What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to relate to the present moment, stay in the moment, and focus on the present. By using mindfulness activities, we can reconnect with our body, ourselves and today, increase our self-awareness, and cope with the factors that make us anxious or cloud our minds more easily.
Relationship of Psychology and Mindfulness
In today’s world, where we are constantly exposed to stimuli, it becomes more and more difficult to stay in the moment and catch the moment. Not being able to stay in the moment, being beyond or behind the time lived disrupts one’s perception of awareness. As a result of this deterioration, the body becomes defensive and begins to produce stress. This stress can lead to unwanted negative psychological problems such as anxiety, emotional disorders, psychosomatic disorders. For this reason, the science of psychology, which examines the human mind and behavior, seeks solutions to the current problems that people have experienced. Mindfulness can be one of the understandings that will solve these problems. That is why, in recent years, most researchers in the world of psychology have started to do literature research on mindfulness. Studies in positive psychology and clinical psychology reveal that mindfulness practices have scientifically measurable results, and because of these studies, it is seen that mindfulness practices can benefit the quality of life, physical and psychological health of the person.
How Mindfulness Affects The Brain and Nervous System
Mindfulness practices improve our cognitive skills. Neurons in the brain, the nerves responsible for thoughts, feelings, and actions, work to create pathways for themselves. Doing an activity repeatedly strengthens neural connections. This system also applies to mindfulness practices. Research on mindfulness has found that mindfulness practices cause an increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus and other frontal areas of the brain over time. This increase helps to increase learning speed, improve cognitive skills and memory. Likewise, it has been observed that mindfulness increases cognitive function, attention, and self-awareness by causing the thickness of the anterior insula and cortical to increase.
Our sympathetic nervous system produces a fight-or-flight response when we are in danger, so our body releases stress hormones, but sometimes our sympathetic nervous system can secrete this hormone when we are not in danger, but only during a daily life problem that we have difficulty overcoming, for example, in traffic. After this stress hormone is released, we are in an anxious, angry, and low-aware mood. Mindfulness practices can disable the fight-flight response produced by our sympathetic nervous system. While meditation, which is one of the mindfulness practices, deactivates our sympathetic nervous system, it activates our parasympathetic nervous system and thus the body begins to listen and relax. We can also reduce our emotional reactivity while calming our sympathetic nervous system through meditation. Thus, when we encounter the factor that puts us under stress, we can ask ourselves the question ‘Do I want to respond in this way in the face of this situation’ and improve our skills to cope with the factors that worry us.
Mindfulness and Mental Health
Especially in the last 30 years, with the increasing rate of occurrence of psychological disorders and the specificity of diagnostic criteria, the importance of mental health has begun to be emphasized. So where is mindfulness in that? We now know that mindfulness may itself play a role in stress-based emotional and anxiety disorders. Experts emphasize that mindfulness practices have direct positive effects on people suffering from these psychological disorders, especially if there are problems such as anxiety about the future, addictions, sleep problems, chronic pain, and the mind is always full of common psychological problems such as anxiety disorder, panic disorders, depression.
This and many other important mindfulness studies have made important scientific steps towards the publication of such practices and their application in psychology and psychiatry treatment approaches. But how can the results of mindfulness practices be such an important figure in our psychological health? Because building awareness, breathing correctly and practicing meditation exercises in our daily life brings us to control our reactions and emotions, and this strengthens us psychologically. Keeping our awareness strong and taking control of our body and mind as much as possible without letting stress and anxiety rule our lives brings a state of well-being for our psychological health.
Mindfulness Based Therapy and Clinical Psychology
With therapists witnessing that mindfulness practices can teach clients more about emotions, increase attention and concentration, and improve relationships, some schools in clinical psychology have begun to incorporate mindfulness practices into their therapy techniques. Because mindfulness influences the way you relate to experiences. It therefore provides us with a flexible set of skills to manage our psychological health and support our well-being. Areas where mindfulness is included in stress reduction programs: