Mindfulness has the potential to be a very useful component in prevention and treatment efforts because of its effectiveness in reducing emotional distress and promoting emotional balance, improving attention and contributing to motivated learning.
Mindfulness has been defined as a certain way of paying attention: “on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness provides a means of handling distress with intention and nonjudgment via several proposed mechanisms: First, bringing attention to the present-moment experience of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations shifts cognitive focus away from the past (such as a memory of a troubling incident) and the future (such as apprehension of impending trouble), thereby disrupting the connections between automatic cognitive interpretations and patterns of reacting.
Second, focus on present-moment internal and external experience broadens attention and allows for suspension of previously practiced patterns of reacting (avoidance or overengagement), sometimes called decentering.
Third, the quality of nonjudgment that is essential to mindfulness permits the observation of your experience without judgment or evaluation. The practice of orienting to experience with curiosity and acceptance strengthens tolerance for distress by altering automatic response patterns described previously. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can provide a powerful tool for restoring emotional balance and preventing engagement in harmful behavior.
To understand mindfulness and its role in child and adolescent development, it is also important to consider the nature of attention and the ways in which we typically construe it. We often think of attention as a trait-like characteristic that is relatively immutable or inborn.