on what is occurring and to intentionally switch attention from one aspect of the experience to another.

  • Orientation to experience concerns the attitude of one towards one's experience, specifically an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. It is worth noting that “acceptance” in this context should not be equated with passivity or resignation.

Thus, mindfulness occurs when a person is aware of each moment of experience in an accepting and non-judgmental way.

The Relationship Between Mindfulness And Mental Health

Mindfulness plays an important role in improving overall mental health. While practicing mindfulness, people will become more aware of what is happening in the present moment and understand their thought patterns. This way, people can identify the signs early and know when they are drifting into a mental health problem.

Practicing mindfulness may help people to anchor themselves in the present, where they can observe their thoughts and feelings without chasing or judging them. Mindfulness helps people avoid getting caught up in rumination, or, in other words, focusing excessively on problems and worries about the past and future. This can help reduce anxiety and stress.

In addition, studies have also demonstrated that mindfulness can significantly reduce levels of depression, neuroticism, absent-mindedness, dissociation, rumination, cognitive reactivity, social anxiety, difficulties in emotional regulation, experiential avoidance, alexithymia, concentrated delusional experience in the context of psychosis, and other common psychological symptoms. This can be explained by the fact that this activity gives people an open and accepting attitude, instead of trying to avoid or ignore problems. From there, individuals will have more positive responses to signs of mental health problems.

Practice Mindfulness to Increase Happiness

Many studies around the world show that mindfulness is related to people's well-being - regardless of the practice method used. Research in Vietnam also proves that experiencing mindfulness has a direct role in increasing one’s sense of overall happiness. This has confirmed the role of mindfulness in people's ability to feel happy.

Why can mindfulness help us be happier? Studies have shown that the process of practicing mindfulness helps create coordination of many components in the brain and body, helping to activate and foster 9 functions of the frontal cortex related to well-being, including body balance/self-behavior regulation, attuned communication/psychological mindedness, emotional balance/emotional regulation/openness to experience, response flexibility/psychological flexibility, empathy/“mindsight”/compassion, insight/mindfulness/ self-knowing awareness, fear modulation/fear extinction, intuition, morality.

In addition, practicing mindfulness can positively affect the area in the brain responsible for regulating emotions, thereby helping us relax and reducing stress hormones to prevent reactions with concern. For people who practice mindfulness meditation regularly, their prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula thicken over time. These are the areas responsible for optimism and feelings of happiness. It is also associated with creativity and curiosity, as well as the ability to reflect and observe how the mind works.

Some Mindfulness-Based Psychological Interventions

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is an intensive training in mindfulness meditation to help individuals relate to their physical and psychological conditions in more accepting and nonjudgmental ways. The program includes a course lasting 8 - 10 weeks, each session lasting 2 - 2.5 hours. In addition to in-class mindfulness exercises, participants are encouraged to practice mindfulness at home and attend an intensive mindfulness meditation program. The basis of MBSR is the repeated practice of mindfulness meditation, from which individuals eventually learn to be less reactive and judgmental toward their experiences, and more capable of recognizing and freedom from habitual and maladaptive patterns of thinking and behavior.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Based on the MBSR program, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed to prevent relapse in remitted depression. MBCT is an 8-week guided group intervention program that combines mindfulness training and elements of cognitive therapy (CT). The goal of this therapy is to target the vulnerability processes that have been implicated in the maintenance of depressive episodes, thereby helping participants view thoughts as mental events instead of as facts, recognize the role of negative automatic thoughts in keeping up depressive symptoms, and separate the occurrence of negative thoughts from their negative psychological effects. MBCT primarily aims to change a person's awareness of and relationship to thoughts and emotions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed to treat chronic suicidal and other self-injurious behaviors, which are often present in patients with severe borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT integrates elements of traditional CBT with meditation philosophy and practice and focuses on acceptance and behavior change strategies to help individuals improve their emotion regulation abilities. In particular, mindfulness skills are taught to help individuals increase self-acceptance and reduce avoidance of difficult emotions and fear responses. These skills include a set of “what” mindfulness skills (observe, describe, and participate) and a set of “how” mindfulness skills (non-judgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively). Specific exercises used to cultivate mindfulness include visualizing thoughts, feelings, and sensations as if they were clouds passing by in the sky, observing breathing by counting or coordinating with footsteps, and bringing mindful awareness into daily activities. Mindfulness skills are also integrated with other skills modules that focus on distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

The main aim of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is to create greater psychological flexibility by teaching skills that increase an individual's willingness to come into fuller contact with their encounters, recognize their values, and commit to behaviors that are consistent with those values. Six core treatment processes are highlighted in ACT: acceptance, defusion, contact with the present moment, self as context, values, and committed action. Mindfulness is applied in the context of the first four processes, which aim to increase self-awareness and promote the demystification of thoughts and beliefs. Although ACT does not incorporate mindfulness meditation exercises, its focus is on helping individuals cultivate present-centered awareness and acceptance.

Practicing Mindfulness At Home

Mindfulness Meditation

There are other ways; practicing meditation is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Start with guided meditation exercises (in person or through videos or podcasts). Mindfulness meditation will help you focus your attention on your thoughts and emotions.

Mindfulness Activities

Breathing: Guided breathing exercises can help direct your focus. You can do this at any time by paying attention to your breathing. Focus on your breathing in and out, it is important to be aware of each breath that is taking place.

Go for a walk: Mindful walking is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Find a safe place to walk (such as a park or garden) and get a feel for it while you are walking. What can you see, hear, touch, smell, or taste?

Feel your body: Paying attention to how your body feels can help you stay grounded in the present moment and reduce stress. “Scan” slowly from head to toe, noticing the feeling of each part of your body. This could be a relaxing activity to do before bed.


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