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Have you ever arrived at a destination, got out of the car, and realized that you don’t have any recollection whatsoever of the drive there? Maybe you were replaying past events, making lists in your head, or worrying about the future.
A number of studies have now shown that the ability to be mindful…is associated with better mental and physical health, increased relationship satisfaction, and less stress.
-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark
The round-the-clock multitasking that so often pervades modern life, at times, seems to almost demand such mindless inattention.
And the more scientists learn, the more we realize that it may be this very mindlessness that drives much of the stress of modern living.
A number of studies have now shown that the ability to be mindful, a state of consciousness characterized by non-judgemental observation of moment-to-moment experiences, is associated with better mental and physical health, increased relationship satisfaction, and less stress.
Although some people are more disposed toward being mindful than others, it is also a skill that can be learned by using techniques like mindfulness meditation.
Despite the success of mindfulness-based programs and interventions, the question of why mindfulness is associated with better mental and physical health remains somewhat of a mystery.
However, researcher and mindfulness expert, Dr. Eric Garland, believes he has the answer. In a 2007 article, Garland argued that the “gift of mindfulness lies in its power to render life ‘as it is,’ facilitating coping by freeing the individual to construct meaning in any circumstance, no matter how adverse.”
From this perspective, by temporarily standing outside of our own thoughts and non-judgmentally observing them as they bounce from one subject to another, we gain a greater appreciation for the impermanence of all things, including our mood states and patterns of thinking, which inevitably show peaks and valleys over time.
As we gain more practice mindfully observing our experiences and become less attached to traditional ways of thinking, new opportunities and novel ways of looking at one’s circumstances become more apparent.
Recent work by Garland and others has shown that mindfulness and mindfulness training tend to change the way people think in at least 3 ways:
1. First, mindfulness seems to promote more positive re-conceptualizations of life events that may have initially been perceived as stressful or threatening.
2. Secondly, it reduces catastrophic thinking, which involves overblowing the perceived threat of a situation while simultaneously diminishing one’s own ability to handle it.
3. And finally, mindfulness practice also helps to cultivate a sense of self-transcendence, which is characterized by an awareness of the ever-changing quality of human experience and an appreciation of oneself as interdependent and interconnected within a larger community of others.
In this way, mindfulness seems to allow people to try on different lenses for viewing the reality of their lives, often resulting in enduring positive changes in the way they interpret conscious experiences.
So, do you want to know how mindful you are in everyday life? Take our mindfulness quiz and find out!
Garland, E. L., Gaylord, S. A., Palsson, O., Faurot, K., Mann, J. D., & Whitehead, W. E. (2012). Therapeutic mechanisms of a mindfulness-based treatment for IBS: effects on visceral sensitivity, catastrophizing, and affective processing of pain sensations. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 591-602.
Garland, E. L., Geschwind, N., Peeters, F., & Wichers, M. (2015). Mindfulness training promotes upward spirals of positive affect and cognition: Multilevel and autoregressive latent trajectory modeling analyses. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 15.
Haimerl, C. J., & Valentine, E. R. (2001). The effect of contemplative practice on intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal dimensions of the self-concept. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 33, 37-52.
Hanley, A. W., Baker, A. K., & Garland, E. L. (2017). Self-interest may not be entirely in the interest of the self: Association between selflessness, dispositional mindfulness and psychological well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 117, 166-171.
Hanley, A. W., & Garland, E. L. (2017). Clarity of mind: Structural equation modeling of associations between dispositional mindfulness, self-concept clarity and psychological well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 334-339.
McGill, J., Adler-Baeder, F., & Rodriguez, P. (2016). Mindfully in love: A meta-analysis of the association between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 4, 89-101.
Mesmer-Magnus, J., Manapragada, A., Viswesvaran, C., & Allen, J. W. (2017). Trait mindfulness at work: A meta-analysis of the personal and professional correlates of trait mindfulness. Human Performance, 30, 79-98.