Mindfulness can be defined as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” according to psychologist and mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is known as one of the leaders of mindfulness practice in the West. In the late 1970s, he began a stress-reduction program that became widely popular and eventually known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR is now a clinical practice employed by psychologists and healthcare providers worldwide.
But mindfulness is not new. Many of the mindfulness-oriented techniques were cultivated thousands of years ago throughout various cultures, mostly in the Eastern hemisphere. Now that we better understand neuroscience and biological medicine, we can apply these age-old concepts to our modern understanding of stress and its effects on the body.
Any activity where one focuses on his or her present moment without judgment is practicing mindfulness. Some basic mindfulness practices have gained popularity over time and are common to those who frequently practice being mindful. There are hundreds of possible ways one can engage the body and mind in mindfulness. In the table below, some of these exercises are listed and explained.
|Mindfulness Practice||Definition||How To Do It|
|Meditation||A practice of training the mind or entering a mode of consciousness whereby one acknowledges its content without engaging in it.||Done seated, standing, lying or walking, quietly focus on a word, phrase, or image and sustain pointed concentration on it for a duration of time. Do this to promote relaxation and build internal energy, or life force.|
|Yoga||A series of spiritual, mental, and physical practices, involving strength, stretch, and balance postures, done through the rhythm of the breath. It originated in India.||Practiced in many styles, yoga is an awareness practice of focused breathing. It involves active body movements and stretches. Many classes are offered in studios all over the world.|
|Focused Breathing||Simple awareness of the moving breath, and actively controlling the breath.||Focus on the breath with each inhale and exhale. Try counting the seconds it takes to inhale, and exhale for the same number of seconds. With each cycle of breath, try to deepen it by making each inhale and exhale longer.|
|Body Scan||A type of mindfulness meditation where one focuses on each body part at a time, practicing narrowing and widening ones focus from moment to moment.||While seated or lying and with eyes closed, focus, from head to toe, each body part at a time, trying to completely relax it. Notice any sensations and bring awareness to them.|
|Mindful Eating||A type of mindfulness practice whereby one brings full attention to a specific food and uses all senses to experience that food, both in the mind and in actuality.||While seated or lying and with eyes closed, focus, from head to toe, each body part at a time, trying to completely relax it. Notice any sensations and bring awareness to them.|
Relationship to the Skin
Some researchers are now exploring how mindfulness practices may affect those with skin conditions. In general, patients with skin abnormalities often experience psychosocial distress and anxiety, which may lead to depression and skin shame. One study found that among dermatology patients, higher levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of distress. This finding prompts further investigation into the role mindfulness may play in improving dermatology patients’ quality of life and attainment of wellness.
Other research studies are beginning to look into how mindfulness may improve the severity of specific skin conditions. It has been determined that high levels of distress and impaired quality of life are commonly seen in psoriasis patients. In a pilot study assessing whether mindfulness could reduce stress and improve psoriasis among its patients, those who received mindfulness therapy in addition to their typical treatments showed significant improvement in psoriasis severity and quality of life. Thus, the researchers advocate for further clinical trials investigating how mindfulness may improve psoriasis for its patients.
In addition to psoriasis, many chronic skin conditions may be improved by mindfulness therapy, due to its documented reduction in stress levels and enhancement of quality of life among patients.[2,3] This area of research is new, but more patients and healthcare practitioners alike are beginning to recognize the importance of the universal practice of mindfulness.