When we are overwhelmed by our thoughts, suffocated by our ruminations, submerged by our anticipations, when we function on autopilot and have the impression that our life is passing us by, mindfulness meditation is a breath of fresh air to find our bearings in the present.
1. What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is a state of presence in the moment. It is the full experience of the sensations, emotions and thoughts that flow through us, without dwelling on or becoming attached to them.
Mindfulness meditation is therefore the practice that allows us to train ourselves to reach this state, to let go of our mental attachments in order to reconnect in the present moment with a conscious attention that can be internal, on physical sensations or emotions for example, or external, turned towards sounds, events, etc…
Inspired by Buddhist meditations, it is however not spiritual. It is a real therapeutic tool with many benefits.
2. Meditation and relaxation, what is the difference?
Relaxation is a practice whose primary goal is to achieve a state of relaxation and well-being. Whether it is a muscular relaxation (Jacobson’s progressive relaxation), respiratory (cardiac coherence) or by self-hypnosis (Schultz’s autogenic training), the relaxation session is supposed to immediately relieve stress and anxiety, with more or less long-lasting effects in time. The primary objective, however, remains in the very short term.
Meditation, on the other hand, has no immediate feel-good purpose. It is an exercise that can be difficult or boring. Some people find it relaxing, but it is not particularly sought after and far from being systematic. On the other hand, mindfulness brings in the long term a set of abilities of detachment from thoughts and emotions, of acceptance of difficulties, to cope with daily life.
3. What are the effects of meditation in daily life?
Lhe first effect is that of serenity. Situations that once seemed insurmountable seem less important, less impressive. Mindfulness helps to relativize and put distance between our thoughts and the impact they may have. The intrusive thoughts are just that: thoughts. Mental events that have no impact on reality. They appear, we become aware of them, then they disappear. Not dwelling on them allows us to prevent them from clinging to our consciousness, to let them slide and disappear.
The same is true foremotions, simple mental events that are born, live for a short time in our mind before quietly disappearing.
Becoming aware of the ephemeral nature of thoughts and emotions allows one to realize that no suffering is infinite, that no difficulty can last forever, and that although it is important to fully experience one’s thoughts and emotions when they appear, they will always eventually disappear.
Mindfulness also allows, in an ultra-connected and ever-moving, future-oriented world, to refocus on the present, to get off autopilot, and to fully rediscover the experiences of life.
4. In what situations should meditation be used?
Mindfulness meditation can be beneficial to everyone. It allows everyone to free themselves from superfluous worries and to reconnect with the present for a more serene life.
However, it is an extremely useful tool in the treatment of many pathologies :
- depression (more specifically the MBCT program)
- anxiety disorders (more specifically the MBSR program)
- chronic pain
- sleep disorders
- anxiety disorder related to a chronic illness
More generally, mindfulness meditation can help patients suffering from negative intrusive thoughts and ruminations by making them more aware of the ephemeral nature of cognitions and reducing their impact. Thoughts are seen as mere mental events with no impact on the real world, which diminishes their effect and facilitates cognitive restructuring.
5. How to practice mindfulness?
Nowadays, many tools and guides are available for free on the Internet. They offer a good introduction to the practice of mindfulness, without going into the details of more advanced programs.
If you suffer from any of the above disorders, or feel that mindfulness meditation could be beneficial in your life over the long term, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trained professional who will be able to offer you a program tailored to your needs.
Professionals wishing to learn to practice mindfulness can turn to training in specialized therapeutic protocols such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Practicing mindfulness also helps to teach it, to better understand the experience of this practice, its difficulties, and the solutions that can help practice it.
Virtual Reality and Virtual Reality Exposure Therapies (VRET) also offer additional tools for mindfulness practice, with digital environments to facilitate and guide meditation practice.