Mindfulness meditation has grown tremendously in popularity in the past decade, or so, in both lay practice and in psychotherapy research literature. When practiced regularly, mindfulness meditation is thought to help develop habitual, unconscious behaviours that can potentially produce widespread positive effects on physical and psychological health (1). The term mindfulness refers to the psychological state of awareness (2). Practicing mindfulness, namely being aware of one’s present moment experience(s), is regarded as an effective remedy against common forms of psychological distress, including anxiety and anger (3). Mindfulness requires the capacity to fixate one’s attention on what is happening, and simultaneously switch attention from one aspect of the experience to another (2). Mindfulness meditation has been empirically tested to be associated with psychological well-being. Studies conclude that mindfulness-meditation-based therapy is effective for altering cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues, including anxiety and depression. More than other types of meditation, mindfulness meditation has been shown to have significant benefits on psychological well-being by better stimulating the middle prefrontal brain associated with self-observation, and by fostering attentional mechanisms known to bring a sense of calmness to one’s mind (3).
The primary goal of this training is to provide individuals with adequate training in meditation techniques to foster the quality of “mindfulness” in their own lives (6). In its totality, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction helps participants cultivate a non-judgmental, yet perceptive, observation of all the stimuli that enter their minds or fields of awareness on a moment by moment basis (6). This mindfulness practice allows for greater awareness of the present moment, as the individual partaking in this technique learns to let go of musings about the past and the constant fears concerning the future. Aligning with the principles of ‘mindfulness’, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is also designed to teach participants to become more aware of, and relate differently, to thoughts, feelings, and body sensations (6). For instance, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction aims to teach patients with social anxiety to approach stressful situations “mindfully” so they may respond to the situation in a way that helps promote wellness instead of automatically reacting to it, which may cause undue harm. In helping to regulate one’s emotions, mindfulness meditation leads to an increased positive effect in one’s mind, including decreased anxiety (7), which can be particularly helpful for those who are experiencing a chronic illness or state of stress (as in competitive sports).