Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation: A Potential Tool for Mental Health and Subjective Well-Being

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation: A Potential Tool for Mental Health and Subjective Well-Being

Article excerpt

Well-being is a dynamic concept that includes subjective, social, and psychological dimensions as well as health-related behaviors. The multiple facets of psychological well-being include:

* Self-acceptance

* The establishment of quality ties to other

* A sense of autonomy in thought and action

* The ability to manage complex environments to suit personal needs and values

* The pursuit of meaningful goals and a sense of purpose in life

* Continued growth and development as a person

Seminal work by Ryff (1989), Ryff and Keyes (1995) recognized the need for an instrument to measure theoretically-derived construct of psychological well-being. After summarizing the theoretical literature in mental health (Jahoda, 1958), self-actualization (Maslow, 1968), optimal functioning (Rogers, 1961), maturity (Allport 1961), and developmental life span (Buhler, 1935; Erikson, 1959; Buhler and Massarik, 1968; Neugarten, 1968; Neugarten, 1973), Ryff found these diverse areas converged around a set of core constructs or dimensions: self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, puipose in life, and personal growth (Appendix 1 ).

Throughout its history, Buddhism has been a resource for practices, ideas, and worldviews that relate to well-being; whether this is understood as flourishing in the physical, mental, or stereological sense. Beginning with the physical, Buddhism has served as a repository for therapeutic and pharmaceutical knowledge, and its clerics, have served as doctors, healers, and nurses. Buddhist stories tell of the exploits of the famous Doctor Jivaka. The Buddha was often given the epithet, "Great Physician," as one who liberates all beings from disease. And, the four noble truths were often given a medical spin: ( 1 ) symptom; (2) etiology; (3) cure; and, (4) course of treatment. Buddhism has produced institutions that engaged with local medical traditions. This was true in ancient India, medieval China, early modern Japan, and in contemporary Thailand, among many other places and historical periods.

Continuing with the mental health, the sheer wealth of contemplative techniques believed to have therapeutic value is staggering. Today, there is excitement over the potential of Buddhist-derived meditation practices to contribute to cognitive therapeutic outcomes such as stress reduction, impulse control, and mood regulation, and a growing literature on Buddhism and mental health. The field of Buddhism and Psychology is burgeoning and, according to Walsh and Shapiro (2006) - "Meditation is now one of the most enduring, widespread, and researched of all psychotherapeutic methods"

Mental health in classical Buddhist psychology

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: all that we are is founded on our thoughts, and is made up of our thoughts.

If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.

If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

These lines from the Dhammapada (Babbitt, 1936) reflect the basic dichotomy in Abhidhamma, the classical Buddhist Psychology, between pure (wholesome or healthy) and impure (unwholesome or unhealthy) properties.

The Abhidhama model of mental health realistically acknowledges a full range of negative, unhealthy attitudes that stand in the way of healthy psychological development. Of the fourteen basic unhealthy factors, the major perceptual factor is delusion (moha), a perceptual cloudiness causing misperception of the object of awareness. Delusion is seen as the fundamental source of unhealthy mental states; it leads directly to a cognitive factor, 'false view' or misdiscernment (diUhi). The bulk of unhealthy mental factors are affective. Agitation (uddhacca) and worry (kukkucca) elements in anxiety are two primary factors in this category. …

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