Introduction to Mindfulness
By: Christine Karper, Ph.D., LMHC, Cancer Support Community, Integrative Medicine Department & Kirsten Klein, UCF Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Researcher
Mindfulness has received a lot of attention recently – It seems that everyone is talking about it. There are now thousands of studies that show the benefits of mindfulness practice. I bet you’re still wondering what the heck is mindfulness. Here is what it is – and what it isn’t.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness derives from Buddhist practice and is described as: an intentional and non-judgmental awareness of the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2013).
So why should you practice mindfulness? Here is what the research says: Those who practice mindfulness on a regular basis will have improved health-related quality of life, decreased levels of stress and improved overall well-being (Linden, Lenz & Con, 2001).
Research by The University of Massachusetts Medical School (U MASS) reports patients being treated for a variety of chronic health conditions had a 35% reduction in medical symptoms and a 40% reduction of psychological symptoms after going through an 8 week mindfulness based stress reduction course (UMASS, 2018).
So whether you are looking for improved health, decreased stress or improved well-being, mindfulness may be right for you!
There are many myths about mindfulness; including that it is a challenging practice to sit quietly for hours with an empty mind. Some of the other myths are: mindfulness is difficult, mindfulness is escapism, and that mindfulness takes years to learn (Chopra, 2013). Here is a simple mindfulness activity.
Awake and Aware Activity
Mindfulness is a way of being awake and aware of the present moment. In order to accomplish this, you must have knowledge of the core of mindfulness. The key components are attention, awareness, and attitude. Mindfulness incorporates the way in which you pay attention, your awareness of your experience and your attitude towards the present moment. For this week, try this: pay attention to the present moment. Here is a simple activity for you to follow for a powerful mindfulness experience – mindfully experiencing the present moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn refers to this technique as “dropping in on yourself”. At any point throughout the day, you can become aware of the present moment by focusing in on your breath – how it feels to simply breathe. Now consciously adopt an alert and relaxed body posture so that you can feel relatively comfortable without moving, and then reside with calm acceptance in the present without trying to fill it with anything. Now take a physical inventory. What does it feel like to be supported by what you are sitting in? What emotion are you experiencing right now? Remember to watch the natural rhythm of your breath and remain conscious of this present moment, without the desire to change it. Practice this “dropping in on yourself” a few times this week. In the upcoming blog you will learn other mindfulness techniques to practice. For this week, enjoy your time paying attention to the present moment by dropping in.
About the Author
Christine Karper, Ph.D., LMHC is from the Integrative Medicine department at the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center where she serves as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction classes along with other integrative practices for well-being. She earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2000 and her doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision in 2003. Along with being a clinician at the cancer hospital, she serves on the graduate faculty panel for 4 universities in the Central Florida community. She has been teaching and practicing mindfulness techniques and other mind, body, spirit approaches for more than two decades.
About the Co-Author
Kirsten Klein, UCF Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Researcher. Kirsten contributed to the research and writing of this blog series.
Chopra, D. (2013). 7 Myths of Meditation. Blog Post retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/meditation-myths_b_2823629.html
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Published by Bantam/Random House.
Linden, W., Lenz, J. W., & Con, A. H. (2001). Individualized stress management for primary hypertension: A controlled trial. Archives of Internal Medicine, 161, 1071–1080.
UMASS Medical School Website History of MBSR. Retrieved from: https://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-based-programs/mbsr-courses/about-mbsr/history-of-mbsr/