We all want to feel well and live better, but our lifestyle or conditions are causing damage, manifesting as fatigue, anxiety, exhaustion or even physical pain. This historic time that we are living with the pandemic has aggravated many of these symptoms. Many of us feel disconnected, stuck in past routines that no longer have meaning and living in constant worry or fear. The good news is that – with practice, we can improve our well-being and reach a state of greater balance and satisfaction.
A meta-analysis (1) published in the journal Nature Human Behavior and examining more than 400 studies carried out with more than 50,000 participants, evaluated various psychological approaches and their impact on improving well-being. Participants were placed into three categories: people in general good health, people with mental illness, and people with physical illness. The researchers concluded that, in these three groups, all benefited from the practice of Mindfulness. More specifically, in recent years, numerous studies have been developed and published on the benefits of regular mindfulness practice in alleviating physical or mental health problems, such as chronic pain (2), anxiety, stress (3) and depression (4) or in improving general well-being (5), self-compassion, empathy (6), joy and contentment (7).
Mindfulness practice (understood in a simplified way, as the ability to intentionally pay attention to our internal and external experiences, with an attitude of curiosity, kindness and non-judgment) allows the training of different mechanisms related to well-being, namely:
- The ability to focus on the present moment (facilitates less rumination, reduces anxiety and stress and allows for more positive emotions such as gratitude)
- The ability to decenter (observation without self-identification allows the acceptance and management of negative experiences without avoidance and denial behaviors)
- Self-compassion (encourages positive states such as equanimity, motivation and interconnectedness)
- Emotional self-regulation (allows you to recognize and break patterns of behavior and respond to situations with a more positive impact)
- Empathy and compassion (allow greater understanding and connection with the other, avoiding burnout and antisocial behaviors)
Summarizing, if you want to work to improve your well-being, then there is no doubt that incorporating Mindfulness into your daily life can be an excellent decision. Mindfulness practice is not exclusive to structured and dedicated moments like meditation. The invitation is that you can also bring this quality of attention with curiosity and without judgment to your daily life: while walking, having a meal, while playing with your child, while talking to a patient or even while attending a congress!
- Van Agteren J et al, (2021) A systematic review and meta-analysis of psychological interventions to improve mental wellbeing. Nat Hum Behav., doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01093-w
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4(1), 33-47
- Bishop, S. R. et al (2004), Mindfulness : A Proposed Operational Definition. Clinical psychology: Science and practice, 11(3), 230–241.
- Teasdale, J. D., et al (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 68(4), 615.
- Brown, K. W., at al (2007), Mindfulness: Theoretical Foundations and Evidence for its Salutary Effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18(4), 211–237
- Neff, K. (2003), Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101
- Davidson, R. J. et al (2003), Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic medicine, 65(4), 564-570.