What is Mindfulness

Found in several cultural, religious and philosophical traditions, the techniques and practices of “Mindfulness” (“mindfulness meditation”) and other contemplative or meditative practices have been increasingly integrated in contemporary clinical practice, mainly in psychology and medicine.

“Mindfulness” (translated as “Atenção Plena” in Portuguese) is an umbrella-term that can designate: a 1) mental state, 2) a set of techniques or mental exercises (“Mindfulness meditation”), 3) structured mindfulness-based programs and, also, 4) a psychological trait or construct.

The mental state of mindfulness can be achieved when we intentionally focus our attention on the direct experience of the present moment with an open and nonjudgmental attitude. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers on the “westernization” of mindfulness practices with a focus in health, “Mindfulness is the simplicity in itself. It is about stopping and being present. That's all”.

This mental state can be trained through techniques or psychoeducational and meditative exercises, which are an essential part of mindfulness-based interventions. These interventions are programs or structured courses that involve classroom activities (with an instructor) and distance learning through the combination of simple techniques easy to apply in our everyday life.

In these programs to experience and fully live in the present moment some "anchors" are used to develop conscious observation, like focusing on breathing or bodily sensations and movements, for example.

The efficacy and effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in health promotion have been studied in a variety of populations, including people with cancer diagnosis, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, heart disease and other stress-related disorders; as well as healthy individuals, professionals, healthcare students, athletes, among others, with high levels of “stress”.