Mindfulness is a mental process of intentional, focused attention, the observation of thoughts, moods, sensations and emotions with awareness, in the present moment, non-judgementally. This enables objective response to events, rather than reaction out of past patterns of behaviour and unhelpful conditioning, and develops skilful action, awareness of choice, and the ability to respond rather than react to events, leading to more flexible adaptive behaviour and the reduction of stress and anxiety.
The practice of mindfulness techniques develops self-awareness, increased impulse control and decreased emotional reactivity to difficult events. Being mindful is being fully in contact with present experience, both to external events and to one’s internal response. Being deliberately present in the moment enables a full awareness of experience and current events, seeing one’s tendency to react out of habit, conditioned behaviour and automatic tendencies. We are often relatively unaware of our thoughts, reactions and ingrained behavioural habits, moving through life on automatic pilot, unaware of the influences that contribute to our actions. This may maintain distress and unhappiness and lead to clinical problems.
A greater non-judgemental awareness of these impulses and thought patterns enables a decreased emotional reactivity and vulnerability and allows for choice in how we relate to ourselves, others and the world.
Extensive research over 30 years shows that mindfulness training proves effective for the management of stress, depression, anxiety, pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic illness. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is recommended by The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
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