What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a training of becoming consistently aware of how one responds towards one's own mind and body processes and thereby learning to understand how they affect our experiences of life. The awareness is done non-judgementally, in a relaxed wide-view observation by the mind, so that one can wise up to the causes and effects of happenings around us, and our long-term behaviour changes naturally for the better.

Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness –  especially in the area of contentment, acceptance and inner joy.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors. He developed the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

Here is a short video clip with Oprah Winfrey interviewing Jon Kabat-Zinn on the topic of mindfulness.

Who practises mindfulness?
Awareness of the benefits of mindfulness practise is gaining ground all over the world. Mindfulness can be cultivated through mindfulness meditation, a systematic method of training our mental awareness and here are some famous people who are mindfulness meditation practitioners:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates (co-founder of Microsoft and philanthropist)

  • Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Inc.)

  • Arianna Huffington (co-founder of The Huffington Post)

  • Mark Bertolini (the CEO of Aetna, a Fortune 50 company)

  • Anderson Cooper (journalist, television personality)

  • Oprah Winfrey (talk show host, philanthropist)

  • Lee Kuan Yew (former Prime Minister of Singapore)

  • Richard Gere (actor, activist)

  • Al Gore (former Vice President of USA, Nobel Peace Prize recipient)

  • Jet Li (actor, martial artist, film producer)

  • Yuval Noah Harari (author of best-selling books, Sapiens and Homo Deus)

How is Mindfulness beneficial?

What is mindfulness and how can mindfulness help me?
The Mental Health Foundation of UK and its Be Mindful website has more on this. Evidence of and research on the benefits of mindfulness are detailed here as well as testimonials by others.

What is mindfulness? How does mindfulness help mental well being?
The National Health Services (NHS) of the UK answers this question.

"Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression in the past."

Mindfulness improves well-being:

  • Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life.

  • Being mindful makes it easier to savour the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.

Mindfulness improves physical health:

  • help relieve stress

  • treat heart disease

  • lower blood pressure

  • improve sleep

Mindfulness improves mental health:

  • fend off depression

  • curb substance abuse

  • reduce eating disorders

  • mitigate anxiety disorders

Benefits of mindfulness in schools:

Mindfulness in Schools: When Meditation Replaces Detention 

Can mindfulness improve pupils' concentration? - BBC News

What Changes When a School Embraces Mindfulness? 

Benefits of mindfulness at work:

6 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Mindfulness And Meditation – Forbes Magazine

Why we need mindfulness in the workplace 

Mindfulness At Work: How It Benefits Employers And Employees

Other readings

The Japanese skill copied by the world

What You Practice Grows Stronger

How it is relevant to the Malaysian community?

The dangers of mental stress and mental illness

Closer to home, recent media reports in Malaysia have highlighted that mental stress is one of the leading cause of mental illnesses, and is now growing at an alarming rate. Mental stress will only inevitably increase in our ever more competitive world which will then lead to more cases of mental illness and even suicide.  It is for this reason that mindfulness practice should be promoted as a preventive holistic approach to equip society (especially the young) with better skills to manage their mental stress Example of the reports;

You, Too, Can Reduce Stress by Being Mindful 
– The Star – 12 October 2014. 

More Malaysian Expected to Suffer from Mental Illness by 2020 
– The Star – 1 July 2016.

Mental Health Of Malaysian Student Cause Worries 
– New Straits Times – 12 September 2016.

One in Three Malaysian Adults Struggling With Mental Health Issues 
– New Straits Times – 26 September 2016.

Depression and the power of positive thinking.
–The Star – 24 April 2017

Here is a short quote from "Depression and the power of positive thinking":

"Depression can affect anyone. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts depression will be the second leading cause of morbidity in the world by 2020. The World Bank predicts that 340 million people will suffer from depression by 2020. WHO estimates that depression alone costs more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss yearly.

Data from the National Health Morbidity Survey in 2011 showed the prevalence of lifetime depression is 2.4% and prevalence of current depression is 1.8% in Malaysia. A recent article in The Star quoted an expert saying that 40% of Malaysians will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime.

In short, depression is a serious matter."