The term “mindfulness,” originally described in ancient manuscripts, is an English translation of the Pali word sati, which means “consciousness, attention, and remembering.” (Pali is the original language in which the Buddha’s teachings were written down.) Davids & Stede 1921/2001 published the first dictionary translation of sati as “mindfulness” in 1921. Perhaps we’ll see, the term “mindfulness” has been re-defined for use in psychotherapy, and it now embraces a wide range of concepts and activities (1, 2).
In comparison to Mindfulness to Mindlessness, expresses itself in the following ways (2):
- Rushing through activities without paying attention to them.
- Breaking or spilling items due to carelessness, inattention, or other distractions.
- Snacking without being aware that you are eating.
- Ignoring or dismissing mild physical tension or discomfort.
- Forgetting someone’s name nearly immediately after hearing it.
- Being concerned with either the future or the past.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”– Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)
Mindfulness is the discipline of training the mind to be present by being aware of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and surroundings in the present moment (1). The ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not excessively reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us is known as mindfulness. Although mindfulness is something that we all have, it is made more accessible to us when we practice it on a regular basis (2).
Mindfulness is more of a state of mind than a specific activity. With mindful awareness, almost any activity may be completed. The term “mindfulness” comes from the Sanskrit word “Smti,” which simply translates to “that which is remembered.” It was first associated with Buddhist psychology (3).
Being attentive is concentrating on what you’re immediately experiencing through your senses, as well as your state of mind through your thoughts and emotions. Additionally, there is strong evidence that training your brain to be aware actually changes the physical structure of your brain (2).
There are three main characteristics of mindful awareness:
- Purpose – Mindfulness implies directing your attention carefully and purposefully rather than letting it wander.
- Presence – Being fully connected with and attentive to the present moment is what mindfulness means. Thoughts concerning the past and future that arrive are merely recognized as current thoughts.
- Acceptance – Mindfulness involves a nonjudgmental attitude toward whatever emerges in the present moment. This means that feelings, thoughts, and emotions are not rated as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; rather, they are just noted as “happening” and observed until they pass.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation are mirror images of one another: mindfulness enhances and supports meditation, while meditation promotes and expands mindfulness. Whereas awareness can be applied to any event at any moment of the day, meditation is usually performed for a set amount of time. Meditation is the awareness of “nothing,” but mindfulness is the awareness of “something.”
Mindfulness Meditation is a mental discipline that involves focusing on the sensations of the breath and body while remaining relaxed (4). According to scientific evidence, mindfulness meditation can aid in the management of stress-related physical disorders, the reduction of anxiety and depression, the development of positive emotions, and the overall improvement of physical health and well-being (5, 6).
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Minimize Emotional Disorder such as Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety disorders and depression are examples of emotional disorders that are defined by inadequate effort to overcome emotions. The ability to regulate one’s emotions is an important human trait that aids social adjustment and overall well-being. Following through on key life goals requires patience and control of a wide range of emotional states, including painful and distressing feelings (7).
Anxiety involves focusing on future events, which can be distressing, according to the study. Imagine these future events to be your “what ifs” or anxieties while you’re alone. Anxiety is concerned with the future, depression is frequently concerned with the past (8).
When we’re nervous, our minds are racing with possibilities, yet the only thing that matters is what’s happening right now. Most of our anxieties are unfounded (9).
The validity of research on the effects of meditation has been challenged. There is some evidence that meditation can help persons with anxiety symptoms, particularly those who have worry as a secondary concern (9). It may also help with physical and mental stress symptoms (9, 10).
Reduced levels of stress
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn created mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) as a therapeutic method in 1979. It is a stress-reduction technique that blends mindfulness meditation with yoga. When your body senses danger or dread, it releases the cortisol hormone, which triggers the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response. Emotional reactivity and anxiety can be reduced while a sense of calm can be increased by practicing mindfulness (11). A study indicated that mindfulness-based interventions in the workplace reduced cortisol production, implying lower stress levels (12).
Lower heart rate
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.s., and studies show that mindfulness can help your heart. Anxiety appears to play a role in the development of heart disease, according to research. The primary goal of this study was to see if Kabat-mindfulness-based Zinn’s stress reduction program could help women with heart disease feel less anxious. In a treatment and control group of women with heart disease, anxiety, emotional control, coping styles, and health locus of control were compared. Post-intervention analyses give preliminary evidence of the program’s positive impacts. Mindfulness meditation participants had significantly lower heart rates and performed better on a cardiovascular capacity test (11, 13).
