As humans, we’ve a tendency to work on autopilot most of the time – completing tasks automatically without really providing them with any thought. Consider your drive to work in the morning – are you considering changing gears and steering, or are you mentally planning the day ahead? Perhaps you have ever eaten a snack while working/watching TV and then later end up with a clear packet no memory of having eaten anything? They are both perfect types of mindlessness – something most of us can relate with.
Mindfulness aims to reconnect us with ourselves to alleviate stress. In addition, it helps us to feel more attuned with our feelings and generally more alert to ourselves both mentally and physically.
What is mindfulness?
The Mental Health Foundation has reported that anxiety and depression will be the two most common mental medical issues within the united kingdom; something that could, partly, be related to busy modern lives. Multitasking and juggling commitments is becoming commonplace, numerous people feeling as though they aren’t truly within their own lives.
Mindfulness is a specific way of watching what’s happening in our lives in the present moment, as it truly is. Of course it will not eliminate life’s pressures – but with practice it can benefit us cherish (and hopefully stop) negative, habitual reactions to everyday stress.
The most common way this technique is practiced is through mindfulness meditation. This usually involves practitioners focusing on sights, sounds and physical sensations while trying to lessen ‘brain chatter’. Some individuals have a problem with mindfulness meditation at first, finding it hard to target their attention, but this is usually to be expected and may require practice. Practicing the technique regularly can help people take a step back, acknowledge their ‘brain chatter’ and notice accurately and without judgement.
Other varieties of mindfulness practice may involve physical movement. Exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi both involve meditative movements that will help improve physical self-awareness and quiet your brain.
While these kind of mindfulness practices are of help for everyone, people that have mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression may benefit from a far more structured therapists in sheffield that incorporates mindfulness, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
In small doses, stress helps us rise to challenges and pushes us to do something. Inside the long-term however, too much stress can be detrimental to our well-being as these feelings get started to internalise and eat away at us. Symptoms of stress include lack of appetite, insomnia, anger, anxiety and even chest pains. Research has shown that folks who are under prolonged stress are at a threat of developing health issues such as high blood circulation pressure and heart attacks.
MBSR looks to help people handle stress using mindfulness techniques such as gentle stretching, mindfulness meditation and other mind-body exercises. The aim is to give a greater clarity on what’s happening, to help people recognise stress triggers and deal with them in a productive manner. Based on the Mental Health Foundation, nearly all those who be a part of MBSR courses are reported to feel more engaged in work, less anxious and also have fewer physical symptoms of stress.
Mindfulness-based cognitive remedy (MBCT)
Designed specifically to help those prone to recurring depression, MBCT combines mindfulness techniques (such as meditation, stretching and breathing exercises) with components of cognitive remedy that help break negative thought patterns.
Aswell as helping those with recurrent depression, this therapy has been proven to assistance with a variety of mental health issues, including:
chronic fatigue syndrome
obsessive compulsive disorder.
Origins of mindfulness
The idea behind mindfulness originated in the Buddhist religion, where it was regarded as of ‘great importance’ in the path of enlightenment. Instead of believing in an individual God, Buddhists follow the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (known as ‘The Buddha’, or the ‘enlightened one’), with the purpose of reaching circumstances of nirvana/enlightenment. The practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom are believed by Buddhists to lead to the road of enlightenment.
The Buddha himself advocated mindfulness and encouraged his followers to establish mindfulness in day-to-day life, maintaining a calm knowing of one’s body and mind.
Jon Kabat-Zinn brought the idea of mindfulness over to Western society in the 1970s. Kabat-Zinn was students of Zen Master Seung Sahn and it was his practice of yoga and studies of the Buddhist religion that led him to integrate these concepts with those of Western science to build mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
In the 1990s John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Seagal further developed the idea of MBSR to help those experiencing depression, creating mindfulness-based cognitive remedy (MBCT).
In recent years mindfulness techniques have gained steam in the counselling world following a string of clinical studies supported its effectiveness. GPs and counsellors are learning more about mindfulness and in many situations it isn’t only recommended, but also approved to prospects who could benefit. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in addition has clinically approved MBCT as a ‘treatment of choice’ for people that have recurrent depression.
Great things about mindfulness
Since the concept of mindfulness found its way to the west in the 1970s the claimed benefits have been substantiated by several clinical studies. The purpose of mindfulness is to help individuals do the next:
recognise, slow down or even stop negative, habitual reactions
see situations with an increase of clarity
respond better to situations
feel more balanced at the job with home.
Based on the Mental Health Foundation, studies looking at the potency of MBSR have reported the following benefits:
70% decrease in anxiety
ongoing decrease in anxiety after taking MBSR course
fewer visits to the doctors
increase in disease-fighting antibodies
better quality of sleep
fewer negative feelings, including tension, anger and depression
improvements in physical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and psoriasis.
The data has been so strong in idea that practically three-quarters of GPs have said they feel all patients would benefit by learning mindfulness meditation.
Further studies in to the role of mindfulness at work are showing that it might improve productivity, decrease sickness absence and generally improve workplace well-being.
What else can mindfulness help with?
We have already discussed how mindfulness may be used to help people handle issues such as stress, anxiety and depression, but how many other issues could mindfulness benefit?
Mindfulness-based remedy for insomnia looks to integrate behaviour remedy and sleep science with the meditation practices of mindfulness. The target is to assist in awareness so individuals recognise and react accordingly to the mental and physical states that occur with chronic insomnia.
While initially, the thought of paying more focus on your physical sensations when you suffer from chronic pain may seem to be counter-intuitive, it is thought that mindfulness can help. The idea here’s that rather than focusing on the negative thought patterns that emerge after feeling the physical sensation of pain, sufferers should view their pain with curiosity. That is therefore the pain is experienced accurately as sometimes our minds can over exaggerate pain. Mindfulness for chronic pain is also thought to help teach individuals to forget about any expectations or future worries and instead give attention to today’s, dealing with physical/emotional reactions in a calm manner.
Treating negative behaviours such as addiction can be complemented with mindfulness-based cognitive remedy as this looks to help make the individual more aware of their feelings and how to deal with them, while simultaneously breaking harmful thought patterns.
Mindful eating is a useful practice which involves individuals taking time to experience their food and everything the sensations surrounding eating. This assists people that have disordered eating see food in some other light, as well as helping them to recognise when they are physically hungry/full without the associative emotions.
How will you practice mindfulness?
If you are considering introducing mindfulness to your daily life, the first step you should take is to you need to notice; take notice of your ideas, feelings, physical sensations and the world around you. It might be useful to pick a certain amount of time in the day to apply this – your journey to work, if you are eating your dinner or even just before you go to sleep. While it might not exactly sound like much, taking ten minutes a day to note these varieties of things are excellent so you can get you out of the auto-pilot mode most of us fall into.
It’s also advisable to try looking at things from some other perspective by trying new things. This may involve something as easy as sitting somewhere new during meetings or trying another cafe for lunch. Once again, these are small actions that will make a major impact.
Next you should try observing your own thoughts and noticing the busyness of your brain. Don’t try arguing with your thoughts or even try to stop them, instead just relax and watch them pass – as if you are watching them float by like leaves over a stream. Try to notice any feelings or thoughts you are feeling too, (such as anxiety or sadness) to help you develop emotional awareness.
If you’re fighting mindfulness or feel you will need more guidance, learning from a counsellor or psychotherapist with experience in the practice may suit you better.