A year or so ago we held a wonderful class here called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, led by a gifted counselor and teacher, Pennie Vail, LPC. Through this class was a born a practice that helped another amazing woman develop a passion for mindfulness and all the benefits that come with this practice. Shannon Causey was this woman and she will now be leading a Mindful Monday class to begin next week and continuing on Monday mornings from 9:30-10:30 am. We love it when our students evolve into teachers.
The term "mindfulness" has been used to refer to a psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote this awareness, a mode of processing information and a character trait. You could define mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.
Researchers theorize that mindfulness meditation promotes metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotion-regulation strategies.
More specifically, research on mindfulness has identified these benefits:
Reduced rumination. Several studies have shown that mindfulness reduces rumination. In one study, for example, 20 novice meditators were asked to participate in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. After the retreat, the meditation group had significantly higher self-reported mindfulness and a decreased negative affect compared with a control group. They also experienced fewer depressive symptoms and less rumination. In addition, the meditators had significantly better working memory capacity and were better able to sustain attention during a performance task compared with the control group.
Stress reduction. Many studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010 a study conducted a meta-analysis of 39 studies that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.
Boosts to working memory. Improvements to working memory appear to be another benefit of mindfulness, research finds. A 2010 study, for example, documented the benefits of mindfulness meditation among a military group who participated in an eight-week mindfulness training, a nonmeditating military group and a group of nonmeditating civilians. Both military groups were in a highly stressful period before deployment. The researchers found that the nonmeditating military group had decreased working memory capacity over time, whereas working memory capacity among nonmeditating civilians was stable across time. Within the meditating military group, however, working memory capacity increased with meditation practice. In addition, meditation practice was directly related to self-reported positive affect and inversely related to self-reported negative affect.
Focus. Another study examined how mindfulness meditation affected participants' ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information. The researchers compared a group of experienced mindfulness meditators with a control group that had no meditation experience. They found that the meditation group had significantly better performance on all measures of attention and had higher self-reported mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation practice and self-reported mindfulness were correlated directly with cognitive flexibility and attentional functioning.
Less emotional reactivity. Research also supports the notion that mindfulness meditation decreases emotional reactivity. In a study of people who had anywhere from one month to 29 years of mindfulness meditation practice, researchers found that mindfulness meditation practice helped people disengage from emotionally upsetting pictures and enabled them to focus better on a cognitive task as compared with people who saw the pictures but did not meditate.
More cognitive flexibility. Another line of research suggests that in addition to helping people become less reactive, mindfulness meditation may also give them greater cognitive flexibility. One study found that people who practice mindfulness meditation appear to develop the skill of self-observation, which neurologically disengages the automatic pathways that were created by prior learning and enables present-moment input to be integrated in a new way. Meditation also activates the brain region associated with more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations.
Relationship satisfaction. Several studies find that a person's ability to be mindful can help predict relationship satisfaction — the ability to respond well to relationship stress and the skill in communicating one's emotions to a partner. Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflict, is positively associated with the ability to express oneself in various social situations and predicts relationship satisfaction.
Other benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to enhance self-insight, morality, intuition and fear modulation, all functions associated with the brain's middle prefrontal lobe area. Evidence also suggests that mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits, including increased immune functioning, improvement to well-being and reduction in psychological distress. In addition, mindfulness meditation practice appears to increase information processing speed, as well as decrease task effort and having thoughts that are unrelated to the task at hand.
With this kind of empirical evidence, don’t forget to put yourself on your weekly “to do” list! Start Monday mindfully and increase your peace and productivity all week long. We welcome those with all levels of experience to this class, which will consist of a mix of meditations and discussion about principles of mindfulness. Appropriate for adults and youth 14+.
Click here to sign up for a class
Shannon’s experience and love for teaching, combined with the profound impact of mindfulness on her life, means that it’s only natural for her to want to share it with others. Her journey began with reading about it in a book loaned to her by a friend, taking courses such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindful Self Compassion to learn more, establishing her own practice, that eventually led to her becoming a certified mindfulness trainer. She feels fortunate to have been trained by experts such as Christopher Willard PSYD, author of Growing Up Mindful, Meena Srinivasan, international thought leader and author of Teach, Breathe, Learn, as well as Dallas locals, expert mindfulness trainer Kay Colbert LCSW, and Daniel Sunshine, co-owner of the Dallas Yoga Center and Responsive Intelligence, an organization dedicated to bringing mindfulness to schools and businesses.