By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits. With impacts so great it is important to know how to optimize the development of mindfulness.
“Mindfulness is defined as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (John Kabat-Zinn). This is the goal of mindfulness training. There are, however, a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditation, yoga, mindful movements, contemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. Some are recommended to be practiced for years while others are employed for only a few weeks. Regardless of the technique, they all appear to develop and increase mindfulness. It is unclear what technique may be best and what components are essential. There does appear, however, to be one central component; the practice of awareness of the present moment.
Many mindfulness practices require experienced and/or accredited instructors. This in turn requires traveling to a facility, attending sometimes lengthy classes for many weeks, and involves expense. In today’s busy world many people find that this commitment of time and resources is difficult if not impossible. So, it is important to develop simple, convenient, and efficient means to develop mindfulness. The internet holds great promise. Instruction can be delivered inexpensively and conveniently to large numbers of people spread across wide geographic areas. Mindfulness training has been successfully conducted over the internet with positive benefit. So, on-line mindfulness training appears to be a viable method for developing mindfulness.
The issue then becomes how much training is needed. In today’s Research News article “A Moment of Mindfulness: Computer-Mediated Mindfulness Practice Increases State Mindfulness.” See:
or below or view the full text of the study at:
Mahmood and colleagues examine if a very brief (5-min) instruction in mindfulness delivered on-line is sufficient to develop at least some improvement in mindfulness. They randomly assigned on-line participants to either a 5-minute body scan meditation condition or a control condition in which the participants were asked to simply sit in silence for 5-minutes. Participants levels of mindfulness were measured before and after the 5-minute training.
They found that the mindfulness condition produced significant increases in mindfulness while the control condition did not. Hence, a very brief body scan mindfulness training is capable of increasing mindfulness. It should be noted, however, that the effects were relatively small and there was no testing for how long the effects may last. It remains for future research to determine the amount of on-line practice needed to produce large and lasting increases in mindfulness. But, the fact that a brief mindfulness training can be delivered over the internet and have positive benefits is an encouraging step toward the development of a convenient and inexpensive means to deliver this beneficial training.
Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness can be increased with a brief on-line training
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” ~James Baraz
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Mahmood, L., Hopthrow, T., & Randsley de Moura, G. (2016). A Moment of Mindfulness: Computer-Mediated Mindfulness Practice Increases State Mindfulness. PLoS ONE, 11(4), e0153923. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153923
Three studies investigated the use of a 5-minute, computer-mediated mindfulness practice in increasing levels of state mindfulness. In Study 1, 54 high school students completed the computer-mediated mindfulness practice in a lab setting and Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) scores were measured before and after the practice. In Study 2 (N = 90) and Study 3 (N = 61), the mindfulness practice was tested with an entirely online sample to test the delivery of the 5-minute mindfulness practice via the internet. In Study 2 and 3, we found a significant increase in TMS scores in the mindful condition, but not in the control condition. These findings highlight the impact of a brief, mindfulness practice for single-session, computer-mediated use to increase mindfulness as a state.