You have probably heard all the hype about mindfulness meditation both in private practice and within the NHS.
You perhaps find yourself asking what is mindfulness and why all the hype?
Mindfulness to put it simply is being fully present in the moment. It means to be aware of our surroundings and to pay attention to what we are doing. It’s about Acceptance and the application of a non-judgemental attitude, so when thoughts do arise, you simply watch them, not change them, accept them, and let them be. Sounds simple, right? However, there is much more of a scientific basis to it than we think.
Mindfulness has its origins in Buddhism but it soon gained popularity when an American professor John Kabatt Zinn developed the popular Mindfulness based stress reduction course (MBSR). Research has shown that mindfulness can in fact change the neuroplasticity of your brain.
The evidence shows that people who engaged in an eight-week course of mindfulness were showing incredible results. The amygdala which is the part of the brain that is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’response appeared to reduce in size. While pre-fontal cortex associated with concentration, decision making and awareness became thicker. This meant that when people were actively engaging in mindfulness, that their usual response to stress was being interrupted and instead they were responding with a much more positive response, leading to enhanced wellbeing and improved mental health.
Scientific evidence based trials have also shown that mindfulness practice can be as effective as prescription pain killers. Therefore, mindfulness is being used as an intervention for treating chronic pain both in the NHS and in private practice.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
- reduce anxiety, stress and depression
- manage pain and your emotional reaction to it.
- reduce blood pressure.
- improve the immune system.
- improve sleep
- increase happiness
- increase memory
- manage chronic pain.
Anyone can practice mindfulness, it is always there wherever you are, you don’t have to be a certain type of person, a certain age, gender, race, or even have a certain type of job. My point is that the peace you may have been searching for has always been there, within yourself free of charge.
You may think to yourself really? Is that all? However, mindfulness can sometimes be harder than you think.
Therefore, being mindful requires practice and patience.
So how do you do it?
How do you find peace in a frantic world?
Basic mindful exercise
Sit now quietly wherever you are.
Find comfort in an upright position with your feet firmly on the floor, this way you will stay alert and not fall asleep.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathe.
Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Really concentrate on the breath as it flows in and out of your body
Focus on where you feel the breath most, is it in your chest, your nose, your throat?
Now begin to count the breathes.
Breathe in and count one and out and count two.
Do this until you reach ten and then return to one.
During this activity, you will notice that your mind wanders off, you may begin to think about what you should make for tea or what you did today or have to do today.
When you notice that your mind has wandered off, without frustration or judgement, re-focus on your breath.
You will find that your mind wanders a lot, it’s important not to give up and remember practice makes perfect.
Try to do this for ten minutes per day.
This is a very basic technique but you can find more practices here;
So, next time when you hear somebody saying ‘all we really have is now’, take a moment to really think about that. The past has been and gone and the future hasn’t happened yet, we only really have the present, so embrace it, be present, be here, be ‘now’.