About mindfulness and emotional healing

 

Goodness, if mindfulness was a drug, there would be ads everywhere about its effectiveness!

And it’s free and available to us at all times.

Mindfulness is the heightened awareness of inner and outer experiences through focused attention in the present moment. Mindfulness and positive intention can be purposefully cultivated and used for healing. Current research confirms this ancient belief.

Today there is a big movement to incorporate mindfulness and positive intention as a complementary way of life to heal yourself. Mindfulness has developed as a valid complementary care method, alongside but not as a substitute, for traditional medical and psychological care. Mindfulness is one of the basic building blocks of Marcia Linehan’s therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Linehan (2015) took a page out of Buddhist philosophy and incorporated mindfulness into her psychological treatment methods for those with persistent mental illness. She believes mindfulness, or living non-judgmentally in the moment, relieves emotional suffering and pain.

Mindfulness is simply the practice, or attitude, of being and living with awareness, present to oneself and to others, without judgment. A vast collection of research indicates a mindfulness practice, used daily and persistently over 8 -10 weeks reduces suffering, fosters healing and reduces anxiety and depression (Brown and Ryan, 2003; Bonadonna, R. 2003).

In 2008, Jeffery Greeson, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Duke University Medical Center, conducted a review of 52 studies about the effects of mindfulness on the brain, the body and behavior.

They found mindfulness practice has lots of positive effects on the self and others, such as stress reduction, more good feelings, and a better quality of life. Mindfulness has positive effects on the brain and the autonomic nervous system, reducing stress hormones and strengthening the immune system. Mindfulness positively influenced health behaviors, including eating, sleeping, and influenced the reduction of substance use. Greeson (2008, p. 10) concluded that mindfulness, in the form of “…attention, awareness, acceptance, and compassion,…promotes primal health in the mind, body, relationships and spirit.”

In his 2007 book, The Mindful Brain, Daniel Siegel, M.D., co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, presents a careful analysis of the field of mindfulness supported by research in neuroscience. Dr. Siegel says mindful awareness can alter the deep sense of self, our perceptions of the world, and facilitate large-scale, integrated, emotional and psychological shifts. He believes that mindful awareness can be used at all levels of education including with children, to improve emotional well-being and learning. Dr. Siegel also recognizes the power of the healing relationship. He says, “Mindful awareness can become a fundamental part of…. psychotherapy to improve people’s lives and reduced mental suffering in both direct and indirect ways (p. 277).”

Deep listening is deeply healing (istock/izusek)

An example of mindfulness at work is in psychotherapy. The healing power of the therapeutic relationship is at the heart of a therapist’s work with a client. In the 1940’s, Carl Rogers, Ph.D., brought the mindfulness of Zen meditation into therapeutic work. He believed a non-judgmental attitude, what he called unconditional positive regard, created a space where people could heal and change (Rogers, 2004). Currently, the cumulative findings of a vast amount of research about how therapy works identifies the quality of the client – therapist relationship as the most important ingredient for change, right after the client’s inner qualities (Duncan et al., 2007). So, this form of mindfulness has been found tried and true.

Repeat:

Goodness, if mindfulness was a drug, there would be ads everywhere about its effectiveness!

And it’s free and available to us at all times.

More good news is that we are all equipped with the simple tools of mindfulness and positive intention. We can all naturally cultivate these self-help tools to reduce suffering in ourselves and others in our homes.

Dr. Ronald M. Epstein at the School of Medicine, University of Rochester,answered the question of whether mindfulness can be learned in the affirmative. He characterizes mindfulness as a set of learned mental habits: attentive observation of self, patient and context; critical curiosity; beginner’s mind (that is, viewing the situation free of preconceptions); and presence. Presence is defined as “connection between the knower and the known, undistracted attention on the task and the person, and compassion based on insight rather than sympathy”.

Learn to be mindful with yourself by not judging yourself and listening to your inner landscape with compassion. Don’t judge yourself for having negative emotions. Just quietly observe your emotions, without fear. Accept that we all have negative emotions. If you judge yourself for having negative emotions, you’ll create the secondary emotion of shame. And you’ll feel worse. So being mindfully aware of your emotions, without judge them or yourself for having them, reduces suffering. So accept that we all have negative emotions at times and just observe them in yourself.

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