Mindfulness: Are you there yet?

Mindfulness-based therapy could be helping to prevent thousands of people from relapsing into depression every year. This would have huge knock on benefits both socially and economically, making it a sensible treatment to be making available, even at a time when money is short within the NHS. ~ Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation (2002 – 2013)

Whether you suffer from mental health problems or not Mindfulness is a word that should be on your radar, if it isn’t already. As part of mindful living more and more of us are getting involved, and it’s hardly surprising given the relentless distractions and all consuming technological advancements of life today. Don’t you ever just want to stand still, breathe and just be?

It’s not just an Oprah driven fad so don’t be misled by glossy magazine articles. Whether you’re Steve Jobs or Dick Smith, at the end of the day don’t we all want the same thing, happiness and contentment? Sure how we get there and what provides happiness for each of us varies but without inner peace, mental clarity and good health as a foundation we don’t stand much of a chance in achieving our objective. Enter Mindfulness. So you’re not spiritually orientated, it’s okay, you’re human so you’ll fit in just fine. Anyone of us can practice Mindfulness and we can do it anywhere. Simple. Life-changing.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

Mindfulness is often defined as ‘paying attention on purpose moment by moment without judging,’ (Full Catastrophe Living, – Jon Kabat-Zinn). Using techniques such as breathing, yoga and meditation Mindfulness is all about being present, staying in the here and now. Not as easy as it sounds when you think about it. Mobile phones, racing thoughts, friends to see, work to do, children to look after, meals to make and bills to pay. Relentless. How often do you get the chance to pay attention to the present moment? Can you manage your thoughts and feelings, or do they manage you? Overwhelming aren’t they. Every day, a quarter of a million people miss work because of stress, with 75 per cent of all illnesses thought to be stress-related. Sad. Let’s fix it.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Stress, we all have it as times but for some of us it is extreme and detrimental to our everyday existence. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) incorporates techniques such as meditation, gentle yoga and mind-body exercises to help you cope with stress. People who take a course in MBSR say that they feel more engaged in their work, more energised and less anxious. They sleep better and have fewer physical symptoms of stress. Relationships improve and everyday living becomes easier. Sound good?

MBSR courses typically take place over eight to 10 weeks, with group sessions lasting around two hours. The course includes elements such as meditation, stretching and mind-body awareness exercises and involves daily home practices alongside the weekly sessions. The course teaches you techniques that can then be practised anywhere, any time, to fit into your lifestyle. ~ Be Mindful

The results of various clinical studies and research speak for themselves, highlighting benefits such as:

  • A 70 per cent reduction in anxiety
  • Fewer visits to your GP
  • An ongoing reduction in anxiety three years after taking an MBSR course
  • An increase in disease-fighting antibodies, suggesting improvements to the immune system
  • Longer and better quality sleep, with fewer sleep disturbances
  • A reduction in negative feelings like anger, tension and depression
  • Improvements in physical conditions as varied as psoriasis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive therapy to help break the negative thought patterns. It has been scientifically proven to help people with a range of mental health problems such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Insomnia

MBCT teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, and to let go of the negative thoughts that can tip them over into depression. It also gives people a greater awareness of their own body, helping them to identify the signs of oncoming depression and ward off the episode before it starts. ~ Be Mindful

Evidence from clinical trials across the globe is compelling, and whilst more trials are needed, the case for mindfulness is growing by the day.

Depression

MBCT is more effective than maintenance doses of antidepressants in preventing a relapse in depression.

Three-quarters of people taking an MBCT course alongside anti-depressants were able to come off their medication within 15 months.

MBCT can also reduce the severity of symptoms for people who are experiencing an episode of depression.

Anxiety

MBCT has been shown to reduce insomnia in people with anxiety disorders.

People who are more mindful have greater self-esteem and feel less neurotic.

Meditation-based practices like mindfulness reduce people’s dependence on alcohol, caffeine, prescription medication and illegal drugs.

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

Further Benefits

  •  reduced stress
  • improved relationships
  • reduced anxiety and depression
  • better sleep
  • improved concentration
  • greater insight
  • improved problem-solving
  • better attention
  • more acceptance
  • greater enjoyment of life
  • less beating yourself up
  • decreased addictive behaviours
  • improved health e.g. headaches, pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS, diabetes
  • decreased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure
  • improved overall well-being
  • reached goals (academic, personal and professional)
  • improved communication
  • improved social skills
  • improved job performance, productivity and satisfaction

Win.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. ~ Mother Teresa

You don’t need a lot of money or time, just commitment and a desire for change.

Mindful Living Tools

  •  Meditation – even just for a minute each day, sit in stillness. Concentrate on your breath. Clear your mind.
  • Be present – on this very moment. What do you hear? What do you smell? Use your senses. Allow yourself to just be in the here and now.
  • Avoid comparisons – be yourself you are unique and amazing
  • Be curious – learn new things. Keep an open mind.
  • Be grateful – for the little things and the big. When you stop and think, there is so much to be grateful for. Give thanks every day.
  • Be compassionate – be kind to yourself and others.
  • Slow down and let go – you can’t control everything. What’s the rush?
  • Pay attention – how do you feel? What are people really saying? No judgements allowed.
  • Listen to your body – it knows best! Move it. Love it. Feed it with goodness. Look after it, it’s the only one you’ll ever have.
  • Acceptance – you can’t change people or circumstances beyond your control. Stop trying. Stop fighting and allow yourself to be a peace.
  • Just breathe.

Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

 Be present. Be the best version of you. Be mindful.

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