What is Mindfulness and Meditation?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
It involves paying attention to one’s thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. The goal of mindfulness is to increase self-awareness and to cultivate a sense of calm and clarity. It has been shown to have numerous benefits, including reducing stress and improving mental and physical well-being.
Meditation is a way to practice and develop mindfulness. It involves sitting still and undistracted, focusing on your breath or body sensations. This regulates your nervous system and supports the parasympathetic nervous system. Your breathing deepens, your heart rate slows and your blood pressure drops.
What are the benefits of mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
One of the most well-established benefits of mindfulness is its ability to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. In a review of over 1,000 studies on mindfulness, researchers found that mindfulness-based interventions were effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression (Chiesa & Serretti, 2010). This is thought to be due to the fact that mindfulness helps individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to respond to them in a more mindful and less reactive way.
Mindfulness can help lower blood pressure and improve your immune system.
Mindfulness has also been shown to have physical health benefits. In a study of over 1,300 adults, researchers found that those who practiced mindfulness had lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system (Davidson et al., 2003). Other research has shown that mindfulness can also help individuals to manage chronic pain, improve sleep quality, and reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (Grossman et al., 2004; Penman et al., 2011; Faris et al., 2015).
Mindfulness can improve memory, attention and enhance creativity.
In addition to these physical benefits, mindfulness has been shown to improve cognitive function. In a study of older adults, researchers found that those who practiced mindfulness had better memory and attention skills compared to those who did not (Jha et al., 2010). Other research has shown that mindfulness can improve decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity (Moore & Malinowski, 2009; Kaufman et al., 2017).
Mindfulness can improve communication, relationships and increase feelings of connection
Mindfulness can also have positive effects on relationships. In a study of couples, researchers found that those who practiced mindfulness had better communication skills and reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction (Barnes et al., 2007). Other research has shown that mindfulness can improve empathy and compassion, leading to stronger connections with others (Shapiro et al., 2006; Klimecki et al., 2013).
Incorporating mindfulness into daily life can be a simple and effective way to improve overall health and well-being.
Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(4), 482-500.
Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine, 40(8), 1239-1252.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced
How does Mindfulness work?
Mindfulness and meditation reinforce feelings of safety and OKness. We witness our thoughts rather than being imprisoned by them and we start to befriend ourselves and our full emotional life.
From a neuroscientific point of view, the “fight or flight” part of our bran (the amygdala) which causes over-thinking, panic, feelings of being our of control and so on, is less likely to be activated. If it is activated we have a greater capacity to recover quickly and and to self-regulate our nervous system.
By regularly practising mindfulness we find we have more tools and resources available to work with and lessen the negative impact of stressful challenges in our working, family, personal and everyday life.
Like any skill, the more we practice mindfulness and meditation, the better we get at it. Like learning to drive, over time, our ability to be mindfulness becomes almost automatic and feels very natural.
Our brain literally re-wires itself through a process called ‘neuroplasticity’ and we find we experience greater degrees of relaxed self-awareness, calmness and an ability to navigate life challenges where we still feel centered, grounded and empowered.
What the experts say about Mindfulness…
“Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated effects of mindfulness on wellbeing, as well as effects of mindfulness on brain function and brain structure. The neuroscience community accepts these facts. There is no debate surrounding the potential for mindfulness to deliver positive benefits for individuals and organisations.” – Dr. Bechara Saab, PhD Neuroscientist, Mobio CEO
“Mindfulness is a proven technique to support your mental health and wellbeing. Research has found that mindfulness can help you feel calmer, bring clarity and enhance your creativity and awareness.” – beyondblue.com.au
“Mindfulness has been shown to benefit our brains to such an extent that we can feel calmer, more aware, have an increased ability to focus and concentrate, remember things better and feel happier.” — NZ Mental Health Foundation Press Release July 2012