Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) uses Mindfulness as a therapeutic tool and ultimately a way of life.
A useful definition of Mindfulness is intentional attention. As such, Mindfulness involves intentionally focusing in the present moment and accepting what is in that moment without any high-level analysis and without judgement (evaluation as good or bad).
When we engage in particular tasks we tend to use our frontal lobe and other reasoning parts of our cerebral cortex. This frontal lobe has given us an evolutionary advantage over other animals and has allowed us to conceptualize and develop incredible things including the technology that we take for granted in the modern world. The problem occurs though when we are not focused on a specific task and yet continue to engage with these parts of the brain. This tends to steal us out of the present into the past and the future, both overtaxing these parts of the brain and also disconnecting us from the stream of life. Furthermore, studies have shown that when we are not engaged with a task and yet still engaged in this type of analysis, around 90% of our thoughts – buried in the past and future – are negative. Mindfulness allows us to intentionally focus on the present, engaging in and thus being energised by the process of living.
We can be in a mindful state for anywhere from a few moments to – at least theoretically – years at a time. We can be mindful while undertaking all kinds of generally more simple activities, from preparing and eating food to carrying on a conversation to having sex.
Studies show that mindfulness can lead to a reduction in people’s experience of pain and improve their ability to handle depression, chronic pain, anxiety, addiction and a host of other problems.
Mindfulness can help reduce emotional pain by bringing our attention into the present moment and enable focus on what is real in this moment. This helps provide us with a moment before mindlessly acting out default patterns of behaviour and helping us recognize that we have a choice around how we act and can break the dysfunctional patterns of the past.
Mindfulness can thus aid us in becoming calmer and feeling more grounded, and also increase our experience of connection to ourselves and others.