If you ever feel unable to cope, your mind hi-jacked by recurring worries to the point where you can’t sleep, feel tired, anxious, irritable or depressed, you might well look for ways to alleviate your feelings, perhaps with social withdrawal, but there’s another way – Mindfulness.
Over the past couple of decades, more and more people have been turning to Mindfulness because of its tried and tested stress relief benefits which offer a way for people to take back control.
The technique involves becoming aware of the present moment rather than dwelling in the past or fretting about the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli, such as noticing your breathing, feeling the sensations of your body, and being “in the now.”
It was defined in the late 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, as “paying attention, on purpose, moment by moment, without judging”.
His stress-busting programmes were a blend of Buddhist meditation and science, but there was no religious component so it was accessible to anyone.
Decades of scientific research since those early days have demonstrated that Mindfulness-based stress reduction can positively, effectively, and often profoundly, reduce psychological distress and encourage more resilience and productivity. Great for all you busy students.
Now the technique has moved into the mainstream and today, it is used in schools, hospitals, prisons, in government, by corporations like Google, and even Save the Children’s compound at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya has programmes running.
It differs from orthodox cognitive behaviour therapy by including meditation which, experts say, encourages areas of the brain linked to controlling emotion to become larger in people who have meditated regularly for five years.
During a Mindfulness course, techniques of relaxation, coming back to sensations in the body, to breathing and an awareness of unhelpful habitual thought patterns, are learned, so that instead of using the intellect, you can focus on your own body and listen to your intuition.
Focusing on breathing is key and has been described as a way to switch off the brooding process and treat thoughts and feelings as a temporary weather pattern in the mind.
If you can embrace and work on what Mindfulness has to offer, a more positive approach to life can be developed, where you are able to accept emotions and fears and able to stand back from difficulties rather than be submerged by them.
Some people also feel they have gained the ability to create space and calm in their lives and have learnt wiser ways to respond to challenging experiences. Confidence grows too and you can learn to enjoy fleeting moments of happiness, such as a beautiful view or an act of kindness.
No-one claims that the technique can work miracles but it can help people find the causes of their difficulties and move them towards wellbeing. Keep your eyes peeled for up-coming blog on top Mindfulness techniques.