Neurological science has demonstrated that the practice of mindfulness improves learning as well as quality of life, enhances the ability to cope with problems when they arise, and interestingly enough, makes learning new concepts actually meaningful, as opposed to simply learning a new concept because you are being told to do so. In learning the practice of mindfulness, clinicians have a unique opportunity to make learning new ways of thinking a meaningfulness experience.
We know that mindfulness changes how the brain functions. Mindfulness produces clarity and calmness of thought, helps to control emotions, and reduces distractions in our attention thereby expanding and improving memory and retention. When we lack attentiveness and consciousness of thought, our perceptions are transformed as if on autopilot, and as a result, our ability to memorize or learn something new is negligible. For example, consider learning someone’s first and last name correctly. If the name is given little meaningful attention, the name will not be learned, or at the very most, will not be pronounced correctly. In essence, the learning process in this example was not done mindfully.
Cultivating awareness and understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and actions creates true attentiveness. If you are attentive, you have more control over yourself. If you lack this control, you tend to simply react without being mindful. Interesting concept, isn’t it? Attentiveness to thoughts, feelings, and actions allows for easier control of reaction and to react appropriately. And by having control of your attentiveness, one is better able to allow learning to take place, that is, comprehension can occur (Willis, 2006). This concept applies to both clinician as well as client. Attentiveness (mindfulness) sharpens the brain and prepares it for active learning of new ways to think and process, increases the ability to recognize feelings, enhances self-esteem and confidence, and actually makes learning more interesting – or maybe even fun.