Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

The Meaning Connection between Mindfulness and Happiness

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

The Meaning Connection between Mindfulness and Happiness

Article excerpt

This article proposes a humanistic-oriented theoretical foundation for meaning in life as a mediator between mindfulness meditation and happiness. Three main functions of mindfulness are introduced: nonidentification, choice, and compassion. These functions are examined through the lens of meaning in life theory. Implications for humanistic counselors are discussed.

Keywords: meaning in life, mindfulness meditation, happiness

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Contemporary researchers are busy examining connections that link mindfulness meditation practice to happiness and greater life satisfaction (Galante, Galante, Bekkers, & Gallacher, 2014). Harvard Medical School (see R. Siegel, 2013) published an overview of how mindfulness meditation is connected to happiness through the perspective of positive psychology. In 2012, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was added as an evidence-based program to the U.S. government's National Registry of Evidence-Based Practice and Programs (2014). In addition to MBSR, the registry also includes the following interventions that are based on, or include, mindfulness meditation practice: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (Kuyken et al., 2008), dialectical behavior therapy (Linehan et al., 1999), acceptance and commitment therapy (Bond & Bunce, 2000), acceptance-based behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety disorder (Roemer, Orsillo, & Salters-Pedneault, 2008), and a gender-responsive treatment program (Helping Women Recover and Beyond Trauma; Messina, Grella, Cartier, & Torres, 2010). Internationally, Pak, Ahmadian, and Rahimi (2013) showed that mindfulness meditation significantly increased happiness in a sample of pregnant women with diabetes in Sanandaj, Iran.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be a successful intervention for depression (Williams & Kabat-Zinn, 2007), anxiety (Orsillo & Roemer, 2011), and addiction (Miller, 2014). Practitioners of mindfulness meditation are often perceived as happier by outside observers (Choi, Karremans, & Barendregt, 2012), and contemporary mindfulness meditation teachers are promising "real happiness" (see Salzberg, 2011) as a result of daily practice. According to Galante et al. (2014), the quality of mindfulness meditation research and training programs has improved greatly over the past decade. As a result, mindfulness-based techniques have become integrated into mainstream health care settings.

With the strength of the link between mindfulness and happiness made, the next layer of research is to explore how exactly one moves from mindfulness meditation to happiness. How might a humanistic counselor conceptualize and use an in-depth understanding of the connection between mindfulness meditation and happiness? This article theoretically explores how mindfulness links to happiness through the humanistic construct of meaning in life. First, mindfulness meditation is explicated in light of neuroscience and humanistic theory. Next, I introduce the construct of meaning in life. In the final section, I elucidate the bridge between mindfulness meditation practice and meaning in life, specifically with the humanistic counselor in mind. The purpose of this article is to explore the functions of mindfulness meditation in a way that will be of practical value to counselors working with clients, by introducing mindfulness meditation as a meaning-centered intervention that can potentially enhance real happiness (Salzberg, 2011).

DEFINING MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

According to Baer, Smith, and Allen (2004), mindfulness meditation "is generally defined to include focusing one's attention in a nonjudgmental or accepting way on the experience occurring in the present moment" (p. 191). This definition lacks specificity in what actually occurs internally and externally while someone is practicing mindfulness meditation. For humanistic counselors who might use mindfulness meditation in their clinical work, a deeper understanding is needed to track the holistic experience of clients undertaking a mindfulness practice. …

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