Some consider the Buddha, who lived 2,500 years ago, to have been the first psychologist to walk the planet. While many think of Buddhism as primarily a religion, it is also a form of psychology that is consistent with the scientific method that stresses observation and judging for oneself (versus simply following dogma). It has several formal applications in the therapy field today, the more known ones being “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) and “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy” – a blend of Buddhist philosophy and cognitive therapy.
Buddhist Psychology theory believes our psychological state depends not so much on our particular circumstances, but more on how we relate to what life brings our way. It acknowledges that pain – whether physical or emotional – is an unavoidable part of life and with that pain comes some suffering. However, as human beings we tend to add additional layers of psychological suffering by how we engage with our experiences. In particular, it’s a strong desire to control things – to hang on to what we want and push away what’s unpleasant – that gets us into trouble.
According to Buddhist philosophy, when we cultivate certain ways of being in the world, then we’re more or less apt to experience the qualities associated with mental health – things like insight, balance, joy and kindness. Below is a discussion of the core factors that lead to both unhealthy and healthy states of mind. There are many types of mindfulness practices and tools designed to foster healthy mental states and work effectively with the unhealthy ones, some of which are referenced below as well.