Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, The term “mindfulness” is a translation of the Pali term “sati”, which is a significant element of Buddhist traditions. In Buddhist teachings, mindfulness is utilized to develop self-knowledge and wisdom that gradually lead to what is described as enlightenment or the complete freedom from suffering. The recent popularity of mindfulness in the West is generally considered to have been initiated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Studies have shown that stress and worry contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in the reduction of both stress and worry. Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people who are experiencing a variety of psychological conditions. For example, mindfulness practice is being employed to reduce depression symptoms, to reduce stress, anxiety, and in the treatment of drug addiction. The practice of mindfulness also appears to provide numerous therapeutic benefits to people with psychosis, and may also be a preventive strategy to halt the development of mental health problems.
Clinical studies have documented both physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in different patient categories as well as in healthy adults and children. Programs based on Kabat-Zinn’s and similar models have been widely adopted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans’ centers, and other environments. Mindfulness programs have been beneficial for example in healthy aging, weight management, athletic performance, for children with special needs, and as an intervention during the perinatal period. The necessity for more high-quality research in this field has also been identified – such as the need for more randomized controlled studies, for providing more methodological details in reported studies and for the use of larger sample sizes.