Boost Immune Response
An old, small 2003 study on the effect of mindfulness on the brain and immunological function discovered that an 8-week mindfulness meditation program had a positive effect on the brain and immune function. Stress has long been known to suppress the immune system. Despite this, the researchers discovered that not only did the participants’ emotions improve, but they also had an association with higher rates in antibodies, which help prevent and fight infection (14).
Reduce Lower Back Pain
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is often used for chronic pain conditions, according to systematic studies published in 2011 on MBSR for chronic pain. The findings revealed that there was equivocal evidence of MBSR’s effectiveness in reducing pain intensity or impairment in chronic low back pain patients. However, there is little evidence that MBSR can help people accept their pain (15).
Improvement in Sleep Patterns and Daytime Impairment
According to studies, sleep disorders are most prevalent in elderly persons to kindergarten children, and they are frequently neglected. Treatment options for sleep disorders are limited. Studies found that an immediate post-intervention increase in sleep quality was superior to a highly structured SHE intervention. Formalized mindfulness-based therapies have clinical significance because they may help older persons with sleep disorders in the short term, and this benefit appears to transfer over into lowering sleep-related daytime impairment, which affects the quality of life (16).
Improvement in Emotional Eating (Eating Disorder)
All eating disorders are linked with severe distress and dysfunction, including mood disorders, emotional problems, alcohol addiction, and medical complications. According to studies, mindfulness meditation on eating management can help not only with eating disorders and obesity therapy but also with understanding the full potential of mindfulness-based therapies in other areas of treatment. The findings imply that mindfulness meditation significantly reduces binge eating and emotional eating in people who engage in these behaviors; however, the evidence for its weight-loss effects is unclear. More research is needed to assess the effectiveness of mindfulness training and its long-term impacts (17, 18).
Preventing Relapse with Alcohol
Alcohol addiction is a common, chronic disease that is linked to several bad health consequences, including severe morbidity, mortality, and disability, as well as a substantial socioeconomic cost. Meditation appears to be a promising treatment for alcoholism. Mindfulness Meditation may be a useful supplementary therapy for preventing relapse in alcoholism. Although the findings of this pilot study suggest that meditation may be effective in reducing drinking and reducing the intensity of relapse triggers in recovering alcoholics, the researchers concluded that a more definite, randomized trial comparing meditation to “best practice” is needed (19).
Helpful in Treatment of ADHD
According to studies, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic developmental disorder that affects 3–7% of children. Given the increasing use of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation in ADHD populations, as well as the potential benefits it has on ADHD symptoms, executive function impairments, and emotional stability. According to the research results of the systematic review, yoga, mindfulness-based interventions, and/or meditation had a signiﬁcant impact on ADHD symptoms, behavioral problems, inattention, the parent-child relationship, executive functioning, on-task behavior, parent stress, and parent trait-mindfulness (20).
Helpful in Treatment of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal pain disorder followed by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood problems. Fibromyalgia, according to researchers, increases painful sensations by changing how the brain and spinal cord interpret painful and nonpainful signals (21).
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread pain and a spectrum of psychological comorbidities, rendering treatment difficult and often a financial burden. Fibromyalgia is a complicated chronic pain condition that requires a multimodal therapeutic approach to optimize treatment efficacy. Thus, it has been postulated that mind-body techniques may prove fruitful in treating fibromyalgia. Mindfulness meditation, a behavioral technique premised on non-reactive sensory awareness, attenuates pain and improves mental health outcomes. However, the impact of mindfulness meditation on fibromyalgia-related outcomes has not been comprehensively characterized (22).
The study concluded that mindfulness meditation reduces pain by improving cognitive flexibility and the ability to control emotional reactions with a nonjudgmental, nonreactive focus. In fibromyalgia patients, MM has been shown to improve stress, quality of life, pain, and symptom severity (22).
Helpful in Treatment of Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated skin condition that has been linked to a wide range of psychological issues. Since these factors have been proven to both worsen and cause psoriasis, serval studies have been conducted to evaluate the efficiency of various psychological therapies in psoriasis therapy (23, 24).
