Mindfulness is paying deliberate attention to things as they are without judgement. We spend much of the day on automatic pilot going through the motions while our minds are anticipating the future or ruminating about the past. Being absorbed in the constant stream of “noise” in our head does not allow us to participate and appreciate fully what is happening in the moment affecting how we interact with others, perform and experience the here and now.
Mindfulness has proven benefits for health and wellbeing. The 8 Week Mindfulness Course was originally developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre to teach meditation techniques in a non-religious, effective and person centred way to reduce physical symptoms made worse by stress, anxiety and depression. Any condition involving chronic pain, fatigue, low mood, headaches, digestive problems and inflammation (including various skin conditions) is made worse by the physical impact of stress. Stress can become chronic itself without the presence of illness when we are in a cycle of constant worry, anxiety or just by being busy all the time. This chronic stress, once ingrained, cannot simply be shut off by telling ourselves to relax nor is it practical to “give it all up”.
Mindfulness teaches you to take time each day to programme the mind away from the chronic stress-inducing thought patterns that can be so damaging. Each of the 8 weeks builds on the previous to develop the skills needed to rewire the brain to not set off the constant stress response to the slightest trigger. This rewiring of the brain has been shown on functional MRI scans to occur after only 4 weeks of practise and the benefits felt are directly related to the time spent doing mindfulness. Slowly you will start to notice you feel calmer, less reactive and more attentive. Symptoms made worse by stress may start to feel less prominent and you can focus more on noticing and appreciating the things around you with all the benefits that come with this.
The long term effects of chronic stress, anxiety and depression has become a recent focus of medical research with regards to how it affects our health in later life. Chronic depression, anxiety and stress have all been identified as independent risk factors for heart disease and Alzheimers. Although mindfulness is known to effectively reduce stress, anxiety and depression in the short term, studies are now underway to determine if people who practice mindfulness are mentally and physically healthier in later life.
Mindfulness is also being taught in schools. Teenagers who have been taught mindfulness through a 6 week programme still used the mindfulness practices and demonstrated greater wellbeing (as compared to before learning mindfulness) at a 3 month follow-up. A much larger study through Oxford University is now investigating if teenagers taught mindfulness are less likely to develop mental health problems than teens who were not taught mindfulness. This is a big and complex study that will take several years to complete.
Mindfulness has been applied to many health conditions to reduce the suffering and improve the wellbeing of the people affected. In particular, it is being taught to people undergoing treatment for cancer, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia with good results. At the core of this is learning mindfulness through the basic 8 week Mindfulness for Health and Wellbeing Course. If you would like to attend an Mindfulness Session to learn more about mindfulness (recommended) or to book straight on to an 8 week course please contact us to book.