Secular mindfulness practices have helped chronically ill patients deal with pain. It has been proven by research to reduce stress and also depression. But could there be more benefits that we can explore with mindfulness, such as its ability to help us make better decisions in life? MBSAT or Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness is a secular-based mindfulness training that looks at helping us make wise decisions for a happier life.
Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Clinical Population
Mindfulness-Based interventions (MBIs) have emerged in the late 1970s thanks to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat Zinn, a professor at the Massachusetts Medical School created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for those experiencing chronic pain. The results of mindfulness training proved effective with numerous scientific studies conducted on it.
Soon, other forms of mindfulness training protocol emerged. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), for example, aids in preventing relapses in those who are suffering from depression. Both MBSR and MBCT are focused on the clinical population.
MBSAT for Workplace and Daily Life
Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness Training (MBSAT), unlike other mindfulness-based interventions, is concerned with people in the workplace and in daily life. It is focused on helping participants make wise decisions in today’s society often disrupted by technology and job insecurities. Adopted by the Singapore Management University, MBSAT shares with other mindfulness-based programs in stabilising the mind’s attention using mindfulness meditation. The calming and focusing exercises bring one’s attention to the present moment non-judgementally. This sets the groundwork for developing strategic awareness and its application in the workplace and in daily life.
Often our minds are scattered with thoughts. Thoughts of random memories, tasks, family matters, and work are playing repeatedly in our heads.
The reason we can be efficient in going through the daily tasks in our lives is because the default mode network (DMN) in our brains helps us complete daily tasks quickly, such as driving home, washing dishes or writing weekly reports. Indeed it helps us save time. However, researchers have also discovered that there are activities in the DMN even when we are not consciously putting our brains to work.
Even though DMN helps us complete mundane tasks without having to pay too much attention, it also proliferates mind wandering. According to Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, we have neglected to notice the flaws of doing things quickly. Not only does thinking or speaking fast render us poor at experiencing life fully or becoming good listeners, but it is also the recipe for stress and anxiety.
Stabilising our mind and putting a pause between thoughts is the first step to recognising where our thoughts and feelings are going. Our thoughts and feelings connect intimately with our bodies. By regulating our self-awareness, we can recognise stress signals in our body and mind. This recognition of arising stressful thoughts and feelings allows us to know the nature of our mind. It also helps us make decisions that bring happiness to ourselves and others.
For example, we may feel burdened if a family member falls ill. This heaviness we feel may cause us to not want to spend time with this family member even though we want to. But the inability to cope with witnessing our family member’s suffering causes us to avoid the situation, creating a conflict within us. This constant tugging creates stress, worry, and even guilt. Only with mental stability can we see how the thought and feeling of not wanting to see our relative suffer is the cause of stress in the body.
By recognising the train of our thoughts and feelings, we are able to make wise choices. In this example, we learn to recognise that our relative might suffer more without our presence. We learn to accept that everyone falls ill at some point in their lives, including ourselves. This allows us to make choices that do not cause conflict within us. By choosing to spend time with our sick relative, we prevent any regrets in the future.
MBSAT also helps participants recognise their innate character strengths. Too often are we focused on improving ourselves in what we deem to be our weak areas. By using our natural strengths to help us make decisions, we may easily find solutions in difficult situations. A majority of us rest in the languishing to moderate state on the Bell Curve of Mental States. We can potentially fall towards the mental disorder area on the bell curve if we are not aware that our mind is in a negative thought loop. Many people in the workplace and in life fall into the languishing state – due to many reasons – from not being appreciated at work, facing a demanding boss, not being able to do the things we love, to being confused by our minds pulled between thoughts of the past and the future.
Despite the obvious relationship between mind and body, we have not spent time taking care of our minds but mainly are focused on our bodies. By the time we fall into depression or anxiety, it may take a much longer time to climb back up the bell curve. We can all flourish as individuals and experience well-being. Well-being is a construct made up of having positive emotions, engaging in activities we love, creating positive relationships with others and being in the flow of activities by using our strengths. We can train our minds to experience well-being with the help of mindfulness meditation by attending an MBSAT course.
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