Mindfulness (living in the present)

Living in the present gives you ultimate control over your destiny.

Techniques have been used for years to overcome stress. This is an overview of an effective technique called mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness Defined

Have you ever gotten out of the shower and didn’t remember if you shampooed? Have you ever driven home and not remembered the journey? This is an example of not being mindful. Too often we have our lives on automatic pilot. By forgoing the present we forfeit the portion of our lives that we do have control over.

Applying mindfulness can be equated in complexity to positive thinking.  Starting as a Buddhist meditation technique over 2500 years ago, in recent times mindfulness has become a means of developing awareness across socioeconomic status, job titles, board rooms, and break rooms (Dhiman, 2008).  Mindfulness is the ability to live in the present-moment to moment, not driven by the pain of one’s past or the fear of one’s future.  It is purposely paying attention to things people would not usually think about (Kabat-Zinn, 2005).  It can be as simple as carefully listening to one’s own breathing during a moment of crisis, ignoring everything else.

Using mindfulness, one finds peace within the confines of one’s abilities and talents without allowing the pressures of the world to overtake and browbeat him.  A relatively new concept to be applied in psychotherapy, mindfulness is taking on popularity. Recent studies have evaluated the effects of mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) in preventing relapse with reference to addiction recovery, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Other applications, such as pain management, sleep disorders, and weight management are also being explored.  Although there are no negative side-effects to mindfulness it is not intended that it be recommended as the panacea for all ills and for all people. However, there are many side-effects in modern pharmacology.  It is important when finding something that has no harmful side-effects and works for many people to make that knowledge available.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Mindfulness

Most studies have had a positive overall effect from the implementation of MBRP.  There were observations of a departure from rumination (thinking about a situation repeatedly), better coping skills, compassion, ability to change circumstances more easily, and overall better feeling about life in general (Foureur, Besley, Burton, Yu & Crisp (2013).  Compared with the usual treatment subjects received such as the 12-step program, 54% had less chance of returning to drug use and 59% decreased chance of going back to heavy drinking (Bowen, Witkiewitz, Clifasefi, Grow, Chawla, Hsu, Carroll, Harrop, Collins, Lustyk, & Larimer, 2014).  They were more able to realize and tolerate the discomforts of cravings and uncomfortable feelings linked to addiction.  Dysphoria (dissatisfaction with life in general) is reduced  (Bowen et al., 2014; Coelho, Canter, & Ernst, 2013).

Many subjects are relieved that they can receive help without talking about themselves to strangers (Tegan, 2013).  Mindfulness was responsible for a 12-month reprieve that tested the same as if anti-depressants were used.  It was especially effective in treating those subjects with a history of a traumatic childhood.  It proved to be a better treatment than the usual care received and active control treatment.  One study indicated that depression relapse test results were not significant in those people whose childhood was not traumatic (Williams, Crane, Barnhofer, Brennan, Duggan, Fennell, Hackman, Krusche, Muse, Von Rohr, Shah, Crane, Eames, Jones, Radford, Silverton, Sun, Weatherly-Jones, Whitaker, Russell & Russell, 2014).

In all of the articles researched for this work, there were no contraindications mentioned to the application of any mindfulness-based program.

Further Testing

In reviewing the testing process thus far, it is necessary to identify the best pathways to be taken to solidify the presence of this technique into the field of psychology such that it can be readily accepted and used by professionals. Currently, the numbers of research subjects are rather small compared to the population being studied, which results in a norm that isn’t truly indicative of the group being studied.  There also needs to be an incentive for the subjects to complete the trial. One study (Bowen et al. 2014) compensated the subjects, nominally for each completed assessment ($40 gift card), completion of all assessments ($40), and attendance bonuses ($20-$30).   It is imperitive to have complete results. If  a group of subjects is small to begin with, it only exacerbates the problem when subjects don’t finish.

