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Stress, Anxiety and Mindfulness Meditation

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

While there are several types of meditation, mindfulness meditation focuses on staying in the present moment and using a non-judgmental attitude to the thoughts, feelings and sensations that occur while in the meditative state. The idea is that these thoughts and sensations are given attention but with an objective attitude in which they are seen as floating by. Instead of elaborating on what is occurring, the person who is meditating notes these things and then puts their attention on their breathing. The emphasis is that there is no wrong way to do mindfulness meditation and that it should feel easy to do. There are benefits that result from focusing on the present from moment to moment.

One example that has been given is that, while engaged in a meditation, a fantasy, thought or image about a chocolate chip cookie comes to mind. Normally, that could make a person start to feel a craving for that cookie resulting in it being eaten. However, mindfulness means that attention is put on the moment so that the cookie is noticed, paid attention to but without any future or past investment in eating the cookie. The image or thought of the cookie is noticed and floats by with while living in the moment.

In another example, imagine that you have bought tickets to an outdoor concert that you have been looking forward to. However, it starts to rain with no sign that it will stop anytime soon. The concert is being held regardless of the storm and you must decide whether to go because you already spent money on the tickets or stay home and skip the concert. The two biggest factors that complicate the decision making process are that, 1. You have spent a lot of money for this event and, 2. If you decide to go because of the not wanting to waste the money, you will have a miserable time sitting in awful weather and getting soaking wet. Can mindful meditation help with this decision?

Recent research on mindfulness meditation reveals that the answer is yes, it can help with the decision. Once again, mindful meditation focuses on the moment to moment present. Consequently, while meditating, any thoughts of the concert and money are noted and allowed to float by in the mind. However, what is most important is that, with the focus being on the present moment, there are no thoughts of the past or future. What this means is that there are no or only a few negative thoughts about having spent money for the concert.

Research has consistently demonstrated the health and emotional benefits of meditation. To learn more, do a Google search of mindful meditation and you will find a wealth of information about what it is and how to learn. Be sure to include, in your search, Kristen Neff whose website offers lots of very helpful information.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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