In short, those who practice mindfulness meditation choose a “target,” which can be something like their own breath or a mantra. When they find their minds drifting elsewhere, according to Psych Congress, they acknowledge those thoughts and then redirect themselves to their chosen target.
Hitting The Reset Button
Psych Congress Steering Committee member Saundra Jain says mindfulness meditation helps “reset the balance” in the brain for those struggling with mental health disorders. She notes that people should “think about mindfulness as a way to soften, dampen, or quiet that internal chatter.”
Jain also explored the scientific evidence for the practice, stating that brain imaging has demonstrated that mindfulness meditation is linked to an increase in the volume of gray matter in four different areas of the brain. She also noted that there was a connection between the practice and “beneficial changes in the activation of parts of the brain” and that the practice can still be beneficial to those patients who may already be on a medication.
“Mindfulness meditation practices are effective interventions, and sometimes for mild to moderate conditions—depression and anxiety—super-effective as front lines,” Jain said.
According to psychiatrist Michele Hauser, this practice has been around for about 3,500 years, with roots in Europe beginning in the 1700s. Such practices, according to Hauser, made their way west in the mid-20th century. She added that since 1999, the number of studies about mindfulness meditation have increased.
For Hauser, it’s important to note that the practice teaches its users how to respond to a situation rather than just react.
“Instead of spiraling downward into increasing anxiety and depression, we’re able to stop that spiral and respond in a more appropriate fashion,” she said.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can be done in any moment, according to Mindful.
“Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it,” the website states.
In order for the practice to be effective, Jain says that patients must practice it daily and cannot skip days. Research, she says, has shown the practice to be effective even if only for 10 minutes each day.