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Mindfulness therapy represents a revolutionary innovation in cognitive-behavioral therapy, with most new scientific research looking into the numerous psychological benefits of mindfulness-based interventions. Despite its recent attention in the scientific community, mindfulness comes from an ancient Buddhist meditation practice that has been around for millennia.
Although originally aimed at spiritual training of the mind, contemporary psychology researchers have adapted the most powerful components to treat everything from depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, chronic pain, and many other psychological problems. This has resulted in cognitive-behavioral treatments that are even more effective. Examples of mindfulness-based therapies include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The latest research indicates these treatments can be more effective than traditional talk therapy in treating a host of problems and disorders.
The most cutting-edge research on mindfulness has found that mindfulness can actually cause the brain to change in very significant ways. Brain imaging research has shown that mindfulness can actually alter the structure of the brain. For instance, cortical thinning, a natural occurrence associated with aging and dementia, is actually slowed when a mindfulness protocol is followed. These studies have also found that people who use mindfulness have increased empathic awareness, a trait associated with emotional intelligence. These people also have better natural emotion regulation abilities than those who are not involved in mindfulness. Several studies have found that after just several weeks of mindfulness training, parts of the brain associated with positive emotion are more active, and areas associated with anxiety are less active. There is also a significant amount of research that has found mindfulness is not only good for psychological health, but physical health too, as mindfulness has been found to increase immune system functioning.
Mindfulness techniques focus on awareness of thoughts and feelings without attachment or judgment. When we are having intense emotions, it is often because we are caught up in our catastrophic interpretations about what is going on. The more we become entangled in the thoughts about the situation, the worse it feels, and the more intense our emotions become. Mindfulness short-circuits this process by helping us to disentangle ourselves from our distorted thought patterns and connect to the actual situation. This enables us to more skillfully address the difficult situation, and to do so with less emotional reactivity and psychological suffering.
For more information on different mindfulness therapy approaches, explore the links below: