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Mindfulness: An Introduction

What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” - Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)

Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity in and of itself. Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness. Originally associated with Buddhist psychology, the term “mindfulness” comes from the Sanskrit word “Smṛti,” which literally translates to “that which is remembered” (Williams, Leumann, & Cappeller, 2004). From this, we can understand mindfulness as remembering to pay attention to our present moment experience (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009; Black, 2011).

According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes, 2011):

Psychological Benefits

• Increased awareness of one’s mind

• Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions

• Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)

• Increased mental flexibility and focus

• More working memory

• Decreased distracting thoughts

• Decreased emotional reactivity

• Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors

• Increased empathy, compassion, and conscientiousness of other’s emotions


Physiological Benefits

• Enhanced immune system functioning

• Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning

• Lowered blood pressure

• Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)

• Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease


Spiritual Benefits

• Increased self-insight and self-acceptance

• Increased acceptance of others

• Increased compassion and empathy

• Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change

• Increased control over automatic behaviors

• Increased self-discipline


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