Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment and bringing your thoughts back to the here and now instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Or in the words of Kipling ‘IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you’, mindfulness can help you do just that.
At the heart of mindfulness is meditation, an attentive awareness of breathing and of your body, which is used to bring your mind back to the present moment.
Using functional MRI scans of the brain mindfulness meditation has been shown to effectively ‘re-wire’ the brain when practised repeatedly, the result is that mindfulness can help the practitioner become more focussed, less distracted by their worries and effectively insulated against anxiety and depression. In addition to this mental clarity caused by mindfulness there is also said to be associated physical benefits for a whole range of conditions for the person that practices mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is both for people who want to maintain peak performance, gain mental clarity and focus, as well as an effective therapy for conditions like anxiety an depression.
Therapeutic mindfulness is often labelled as MBCT otherwise known as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, which uses breathing exercises, meditation and elements of cognitive therapy to help you become more aware of and able to regulate your emotions this process helps conditions like anxiety, depression and insomnia. MBCT is also recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness) in the UK as a treatment for people with depression (1).
Taking the best elements of meditation, breathing exercises and cognitive therapy mindfulness allows a ‘dissociation’ of the practitioner away from their emotions where instead the practitioner can be more associated in the reality of now, not their ruminations of the past or their worries of the future.
The easiest way to practice mindfulness is to download an audio-book such as Mindfulness by Williams and Penman, or alternatively the Headspace App on your smart phone is also a wonderful way to be introduced into the world of Mindfulness by one of its most popular advocates Andy Puddicombe a former Buddhist Monk.
For more information on mindfulness, have a look at this great Ted Talk entitled “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes”.
How mindfulness works.
Have you ever felt that you were at the mercy of your thoughts flowing like a fast flowing river through your mind, you feel immersed in your thoughts just like you would be if you were stuck in the river, tumbling and bobbing up and down. The water is dirty and muddy making clarity difficult and the tide of your thoughts and emotions makes it difficult to find you to find your footing and perhaps for some even to difficult to breathe and hold their head above the the water.
“Practising mindfulness of your thoughts is actually just being willing to climb out of the river, over and over” (2)
Mindfulness is where you can sit on the bank and watch the river, you can see your thoughts flow by, yet you are not at their mercy. In time it is also said that with repeated practice the water clears and the river slows down as you watch it flow by.
In an essence the river metaphor is what mindfulness can do for you.
“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”
― Alan Wilson Watts