According to the studies, a brief mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention provided through audiotape during UV light therapy can speed up the rate of psoriatic lesion elimination in psoriasis patients (25).
Alleviate Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, which is commonly described as discomfort that lasts longer than three months or exceeds the average time for tissue repair, can have serious medical, social, and economic effects, including interpersonal conflicts, lost productivity, and higher healthcare expenses. Research showed that mindfulness meditation improves pain and depression symptoms and quality of life. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in research to alleviate pain and depression symptoms as well as the quality of life (26, 27).
How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness Practice: A Basics
Mindfulness allows us to create some distance between ourselves and our reactions, allowing us to break down our conditioned responses (31). Some guidelines for practicing mindfulness throughout the day-
Set aside some time – To practice mindfulness, you don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, nor any other specific equipment—all you need is some time and space.
Keep an open mind and observe the present moment as it is – The goal of mindfulness is not to reach a state of permanent peace or to silence the mind. The purpose is straightforward – we want to pay attention to the present moment without passing judgment on it. We recognize that this is easier said than done.
Allow your conclusions to flow – When we observe judgments arise throughout our practice, we might make a mental note of them and let them go.
Return to simply seeing the moment as it is – Our thoughts are prone to wandering off in thought. As a result, mindfulness is defined as the discipline of returning to the present moment repeatedly.
Be patient with your wandering mind – Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts; instead, practice detecting when your mind has wandered and gently bringing it back.
That is standard procedure. It’s often remarked that it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s only a matter of continuing to do it. The results will come eventually.
How To Do – A Basic Meditation Routine
This meditation concentrates on the breath, not because it has any special significance, but because the physical feeling of breathing is constantly present and can be used as a grounding anchor. Throughout the practice, you may become distracted by ideas, feelings, or sounds; simply return your attention to the next breath. Even if you only return once, it’s fine (28, 29, 30, 31).
A Basic Meditation Routine
- Place yourself in a comfortable position – Look for a position that will provide you with a stable, strong, and comfy seat.
- Keep an eye on what your legs are doing – If you’re sitting on a cushion, cross your legs in front of you comfortably. Rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor if you’re sitting in a chair.
- Straighten your upper body without becoming stiff – Your spine is naturally curved. Allow it to exist.
- Pay attention to the movement of your arms – Your upper arms should be parallel to your upper body. Place your palms on your legs in whatever position seems most comfortable to you.
- Soften your sight – Allow your chin to drop slightly and your eyes to dip gently downward. Closing your eyes isn’t required. You can simply observe what is in front of your eyes without focusing on it.
- Observe your breathing – Bring your focus to the physical sensation of breathing: air passing through your nose or mouth, your abdomen rising and falling, or your chest rising and falling.
- When your mind drifts away from your breath, pay attention to it – Your attention will inevitably leave the breath and stray to other things. Don’t be concerned. There’s no reason to stifle or suppress your thoughts. When you sense your thoughts drifting, gently bring them back to your breathing.
- Be patient with your wandering thoughts – It’s very normal for your thoughts to roam continually. Rather than fighting your thoughts, try observing them without reacting. Simply take a seat and pay attention. That’s all there is to it, no matter how difficult it is to maintain. Return to your breath repeatedly, without judgment or expectation.
- Lift your gaze when you’re ready (if your eyes are closed, open them) – Take a moment to listen to the sounds around you. Take note of how your body is currently feeling. Take note of your feelings and thoughts.
Best Apps and Websites for Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation has its origins in Buddhism, with secular forms emerging in the 1970s. To practice mindfulness, many people nowadays use meditation applications. Open mindedness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with your experience are all promoted by mindfulness. You may create a meditation practice and learn to bring more mindfulness into your daily life by following the instructions in these apps and websites, mentioned below.
Best free guided meditation apps
Insight Timer is a meditation app that makes it simple, comfortable, and enjoyable to meditate. Through a range of free mindfulness and meditation exercises, it teaches you how to handle stress and anxiety, as well as how to get great sleep. With over 130,000 titles of daily live events and relaxing sessions hosted by celebs like Gisele Bündchen and Russell Brand, Insight Timer has the world’s largest collection of free guided meditations (33).
The app’s Circles function is an excellent way to interact with others; you may communicate and meditate in real-time time with groups of friends, colleagues, or strangers. There are also curated playlists with topics like letting go of guilt, practicing compassion, and reducing anxiety (32, 33).
