Do you hear the term “mindfulness” often? Mindfulness meditation has been recognized as an effective method that promotes well-being in medical, educational, and vocational settings. In fact, Google applies the concept of mindfulness for its human resources development. This research examined the salutary effects of mindfulness not only for expert meditators (monks) but for everyone.
(1) Tanaka, Keisuke.; Sugiura,Yoshinori.; Takebayashi,Yoshitake. The Relationship between Orienting Attention and Dispositional Mindfulness is Moderated by Alerting Attention.
The Japanese journal of personality. 2013, vol.22, no.2, p.146-155.
(2) Takata,Keiji.; Tanaka,Keisuke.; Takebayashi,Yoshitake.; Sugiura,Yoshinori.
Relationship among Mindfulness, Well-Being and Attention Regulation. The Japanese journal of personality. 2016, vol.25, no.1, p.35-49.
Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Associate Professor
Research Fields: Social sciences; Psychology; Clinicapl s ychology
Mindfulness meditation is a technique, wherein one observes one’s whole experience in the here and now (e.g., sensations, feelings, body states, and thinking) with a gentle and nonjudgmental attitude. This decade has witnessed increasing interest in mindfulness meditation as a way to treat psychological disorders and to enhance well-being in various settings (e.g., medical, educational, vocational). However, studies on how and why mindfulness meditation works have been lacking. Obviously, mindfulness meditation involves voluntary control of attention, i.e. focusing on present experiences. Therefore, we focused on specific aspects of attention that determine the salutary effects of mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness meditation
Our first study, conducted with Dr. Tanaka (Joetsu University of Education, Japan), indicated a combination of two attentional functions enhanced mindful awareness of experiences. Namely, when one's focus on experiences is not affected by temporal cues to be alert and when one can focus on particular aspect of the environment, one can obtain mindful awareness of experiences. Therefore, multiple aspects of attention should be fostered in meditation practice. For example, one can start with focusing on one's breathing and getting back to it when one's attention strays away. Then, one can proceed to the next level, noticing and focusing on every aspect of ongoing experiences. Many things come and go; one may notice them, one by one, without being stuck on one particular instance.
Measuring the salutary effects of mindfulness
The second study, conducted with Dr. Tanaka, indicated that observing experiences enhanced well-being when one has good skills of attentional control. Our experiences include positive, negative, and neutral ones. When one's attention fixates on negative experiences, one tends to suffer. Even when experiences are positive, if one is concerned with their transient nature, one also suffers. In contrast, when one can focus on the present, and lets go of it in the next moment, one will not suffer. Good attentional control may enable such moment to moment focus on the present. To enhance such attentional control in meditation practice, one should focus on the present, and when the mind wanders and one starts thinking about a particular instance, one may gently notice this wandering and return one's attention to the present. At the same time, one may be aware of wide aspects of experience: what one hears, sees, and smells, how one moves, how one feels, and so on.
It should be emphasized that the above results were obtained with ordinary college students, not with expert meditators (monks). This means that the salutary effects of mindfulness (e.g., enhancement of well-being) are open to everyone.