The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Mindfulness: Eastern Medicine Travels West

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The post we wrote last Thursday was about how one Army general came out and said that the Army has still not paid enough attention to the mental health issues concerning our soldiers and their devastating consequences.

Military.com reports of one ancient mental health exercise that’s being utilized by some in the armed forces to help sustain mental health during stressful times (such as deployment) and to help treat certain mental illnesses such as PTSD. That “ancient mental health exercise” is known as Mindfulness.

According to Military.com:

The Army is moving toward developing stress coping methods, [Army Maj. Victor] Won noted. Mental fitness is similar to physical fitness, he explained. Just as running or lifting weights can improve physical fitness, a daily routine of mindfulness will help to strengthen coping mechanisms, making it easier to recognize and react to negative emotions so they don’t grow stronger, he said.

“Rather than dwelling in the past or the future,” Won said, “mindfulness is learning to work in the present moment in a less reactive, less judgmental manner.

What exactly is mindfulness? One definition from UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness says the following:

Mindfulness is non-judgmental and open-hearted (friendly and inviting of whatever arises in awareness). It is cultivated by paying attention on purpose, deeply, and without judgment to whatever arises in the present moment, either inside or outside of us. By intentionally practicing mindfulness, deliberately paying more careful moment-to-moment attention, individuals can live more fully and less on “automatic pilot,” thus, being more present for their own lives. Mindfulness meditation practices seek to develop this quality of clear, present moment awareness in a systematic way so that the practitioner may enjoy these benefits. Being more aware in each moment of life has benefits both to a person doing specific spiritual practice, and also to the same person in everyday life.

Despite all the benefits associated with Mindfulness, Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., warns that the meditative practice can have equally as negative an effect if you let it:

This focus on self-awareness and emotions is an important piece of research in understanding how we “give in to feel good” and procrastinate on the task at hand when it’s difficult (for whatever reason). It’s certainly food for thought as each of us explores the kind of self-talk and self-awareness we aspire towards or cultivate in our lives. Negative self-talk (part of the irrationality of procrastination) can undermine our task pursuit. Mindfulness can keep our attention focused on the task at hand rather than absorbed in a ruminative process that undermines us.

Readers: Do you consider Mindfulness a useful and proactive approach to mental health?

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Written by traumalines

August 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm

One Response

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  1. Mindfulness: Eastern Medicine Travels West « The Trauma Lines Blog…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Mental Disorders 101

    August 10, 2010 at 3:41 am


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