What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has become known as a ‘technique’ for getting a calm and clear head. It is be effective at that, and thousands of research studies show that it works.
It’s also been shown to help people stay more focused and relate better to others.
However, we’d like to state right away that mindfulness is much more than that. It becomes an approach to living that makes life far richer and deeper. And to get the most out of it, takes commitment and training (like anything else worth working towards).
So what is it, in a nutshell? It is informed by ancient monastic contemplative traditions. But the grandfather of contemporary secular mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn – founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center Studies – sums it up like this:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
That sounds simple. The good news, is that it is simple!
Here’s what you do in a mindfulness course:
- learn to develop calm awareness in the present moment, through breathing and other meditations (even a one minute exercise at the desk makes can make an impact)
- learn to tune into the body as a way to directly experience feelings and emotions
- recognise our habits and patterns of reaction to stress and difficulties
- develop our emotional intelligence and learn to respond to stressful stimuli in a more considered way
- practice being kind to ourselves and others
Research shows that just eight weeks of regular practice (every day, ideally) brings a significant increase in the ability for sustained attention, emotional regulation and perspective taking. With mindfulness training, one can expect to:
- remain more calm and focused in the face of multiple demands
- communicate more clearly, direct thoughts more appropriately and focus more consistently
- work better within teams, with clients and with other stakeholders
- show improved mood and working memory
- exhibit less stress, anxiety, and depression
- be more productive and positive about work
- show greater emotional alertness and more empathy