“Mindfulness means PAYING ATTENTION in a particular way; ON PURPOSE, in the PRESENT MOMENT, and NON JUDGEMENTALLY” – Jon Kabat Zinn
Origins of mindfulness?
Mindfulness originates in the ancient meditation practices and the founder of application of mindfulness to health and well-being is Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970’s when he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and created Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This was followed by Marsha Linehan in the 1980’s who applied mindfulness in Dialectal Behaviour Therapy (DBT) with suicidal patients with borderline personality. In the 1990’a John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal further developed MBSR and created Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for people suffering from depression. MBCT is a “treatment of choice” for recurrent depression and approved by the UK National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). It has also been applied in schools and hospitals with a variety of issues. Mindfulness is certainly not a religion but more of a way of being in the world, present, and aware and here.
What does mindfulness involve?
Mindfulness involves learning to pay attention in a different way, i.e. on purpose to what is here and now, i.e. the present moment just as it is. In the beginning this can be somewhat difficult due to our automatic and habitual reactions and our ruminative thoughts creeping up as much as possible. This is exactly what our minds do (often referred to as ‘monkey mind’) and over the period of time we learn to respond differently to these thoughts and distractions. As opposed to being on auto-pilot mode and reacting to our emotional and physiological reactions to every day events and difficulties. It has been shown that more we practice mindfulness it becomes easier to be present with what it is and without judgement.
How is mindfulness practised?
Usually mindfulness has been taught as a programme over 8 weeks (MBCT & MBSR). Participants meet for 2-3 hours per week and then practice at home on a daily basis from 45-55 minutes per day. Practice range from Guided Body Scan, Mindfulness of Breathing, Mindful Movement (Yoga & Stretch and Breath), Mindfulness of Thoughts, Mindfulness of Sounds, and Mindfulness Meditation. These are guided at first and over a period of time more silence is introduced and mindfulness is continued by paying attention to sensations of breathing; the way the body feels inside; noticing judgements, thoughts, sensations, emotions, behaviours, perceptions, feelings and if the mind wonders off then it is gently brought to those internal experiences. Also a very popular short practice is called a 3 Minute Breathing Space. Guided imagery, is a version of paying attention by visualising the situation, requires somewhat less discipline and can be as effective. Since it is easier and it takes less focus and discipline it can often be the first gateway to mindful practices (usually very well applied with children and distressed individuals).
What are benefits of mindfulness?
The main benefit is development of deeper awareness and getting better at responding to situations as opposed to reacting (so recognising, slowing down our usual and habitual reactions). This improves our effectiveness with regards to difficult situations. Increased ability to focus and pay attention improves as well as better quality of life, achieving balance and resilience and over all seeing the situation more clearly or really as it is as opposed to how we would like the situation to be. In a nutshell, one gets better at noticing and looks at it and takes care of it with kindness and compassion. Children learn to pay attention on what is here right now and what is going on at this moment and learn to pause before acting, this in turn helps children calm down, relieve stress and regulate their emotions.
Who is mindfulness for?
Regardless of any belief systems, mindfulness is for everyone whether young and old since it is about “anchoring” yourself with your breath and body in the present moment just as it is. Different modes of teachings have been created for children, adolescents, adults, elderly and those with specific psychological and / or physical issues. Research findings over the last 35 years have seen attempts to explain how mindfulness practices work and how and why it results in improved quality of life and lowered stress levels.
Are you interested in finding out more about mindfulness?
If you are please join us for one of our FREE taster sessions. These taster sessions will combine teaching about what is mindfulness, its applications and the scientific evidence as well as short mindfulness practices to explore what it means to be aware and present as well as a few tips of how to apply mindfulness to your daily life.