Research needs to be conducted to ascertain the comparison of mindfulness to antidepressants and placebos. This would help us to know why it works and how to apply the knowledge to its prescription (Coelho et al., 2013).

Many people were excluded from testing because they were considered too hard to deal with. The testing procedures typically need consistent documentation, quite often by one’s self.  There are so many entries, that it was thought to be too arduous or risky for those who were suicidal, psychotic, had dementia, or if they were a threat to others. If they had taken part in previous mindfulness research, it was beyond the scope of interest (Bowen et al., 2013).

More testing could occur which includes these questionable focus groups to see if headway could be made within those populations.  More study could also be performed with regards to longer follow-up period, conscious implementation of mindfulness practices in the workplace, and work-sponsored incentive–based mindfulness training within risk groups.

 

Conclusions

Mindfulness is an effective solution for workplace stress. Is it the only avenue that should be pursued? Absolutely not. Some causes of employee stress can only be solved by physically changing the work environment, changing supervisors, getting better equipment, or a myriad of other solutions to any given problem. With some people, it wouldn’t matter what was attempted, they have made up their minds to be stressed out or angry, and nothing and nobody will ever change their mindset. For those people for whom it will work, it is appreciated not only in the workplace, but everywhere else life’s stressors emerge. It is a life skill worth learning and implementing.

The cost of implementing mindfulness is negligible.  It doesn’t have to be administered by a licensed practitioner. The same several-week course that was used in some of these trials (Williams et al., 2013; Coelho et al. 2013) is publicly available on the internet for about the same cost as one psychology treatment (Kabat-Zinn, 2014).

Mindfulness is living in the present, pushing the worries and concerns of the past and the future to the side. The only thing we can truly control is the present, anyway. Studies have proven benefits of its application. Without the concern of possibly harming someone’s psyche, it should not only be implemented, but tested rigorously, so it can be applied in the multiplicity of ways it can possibly help mankind.

References:

Bowen, S., Witkiewitz, K., Clifasefi, S. L., Grow, J., Chawla, N., Hsu, S. H., . . . Larimer, M. E. (2014). Relative efficacy of mindfulness-based relapse prevention, standard relapse prevention, and treatment as usual for substance use disorders: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(5), 547-556. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com.library.capella.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2014-26167-009&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Coelho, H. F., Canter, P. H., & Ernst, E. (2013). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Evaluating current evidence and informing future research. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 97-107. Retrieved from:  http://search.ebscohost.com.library.capella.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2013-25625-004&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Dhiman, S. (2008). Cultivating mindfulness: The Buddhist art of paying attention to attention. Interbeing, 2(2), 35-52. Retrieved from:  http://search.ebscohost.com.library.capella.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=36001008&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Foureur, M., Besley, K., Burton, G., Yu, N., & Crisp, J. (2013). Enhancing the resilience of nurses and midwives: Pilot of a mindfulness-based program for increased health, sense of coherence and decreased depression, anxiety and stress. Contemporary Nurse: A Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession, 45(1), 114-125. doi:10.5172/conu.2013.45.1.11

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness.  New York, NY: Delacourt Press

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2014) Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practices. Retrieved from: http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/ Research news round-up. (2014). Occupational Health, 66(1), 10. Retrieved from: http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/1491314789?accountid=27965

Tegan, A. (2013) Mindfulness Therapy session on help for anxiety and depression medication reduction. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mrgqXoQI80

Williams, J.M., Crane, C., Barnhofer, T.Brennan, K.Duggan, D.Hackmann, A.Krusche, A.Muse, K.Von Rohr, I., Shah, D., Crane, R.,  Eames, C.Jones, M.,  Radford, S.Silverton, S.Sun, Y.Weatherley-Jones, E. Whitaker, C.Russell, D.Russell, I. (2014). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for preventing relapse in recurrent depression: A randomized dismantling trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(2), 275-286. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com.library.capella.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2013-42381-001&site=ehost-live&scope=site

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