What is mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mental training that reduces the tendency to go through life on autopilot. By learning to pay more attention to thoughts, feelings as they arise, it changes the way we relate to our day to day experiences, particularly stressful ones.
How do you experience the present moment? In fact, do you experience the present moment at all or is your mind planning, thinking, worrying, remembering and in the past and future more than it is in the present? For much of the time, most of us tend to live in a preoccupied state in which the here and now is hardly experienced. Our heads are full of chatter, often ruminating on the past or planning the future.
Mindfulness training is a method of mental training that reduces the tendency to go through life on autopilot, by learning to pay more attention to thoughts, feelings and experiences as they arise. In so doing it can change the way we relate to our day to day experiences, particularly stressful ones. It also helps us be more present to really enjoy the good parts of our life too. Participants report reduced stress/worry/over-thinking and better sleep, more emotional regulation and more awareness and control in how they manage their minds and emotions. Rather than worrying about what has happened or what might happen, mindfulness trains us to respond to whatever is happening right now.
It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. As John Kabat-Zinn wrote in his book ‘Full Catastrophe Living, ‘You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf’. It helps us to recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. Secular mindfulness provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating a calmer mind.
Typical meditations involve focusing your attention on ‘an anchor’ to the present moment. This may be the movement of the breath, or body sensations or sounds. In so doing, it allows you to be an observer to your thoughts, body sensations and emotions as they come and go and you learn that thoughts, just like sounds, are transient and you have a choice as to whether you act on them or not. Developing awareness of our thought patterns and mental habits, with acceptance and self-compassion, helps us to manage difficult experiences, and create space to make wise choices. Respond rather than react to situations as you develop the ability to notice your automatic responses as they arise.
Mindfulness has been the subject of 1000’s of scientific studies in the last 30 years with proven results coming through in a variety of fields, particularly showing enhanced ability to be resilient to the things life throws up for us.
Research shows that it has a beneficial effect both on physical states (e.g. coping chronic pain or illness, high blood pressure) and on psychological states (anxiety, stress and depression). In the UK it is recommended in some areas by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and it is increasingly being used in many areas of life (work place courses, GP run clinics, children in secondary education) to encourage wider uptake of the benefits that it brings to people.
What are the Benefits of the 8 week mindfulness courses
Over the past few decades, randomised controlled trials of 8 week mindfulness courses have shown that mindfulness based approaches are effective in managing stress, worry and anxiety, as well as improving general well-being, sharpening attention and maintaining balance. The course will not only teach you ways to reduce stress, but also ways to become more tolerant, ‘stress hardy’ and resilient, so you are less thrown by life’s difficulties.
Most people completing an 8 week mindfulness course report that they gain benefits such as:
- Able to take time out of and get relief from preoccupations and worries
- Be less distracted and concentrate better
- Experience life more directly and step out of the relentless commentary of their thoughts
- Feel less stuck and drained
- Open up to the many possibilities to feel more alive, engaged and happy
- Disengage from automatic ways of thinking and choose alternate, wiser perspectives and actions
- Tolerate difficult feelings, physical sensations and cope better with pain
- Be kinder to themselves
These in turn provide a sense of improved well being and reduced anxiety.
Scientific references and some of the latest research on what practising mindfulness really means in terms of your brain neurology and your well-being will be posted here very shortly. In the meantime please go to www.mindfulnet.org and you can see all the latest scientific papers.
You can also have a look at testimonials from previous clients here.
In The Workplace
Mindfulness also has wide applications in the work place with studies showing that mindfulness promotes insightful problem solving, cultivating a positive attitude to perceived stress, increased attention and decreased ruminating thoughts, increased emotional intelligence and an observing attitude, all of which are helpful in today’s busy and often stressful workplaces.