Mindfulness: A state of active, open attention on the present.
Mindfulness practice originates from the Buddhist tradition. As a part of what is known as positive psychology, mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. The benefits and uses of mindfulness have been researched for over two decades, with a greater intensity over the last ten years. (1) (2)
In 2011, in America, a study was carried out by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Bender Institute of Neuro-imaging in Germany and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of 16 participants were taken 2 weeks before they joined a meditation programme and again when they had completed the programme. The conclusion was that “… these findings may represent an underlying brain mechanism associated with mindfulness-based improvements in mental health.” (3)
A January 2011 study in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, based on anatomical MRI of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) participants, suggested that “… participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.” (4)
And so a practice that has been in existence in Eastern cultures for thousands of years, is finally becoming recognised in the West as a way of dealing with the stresses and strains of our everyday lives.
What Mindfulness Does:
When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad, Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and being fully aware of each moment. Mindfulness techniques are taught either on a one to one basis, or as group sessions and can be learned by adults, and by children as young as eight. They are extremely empowering and help to build an inner strength and resilience as well as improving self-esteem, self-belief and personal development.
Mindfulness training offers a series of simple practices that are designed to be incorporated into everyday life. They are based on mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT), which was originally designed to help people who had suffered repeated bouts of serious depression to overcome their illness. Clinical trials show that it works. It has been clinically proven to halve the risk of depression in those who have suffered the most debilitating forms of the illness. It is at least as effective as antidepressants, and has none of their side effects. In fact, it is so effective that it’s now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
What Are The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness Techniques?
Practicing mindfulness can help you re-discover your joy of life, and prevent normal feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness from spiralling down into prolonged periods of unhappiness and exhaustion. It will give you skills for handling life’s challenges and difficulties, a safe place to retreat to, and a strong, centred perspective on life. In short, it’s very, very good for you!
1 “Mindfulness Research Monthly, Volume 1, Number 5″.
2 “Can Meditation Cure Disease?” by Maureen Seaberg. Featured onThe Daily Beast.
3 “Research Spotlight: Mindfulness Meditation Is Associated With Structural Changes in the Brain”. NCCAM. January 30, 2011. http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/012311.htm.
4 “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.”. Psychiatry Res.. 2011-01-30 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21071182.