Psychotherapies containing mindfulness elements have increased to more than 40% (Simon, 2007). Mindfulness is becoming a “transtheoretical” construct and a major perceptual process in psychotherapies. Scientific studies of meditation are transforming meditation into the main stream. The focus of the studies has been turning from relaxation and concentration based meditation into mindfulness meditation. The ancient Buddhist psychological tradition is playing an important role in such transition.
Brain imaging and neuroplasticity studies have found that long-term meditation practice is related to changes in the brain areas, such as higher activities in the left prefrontal cortex, the area connected with the feelings of well-being and immune responses (Davidson et al., 2003). Such scientific findings have confirmed that the training of the mind can change the brain and improve the brain functions (Begley, 2007).
Psychotherapies involving mindfulness training based on the moment-by-moment awareness and acceptance can be helpful for various types of people. The concept of “acceptance” can be helpful for those who are self-critical. The practice of keeping the attention at the present moment can be helpful for those who have obsessive problems. The training of “awareness” can be helpful for those with impulsive control disorders including overeating. The awareness that “thoughts are not facts” is called “metacognitive awareness”, which can be helpful for those with depression (Teasdale et al., 2002).
Concentration Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation
Concentration meditation is to focus the mind on an object such as a mantra or the breath. Concentration meditation is to generate calmness and relaxation responses via the cultivation of concentration. Mindfulness meditation is to cultivate the insight of one’s personal “nature,” the mental conditions. Mindfulness includes the components of moment by moment awareness and acceptance. It is also called “insight meditation.” Concentration practice and mindfulness practice can be used together to reduce suffering.
Begley, S. (2007). Train you mind, change your brain. New York: Ballantine Books.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564–570.
Simon, R. (2007). The top ten. Psychotherapy Networker, March/April, pp. 24, 25, 37.
Teasdale, J., Moore, R., Hayhurst, H., Pope, M., Williams, S., & Segal, Z. (2002). Metacognitive awareness and prevention of relapse in depression: Empirical evidence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(2), 275–287.