Mindfulness is a phenomenon rooted in Eastern philosophy that has been analyzed widely in Western society in recent decades. Researcher Kabat-Zinn described this concept as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Other authors define it as a process of enhanced attention to and non-judgmental awareness of present-moment experience, an undivided observation of both internal and external occurrences. One of the reasons why researchers began to study this construct is the benefits of engaging in mindfulness practices in everyday life.
Positive effects emerge in various functional areas – emotional, cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal processes. In the world of Western science, mindfulness has been and is being studied both as a state – acquired and improved with the help of various mental interventions, and as a trait – an ability common to all people but manifesting at different levels for everyone.
The quest of psychologists and other scientists to analyze mindfulness, imbued with Eastern philosophy, leads us to two essential components distinguished in the literature. First of all, it is (I) focusing on present experience (body states, thoughts, emotions); and (II) a non-judgmental, open, accepting approach to these experiences. The first component involves self-regulation of attention to maintain the latter in present experience and provide better recognition of mental processes in the present moment; the second – adopting a specific orientation characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance, of one’s experiences in the present moment, according to Bishop. We could say that the opposite state of mindfulness is that in which a person is distracted, lost in thoughts, not consciously aware of their present experience, and operating on “autopilot” mode.
A review by Baer summarizes empirical research on the benefits of mindfulness interventions and presents conceptual approaches to mindfulness in a clinical context. The ability to consciously direct and maintain one’s attention in the present moment non-judgmentally – can be developed through meditation (also described as purposeful self-regulation of attention from moment to moment). The current literature provides a wealth of meditation exercises to develop this skill, of which many encourage a focus on inner experiences, e. g., body sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Some also suggest turning attention to the outside world, e. g., sounds and images. The emphasis is that mindfulness must be practiced to bring the outcome.
Several authors have noted that the practice of mindfulness may lead to changes in thought patterns or attitudes in relation to it. For example, non-judgmental observation of pain and anxiety-related thoughts may lead to the understanding that they are “just thoughts,” rather than reflections of truth or reality and do not necessitate escape or avoidance behavior.
Mindfulness is related to better awareness of impulses, increased attention control, and better self-regulation. Several authors have noted that improved self-observation resulting from mindfulness training may promote the use of a range of coping skills. Mindfulness training promotes awareness of all cognitive and emotional events as they occur, including those that may be precursors to a depressive state. So, mindfulness training may increase early detection of a problem at a time when using previously taught skills is most likely to be beneficial in preventing the problem.
Several authors have suggested that mindfulness-based stress reduction could be used to treat stress-related medical disorders. These authors note that meditation often induces relaxation, which may contribute to the management of these disorders. The induction of relaxation through various meditation strategies has been well documented.
According to Hayes, acceptance entails “experiencing events fully and without defense, as they are”. Acceptance is described as one of several foundations of mindfulness practice by Kabat-Zinn, so it appears that mindfulness training may provide a method for teaching acceptance skills in various settings, including therapeutic procedures and processes.