Although the roots of mindfulness reach back to Eastern spiritual traditions, specifically Buddhist philosophy, it has gained a lot of attention in the Western world.
Mindfulness was first introduced in the West by medical professor Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s, who founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Kabat-Zinn created his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program intended to help individuals reduce stress. He writes all about it in his book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.
Since then, various studies and programmes have been carried out which highlight the cognitive, physical and emotional benefits of mindfulness.
One small scale study carried out suggested that mindfulness education (i.e., lessons which focused on ways of how to calm the body and mind), reduced stress, anxiety and lengthened the attention span of students.
Such practices have started being introduced in places such as hospitals, prisons, and schools.
In his bestseller book Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as the state of “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. Research has shown that by developing an increase in awareness of the mind and the present moment, individuals experience more positive emotions and feel less anxious. Interestingly, mindfulness is also linked to enhanced creative thinking skills. One reason being that mindfulness increases open-minded thinking and reduces harmful self-conscious thoughts which both play a role in enhancing creativity.
There are two forms of mindfulness known as formal and informal mindfulness. Formal mindfulness refers to the intention of setting some time aside to engage in mindful practices, e.g., seated meditation for 20 minutes. On the other hand, informal mindfulness is when one engages in mindful moments in one’s day to day routine and daily activities, e.g., mindful eating.
The following are online platforms and resources which provide reliable in-depth information on mindfulness:
Series by Headspace ‘Guide to Meditation’
3 Books related to Mindfulness
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