One of the teachers’ Insight Timer meditation app – Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, and author from India who founded the Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides yoga programs all over the world. Sadhguru demonstrates why expanding human consciousness is critical to our existence through his Inner Engineering program. The one thing humanity still lacks in this age of high-powered technology that is widely accessible to practically everyone is Universal Consciousness (32).
UCLA provide mindful awareness research center’s guidance and the UCLA mindful app, you can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, at any time.
This app offers features like basic meditations in english and spanish for beginners wellness meditations and for people suffering from difficult health conditions this app also includes weekly podcasts from UCLA’s hammer museum– a 30-minute meditation on various subjects and even a timer to meditate on your own– as well as informative videos on how to get started, supportive meditation postures, and the science of mindfulness (34).
Smiling Mind is a meditation app designed for youngsters. It was created by a group of psychologists to increase calmness, contentment, and clarity via the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated to benefit general health and wellbeing as well as stress management, resilience, anxiety, and depression.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of exercises customized to various demographics and preferences, far more than most other mindfulness apps. Because all of the content is free, it’s the ideal app for beginners looking to see if mindfulness is for them (35).
Best free guided meditation websites
Mindfulness meditation is a website that offers over 1,800 free mindfulness exercises ranging from beginning to advanced levels. This website will help you step-by-step in noticing “that we all have” habits and guiding you toward a more direct and curious relationship with all of your life, just as it is. They provide free meditations ranging from brief guided meditations to more in-depth online courses such as the 28-day mindfulness challenge and the 10-day Vipassana course (36).
University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness
The University of California, San Diego, offer Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), as created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D, is the foundation and heart of the Center for Mindfulness. The award-winning PBS television show Healing and the Mind featured Dr. Kabat-Zinn and his program prominently. A significant collection of scientific evidence has evolved to strongly support the profound consequences of this effort. They offers free live events and guided meditation sessions that last between 20 and an hour. If you can’t make it to a live session via Zoom, take a look at their extensive Soundcloud archive. “Taking a Deep Breath to Reduce Anxiety” to “Giving and Receiving Compassion” are just a few of the topics covered (37).
Best paid guided meditation apps
Calm is the leading mental wellness app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation which designed to help you manage stress, sleep better, and live a happier, healthier life. It was co-founded by Alex Tew (Million Dollar Homepage) and Michael Acton Smith (Mind Candy, Moshi Monsters, Firebox). Calm supports customers in over 190 countries with countless hours of original audio content accessible in seven languages. Calm is a popular choice among sleep-deprived people. In addition to sleep, the app has a number of unusual meditations to help you relax, relieve tension, and stretch your body (38).
Chopra’s website and app, created by world-renowned mindfulness experts, that offer self-paced sessions to fit any schedule. Members receive access to approximately 500 meditations ranging in length from 5 to 30 minutes, as well as self-care products. You may also take your meditation to the next level by enrolling in masterclasses that are designed for specific health goals, including such Deepak Chopra’s mantra-based meditation course. (39).
Headspace is well-known for its large collection of guided meditations and natural soundtracks, but its “Move Mode” sets it apart from the others. Workouts and mental fitness activities inspired by professional athletes will get your blood pumping. Expert trainers, including Olympians Kim Glass and Leon Taylor, lead the sessions. Headspace is available for download for free, with restricted free features and free trials. If you want full access, you may upgrade to Headspace Plus for $12.99 per month with a free 7-day trial, or for $69.99 per year and receive 14 days free. There are also plans for students and families (40).
Best paid guided meditation websites
Yogi Approved can help you “find your om at home” with hundreds of HD yoga, fitness, and meditation videos covering from beginner to intermediate levels if you’re searching for a membership with diversity. New programmes are uploaded on a weekly basis, and you may watch them online, on the app, or download and view them offline (41).
The concepts of Vedic meditation are based on historic religious scriptures that extend back thousands of years, and the authors of Sattva took inspiration for their library from these ancient origins. Members get access to a large library of Sanskrit scholars’ vipassana meditation, traditional chants, mudras, and mantras.
Sattva is best for advanced meditators because it includes heart rate monitoring and mood tracking, as well as a large number of free meditation sessions. Sattva also offers thought collections and playlists to alleviate the stress of deciding what to employ in your practice. The app is free to download and use with limited content, but it charges roughly $50 per month to access the whole database (42).
