Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally (Kabat-Zinn, 1994)
Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999)
A state of psychological freedom that occurs when attention remains quiet and limber, without attachment to any particular point of view (Martin, 1997).
… a kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, 1998; Shapiro & Schwartz, 1999, 2000; Teasdale, 1999; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002; as cited in Bishop et al., 2004
The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance (Bishop, Lau, and colleagues, 2004).
While the field of mindfulness research is still very much in its developmental phase, the evidence thus far points to many positive outcomes from mindfulness training and practice. The “brief summary” below represent initial findings, which may or may not be conclusive. Current neuroscience research is finding that the state of health and/or functioning of our brain impacts the quality of life in just about every area of our lives, including work performance, relationships, family life, physical and mental well-being, healthy aging, and so forth. The good news is that mindfulness training shows great promise in improving brain health and functionality across most dimensions of brain activity.
The cortical regions of the brain related to attention and sensory processing are strengthened.
The symptoms of Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder (ADHD) (i.e., lack of focus, sustained attention, and follow through, disorganization) are reduced.
Our brain responds to mindfulness by making positive changes in its density and structure. Mindfulness is good for brain plasticity, or flexibility.
There is evidence that mindfulness meditation strengthens our immune system.
Awareness allows the body to recover sooner from stressful situations because cortisol (the primary human stress hormone) levels decrease more quickly than in those who do not practice mindfulness.
The frontal cortex of the brain that picks up on emotional cues is activated and becomes sharper.
Long term mindfulness practitioners show higher levels of empathic awareness. (Empathic awareness is sensing another person’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions.)
A person’s affect becomes generally more positive.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression are reduced or minimized.
People prone to depression are less likely to relapse
(Source: The Mindfulness Project, September 2011)