Mindfulness 2.0 – The Future of Mindfulness

My Granny died last month, aged 97.  Good knock, Gran.

Granny 6

It wasn’t such a sad death really, as the real essence of Granny that we all knew and loved had long disappeared.

I wonder how much of our grief is like this; tiny portions of loss spread out across the days and weeks, regular downpayments helping to spread the cost. Well before she left Granny’s fingers had been prised away from the habits and routines that defined our lives.

Then once she was gone the routines of commemoration take over.  I had to read out some words from my Aussie family and then say some words of my own.  It was all very life affirming, as death can be.

I was struck by how we remembered Granny.  What she did, yes.  But also how she did it.  Granny could be quite formal, snooty even, but the Real Granny was also silly, curious and generous.

I mean, does this look like a woman who really cares whether your elbows are on the table?

Granny 1

Mindfulness

Comparing myself to Granny’s generation seldom goes well.

She and her friends fought a war for freedom with incredible modesty and courage.  I get annoyed with software updates on my smartphone.

I’m more caught up in my head, too.  Busy, but not always about important stuff.  Granny did stuff for her family and community.  If I’m not careful I do stuff on social media.

Of course this isn’t just me, and maybe this is why mindfulness has taken off.  This ancient practice has been seized upon as an antidote to the age of distraction, and there’s a lot of evidence suggesting it works too.

Yet at the same time there are problems with the mindfulness movement.  In his new book Carpe Diem Regained, Roman Krznaric highlights two:

First, the mindfulness movement focuses too much on the self, leaving it thin on moral foundations. 

Second, in placing so much emphasis on attending to the present moment, it overlooks how much human beings thrive on striving for meaningful goals. 

Krznaric also points out that studies suggest mindfulness may increase wellbeing, but not pro-social behaviour. (Author’s note: please see my comment below for an update on this).

So what is mindfulness really for, if all it does is help us bear these atomised, self-absorbed lives that would be so alien to Granny?

Mindfulness 2.0

Do you remember the early days of the web, when websites were static and focused on giving people information?  This was web 1.0, when the focus was all about spreading awareness and knowledge.

The next generation of websites were interactive.  Their focus was on changing the way we did things like communicating, finding jobs and looking at kittens. This was web 2.0.

The same leap is now happening with mindfulness – a movement away from simple awareness to using our awareness to do things.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is in the vanguard of this movement.  ACT combines hard-edged science with the ability to move people, literally and figuratively.  There are four reasons why ACT is the future of mindfulness:

ACT RCTs 2016

  1. Evidence. It includes all of the benefits of mindfulness – with over 180 randomised control trials now demonstrating its effectiveness in everything from depression, chronic pain, smoking cessation and weight control to workplace effectiveness.
  2. Practical.  It offers different ways to be mindful – making mindfulness more  accessible to more people than ever before.
  3. Clarity.  ACT is based on a clear and transparent philosophy of science which helps practitioners learn faster and explain concepts more clearly.  (Once I got this I never thought in the same way again).
  4. Behavioural.  The use of the acronym ‘ACT’ is deliberate, because ACT is a behavioural intervention which focuses less on peoples’ thoughts than on what they want to DO in life.  ACT  explicitly links mindfulness to values and action: it is mindfulness for a purpose.

ACT positions mindfulness as a call to action.  It links awareness to behaviour that can actually change the world for the better.

Isn’t this what the world really needs?

And isn’t it how we will be remembered?

Granny 2
Margaret West 1919 – 2017

8 thoughts on “Mindfulness 2.0 – The Future of Mindfulness

  1. That’s a beautiful blog and a lovely tribute to your late Grandmother. And so true about ACT leading the values based approach to life and adding to the mindfulness research. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree with Fiona Rob, a truly beautiful tribute to your grandmother. This is a brilliant blog and has inspired me to delve back into ACT after a very difficult year. Wow! Such a powerful way you have with explaining ACT. Thank you!

  3. Thanks so much for your comments Fiona and Denise. It really means a lot to me. Denise – I was particularly glad that it has inspired you to look back into ACT after your difficult year. Let us know how you get on?

