Mindfulness is a mental state in which awareness is focused on the present moment. Or, as Jon Kabit-Zinn describes it, "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." We tend to spend much of our timer focused on events that have occurred in the past or events that we expect may happen in the future. When we are stuck in this way of thinking, much of what is actually occurring around us at that very moment goes unnoticed, under-appreciated, or is misinterpreted. All of this can lead to a great deal of stress, dissatisfaction, emotional turmoil, and dis-ease.
The practice of mindfulness helps people become more aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations to allow them to better manage emotions, actions, and reactions instead of becoming overwhelmed by them. Though mindfulness, one may gain insight, which can create a little space between thought and reaction, which leads to a more balanced, easeful existence. Ultimately, remaining mindful and in the present moment allows for the highest level of human functioning in any given situation.
Empirical evidence shows that when practiced regularly over even a short period of time, mindfulness can have significant effects on mental health including: reduced stress and anxiety, reduced rumination, improved concentration and focus, better working memory, less emotional reactivity, improved cognitive flexibility, increased feelings of wellbeing, greater relationship satisfaction, and more stable moods. See the short video below for more.
Meditation can be described as the focus of one's mind on one object, thought, or activity in order to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. While many religions contain a component of meditation, the practice of meditation itself is not religious and is not affiliated with any religion or religious belief structure.
Meditation is often used to train the mind to help a person achieve a state of greater awareness and focus on the present moment. Over time, this state becomes a way of being and the practice of remaining present in each moment becomes easier to maintain throughout the day, as opposed to only during the time spent specifically in meditation.
Meditation can be practiced anywhere, by anybody, and can simply involve closing the eyes and taking a few deep, slow breaths. It is an invaluable tool in the management of stress and emotions. There are many different types of meditation, however, mindfulness meditation is the type most often used in MBSR.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week program developed by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s to treat patients dealing with life's difficulties, including physical and/or mental suffering. MBSR is taught in a group setting and uses mindfulness meditation, mindful living practices, and body awareness to bring about results such as reduced stress, relaxation, and general improvement in quality of life.
Kabat-Zinn describes MRSR as, "a well-defined and systematic patient-centered educational approach which uses relatively intensive training in mindfulness meditation as the core of a program to teach people how to take better care of themselves and live healthier and more adaptive lives."
Some focuses of MBSR teachings include:
- Mind-body awareness to reduce the physiological effects of stress, pain, or illness
- Non-judgmental awareness in daily life
- Promotion of serenity and clarity in each moment
- Acquired access to inner resources for healing, stress management, and more joyful living
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Mindfulness meditation
Recent studies have consistently shown compelling results for the use of mindfulness, and specifically MBSR, in the treatment and management of acute and chronic mental health conditions.
Dr. Huchingson is the only qualified teacher of MBSR in Charleston, having completed the extensive Professional Teacher Training Program through the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center during the years of 2015-2018.