Why mindfulness and what is mindfulness?

Why Mindfulness?

There is immense excitement about mindfulness in many areas of life, including the workplace, and for good reason. In October 2015 the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group  produced its recommendations for bringing mindfulness into the workplace in its Mindful Nation Report. So why the high profile and all the interest?

Broad benefits

Research and practical experience have shown that mindfulness has helped people in a number of really significant areas, including:

  • well-being  (including overall mood and outlook)
  • resilience  (including adaptability, equanimity and emotional regulation)
  • compassion
  • cognitive functioning  (eg clarity, objectivity, decision making, concentration)
  • emotional intelligence  (including self-awareness & interpersonal skills)
  • effectiveness and productivity

In fact, it can have a potentially profound and enhancing impact on all aspects of one’s life – increasing insight, wisdom and engagement with life. It helps you see more clearly what is helpful and what is not.

Positive brain changes and health improvements

Neuroscience research has demonstrated positive changes in the brain structure and functioning in regular meditators. Mindfulness has also been demonstrated to have a beneficial impact on the immune system, on blood pressure and on symptoms related to ageing.

Specific areas where improvements have been seen

People have experienced improvements in the following*:

self-awareness, cognition, clarity, emotion/ impulse regulation, objectivity, decision-making, strategic thinking, resilience, equanimity, listening skills, noticing, compassion, empathy, open-mindedness, tolerance, lower blood pressure, well-being (less stress, better health), sleep, calm, different/ wider perspective, outlook, contentment, self-esteem, focus, memory, comfort with change and ambiguity, appreciation, creativity, innovation, curiosity, wisdom, authenticity, intuition.

*These have been researched and evidenced

You can read more about mindfulness research here.

An important note:

Attend mindfulness training with an open mind. Ways in which people have benefited are listed above to give you some sense of how mindfulness has been useful to people. However when attending a training it is important to let go of any expectations as best you can.

The training is in being present with what is here right now. Any ‘gains’ are more like by-products, which emerge as a result of the presence and in their own time.

Although some insights and gains can be immediately applicable or accessible, it is best viewed as an ongoing journey, not a quick fix.

Accessing individual insights

Some of the changes you may experience from mindfulness can have a universal quality. But many will be highly individual. Mindfulness increases self-awareness. This in turn gives you access to insight, understanding, learnings and shifts that are specific to you.

“The heart of mindfulness meditation is the development of wisdom – a deepening understanding of ourselves and life…..It is profound understanding that liberates us from the constraints of habit, conditioning and limitation.”Christina Feldman

Tapping into your inner resources

Mindfulness enables you to get in touch with, and to heighten, that which is already in you and which is useful. This includes awareness, curiosity, kindness and discernment. These qualities are powerful for operating wisely in the world – in relation to yourself, others and your environment.

With repeated practice you get trait change, not just temporary state change. It can create new defaults which feel natural to you, rather than having to be ‘remembered’ or ‘applied’. It helps you to live and work more skilfully.

We find that mindfulness is a transformative practice, leading to a deeper understanding of how to respond to situations wisely.The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when you pay attention to the present moment with curiosity and kindness.

It is moment-to-moment awareness of life as it unfolds. This includes our internal life of thoughts and feelings. It enables us to live and work more consciously.

Although we have pre-existing levels of mindfulness, mindfulness is effectively augmented through the practice of mindfulness meditation.

The roots of mindfulness go back over 2,500 years. It enjoys this longevity because it makes a really positive difference to living life well.

Being more present

With mindfulness we bring attention to the only moment there ever is – the present moment. We are here more for our lives. In this way life becomes richer.

In being more present, we notice things more and pick up important information – about ourselves, others, what’s going on. We can then respond to life with greater wisdom.

“Mindfulness means waking up out of autopilot and connecting deeply with ourselves and our lives.” Melli O'Brien

We reduce stress by being more present, as key mechanisms for stress include our mind traveling to the past and ruminating or traveling to the future and worrying. By being more present we cultivate greater calm.

Attention regulation

Mindfulness enables us to know where our attention is and to be more intentional with attention. We can then know whether our focus of attention is helpful or not. Are we focusing on what is under our control or out of our control? What aspect of experience is our attention on? What interpretation of an event is our attention on? Is our attention narrow or wide? Widening attention provides perspective and can show us new pieces of the picture or help us to develop alternative interpretations of an event. Being able to know where your attention is, to let go, to move attention elsewhere – all of this is enormously valuable.

Living with greater clarity and wisdom

From the vantage point of awareness, mindfulness helps you to see yourself, others and the world more clearly. Through this clarity we can develop insight.

We become less entangled with our thoughts and feelings. We can witness these, instead of being carried away automatically by them. Therefore we can respond to situations with conscious choice. We are less reactive. We experience a broader perspective. This enables us to develop greater emotional regulation. We recognise the mechanisms of stress and the mechanisms of ease and wellness.  And so, we are more able to make wise choices and live with greater skill.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”Viktor E. Frankl

Relating to experience more skilfully

When mindful, we learn to distinguish the difference between direct experience and the story we tell ourselves about experience.

Also we become more able to acknowledge the truth of our experience, with kindness and curiosity, rather than resist it. Resistance of ‘what is’ tends to cause difficulty.

“What you resist persists.”Carl Jung

You can get out of your own way

In being more mindful you become more self-aware. You are more able to see your unhelpful patterns and therefore are no longer unconsciously under their force. It’s not about forcing change or striving to be better, it’s about the liberation that occurs when you see how you’ve been getting in your own way. When you are no longer unconsciously caught up in unhelpful habits of thinking and behaviour, then you are more free to make the most of your authentic ways and strengths.

Exercising compassion

Compassion is integral to mindfulness. When mindful, we are being present without judgment. We cultivate compassion to ourselves, our experiences, others and our wider environment.

The increased noticing of mindfulness helps us to take care of ourselves.

Mindfulness is an experience

Mindfulness is something which can not be fully understood conceptually. It is experiential. It is understood more and more as you exercise mindfulness in your work and in your life. Meditation supports the development of a natural, embodied mindfulness.

Want to find out more?

To discuss how you could discover more about mindfulness, so you can experience the benefits for yourself, please get in touch with me, Rachael.  Either by filling in the form on this page or calling 07876 495 968.

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