Mindfulness: A Favored Approach in Psychology and Medicine

There is no question about it, the interest in Mindfulness-Based Interventions to work with people experiencing a variety of “disorders” and also in healthy individuals is growing at a rapid pace. There has been research with psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar, addiction, eating disorders, ADHD, OCD, Parenting and others. There has also been plenty of research with medical diagnoses such as Chronic Pain, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Sleep disorders, heart disease, epilepsy and others.

The most well-known of these are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and a growing interest in Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for addictive relapse.

In her book  The Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Helping Professions, Shauna Shapiro shows a variety of research with mindfulness-based interventions and says,

As it stands, there is solid evidence that mindfulness-based treatments can be successfully applied to the treatment of symptoms of anxiety and depression, whether MBSR, MBCT or ACT is applied. Mixed-modality intensive treatments like DBT that incorporate mindfulness training are also useful for treating more complex personality disorders, which often include substance abuse and self-harming behaviors. 

Yet, it’s amazing that there has been this must positive research in only 30 years, most of it coming in the last 10 years. This is an exciting time in the field of mindfulness as a modality for medical and psychological distress.

The research is clearly pointing out that mindfulness as an approach has been and can continue to be translated into the mainstream and is indeed helpful as an intervention.

In a previous interview with Shauna, I asked her what she felt was the most exciting research out there in connection with mindfulness and she said:

Neuroplasticity. I believe this single word gives people hope; hope that change is possible. For example, we used to think that we all had a “happiness set point” much like with weight, and that no matter what our circumstances, we would always end up back at baseline. Good scientific evidence substantiates this theory, for example, people who win the lotto or those who are in a terrible accident and become paralyzed, after an initial spike in the expected direction, return to their baseline levels of happiness. Thus it was concluded that we had a happiness set point that was not very moveable. This is great news if you are born happy, however if you aren’t, it leaves you feeling pretty hopeless…And yet the new research in neuroplasticity demonstrates that we can change our level of happiness because we can modify both the activity and structure of our brain through meditation training. Recent research shows that meditation practice increases activity in areas of the brain associated with positive emotion, and shows structural changes in the brain due to long term meditation practice. This new research is quite hopeful, suggesting that although happiness may not change due to external circumstances, changing our internal circumstances, through mindfulness training, can change our level of happiness.

How do you get started with mindfulness? You can click on this link to start a short practice right now. Enjoy!

Much more to come in this field…stay tuned. As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

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