mindfulness 2018-06-20T12:45:27+00:00

mindfulness

Fruit2

“While it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.”

 – Matthieu Ricard

what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, intentionally, to our experience in the present moment with an attitude of openness and acceptance that allows us to see more clearly what is happening in our lives. Mindful awareness promotes a way of being that helps us to access powerful inner resources for coping effectively with stress, difficulty and illness, and so to take better care of ourselves and live healthier lives.

Although mindfulness has its origins in Buddhist meditation practices, it is a universal human trait that can be practised independently of any particular cultural or religious belief system. Mindfulness-informed therapy offers individual clients the opportunity to learn traditional wisdom practices that are known to improve our physical and emotional health, while also deepening our inner peace and wellbeing in a secular way.

Mindfulness-based 8-week courses are now being taught in community care, hospitals, schools, prisons and businesses, and a range of other settings. The benefits of mindfulness are applicable in many situations, and not just for service users. Professionals who integrate mindfulness practice into their lives and work report experiencing less stress, greater ease, being more present with self and others, and working more creatively with challenges.

I teach 8-week mindfulness courses (based on MBSR and MBCT) in and around Somerset (e.g. Wells, Glastonbury, Street, Shepton Mallet and beyond) that are tailored to meet the particular needs of different groups and organisations.

While mindfulness does not eliminate life’s difficulties, it can help us to respond to them in new ways that benefit our heart, mind, and body. It helps us to recognise, and free ourselves from the habitual unconscious patterns that govern our reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically validated approach for cultivating clarity, insight, wisdom and understanding. Practising mindfulness allows us to be more fully present in our life and work, and to transform our quality of life.

why practise mindfulness?

Mindfulness has now entered mainstream culture as a secular therapeutic practice, thanks in part to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that he has pioneered at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre since 1979. Since then thousands of medical and psychological studies have documented the physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness, inspiring countless programs that have adapted the 8-week MBSR model for schools, prisons, hospitals, the workplace, and beyond.

We now know that practising mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits that extend across a wide range of different settings.

is there any proof?

In the past 20 years of research a large body of scientific evidence has accumulated showing that Mindfulness works in a variety of settings, some of which is summarised in the studies below:

  • Mindfulness is good for our bodies: A pioneering study1 has shown that after only eight weeks of training, practising mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
  • Mindfulness is good for our minds2: Separate studies indicate that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress3 and suggest that it may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression4 and preventing relapse.
  • Mindfulness changes our brains5: Research shows that it increases the density of grey matter in regions of the brain linked to memory, emotion regulation, learning, and empathy.
  • Mindfulness improves our clarity of thought: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us to tune out distractions6  and improves our memory7 and attention skills8.
  • Mindfulness increases altruism and compassion: Research shows that mindfulness training makes us more likely to help someone in need and increases the activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others9 and regulating emotions. Evidence suggests it might also boost self-compassion.
  • Mindfulness improves relationships10: Studies have shown that mindfulness training improves couples’ levels of satisfaction within their relationship, and makes them feel more accepting and closer to one another, with each partner feeling more optimistic and relaxed.
  • Mindfulness is good for parents11 and parents-to-be: Studies suggest it may reduce anxiety, stress and depression in pregnancy12. Parents who practice mindfulness report having happier relationships with their children and their children were found to have better social skills (Singh, et al. 2007).
  • Mindfulness helps in schools: There’s scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in school reduces behaviour problems and aggression among pupils, improves their happiness and ability to pay attention. Teachers13 trained in mindfulness also show less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, reduced blood pressure, and more compassion and empathy.
  • Mindfulness helps in prisons14: Evidence suggests that mindfulness reduces anger, hostility, and mood disturbances among prisoners by increasing their awareness of thoughts and emotions, helping with their rehabilitation and reintegration.
  • Mindfulness helps ex-servicemen and women: Studies have shown that it can reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in war veterans.
  • Mindfulness helps tackle obesity: practising ‘mindful eating’ helps people to lose weight by developing healthier eating habits and savouring the food they eat.
1 Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Santorelli, S. F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K., Sheridan, J. F.  Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine 2003 Jul-Aug; 65(4):564-70.
2 Shian-Ling Keng, Smoski, M.J., Robins, C. J.  Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review 31 (2011) 1041-1056.
3 Netta Weinstein, Kirk W. Brown, Richard M. Ryan.  A multi-method examination of the effects of mindfulness on stress attribution, coping, and emotional well-being. Journal of Research in Personality 43 (2009) 374–385 .
4 Segal, Z. V., Beiling, P., MacQueen, G., Cooke, R., Martin, L., Bloch, R., Levitan, R. D.  Antidepressant monotherapy vs sequential pharmacotherapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or placebo, for relapse prophylaxis in recurrent depression. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2010 Dec.
5 Eileen Luders, Arthur W. Toga, Natasha Lepore, Christian Gaser.  The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neurolmage, Vol. 45, Issue 3, April 2009.
6 Kerr, C. E., Jones, S. R., Wan, Q., Prichet, D. L., Wasserman, R. H., Wexler, A., Villanueva, J. J., Shaw, J. R., Lazar S. W., Kaptchuk, T. J., Littenberg, R., Hämäläinen, M. S., Moore, C. I.  Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex. Brain Research   Bulletin 2011 May.
7 Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David Z., Goolkasian, P.  Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Conscious Cognition 2010 June
8 Moore, A., Gruber, T., Derose, J., Malinowski, P.  Regular, brief mindfulness meditation practice  improves electrophysiological markers of attentional control.Front Hum. Neurosci. 2012 Feb.
9 Weng, H. Y., Fox A. S., Shackman A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z. K., Olson, M. C., Rogers, G. M., Davidson, R. J. Compassion Training Alters  Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering. Psychological Science May 21, 2013 0956797612469537
10 Carson, J.W., Kimberly, M., Carson, K. M. G., Baucom, D. H.  Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behaviour Therapy: Vol. 35, Issue 3, Summer 2004, Pages 471–494
11 N.N. Singh, Lanconi, G.E., Winton, A.S.W., Singh, J., Curtis, W.J., Wahler, R.G., McAleavey, K.M.  Mindful Parenting Decreases Aggression and Increases Social Behavior in Children with Developmental Disabilities. Behavior Modification 31, no. 6 (2007).
12 Duncan, L. G., Bardacke, N.  Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Education: Promoting Family Mindfulness During the Perinatal Period. Journal of Child and Family Studies. April 2010, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 190-202
13 Kemeny, M. E.; Foltz, .C.; Cavanagh, J. F.; C., M.; Giese-Davis, J.; Jennings, P.; Rosenberg, E. L.; Gillath, O.; Shaver, P. R.; Wallace, B. Alan; Ekman, P.  Contemplative/emotion training reduces negative emotional behavior and promotes prosocial responses. Emotion, Vol 12(2), Apr 2012, 338-350
14 Samuelson, M., Carmody, J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Bratt, M. A.  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts Correctional Facilities. The Prison Journal, June 2007 vol. 87 no. 2 254-268
15 Niles, B. L., Silberbogen, A. K., Klunk-Gillis, J.  Treating the Wounds of War: How mindfulness is helping veterans adjust to life on the home front. The Greater Good Science Center, U. C. Berkley.  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/treating_the_wounds_of_war
16 Suttie, J.  Better Eating through Mindfulness.The Greater Good Science Center, U. C. Berkley. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/better_eating_through_mindfulness

“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”

 – Jon Kabat-Zinn