Mindfulness meditation means devoting complete attention to present-moment events, both internal and external, as well as accepting emotional states without judgment. Starting a mindfulness meditation practice can be challenging at first, but it’s crucial to realize that even a few minutes every day can can be useful. Being present for even a few minutes can have big results. It’s a practice you can return to whenever you need it, even if you don’t do it every day.
References and Further Reading
- Siegel, R. D., Germer, C. K., & Olendzki, A. (2009). Mindfulness: What is it? Where did it come from?. In Clinical Handbook of mindfulness (pp. 17-35). Springer, New York, NY.
- Germer, C. (2004). What is mindfulness. Insight Journal, 22(3), 24-29.
- Williams, M., Leumann, E., & Cappeller, C. (2004). Etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to cognate Indo-European languages. New Delhi: Bharatiya Granth Niketan.
- Williams, J. M. G. (2010). Mindfulness and psychological process. Emotion, 10(1), 1.
- Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
- Kristeller, J. L. (2007). Mindfulness meditation.
- Hofmann, S. G., & Asmundson, G. J. (2008). Acceptance and mindfulness-based therapy: new wave or old hat?. Clinical psychology review, 28(1), 1-16.
- Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 29(7), 545-562.
- Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., Jenkins, Z. M., & Ski, C. F. (2017). Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of psychiatric research, 95, 156-178.
- Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S. E., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 78(6), 519-528.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD (https://mbsrtraining.com/jon-kabat-zinn/)
- Heckenberg, R. A., Eddy, P., Kent, S., & Wright, B. J. (2018). Do workplace-based mindfulness meditation programs improve physiological indices of stress? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 114, 62-71.
- Tacón, A. M., McComb, J., Caldera, Y., & Randolph, P. (2003). Mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, and heart disease: a pilot study. Family and Community Health, 26(1), 25-33.
- Morone, N. E., Greco, C. M., & Weiner, D. K. (2008). Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: a randomized controlled pilot study. Pain, 134(3), 310-319.
- Black, D. S., O’Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine, 175(4), 494-501.
- Katterman, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., & Corsica, J. A. (2014). Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: a systematic review. Eating behaviors, 15(2), 197-204.
- Wolever, R. Q., & Best, J. L. (2009). Mindfulness-based approaches to eating disorders. In Clinical handbook of mindfulness (pp. 259-287). Springer, New York, NY.
- Zgierska, A., Rabago, D., Zuelsdorff, M., Coe, C., Miller, M., & Fleming, M. (2008). Mindfulness meditation for alcohol relapse prevention: a feasibility pilot study. Journal of addiction medicine, 2(3), 165.
- Chimiklis, A. L., Dahl, V., Spears, A. P., Goss, K., Fogarty, K., & Chacko, A. (2018). Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation interventions for youth with ADHD: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(10), 3155-3168.
- Adler-Neal, A. L., & Zeidan, F. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for fibromyalgia: mechanistic and clinical considerations. Current rheumatology reports, 19(9), 1-9.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: past, present, and future.
- Qureshi, A. A., Awosika, O., Baruffi, F., Rengifo-Pardo, M., & Ehrlich, A. (2019). Psychological therapies in management of psoriatic skin disease: a systematic review. American journal of clinical dermatology, 20(5), 607-624.
- Kabat-Zinn, J., Wheeler, E., Light, T., Skillings, A., Scharf, M. J., Cropley, T. G., … & Bernhard, J. D. (1998). Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing photo therapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosomatic medicine, 60(5), 625-632.
- Chou, R., Turner, J. A., Devine, E. B., Hansen, R. N., Sullivan, S. D., Blazina, I., … & Deyo, R. A. (2015). The effectiveness and risks of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain: a systematic review for a National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop. Annals of internal medicine, 162(4), 276-286.
- Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., … & Maglione, M. A. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199-213.
- Yoga & You: How to practice Mindfulness? | Dr. Hansaji Yogendra – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf97omsSpy8)
- Mindfulness Meditation | Swami Sarvapriyananda – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl_aTKDkOvs)/(https://www.vedantany.org/)
- Daily Calm | 10 Minute Mindfulness Meditation | Be Present – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZToicYcHIOU)