Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Focus on Your Breathing: Does Meditation Help Lower Rumination and Depressive Symptoms?

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Focus on Your Breathing: Does Meditation Help Lower Rumination and Depressive Symptoms?

Article excerpt

The word Meditation describes a wide range of practices used to regulate the body and mind (Cahn & Polich, 2006). The American Psychological Association's (APA) dictionary defines meditation as a deep, prolonged reflective contemplation, which is often designed to alter the state of the consciousness. Meditation is traditionally associated with spiritual and religious practice, but nowadays it is also used for the purposes of gratification, relaxation and stress reduction (VandenBos, 2007). Thus, Meditation is a general name for a diversity of practice methods, designed to foster emotional stability and improve the quality of life.

The field of Buddhist psychology is no stranger to the field of psychoanalysis. Freud even mentioned meditation as early as in his writings from 1930, where he claimed that the feeling of serenity inspired by meditation is essentially an experience of regression -thus creating a comparison between the two fields (Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2005). In the 1960's, ideas regarding enlightenment began to make their way into the West, following famous pioneers such as The Beatles, who had experienced different meditation related practices in India. During that time, some therapists also began trying to integrate their clinical practice with Eastern traditions (Germer et al., 2005; Vaughan, 1984). Research on meditation flourished and in 1977, the APA called for a clinical examination of the effects of meditation, as part of the ongoing trend in the field (Shapiro, 1984).

Most meditation practice methods can be roughly divided into two main styles; The first is Focused Attention Meditation in which a person is taught to focus his or her attention on a particular object (Manna, Raffone, Perrucci, & et al., 2010). This focusing is supposed to bring down regulatory and thought processes and allow the meditator the ability of deepening awareness to the inner self (Lutz, Slagter, Dunne, & Davidson, 2008). The second style is called Open Monitoring Meditation. In this practice, the meditator pays attention to the content of his or her own experience (emotional, cognitive and physical) without responding to this experience in any way (Lutz et al., 2008; Manna et al., 2010). Others may use different terminology to describe the distribution of the two styles of meditation and distinguish insight meditation Vipassana (now also referred to in the psychological literature as Mindfulness) and Concentration Meditation -Samata (Germer et al., 2005).

Scientific literature in the past 10 years regarding this area focused mainly on Mindfulness Meditation (Mindfulness; Germer et al., 2005). Cognitive theorists describe Mindfulness as a form of conscious attention, in which one observes thoughts free of judgment and without attachment; that is without repeated rumination of the thoughts, but simply observing them while paying attention to their existence and moving on to the next thought (Frewen, Evans, Maraj, Dozois, & Partridge, 2008; Mason & Hargreaves, 2001). In Mindfulness Meditation, those who practice it (meditators) learn to let their mind wander into the past, into the future or towards a chain of associations. Tools such as paying attention to breathing, counting breaths, and labeling thoughts or experiences as emotions, pain, planning or judgment are often used by meditators in order to return to a state of conscious attention. Eventually, it is expected from the meditators to develop a deeper awareness of their thought patterns without experiencing the reactions (feelings, or other thoughts) that these patterns typically awaken. This should lead to acceptance of thoughts without judgment and to further emotional stability (Sedlmeier, Eberth, Schwarz, Zimmermann, Haarig, et al., 2012; Deatherage, 1975).

Commonly used in the recent clinical literature, the word Mindfulness refers to the awareness that emerges as a byproduct of nurturing three skills related to one another: The first is paying intentional attention to events occurring from moment to moment as they befall in both the inner and outer world. …

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