Why Has Mindfulness Become So Popular?
"Mindful Mindedness" as stress reduction and resilience.
Posted November 30, 2018
Mindfulness is the art of being in the “now”—living fully in the present. Mindfulness requires transformation to a new future, not merely change from an incomplete past. Mindfulness as a lifestyle promotes a mindset galvanized by meaning. Learning to live with complexity as the fabric of wholeness defines Mindful Mindedness. Embracing nutrition, exercise, breathing, relationships, and fitness become an attraction toward wellness.
Contemporary Expressions of Mindfulness
Mindfulness often takes the form of “mindfulness meditation.” Whether the context is a religious, psychological, or relaxation technique, these practices aim toward stress reduction and more in-depth tranquility. These exercises clear and reboot the mind. They are restorative in affording the time to pause and relax. Many have termed this a “de-stressing” occasion.
Mindfulness offers a timely, innovative and focused approach targeting the emerging challenge of burnout. Occupational burnout entails physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of inadequate work accomplishment. An impending sense that one’s life as sputtering, on the verge of stalling, precedes the burnout syndrome. Generativity in productive work diminishes, and integrity fades into despair. This is a primary reason that mindfulness has gained popularity.
Stress and burnout require the identification of its multiple causes. For example, the contemporary infatuation with technology and its wonders has led to its becoming used as our “personal assistant.” This “assistant” is an auxiliary mind, often substituting for the purposeful use of our biopsychosocially based mental functioning. Technology has launched an unprecedented merger between man and machine. Algorithms have become artificial brains automating choices and subtly eclipsing free will and mindful decision-making. While technology has provided innumerable benefits on all levels, its complexity has reached avalanching proportions causing stress.
There are differences between machine techno-generated options and decisions made by critical thinking, executive functions, and non-conscious indeterminate resources (e.g., non-conscious change leading to prudent, creative intuition). Checks and balances and long-term impact on health need monitoring. Artificial intelligence is not neutral. Are we ready to reassess the role technology plays (with us) in our lives? These endure as intriguing questions. Lifestyle choice persists and remains a leading option. Mindfulness is an exciting and novel choice.
Themes in Mindfulness
Several themes weave themselves in mindfulness. One relates to healthcare—both the provider and the client. Mindfulness is a perspective addressing health and wellness—as an optimal state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not just the absence of burnout.
Healthcare enterprises with high-value care missions that are safe and decrease the risk of patient harm must have at least three components:
1.) physician engagement
2.) organizational alignment
3.) a patient’s perception of quality care
Trust, comprehending what is at stake, informed consent, and engagement in the healing process influence a patient’s perception. The patient’s perception of care comes from physicians’ spending ample time in the diagnostic and treatment planning dialogue. While good practice, this rapport provides healthcare with the highest value to the patient who recognizes the mindful attentiveness of the caregiver.
For example, pain is a universal symptom of distress; suffering is the emotional side. Surveys show 91 percent of primary care physicians say Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is effective, mainly acupuncture to treat pain (Murphy, 2018; Vickers et al., 2018). Chinese medicine considers qi, the body’s vital energy, flows along meridians or channels in the body and keeps a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health in balance. TCM aims to restore the body’s balance between the complementary forces of yin and yang, which can block qi and cause disease. The Centers for Disease Control states 38.3% of patients use Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCI, 2008). Pain and stress go together and reinforce one another.
In Ayurveda, the Traditional Medicine of India, stress and mindfulness have been recognized for millennia. For example, Prana correlates with qi or vital energy. Prana and qi are subtle vital forces in food and air maintaining physiological and psychological health. Prana’s psychological home lives in Manas, which correlates with mental functioning; its physical site is the lungs. Prana’s highest concentration is in the brain. Prana Vata denotes the directing and focusing of attention. Therefore, pranayama or breathing exercises have played a crucial role in ancient systems of meditation and mindfulness as focus on therapeutic breathing does now in Western practices (Ninivaggi, 2010).
Another essential theme in mindfulness is attention to the synergy of body-mind. This entails their inextricable influence on one another and harnessing this intimacy on all levels of self-improvement. Thus, Eastern perspectives on health assume subtle mental functioning to be integral to overall well-being. In the East, mindfulness and meditative practices address both the mind and the body.
Mindfulness Improves One’s Quality of Life
Today, the West as well recognizes the mind as integral to the entire person. Psychiatry and psychology as specialized fields attest to this recognition. Current emphasis is stressing the health-enhancing benefits these specialties contribute. Attention to mindfulness is now a significant focus for people seeking an improved life. It may be time for physicians—and everyone—to become comfortable with the approaches embracing the wisdom of Eastern traditions. Western adaptations include mindfulness as a stress intervention and resilience enhancer.
Hence, the timeliness of this perspective for doctors, their patients, all healthcare providers and workers--- all those choosing a substantially improved quality of life beyond merely surviving. Mindfulness with its millennia-old history of stress reduction has gained popularity as a viable choice for a better life. "Learned Mindfulness" is embracing emotional equanimity and mental equipoise.
Learned Mindfulness (2019) is my novel contribution to this health-promoting endeavor.
Murphy, J. (2018). Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (https://www.mdlinx.com/neurology/article/1399, January 30, 2018; https://www.mdlinx.com/family-medicine/article/1399. ya2018). [accessed January3, 2018]
Ninivaggi, F. J. (2010). Ayurveda: A comprehensive guide to traditional Indian medicine for the West. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Ninivaggi, F.J. (2019). Learned Mindfulness: Physician Engagement and MD Wellness. Cambridge, MA: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Vickers, A.J., Vertosick, E.A., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N.E., Sherman, K.J., Irnich, D., Witt, C.M., & Linde, K. (2018). Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Journal of Pain, 19 (5):455–474.