What is Mindfulness and what are the benefits?
Mindfulness is being present and being aware. Mindfulness practices increase our ability to be present and aware.
‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.’
– Jon Kabat Zinn Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Psychological benefits of mindfulness – less stress and anxiety
Many scientific studies have found there to be benefits in regular mindfulness practice. These benefits include:
- Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
- Less emotional reactivity
- Greater relationship satisfaction
- Better focus and concentration
“The research tells us that practising mindfulness does have some benefits for mental health wellbeing and for managing depression and anxiety. It is also helpful when it comes to managing some long-term physical conditions.” – Dr Grant Blashki is a practising GP and Beyond Blue’s lead Clinical Advisor
Being more present and aware …
• Makes us less reactive — less likely to act out of anger, being hurt, fear and so on. We are less reactive because we do not feel so threatened by circumstances, our own thoughts and emotions, or other people.
• Gives us more choices and options – more freedom. We have the opportunity to work with difficult situations (a relationship breakup, an argument, feeling angry, scared) in new ways. This means we have the opportunity for new and often surprising outcomes. We don’t go on repeating the same mistake or habit pattern again and again and again. These choices, options and different outcomes give us a feeling of empowerment and freedom.
Physiological benefits of mindfulness
Formally practising mindfulness engages the parasympathetic nervous system. This means that
- our breathing slows
- our blood pressure drops
- our heart rate slows
- oxygen in our blood increases
- our muscles relax
- our mind feels more spacious
Over time and with consistent practice the parts of our brain that activate when we are relaxed become more naturally accessible as those neural pathways are strengthened (just like when you learn a musical instrument, it becomes easier and easier to play over time as you practice).
This is why many studies show that regular formal mindfulness practice leads to less stress, anxiety and depression.
Locking in the benefits of mindfulness
Over time and with consistent practice the parts of our brain that are stimulated when we relax become more accessible. Just like when we learn a new skill, musical instrument or language we find it becomes easier and easier over time, so to does mindfulness and the resulting relaxation.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Formal mindfulness practice
Formal mindfulness practice is practicing a mindfulness meditation. This means sitting (or lying) for a period of time in a relaxed, un-distracted and focused way. The more you practice the easier it gets. Just physical exercise, mindfulness exercises need to be practiced regularly, consistently and over a period of time for the benefits to occur.
Informal mindfulness practice
Informal mindfulness practice is when we bring mindfulness to all aspects of our day-to-day life, being aware of our thoughts, emotions, feelings and the environment on a moment-to-moment basis from doing the dishes, to eating to talking and listening.
How do you learn mindfulness? It’s the doing that matters.
There are plenty of books about mindfulness as well as websites and mindfulness videos. These can be great if you are interested in the topic of mindfulness or if you have already learnt and practice mindfulness.
Reading about mindfulness will not actually give you the experience of mindfulness, just like reading about going to the gym wont give you the experience of going to the gym. Similarly reading about mindfulness wont give you the benefits of mindfulness just as reading about going to the gym, wont give you the benefits of going to the gym.
If you want to actually experience mindfulness and most importantly, experience the benefits of mindfulness, there is nothing that compares to a live, group class, either in-person or online. The reasons for this are…
- A group provides support, inspiration, focus and encouragement to increase the likelihood that your mindfulness practice will be consistent and effective.
- A live class means you have access to a mindfulness teacher. This means you have the opportunity to ask questions and receive guidance from someone who knows mindfulness.
- It’s always easier to learn something when there are other people learning as well and who may ask questions or have similar challenges to you when learning.
- It’s fun and engaging and we all know we learn better when it is fun and we are engaged.
Get started and book in for a beginners mindfulness course now, either in person or online.