Have you ever driven to work and realised you didn’t remember driving there? Have you eaten dinner and afterwards realised you hardly tasted the food? That happens to all of us at some time. Many of us live on auto-pilot. We go through routine motions; we worry about the future, or we spend time going over an argument we had in the past. That’s the problem many of us have, we don’t live in the present. We don’t pay attention to what is happening in our lives right now, at this very moment.
Mindfulness is about keeping our attention on what is happening inside of us and the world around us, moment to moment, so we can focus on what’s happening now without being distracted- not overwhelmed with incessant, often distracting thought. Being fully present helps us to pay attention to something as simple as really experiencing the rich aroma of coffee, the sound of birds singing, the sound of rain or the feeling of anger or joy in our bodies. Mindfulness is about purposefully taking time to connect with all the life experiences we have every day, without judging them, just being fully present every moment in our own lives with openness and curiosity.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the mainstream in recent years. An enormous amount of evidence-based research has been done which highlights the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness. This has inspired countless programmes to practice and coach mindfulness in schools, prisons, hospitals, and beyond.
Why Practice It?
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some of these benefits:
- Mindfulness is good for our minds. Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress.
- Mindfulness changes our brains: Research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
- Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory, attention skills, and decision-making.
- Mindfulness affects the way we see ourselves: More mindful people have a stronger sense of self and seem to act more in line with their values. They may also have a healthier body image, more secure self-esteem, and more resilience to negative feedback.
How do I learn mindfulness?
Mindfulness can’t be learnt by talking or reading about it. Mindfulness is experiential. It is not something that you do for 30 minutes a day and then forget about or do for an eight course and then you’ve “got it”. A regular practice of mindfulness in essential to train our attention and gain the benefits of mindful awareness in all aspects of our lives.
Are interested in finding out more about mindfulness and are keen to find out how to establish your own practice? Age Concern Canterbury is looking at running an eight-week programme to provide you with an understanding of mindfulness and opportunities to experience formal and informal practices to bring mindfulness into daily life.
To register your interest please contact Age Concern Canterbury on 03 366 0903 or email email@example.com