What is Mindfulness all about?
So, you’ve heard about Mindfulness. You kind of get it. Your friend does yoga. Your
colleague has the Head Space app. You know “it’s a thing” but you’ve not yet had a good
reason to give it a shot yourself. You aren’t motivated enough to do a course yet. But you
are curious. So, what’s mindfulness all about?
Jon Kabat Zinn is the man accredited with bringing mindfulness as we know it to the west.
This happened in the late 1970s. Yes, it really has been around that long. Jon Kabat Zinn
first developed his secular mindfulness course, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
in a bid to help patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, to relate to their
medical conditions in a different way (note no promise to “cure”). Today, there have been
numerous scientific studies demonstrating the merits of mindfulness (see Google if you’re
curious) as well as the development of numerous different mindfulness courses. And in
2014, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group was set up to look into research on the
subject, as well as its validity and application towards the policy. All of this would indicate that
it’s definitely “a thing”. But why?
Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBIs) are consistently found to reduce levels of stress,
rumination and anger while improving positive outlook, empathy, self-compassion and
overall quality of life. How do I get some of that, I hear you ask? The simplest thing to do is
focus on your breath. Why? Because by focusing on your breath you can’t think about
yesterday or tomorrow. You can’t breathe for 10 mins ago or 10 mins in the future. You are
literally breathing for the here and now. So, follow your breath as you inhale and then
when you exhale. Doing this for as little as 3 minutes can evoke a sense of calm as you
switch on your parasympathetic nervous system.
Another simple practice is to focus on your senses. Take for example eating breakfast and
taking the time to notice the appearance of what you’re eating, it’s the aroma, to savour its
taste and texture. Or being in the shower and observing the sensation of water against your
skin, it’s temperature, the sound of the running water and the smell of your soap.
Why would you want to do all this? Well, because it’s estimated that we have tens of
thousands of thoughts a day. That means our brain needs to form habitual ways of
operating, so we can process all the thoughts we need to. An ingenious part of our
evolutionary makes up. But it also means that we can start to behave in an autopilot fashion
and at times this means running on outdated beliefs and behaviour patterns that negatively
impact our lives and relationships.
Of course, none of this is an overnight fix (sorry). But with the ongoing practice of simple
techniques such as those described, we can develop new habits almost like we would
strengthen a muscle. For those of you interested, you might like to embark on a class led
Mindfulness course to get you started.
Nikki is our resident life coach and will be running a talk on Mindfulness at Make Me Feel on
July. Keep a lookout for more information or e-mail
us to register your interest.