What is mindfulness? There are a ton of definitions out there but for pure ‘get-ability’ and simplicity, Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man credited with bringing mindfulness to the western world says this - mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way - on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally!
What this means is that being mindful is more than just being aware; the non-judgemental element is crucial. This means being kind to yourself and others, as well as staying open to what is happening in the now without labelling it.
In order to be really clear about what mindfulness is, it can be helpful to know what it is not. It’s not just about meditation, it's not to do with religion or politics and it’s not a theory - it can only be experienced through practice. And, crucially, it’s not about zoning out or not thinking at all. In fact, it’s the opposite: being in charge of your thoughts and directing your attention to where you want it at any given moment.
Why all the hype about mindfulness?
Despite the fact there hasn’t been a world war for over 70 years, life on planet earth feels anything but easy and peaceful right now. In fact for many of us it can feel overwhelmingly busy and stressful. An increase in workloads and work-place-stress, the global financial crisis, terrorist threats and our increasing dependence on devices means many people are now living close to or in a state of chronic stress.
In the midst of all this stress and multimedia overload it’s perhaps not surprising that the importance of mindfulness and focused attention is rising. Mark Epstein, psychiatrist and author, says mindfulness directly benefits our brains and explains that instead of being driven by your reactions, mindfulness provides a little bit of room where you can choose to respond differently.
“Mindfulness basically helps us tolerate the aspects of the external world and the internal world that otherwise are hard to face,” he says. “Sometimes things happen, instead of letting them become the thorn stuck in your mind that keeps annoying you, you can try some mindful awareness or meditation to help you work with accepting them and letting them go.”
The now considerable body of research on mindfulness shows that practicing it on a regular basis can reduce stress, anxiety, emotional reactivity, rumination, psychological distress and time spent off-task. It enables you to increase:
the ability to cope
decision making skills
In addition to these benefits it is thought to increase the length of telomeres (telomeres predict how long your life span will be, and were previously thought to be fixed).
How do I learn mindfulness?
Like with any new skill, mindfulness takes time and practice to develop. But the great news is that even just a little bit each day can have benefits. Take a look at the following ways you might include some mindfulness in your life - and the lives of your children:
Mindful breathing: spend several minutes each day just focusing on your breath. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath.
Mindful sensing: take a moment to
focus on one of your five senses and simply notice, notice, notice.
Here's some help online:
www.mindful.org (has an app)
www.smilingmind.com.au (has an app)
Learn about how your brain operates when stressed or overwhelmed and the one thing that helps to calm it down. Contact For Life Education & Training now to register your interest on 0508 367 5433 or www.forlifenz.com