    1. Yes, I will Rob, need to work on my chronic apathy and motivation (lack of) first. You write fantastic blogs, as do the rest of the team☺️

  4. I agree that this blog is a great tribute to your Granny and to ACT’s place in the mindfulness movement. At the same time there is also a lot of work being done in schools and other institutions bringing mindful practice to these stressful environments in order to be more effective as people, workers or students. Wellbeing is not for its own sake, but in order to go forward and be more caring and compassionate in our lives. Living in the present in or to make it better for others as well as ourselves. ACT gives a great framework to in deed do what we value even in the midst of the inner turmoil. I see, as in any movement a spectrum of expressions of coping with this life, some will start with ACT and others may start with the mindful practice, but both offer a way to move toward a more meaningful life.

  5. Thanks Scott. I totally agree with you. I especially agree that there are multiple routes into this work. However I have seen first hand how mindfulness *can* be taught for its own sake and not linked to values, behaviours, committed action of any kind. It’s that I worry about a bit, and so I guess it’s no surprise that it is this that strikes a chord for me in ACT. I’d love to hear more about your experience.
    thanks again, Rob

  6. STOP PRESS!
    I’ve conducted a further review of the literature in this space and a new meta-analysis of mindfulness and its effects on pro-social behaviour has shown that mindfulness (both as a trait and training) DOES improve pro-social behaviour (please see details below).

    I felt this was a highly significant finding which deserved noting. However, my post above was aimed mostly at certain aspects of the mindfulness movement which I still believe are too inwardly-focused and not sufficiently focused on values and behaviour.

    Title: Does being mindful increase prosocial behaviour? A systematic review and meta-analysis

    Authors: James Donald, Brooke Van Zanden, Jasper Duineveld, Baljinder Sahdra, Paul Atkins, Joseph Ciarrochi & Sarah Marshall

    Aim:
    Mindfulness clearly helps to improve individual wellbeing, but what are the impacts of mindfulness upon relationships and can mindfulness training enhance prosocial behaviour? The present paper provides a systematic review and a meta-analysis of the limited empirical literature available, including analysis of key moderators.

    Design:
    Systematic review and meta-analysis.

    Method:
    Thirty-seven studies met our inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis. We considered a range of moderators of possible effects including Type of predictor (mindfulness only or self-compassion), recipient of a prosocial act (known other versus stranger), measure of prosocial behavior (self-report versus behavioural measures)., age, gender and, for the intervention studies, intervention length, measurement lag and type of control condition. We assessed for risk of bias and publication bias.

    Results:
    Overall, both trait mindfulness and mindfulness training predict increased prosocial behaviour. We propose that mindfulness helps increase prosocial behaviour through improved emotion regulation and perspective taking. Furthermore, trait mindfulness and trait self-compassion both predicted greater prosocial behaviour similarly, although self-report measures provided relatively inflated estimates of prosocial behaviour. Surprisingly, we did not find differences in prosocial behaviour between compassion-focused and mindfulness-only interventions suggesting that compassion-focused interventions may not foster positive regard and concern for others more than mindfulness-only programs. Conversely, mindfulness alone may enhance compassion as suggested by some Buddhist teachings. Even relatively brief interventions (e.g., less than one hour) were efficacious, at least over the short-term. Finally, mindfulness had a similar effect on prosocial behaviour toward both known and unknown others, suggesting that mindfulness nullifies the in-group effect and thus may contribute to enhanced relations even with strangers.

    Conclusion:
    This is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of mindfulness on prosocial behaviour. At a time when global politics is focused on erecting barriers and taking care of self-interests, these findings seem particularly pertinent. Mindfulness can and does increase prosocial behaviour and it appears to do so in theoretically consistent ways through processes of improved emotion regulation and perspective taking.

  7. Hi Rob. Just read your article. Useful angle captured in personal experience. I recognise the difficulties you mention comparing generations. Context is key hey?

    Mindfulness 2.0 reminds me of DJ Moran’s keynote in Sevilla. He talked about Mindful Action as being a better term than mindfulness as it describes the qualities that are important…intention, choosing and with awareness to what you are doing, why you arw doing it and what impact it is having.

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