A few years ago “Mindfulness” was mostly unknown or called “alternative” but there has been extensive research in neuroscience which increasingly is showing that mindfulness practices helps us to be more calm, resilient, to enjoy, to have positive relationships at home but also in the workplace becoming more productive, reducing medical cost and overall improving the quality of our life.
More and more studies are showing us how mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, anger, chronic pain, helping us to create a healthier lifestyle, eating, sleeping better and exercising more.
So what is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way to pay attention, in the now, to our inner and external world with curiosity, kindness and non-judgment. Mindfulness is the ability to pause between the stimulus and the response, not to automatically react, assume or criticize. By pausing, we can start to observe to allow for perspective and discernment so that our actions are more in line with our values. In this way we take the brain activity away from the threat system, the old brain, the amygdala to use more our newer brain, the frontal cortex, for higher mental integration and regulation of emotions. This is how you can re-wire your brain. By changing your mind, you are changing your brain which in turn make changing your mind in the future easier.
Instead of thinking our life, we observe, to re-discover ourselves in the now, to experience life more directly. It has changed millions of lives for the better. By learning mindfulness practices and integrating them into our everyday lives, we find new ways of relating to our everyday challenges, reducing anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, pain, grief, trauma, and depression. This frees us to be flexible and to function better.
Mindfulness training is gaining in popularity and is having an impact in the workplace and in our personal lives because it works….. Mindfulness has been adopted by modern psychology because scientific research has shown it to be most beneficial. Medicine, health, business, education and sport have also discovered its benefits. Mindfulness is a process, a skill and a philosophy of living that encourages the cultivation of awareness, wisdom, insight and well-being.
Brain imaging research (MRI-Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in the last 10 years have shown how mindfulness can change emotional and thinking styles. The mind can change the brain which in turn changes the mind. Studies have shown that daily practice (10-25 min) for 5- 8 weeks changes the brain to promote resilience and build the immunity system (Davidson et al 2003-2012). It often takes a few weeks of daily practices before one realize the benefits. Choose a time and a place where you can practice during the day. Practicing at night also will promote a better night sleep. Practice as if your life depends on it… because most likely the quality of your life depends on it! It takes commitment, but the rewards are well worth it.
How does mindfulness work?
The greatest gift we can give to another is to be fully present for them, to listen, to accept and not judge. We can offer ourselves the same. Often, we are judging ourselves and others through expectations, criticizing, comparing, evaluating or ruminating over our past, wrong doings, blaming others or dreading future events. That is, we are not in the here and now, living the only moment we really have which is the present moment. We cannot change the past or unpleasant events, but we can choose how we deal with them in the present moment, our moment of power. We can prepare better for the future by focusing “in this moment” on solutions and positive strategies. Mindfulness is a skill, like any skill, it requires time, patience, determination, and ongoing practice.
Will mindfulness help me to control my mind?
Mindfulness is about gaining and acting on insight. It increase our ability to “mentalise”. Firstly, we pay attention, to become aware of our self-talks (thoughts), secondly, we can gently guide the mind as required. As we become aware of specific chatter, we can be discerning asking our self: “Is it true? Is it helpful to think in this way? Is it pointing to a solution? Is it beneficial in my relationships with others?” If the answer is “no”, it is better to de-fuse from the self-talks, from the story and explore a different perspective that is more helpful. Remember, we don’t get upset by the event as such, we get upset because of the way we are thinking about the event. There are many valid ways to perceive a situation, and certain ways are more helpful then others in bringing peace, clarity, enabling us to cope. The less we exaggerate, the more accurate we are in our thinking and assessment of a situation the better we can problem solve, being able to find viable, effective solutions.
Awareness and Insight.
While one of the benefits of mindfulness is the cultivation of calm, the initial goal are to gain awareness and insights. In the formal and informal practices of mindfulness one develops the “Observer Self”, the self that is calm, aware and wise. In times, through the practice of mindfulness, we learn to be with our Observer Self, releasing the narrative self, the thinking mind, gently moving from a sense of a fixed-self to a more adaptive, resilient self. We learn that we are more than our thoughts, beliefs, body, emotions, desires, attachment, experiences and roles. In mindfulness meditation, we stay present and pay attention to what is happening whether we like it or not. We increase our tolerance and in so doing we come to notice the patterns of our mind and behave by choosing our responses rather than impulsively habitually reacting.
Mindfulness is… allowing, accepting what I can’t change while changing what I can, and having the wisdom to know the difference. With mindfulness, we can live our lives skilfully, joyfully, according to our inner wisdom and values.
-This advice is of a general nature only and does not take into account particular conditions. For further assistance contact a general practitioner or psychologist.