This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
Why Should I Care About Mindfulness and Meditation?
This topic is relevant to you because as a viewer of this project, you are most likely a young adult immersed in studies and responsibilities, that often bring with them stressful situations and unpleasant emotion. Completing your studies and becoming an adult are situations in a chapter of your life that can easily weigh down on you emotionally and mentally, often accompanied by feelings of sadness, frustration, anxiety, or hopelessness. Although these feelings may not be chronic, they can certainly tamper with your ability to be a productive member of society. However, you don’t need to worry about seeking counseling, medication, or any other intimidating aspects of mental healthcare just yet; the cheapest, easiest solution for your uncharacteristic emotions might be easily amended with a mindful outlook on life.
What Are Mindfulness and Meditation?
First, let’s talk about mindfulness. The word itself means to be fully present and aware of one’s thoughts and surroundings, and this foundation stays relevant in the word’s psychological context. Mindfulness is a very simple concept that serves as the basis for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT is a therapeutic practice that clinical professionals use to help those with symptoms of depression (sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, etc.) and anxiety (intrusive thoughts, overthinking, etc.). Counselors and professionals use mindfulness to teach their clients how to be aware of everything going on in the particular moment in order to ground them and prevent them from overthinking and returning to anxious or depressive tendencies. Being aware of your thoughts, but not lingering on them or connecting with them too deeply allows those experiencing negative emotions to break away from their established patterns to prevent them from entering the “downward spiral” into depression or anxiety.
Supplementary techniques can range from simple breathing and counting exercises to just focusing on experiencing the environment around oneself. By asking their patient to touch his or her hand to the table, for instance, the professional’s goal is to get the patient to experience the sensations of hot and cold, the shape and feeling of the wood itself, and through that, maintain a strong contact with reality. This allows the experiencer to put his or her negative emotions in perspective with the realization that he or she is alive and experiencing, and need not spiral further downward.
Do These Mechanisms Really Work?
As someone who originally found meditation and mindfulness to be comedic, trivial, and unrealistic, I can say that the opposite is true. One, like myself, may not truly see the benefit to mindfulness and meditation until experiencing its effects with practice, due to the stereotypical portrayals these techniques have garnered in the mainstream media. However, all it takes is trust in oneself to try these coping mechanisms. As they can be practiced without spending any money and with near-instant results, and can be done in the privacy of one’s home, mindfulness and meditation are two important untapped mechanisms for effectively dealing with negative emotions. You have to try them for yourself to truly see the difference they can make in your outlook on life.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
How Mindfulness and Meditation Can Help You
- Defuse negative emotions preventing forward progress
- Focus the attention on a task
- Increase awareness of surroundings, others’ emotions
- Refine interpersonal skills
- Calm the mind and body after a stressful experience
- Understand one’s own feelings and thoughts more accurately
- Prevent overthinking/excessive worrying
- Rejuvenate the mind/provide physical energy
- Increase determination
Basic Mindfulness Meditation Exercise
Step 1. Set aside the amount of time you think you need. You don’t need a meditation mat, robes, or special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
Step 2. Observe your surroundings as they are. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve an unparalleled state of calmness. The goal is to be attentive to the present moment without judgement.
Step 3. Let the distractions pass by. Thoughts, judgements, and emotions are welcome, so don’t try to stop them from coming; you won’t be able to. Instead, just take note of your thoughts, and let them pass naturally.
Step 4. Return to the present moment. Our minds wander constantly; it’s second nature to humankind. The trick to being mindful is being aware of those wanderings, and being able to return to the present moment, again and again.
Step 5. Be kind to your mind. You will undoubtedly have trouble staying in the present moment, but part of being mindful is accepting your existence, your humanity, for what it is without judgment, and continuing on. Don’t force yourself into the present, and be patient with your thoughts.
What Do Professionals Say about Mindfulness and Meditation?
MBCT programs have been clinically-approved methods for treating depression and anxiety disorders for over a decade, but the techniques have been used by practitioners for centuries. “The MBCT course is based on solid scientific research, and NICE [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] has recommended it since 2005 for keeping patients with recurrent depressive vulnerability depression-free,” says consultant psychiatrist Dr. Florian Ruths. Tim Sweeney, clinical lead at the Nottingham Centre for Mindfulness, says of the public reception to mindfulness-based therapy: “the patient population has welcomed MBCT. Verbal and written feedback from patients has been largely very positive and measures of depression and anxiety on average show a significant reduction following the course.” Additionally, multiple studies have been conducted in response to the recent increase in MBCT-heavy programs to find the correlations between mindfulness and psychology, and the results are positive: questionnaires and surveys continue to be sent in detailing the positive effects these skills have on quality and enjoyment of life.
Where Do I Go From Here?
The purpose of this project, as stated earlier, is to inform students and young adults of the treasure trove of maturation and self-realization that can be unlocked through the ease and usefulness of mindfulness exercises. This project showcases only the tip of the iceberg of the knowledge that exists about mindfulness, meditation, and understanding the human body through these two techniques. It is my hope that you may have questions about mindfulness that venture beyond the scope of this presentation. Mindfulness and meditation are two techniques to equip you for the journey of life that we are all experiencing together, and there is always more to learn and master under these two categories. If you truly think that mindfulness exercises and meditation may help you, and you are seeking more assistance than this presentation can readily provide, you might seek out a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapist in your area to guide you in mastering your emotions. For more information on mindfulness, visit Mindful and Psychology Today.
Cayoun, B., and K. Elbourne. “What Is Mindfulness-Integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?” Mindfulness-Integrated Cognitive Behavior Therapy, www.mindfulness.net.au/what-is-micbt.html.
Guyaux, Francoise. “Mindfulness: Getting Started.” Mindful, 22 Mar. 2018, www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/.
“Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/mindfulness-based-cognitive-therapy.
“Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_cognitive_therapy.
Segal, Zindel V. “Publications.” MCBT, mbct.com/clinical-research.
Staff, Mindful. “How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation.” Mindful, Mindful, 17 Apr. 2018, www.mindful.org/mindfulness-how-to-do-it/.