We only talk about that! Mindfulness Meditation. Today, the best known form is MBSR or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which is very popular. But what is it really about? How to get started and for what benefits?
Mindfulness Meditation has its origins in the teachings of Buddhist wisdom. It is now meeting astonishing success thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) method. Passionate about the adventure of the mind, this molecular biology researcher initially practiced meditation for himself. Then in 1979, he designed a specific stress reduction protocol for patients at the Massachusetts University Hospital Center. Its objective: to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from high stress, whether consecutive or not, to chronic pain as well as to patients subjected to heavy treatment.
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What is Mindfulness Meditation?
The goal may seem simple on the surface. “It’s about focusing your attention on the present moment without passing judgment on the current experience,” explains by a member of the Association for the Development of Mindfulness. However, most of the time, we do the opposite! We have a thousand thoughts in mind and evaluate, compare, or criticize; whether it is the weather, the too loud voice of our office colleague, and the escapades of our teenager … Focusing on the present moment could be the key to stop this mental ruminating which, in the end, exhausts us.
Based primarily on the attention to breathing and bodily sensations, this approach leads us to remain stable in the face of whatever is happening in the moment. Gone are the days of the little mental bike that spins all alone in the head! According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the key to our well-being lies in the very specific learning which consists in “establishing oneself in oneself, in contact with one’s natural capacity to be free from all anxiety, the mind in peace”.
Mindfulness Meditation in Practice
This state of inner calm is acquired little by little, of course at the cost of regularity. “The practice of mindfulness meditation is learned throughout a protocol of 8 sessions, which allows progression”. All practices (sitting, lying, standing, moving) aim to become aware of our functioning, both emotionally and mentally. Each of the proposed exercises helps to come into contact with this famous present moment, and to try to remain stable, by welcoming whatever presents itself.
During sessions of about two hours, the mediator may encounter many phenomena, knee pain, annoyance, the desire to sleep, fleeting appeasement, incessant ruminations … “Calm sometimes comes at the cost of many discomfort, but the meditative experience is always different for each practice and for each one “, adds our expert. The main thing is to persevere. The more we practice, the more we educate our attention.
For beginners, we start seated, in lotus or half lotus. You can start a twenty – minute timer on your phone, and then put it next to you. With our eyes closed, we focus on our breathing, on the air coming in and out of our nostrils. All the attention is on this movement, and nothing else! If the thought gets lost, we refocus. Little by little, we hold on a little longer.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
The success of this method comes from its proven virtues in the management of stress, anxiety and emotions. “It opens the way to serenity in a sustainable way”. No more no less! Mainly by creating a kind of buffer zone between a situation experienced as disturbing and the response which will then be more appropriate.
The practice also allows us little by little to slow down. How? ‘Or’ What? “The quality of presence that this practice develops gives the feeling of no longer being caught in a kind of whirlwind”. Finally, by allowing us to get out of conflicts and mental tensions, it develops our interpersonal skills and our ability to make choices that are more consistent with ourselves. Hence the feeling of deep well-being!
But mindfulness meditation has also proven its effects in many situations.
FIGHT AGAINST PAIN
A team of American researchers from Salt Lake City (United States) sought to understand whether meditation and hypnosis could relieve patients and thus reduce the dose of painkillers. The researchers selected 244 patients hospitalized at the University of Utah Hospital suffering from pain, following an illness or surgery, before randomly assigning them to one of three groups formed for a year: mindfulness meditation, hypnosis and therapeutic education program.
Their results, published on July 25 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, indicate that the group who followed the mindfulness meditation reported a decrease in pain of 23% and the one who followed the hypnosis sessions by 29%, a level of relief close to that obtained by taking 5 milligrams of oxycodone, a very powerful pain reliever from the opioid family. The patients managed to be relieved after a single 15-minute session, guided by hospital staff briefly trained in both psycho-bodily techniques. These inexpensive techniques may reduce opioid prescriptions, the study authors say. This is why they will soon be the subject of national studies based on panels of thousands of patients hospitalized throughout the United States;
DISCHARGE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Practicing mindfulness meditation on a daily basis helps anxious people focus on the tasks they are performing, freeing them from the looping anxiety-provoking thoughts that are characteristic of anxiety states, says a Canadian study from the University of Waterloo. The 82 students followed for the purposes of the experiment had to perform a task on a computer with several interruptions in order to measure their ability to remain focused on the task in question.
The researchers randomly assigned the participants to two groups. Before being reassessed, one control group listened to an audio story while the other group performed a short meditation exercise. According to the results, the “meditators” saw their parasitic thoughts diminish, revealing the protective effect of meditation on ruminations, and were able to concentrate despite the interruptions.
BOOSTING YOUR BRAIN
This new scientific study based on neuroscience establishes a direct link between the way we breathe and the better functioning of our brain thanks to the stimulation of a natural hormone, called noradrenaline, released, among other things, when we are focused on a task.
This work, conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, confirms its beneficial effects on the brain by showing better synchronization between breathing and attention in participants who have focused well while performing a task requiring great attention. , compared to others, less concentrated during exercise. The researchers observed changes in a place in the brainstem where norepinephrine is produced: the coeruleus. “When you breathe in, the activity of the coeruleus increases slightly and it decreases with the exhalation. This means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it increases or declines with the respiratory cycle”, explains Michael Melnychuk, author of the study.
According to recent work from City University London based on 30 different studies on the irrepressible cravings to eat, smoke or drink alcohol, the discipline of focusing on the present moment “would create a diversion by occupying a part of the brain responsible for cravings and the development of cravings “.
To get started, the idea is to stop your activities and intentionally shift your attention to the bodily sensations that appear in the body at the time of craving, then to breathing and thoughts. To let go of the mind, it is best to ensure that you systematically bring your attention back to the present moment if the brain begins to wander, without any objective, as many times as necessary depending on its state of vigilance or emotion.
TREATING A POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after a traumatic event in the context of death, death threats, serious injury, or sexual assault. Researchers from three US universities tested the practice of meditation with a study of 203 former US soldiers with PTSD.
The soldiers, men and women, were divided into three groups: one practiced meditation; the second is exposure therapy; the third had a theoretical course on post-traumatic stress.
60% of the former soldiers who practiced 20 minutes of meditation each day saw their symptoms improve significantly, and they were more likely to complete the study than the group undergoing exposure therapy.
FIGHT AGAINST LONELINESS
The study published in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity was carried out among 40 people aged 55 to 85 years. They participated in an eight week program called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”, which was put in place by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University’s medical school. from Massachusetts.
This study shows that after eight weeks of mindful meditation (two and a half hours per week), subjects felt significantly less lonely.
The Limits of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation isn’t for everyone. People suffering from severe depression, for example, might on the contrary feel even more anxious, their concentration and mental stability not being strong enough to lend themselves to this technique. Meditation does not replace psychological monitoring and in the event of lasting discomfort or health problem, consultation with a doctor is still necessary.