Mindfulness meditation, now used by many medical centers, addresses the role of mind and body in treating health conditions. Here’s an example of how one medical center uses it.
Patients use mindfulness to face, accept, and even welcome tension, stress, and pain. They learn to accept all mind states as they occur: fear, anger, frustration, insecurity, disappointment, unworthiness, and others.
They find that acknowledging present reality is the fist step to transforming it.
Health indicators are measured before and after the program. Patients reported sharp drops in pain, medical symptoms, and psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and hostility after completing the program.
They found it so beneficial that the majority continued their meditation practice even after the program.
Mindfulness Meditation Benefits
- Improves health attitudes including self-confidence and motivation to take better care of self.
- Increases confidence in ability to respond to stressful situations.
- Increases sense of control over life.
- Increases ability to view stressful events as challenges versus threats.
- Greater sense of meaning in life.
- Decreases anxiety and panic attacks.
- Decreases depression.
- Decreases headaches.
- Reduces ER visits for people with diminished lung capacity. Mindfulness reduced the panicky feeling when short of breath thus increasing confidence in controlling episodes.
- Helps healing of psoriasis (skin disease with a stress component).
- Decreases chronic pain suffering.
- Promotes a sense of connection with others and the environment. It enhances the sense of being a part of rather than separate from the flow of life—a part of a larger whole.
Mindfulness Meditation Types
You can practice mindfulness meditation formally or informally.
With formal practice, you use a specific technique to help you stay focused in the moment. Formal practice develops your concentration ability, much as exercise practice builds muscle. It supports and strengthens your ability to be mindful in daily life.
For instance, while meditating pain sufferers are taught to observe pain, breathe with it, and eventually to relax into it by attending to pain sensations without running from them.
With practice, they come to see physical discomfort as separate from negative emotions and thoughts such as “My back pain is killing me.” With mindfulness, they note the thought and focus on the present moment asking, “right now is this pain killing me?” The answer is usually “no.”
Mindfulness meditation helps people respond to the actual sensation as it is in the moment versus the fear that it will be worse or uncontrolled.
With informal practice, you simply remind yourself to be in the present moment while doing activities. You notice when you are distracted and call yourself back to focusing on what you are doing—your experience remains in the moment.
- You appreciate the love you feel for your child when you are with your child versus thinking about your work.
- You feel the breeze and the sunlight on your skin and note the beauty of the trees when you walk versus worrying about something from your past.
Body scanning and yoga can also be a form of mindfulness meditation when done slowly and gently while focusing your mind on your breath and body sensations.
These techniques offer different paths to the same destination. Mindfulness is like a paradox:
It is easy. You simply pay attention to yourself—what you are doing, your thoughts, and sensations.It is hard. It takes discipline and time to build your concentration—undo old patterns of being.
Many people find it helpful to start with a teacher or join with a group.
You cannot fail with mindfulness meditation.
You are simply noticing the state you are already in—your state of being.As long as you practice, concentration deepens. As concentration deepens, you are more present in the moment, more calm, more aware. New insights may come.
Mindfulness meditation can help many heath conditions and it is easy to do.
Why not begin now? Simply remind yourself to notice what is happening right now. Enjoy all of its natural healing benefits.
Be fully alive with mindfulness meditation.
Sources and Resources
Evans S., et al., “Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder,” 22, no.4, Journal of Anxiety Disorders May 2008: 716-21.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness Meditation: Health Benefits of an Ancient Buddhist Practice,” Daniel Goleman and Joel Gurin, eds, Mind Body Medicine: How to Use Your Mind for Better Health(New York: Consumer Reports Books, 1993).
Michalak J, et al., “Mindfulness predicts relapse/recurrence in major depressive disorder after mindfulness based cognitive therapy,” 196, no. 8, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, August 2008: 630-3.
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987).
You Tube Video with Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Minfulness Stress Reduction and Healing.”