What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is currently defined in psychological terms as being characterised by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of the inner and/or outer experiences (Chiesa & Serretti, 2010).
In particular focusing on physical senses:
Feeling the contact, the soles of your feet with the ground or the weight of your body pressing down into the seat beneath you. The breath, the feeling of your chest and abdomen expanding, noticing any emotions and the quality of those sensations.
Being mindful is attending to what is happening in the present moment, not dwelling on the past or forecasting the future. As you all know, the mind naturally wanders, is easily lost in thought and distracted, being mindful is the process of training the mind to be present, observe emotions, thoughts and feelings, without judgement, it is a powerful way to help change the neural networks we create through regular thought patterns.
I am sure as many people do, myself included would spend most of their day running on auto pilot, going about day to day tasks while our mind is off thinking about important or not so important things or what we are about to do next, bringing “moment-to-moment awareness of experience will provide a richer and more vital sense of life, in as much as experience becomes more vivid and active mindful participation replaces unconscious reactiveness.” (Grossman et. al., 2004)
Why is it important?
Benefits of adopting a mindfulness practice have been reported;
- Improvements in pain
- Body image
- Affect activity levels
- Depression and self-esteem.
Other research has shown that mindfulness can assist in people’s ability to cope with complex health problems like chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia and some forms of cancer.
Sleep is an important pillar to both our physical and emotional health, and sleep quality has been shown to improve with a mindfulness practice (Greeson et. al. 2018), the benefits could potentially create a positive upward cycle.
Improved sleep may result in increased emotional control and stability, in conjunction with a mindfulness practice that improves sleep quality the benefits may be compounded.
An added benefit to mindfulness meditation can be relationship enrichment, a study conducted in 2004 took 44 couples in well-functioning relationships through a mindfulness program and found it to be effective in impacting couples’ levels of relationship satisfaction, acceptance of one another.
It also found it to beneficially affecting individuals’ optimism, spirituality, relaxation, and psychological distress. These participants were also followed up at 3 months after the intervention and found that the positive effects were lasting (Carson et. al., 2004)
So how do you go about getting mindful?
Being mindful can be done at any time, anywhere, and does not need to take all day. We can achieve a state of mindfulness in a matter of seconds, being conscious and present in the moment, feeling the breath in our body, feeling the contact of our feet on the ground, feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin or the wind in our hair.
Apps to help
If we wanted some assistance and guidance in becoming into the present there are some great resources that are easily available via an app or online.
My personal favourite (It has various subscription options) The narrator’s (Andy Puddicombe) voice is very easy to listen to, and has a cornucopia of themed meditation series, sleep sounds and mini mediations.
Smiling Mind has a variety of free mediations ranging from 1 minute to 1 hour. They have also teamed up with the ABC to create a podcast hosted by former Sydney Swan Brett Kirk check it out here: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/mindfully/episodes/
Interested in knowing more?
For those of you that want to monitor and measure their brain activity, and also train their brain with biofeedback, MUSE is the device for you, to improve your attention and subjective well-being. (Bhayee et al. 2016) for more on what muse is and how much it costs head over to there website: http://www.choosemuse.com
Bhayee, S., Tomaszewski, P., Lee, D. H., Moffat, G., Pino, L., Moreno, S., & Farb, N. A. (2016). Attentional and affective consequences of technology supported mindfulness training: a randomised, active control, efficacy trial. BMC psychology, 4(1), 60.
Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior therapy, 35(3), 471-494.
Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological medicine, 40(8), 1239-1252.
Greeson, J. M., Zarrin, H., Smoski, M. J., Brantley, J. G., Lynch, T. R., Webber, D. M., … & Wolever, R. Q. (2018). Mindfulness meditation targets transdiagnostic symptoms implicated in stress-related disorders: Understanding relationships between changes in mindfulness, sleep quality, and physical symptoms. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018.
Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 57(1), 35-43.
Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., … & Maglione, M. A. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199-213.
Miller, J. J., Fletcher, K., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (1995). Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders. General hospital psychiatry, 17(3), 192-200.