The world seems to be abuzz with the concept of mindfulness at the moment, from the offices of Google through to primary school classrooms. But what is mindfulness and what are the physical and mental health benefits?
“We spend so much time thinking over stuff that has happened in the past, or worrying about things that may happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment”
Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way.
When a person is mindful, they:
- Focus on the present moment
- Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in the future
- Try to be non-judgmental and avoid labelling things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
- Train themselves to be kind, compassionate and empathetic
- Learn to positively detach from wants, craving and desires
- Develop an understanding that life is constantly changing
- Learn to detach from a rigid view of themselves and their environment
We spend so much time thinking over stuff that has happened in the past, or worrying about things that may happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment.
Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens. Research suggests that the more we practice mindfulness the greater the physical and emotional benefit will be.
When you’re mindful, the following things happen:
- Your head becomes clear
- You become more aware of yourself, your body and the environment
- Your thoughts slow down
- Your parasympathetic nervous system engages and you are flooded with feel-good chemicals
- You feel more relaxed and well placed to handle challenges
- You have improved levels of concentration and can switch with great ease between one task and the next
Who is mindfulness for?
Mindfulness is something that everyone can develop, and it’s something that everyone can benefit from. It’s been practiced for thousands of years, with origins in Eastern philosophy, and over the past 40 years it has been taken up in Western societies.
People can increase their mindfulness in everyday life, through activities like meditation and yoga, or even by simply paying more attention during regular activities like walking, driving or something as basic as brushing your teeth. It’s about stopping, observing and being present in that moment.
Mindfulness sounds simple but over many thousands of years Buddhists and yoga practitioners have developed complex psychological tools to help us be more mindful. Over the past 40 years psychologists and neuroscientists have studied many of these practices and their research confirms there are impressive benefits in participants’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Practicing mindfulness has been shown to:
- Relieve stress
- Improve sleep patterns
- Increase ability to manage depression and/or anxiety
- Regulate our emotions
- Improve memory
- Increase our ability to learn new things and problem solve
- Make us happier
- Improve breathing patterns
- Reduce our heart rate
- Improve circulation
- Boost immunity
- Cope with pain
It sounds too good to be true, but it just goes to show the power that our mind has to create or destroy good health. The good news is that we can all learn techniques to enable us to focus our attention in a way, which nourishes body, mind and soul.
Andy Roberts from Breathe Australia is running an eight-week Mindfulness Course at Learning Partnerships in West End, starting on Wednesday, February 4. Click here for more information and other courses on offer.
There’s an App for that…
Have a look at GPS4Soul. You can create you own guides where you add photos, memorable quotes and music to bring you back on the mindfulness track. It’s available for free in the App Store.