Protect Your Mind from Stress with Mindfulness Training!

Protect Your Mind from Stress with Mindfulness Training!

What is Mindfulness?

Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

(Kabat-Zinn 1994)

Such is the commonly accepted definition of mindfulness, referring to a psychological process. The word was originally translated to English from the Buddhist word “sati” which means “a constant state of calm mind”, an important teaching in Buddhism.

In 1979, John Kabat-Zinn from the United States combined it with psychological theory and systematized it as a medical practice, which led to its widespread adoption in the field of psychiatry. Today, it is proven to be highly effective as a cognitive behavioral therapy. The specific technique involves training such as mindfulness meditation, which will be discussed below, to distance yourself from negative thoughts, such as depression, and aim for a “constant state of calm mind”.

On the other hand, the term “mindfulness” is sometimes used to refer to a philosophy and lifestyle of “being in the present moment,” separate from Buddhist meditation and treatment methods in the field of psychiatry. In the United States, mindfulness sparked a huge movement in the 2000s as more and more people turned their attention to Eastern religious ideas.


What is Mindfulness Meditation? – Learn the Correct Methods

Mindfulness meditation is a meditation practice in which you actively direct your attention to the very slightest stimulus, such as your own breath or a small raisin in the palm of your hand.

Humans are such creatures that the more we try to “stop thinking” about something, the more thoughts pop into our heads one after another. In particular, negative thoughts, which can be a source of stress, tend to invade our minds. The more we try not to think about them, the more difficult it becomes to neutralize them. This is a mechanism of thinking called the “paradoxical effect of thought suppression,” and it is very difficult to control this on our own volition.

By training yourself to focus your awareness on trivial things such as your own breathing with mindfulness meditation, it is believed that you can naturally distance yourself from negative thoughts without forcing yourself to suppress them, and from painful emotions such as depression.

Here are some common mindfulness meditation methods.

1. Sit up straight and relax

First, more than anything, it is important to practice mindfulness in a relaxed state. It’s best to do this in a quiet environment, free of background noise that can cause you to reflexively become aware. It can also help to adjust the brightness of the room, or use aromatherapy to create a relaxing space.

2. Lightly close your eyes and focus on your breathing

Try to breathe as naturally as possible. Don’t force yourself to breathe all the way out, or breathe in too deeply. If it is difficult to focus on your breaths, it can also be good to place a small, light object on your palm – such as a raisin – and turn your focus to that object.

3. If a distraction comes to mind, return your focus to your breathing

Do not force yourself to “try not to think”. If a thought crosses your mind, acknowledge it, and return your focus to your breathing. By repeating this process, your thoughts will naturally be suppressed, and you will be able to lead yourself to think about nothing at all.

4. Start with 3~5 minutes

For beginners in meditation, actively controlling your attention can be more difficult than you think. Don’t overdo it in the beginning, but aim for 3-5 minutes of meditation. As you get used to it, increase the time to 10 or 15 minutes. Skilled practitioners are said to be able to enter a meditative state for an hour or more without closing their eyes in any environment.


Distancing Your Attention from Negative Thinking

While trying to practice mindfulness meditation, you may find it difficult to focus your attention on your breath. At these times, negative thoughts may come to mind, such as “Why can’t I do this?” But the trick to mindfulness meditation is not to dwell on those negative thoughts, or to force them down, but just to bring your awareness back to your breath. Mindfulness is the skill of actively controlling one’s consciousness. By learning this skill, when stressful negative thoughts arise in our daily lives, we are able to shift our awareness away from negative matters, become aware of our cognitive biases and focus on more positive matters.

We are living in the now, which is caught between the past and an uncertain future. Even if we try to make the most of the present, we may end up worrying about the past and filling our minds with anxiety about the future. As a result, we perceive things in front of us as worse than they really are, or we perceive positive events in a negative light, which biases our own perception and causes us to carry stress. Mindfulness is a very effective way of thinking about freeing yourself from such negative cognitive biases, accepting the present as it is and living in the present.

Sugiura, Y. (2008). New directions for research of emotion regulation and psychological treatments: Potential benefits of mindfulness construct. Japanese Journal of Research on Emotions, 16(2), 167-177.