Mindfulness is a relatively new therapeutic treatment modality, which is based in Eastern tradition. Although it has been practiced for thousands of years, it is receiving growing recognition and incorporation in the field of psychology. Mindfulness requires an individual to be aware of his or her present experiences, rather than focused on the past or future. Through mindfulness, one learns to be able to attend to, and remain consciously aware of, present experiences, without judgment or self-criticism.
Mindfulness exercises can be incorporated within psychotherapy. Learning to breathe and become attuned to one’s own body are initial exercises. One first learns to observe one’s physical sensations. Treatment can then evolve into an observation of emotional reactions, which allows individuals to step back and evaluate their feelings from another perspective or lens. It enables one to detach or defuse from a negative experience and to recognize that thoughts and feelings are transient. As Sears, Tirch, and Denton state, “By talking to yourself about your thoughts, you eventually realize that thoughts themselves are not so powerful, and they are not who you are.” In later stages of treatment, individuals may begin to deliberately focus on a difficult issue or event, and sit with that particular concern, which has been shown to reduce anxiety or general fears.
Mindfulness can be used to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, stress, and pain management. It can also be used in conjunction with the other treatment modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or biofeedback.
Sears, R. W., Tirch, D. D., Denton, R. B. (2011). Mindfulness in clinical practice. Sarasota, FL.: Professional Resource Press.