In my capacity as a psychotherapist, I work with many people suffering with Anxiety, depression and many other cognitive issues that destabilise or unbalance their lives. One of the tools I use and recommend is Mindfulness. I have been trained in this and also practice it myself approximately 4 – 5 times a week.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in mindfulness with widespread media coverage – the question is why? Over the last 2 decades people / society have been heavily focused on external stimulation and external achievement to find satisfaction and significance. All too often we find these achievements wanting, any satisfaction is short lived and we are still left with the emptiness we started with. This drives us to look for greater achievements or stimulation hoping that this will then fill the void. I believe that we do this because we have lost the capacity to allow ourselves to feel significant, happy and content. I do not say that external achievement is not important but it becomes meaningless without internal acceptance of self. Mindfulness is a simple tool that can help start to address any imbalance in ourselves. This is why I believe it is becoming more and more popular.
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.” ― Eckhart Tolle,
Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them, without believing for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future.
Studies found that, after just a few weeks of training and practicing mindfulness meditation, this helps our:
- immune system
- ability to fight off illness
- quality of sleep
- increases positive emotions
- reducing negative emotions and Stress
- fighting depression.
- improves the density of the part of the brain matter linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
Scientific evidence shows that mindfulness changes both the brain and the body’s production of hormones and other chemicals that impact our physical health. Many in the scientific community are saying that mindfulness leads to non-judgmental and non-reactive acceptance of experience, which is associated with positive psychological and physical outcomes. Using brain imaging tools, scientists have shown that the threat response, which begins in a region of the brain known as the amygdala, is calmed in meditation. In essence, the reactive fear centre(fight or flight) of the brain shrinks and the more thoughtful response centre of the brain grows.
“There is a part of you that is Love itself, and that is what we must fall into. It is already there. Once you move your identity to that level of deep inner contentment, you will realize you are drawing upon a Life that is much larger than your own and from a deeper abundance.” – Richard Rohr
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. We also heighten our awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen in the moment. Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. Standing back from our thoughts we start to see patterns. Once we recognise these patterns we can train ourselves to realise that our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are something we do but not who we are. We are not our thoughts – simply put, they do not have to control us. Once we have recognised the patterns, we can interrupt them by detaching from the thinking mode and moving into the observing mode. In the observing mode, there is no need to try and stop the thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and we can allow them to play out naturally and ultimately detach from any negative loops we observe ourselves in.
Practising mindfulness is not, in itself, difficult which is one reason I believe it is so popular. The difficult piece for us, is remembering to be mindful – our minds can become so absorbed in their usual ways (patterns) of working that we totally forget the possibility of being more mindful. And, even if we remember, the mode of mind in which we usually operate can resist the shift to a different mode.
There are many good mindfulness mediations you can use on YouTube and also some very good apps you can use. I use a combination of both, the app I use most is called ‘Calm’ which is very easy to use and it also has sleep stories, music and a lot more good stuff!
I hope this article helps with a greater understanding of mindfulness and how/why it can help.