Sunday, November 17, 2013

Being in the Moment with Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been defined as an acute awareness of personal experience that occurs without judgment (Davis & Hayes, 2011). It has its roots in Buddhism and the practice of meditation, and has recently garnered considerable attention (Callahan & Swift, 2013). It has been proven to increase self-control and improves the ability to concentrate and utilize higher thinking processes, and increases psychological well-being (Brown & Ryan, 2008; Moore & Malinowski, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to describe the application of mindfulness to a daily activity, and the experience of the stress response within the experience of mindfulness. In addition, its purpose is to describe the personal experience of barriers to mindfulness, explain one method of overcoming these barriers, and how performing the described daily activity in a mindful state may contribute to an increased utilization of mindfulness in the future.

Daily Activity and the Effects of Mindfulness

The daily activity chosen for this assignment is one that I participate in five days per week upon entering my workplace. To gain entrance to my office, I must walk through an adult day program for developmentally disabled individuals. Although most of the time, I appreciate the various warm, albeit challenging-to-understand, greetings from the participants, some mornings I am already wholly preoccupied in a self-centered perspective as I prepare a mental list of tasks that take priority in my work day. Upon implementing mindfulness, however, I became acutely aware of my environment, as well as the physical and mental activity taking place around me. I became aware of the physical activity within the room, but also more aware of the psychological state of the other individuals. Social mindfulness, which cultivates being oriented toward others and involves empathetic concern and a prosocial orientation, is a natural extension of general mindfulness (Van Doesum, Van Lange and Van Lange, 2013). I experienced a sense of vitality, which may have been the result of intentional mindfulness. Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt and Lang (2013) found an increase in self-determination and personal vitality with the implementation of mindfulness.

Stress Response with Practicing Mindfulness
Carmody and Bear (2008) found as individuals practiced mindfulness, their ability to perceive and react calmly to stressful experiences was increased. I have had similar experiences, although not necessarily stressful, that when I lack mindfulness, I become more reactive to everything and everyone around me. I become more aware of a psychological need to balance my social experiences, such as when two or more parties are trying to gain my attention at the same time. When individuals accept the subjective experiences of circumstances, they are less likely to react automatically (Ortner & Zelazo, 2012). Further, when I engage in mindfulness, I find I feel a constant sense of gratitude and contentment. I do not feel frantic about accomplishing specific goals, and everything I undertake seems easier, and more focused. In my experience of mindfulness, rather than simply getting to my office, I was able to glean a richness in the experience. Rather than moving from place to place, I experience the vital nature of life within the movement.

When individuals engage in mindfulness practice, they begin to alter their perception of their stress (Carmody & Bear, 2008). According to Lazarus (2006) stress is the result of the cognitive appraisal of a situation, and the extent to which the individual feels threatened and has the ability to influence the situation. If mindfulness has the potential to alter an individual's perception of stress, or rather it enables the individual to accept the experience non-judgmentally, this practice could contribute to perceiving the circumstances as less stressful. Lazarus (1991) believed the cognitive appraisal of a circumstance is a combination of mediating and moderating variables. Mindfulness appears to be a moderating component to the perception of stress and may play a central role in the interplay between the individual's perception of stress and the ability to effectively manage the stress of a situation.

Physiologically, the body reacts to mindfulness (Jacobs et al., 2013). Jacobs et al. (2013) found mindfulness lowered cortisol levels in patients participating in a meditation retreat. Mindfulness has also been associated with better quality of sleep, reduced binge eating, and an increase in physical activity (Jacobs et al., 2013). It may help in reducing blood pressure levels as well as increases in blood pressure as a result of stress (Nyklíček, Mommersteeg, Van Beugen, Ramakers, & Van Boxtel, 2013). Carlson (2013) found mindfulness had a positive effect on anxiety and depression, fatigue and sleep quality, and clinical biological markers such as salivary cortisol, cytokines, and blood pressure in cancer patients. These findings may lead research to a greater understanding of the extent to which mindfulness plays a central role in increasing positive health behaviors.

Barriers to Mindfulness

One of the barriers of mindfulness in my personal experience was self-efficacy. If I began to think that I could not successfully manage the experience in a mindful way, I became preoccupied with thinking and my ability to sustain mindfulness deteriorated. Jacobs et al. (2013) found rumination to be inversely associated with mindfulness; when an individual is practicing mindfulness, he or she is more likely to disengage in rumination and self-worry. Further, such rumination may be related to negative affect, which has been linked to an increase in cortisol levels. I found self-talk to be valuable in redirecting my thoughts. That, and taking a few deep breaths helped me to renew my ability to utilize mindfulness.

The Influence of Mindfulness on Future Activity

Baer, Carmody, and Hunsinger (2012) believed mindfulness is a resource for coping with stress. Although I rarely experience negative stress in my work environment, I find mindfulness is a useful tool in every aspect of engaging in both social and self-reflective environments. When I participate in stressful situations, I am better able to stabilize my emotional involvement when I utilize mindfulness. Perhaps more apparent, however, is the effect my mindfulness has on the people around me. I have experienced my own sense of calm has the power to de-escalate circumstances that involve several people. This may be an inherent value of mindfulness, that it has the potential to mediate suboptimal social circumstances.

Another influencing factor for the continued use of mindfulness are the findings of Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt, and Lang (2013) that determined mindfulness may contribute to an increase in job satisfaction as well as a reduction of emotional exhaustion from job stress. It helps individuals utilize emotion regulation at work, and promotes healthier strategies for coping with the emotional demands of work (Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt & Lang, 2013). In addition, it helps prevent occupational burnout, and has been associated with improved cognitive functioning (Chiesa, Calati, & Serretti, 2011). Mindfulness cultivates acceptance of subjective experiences (Ortner & Zelazo, 2012) which appear to be applicable to the subjective experiences in the work environment (Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt & Lang, 2013).


Together with acceptance, mindfulness is designed to cultivate focus and attention on one's experiences (Ortner & Zelazo, 2012). The body of evidence suggests mindfulness has the potential to provide positive outcomes on physiological and psychological well-being (Brown & Ryan, 2008; Moore & Malinowski, 2009; Ortner & Zelazo, 2012). Mindfulness enables a process of acceptance wherein "subjective experiences are viewed as transient events rather than as permanent aspects of the self" (Ortner & Zelazo, 2012, p. 1). The exercise in mindfulness for this assignment has been an inspiration to continue to utilize the benefits of this practice in the work environment as well as in my personal life. The results of its utilization appear to have benefits for me as well as for those with whom I interact.


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