Mindfulness and Meditation: Two Steps Toward Better Health
Regular meditation along with a mindful lifestyle path can help individuals control and recover from many mental health disorders. Meditation is a practice of training the mind to induce another state of consciousness or bring attention to a particular point. Mindfulness refers to a psychological quality that involves bringing one’s complete attention to present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, in a specific way and nonjudgmentally.
A recent study examined associations of mindfulness with mental health and the mechanisms of mindfulness in experienced meditators practicing various meditation styles. Researchers wanted to know if mindfulness and meditation helped people overcome anxiety and/or depression. This was a well-done study. All psychometric and structural analyses of mindfulness on depression and anxiety were based on two large, independent meditator sample groups. Results were cross-validated and allowed for cross-cultural comparisons, further broadening the generalizability of the results.
Researchers found that meditation and mindfulness did help individuals manage anxiety and depression. The success of decentering and nonattachment were the most important mechanisms of mindfulness and consistent with neuroscientific evidence on the same subject. Aspects of emotion regulation and awareness along with nonattachment helped explain the effects of mindfulness on depression and anxiety. In particular, positive effects on the ability to cope with stress were observed and described from a physiological point of view.
This research tells us that we can change the way the brain works by practicing mindfulness and meditation, for positive impact(s) on our mental health. Modifications of cerebral networks and neurobiological functioning are possible in relation to expertise in meditation practice. Published evidence on the neurobiological effects of meditation include information on:
(1) The deactivation of the default mode network that generates spontaneous thoughts and contributes to the maintenance of the autobiographical self and is associated with anxiety and depression;
(2) Changes to the posterior cingulate cortex that helps to understand the context from which a stimulus emerges;
(3) Improvement in the temporoparietal junction that assumes a central role in empathy and compassion;
(4) Changed responses by the amygdala, which is implicated in fear responses.
The converging evidence shows that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in the treatment of psychological disorders, the reduction of stress, and for improving overall well-being.
Several of the proven therapies based on mindfulness meditation are:
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Functional Analytic Therapy
- Behavioral Activation
- Metacognitive Therapy
- Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy
- Dialectic Behavior Therapy
- Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy
- Compassionate Mind Training
All therapy models may be use alone or combined in a personal plan developed to meet individual needs.
These treatments offer concepts and techniques that may enhance therapeutic efficacy by teaching individuals a new way to focus attention in order to diminish cognitive reactivity and to enhance psychological flexibility. Mindfulness can be learned by anyone to foster clear thinking and open-heartedness. It requires no particular fitness level, age, religious or cultural belief system, but only the desire and effort required to practice regularly. Give it a try. Meditation and mindfulness practice are easy to learn, free to use and can make a great positive impact on overall mental health.