Where does the word mindfulness actually originate from?
Mindfulness links back to Buddhist, Zen and Tibetan meditation techniques, and forms an integral part of the Buddhist practice. The origin of the word mindfulness comes from sati, which comes from a historical language called Pali. Pali has been extensively used within Buddhist scriptures. Hence, Sati can be considered a Buddhist term. Although the roots of mindfulness come from Buddhist meditation practices, Sati was first translated to “mindfulness” in English by a Pali-language scholar named Thomas William Rhys Davids in 1881.
On the other hand, in comparison to its Sanskrit equivalent, Sati translates to the word Smṛti of Sanskrit, and the English translation of Smṛti is “to remember/recollect”. Due to the fact that the word sati is derived from the verb sarati in Pali, which means “to remember”, there is a bit of a debate on the mindfulness translations.
One interpretation of Sati translating into both mindfulness and to remember is understanding how it resonates with awareness, alertness, clarity, and knowing. Being awake, and in this state of being focused, you are not forgetting the current task/experience, hence in mindfulness you are trying “to remember” and “be mindful” of the “now”, both associated to one another.
How was mindfulness introduced to the American mainstream?
Mindfulness was introduced to the American mainstream by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in 1979. The launching of the MBSR program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School opened the doors and inspired more research, and programs influenced by the MBSR model.
Ongoing research supporting the benefits of mindfulness
The benefits of integrating mindfulness as part of meditation and other therapy programs has been supported in research findings over the years. For instance, a study by to Tang, Yi-Yuan et al. (2015) found that the fronto-limbic networks involved in stress reduction and in regulating emotions had displayed diverse patterns with the application of mindfulness meditation.
It was also noted that mindfulness has the potential to change the brain areas which support self-awareness, the midline prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex. The study has concluded that although more research is required, techniques incorporating mindfulness, such as mindfulness meditation, can be potential treatments for clinical disorders by increasing well-being and promoting a healthy mind.
Applications of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is used in developing therapy programs for various areas such as prisons, hospitals, and schools. It has been employed to help decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In prisons, mindfulness is used as a tool to help improve self-esteem, reduce anger, reduce substance use, and optimism. With so many benefits, mindfulness can be used as part of treatments for drug addictions, weight management, and sports performance.
Among the different programs utilising mindfulness, here are some popular ones;
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT); aimed towards helping individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Mindfulness Relaxation; is a method used to help in reducing stress by integrating guided imagery and breathing techniques. For instance, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program integrating these breathing techniques to manage stress and anxiety levels.
- Soles to the Feet; mindfulness meditation technique designed for youngsters with limited intellectual abilities to manage anger.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT); mostly used for psychological interventions centring around acceptance and designed by combining mindfulness strategies in difference ways.
What does mindfulness involve?
The application of mindfulness includes paying attention to our thoughts and what we are feeling. This process also involves acceptance, hence, no judgement. There shouldn’t be any judging or criticisms involved. It is important to understand that there is no “right” or “wrong” way for each thought, action, or feeling, because, mindfulness involves “acceptance” as well. The goal is to observe and accept this experience nonjudgmentally, in order to gain some insight from it.
mindfulness is being “aware” and “mindful” of the present moment by experiencing it through your senses, thoughts, and emotions moment by moment.
It’s having awareness to your current thought, action, sense and feeling. It is being awake, and drawing your attention to the experience taking place in that moment. When you are being mindful, you are no longer lost to thoughts and sleepwalking through life. Being awake and conscious of the present moment is being mindful – to be present in the NOW, and this is the essence of mindfulness!