what is it and how can it help?
How often do you find yourself on auto-pilot? Perhaps you’ve driven somewhere and can’t remember the journey or eaten a meal and you can’t remember the flavour of or indeed what you’ve just eaten. Our lives are full and busy and seem to fly by without us really making the most of each moment. Added to which, we can get caught up in our thinking, churning over a seemingly long list of things to stress about. We worry about the future or get stuck in the past and often miss the present moment.
If you are looking for a change, then mindfulness may be the answer, or at the very least, a step in the right direction.
Mindfulness was originally a Buddhist practice started thousands of years ago, but the secular version of mindfulness that has become increasingly popular in the last 30 years is called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (or MBSR for short). MBSR was developed in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to help people suffering from long term pain and stress. Since then, scientific research has shown that it has many benefits.
Using a combination of simple meditation techniques that focus on breathing, along with daily practices that are easy to incorporate into our lives, mindfulness can help with stress, depression, anxiety, pain management, and can generally improve our approach to and experience of life in many ways. We can do anything mindfully, from cleaning our teeth to doing the washing up and eating our breakfast. Sometimes just a couple of minutes of mindfulness is enough to allow us to step out of autopilot and to pause.
As a result of the success of MBSR, other versions of mindfulness have been developed including Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness Based Pain Management and Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention.
Anyone can learn how to do it, from children to the elderly. In addition to attending classes, there are many ways of learning mindfulness including online programmes, apps for your phone, books to read or retreats to visit. Some of these methods are free, so you can access the benefits of mindfulness regardless of circumstances and availability. (Please see the bottom of this section for a list of resources).
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction helps us cultivate an increased level of awareness of what is going on inside us, in our thoughts, our emotions and our physical sensations, as well as what is happening in the world around us. In doing so, we can learn to watch our thoughts (and emotions and sensations) come and go, realising perhaps that we don’t need to get caught up in them. We can pause and breathe, rather than react instantly. It encourages us to bring kindness and compassion to ourselves and others, to accept rather than judge ourselves. It helps us to look for pleasant experiences in life, however small they may be, whilst inviting us to sit with what is difficult or unpleasant, to accept that both can exist at the same time.
It’s not difficult to learn and you don’t have to spend hours at a time doing it, but you do need to practice regularly (preferably daily). As part of the benefit of mindfulness is the effect it has on the neuroplasticity of our brain and how it lowers our stress response and increases our levels of happiness and well-being. In order to achieve this, we do need to practice regularly – about 15 to 30 minutes a day. I still find it extraordinary to think that we can rewrite our neural pathways through meditation, but there is a plethora of research to show that this is the case.
There is a lot of information on the internet about mindfulness in its many forms and here are a few links to get you started, if you are interested in learning more about it.
Please keep an eye on the workshops section of my website for future courses, or do get in touch with me directly if you would like to talk about learning with me. For some clients, it may be that counselling is the solution, but if you are interested in mindfulness, I can incorporate it into our work together, giving you long lasting tools that you can use to help yourself. Equally, if you have already completed an 8 week course, then we can incorporate what you have learnt into our counselling sessions.
www.franticworld.com – contains an excellent section on What is Mindfulness? http://franticworld.com/what-is-mindfulness/ and a useful list of What it can do for you? http://franticworld.com/what-can-mindfulness-do-for-you/
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx The NHS are recommending mindfulness to help with stress, anxiety and to help prevent recurrent depression. They also list it as one of their Five Steps to Mental Well-being http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/improve-mental-wellbeing.aspx
Useful mindfulness programmes/apps
http://palousemindfulness.com/selfguidedMBSR.html - this is a free online version of MBSR.
https://www.headspace.com/ you can learn online or through the Headspace app.
https://insighttimer.com/ is a great app giving access to many different guided meditations and it’s available for both Android and iPhones.
Books you might like to read
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World - Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Full Catastrophe Living - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Miracle of Mindfulness - Thich Nhat Hanh
When Things Fall Apart - Pema Chodron
Mind the Bump - Mindfulness and how the brain works
Why Mindfulness is a Superpower (an animation)
What is Mindfulness? With Jon Kabat-Zinn