How are your stress levels? Often my patients reply that they are fairly high, and in this day and age, life can be pretty full on for many of us at times.
But a solution could be close at hand; there is lots of scientific evidence to support a technique called “mindfulness”. It has been shown to be effective for stress, anxiety and depression. It can help with insomnia and addiction. In fact the benefits seem to be so wide, that there is an argument for us all to be practicing this technique. And some big companies agree; mindfulness has been shown to increase focus and creativity in those who practice it on a regular basis, so many companies are offering mindfulness courses during the working day to their staff.
What is mindfulness and how does it help?
Mindfulness is a meditation-based technique that teaches the person to be present in the moment and aware of their feelings, their body and the world around them. So often when we are feeling stressed, our mind is somewhere else, worrying about the meeting with the boss tomorrow, or going over and over a recent argument that should not have happened. Mindfulness teaches you to bring those thoughts under control and focus on the here and now.
I cannot be the only mother who finds that my mind is somewhere else completely when I am reading stories at bedtime. Mindfulness teaches you to listen to the words that you are reading, feel the sensation of those warm bodies snuggled up against you and enjoy the looks on your children’s faces, rather than remind yourself to get some chicken out of the freezer and start composing the weekly shopping list.
By learning to focus and be truly “in the moment”, you will get less tied up in the stream of thoughts that can take over, and find that it is easier to see solutions when you do then turn your attention to dealing with the issues causing the stress.
But surely meditation has been around for a long time, why all the fuss now? It is true, some cultures and religions have been using meditation for thousands of years. The fuss seems to be because scientists have actually started to study the effects that mindfulness can have. From studies showing that people with recurrent depression can hugely reduce their risk of recurrence, to fancy brain imaging studies which show that the part of the brain dealing with the “fight or flight” reaction actually decreases in activity when somebody practices mindfulness regularly, the scientific evidence is mounting and seems irrefutable.
How do I learn to be mindful?
Mindfulness takes a bit of practice, but many teachers would say that 10 minutes a day can get you off to a really good start, and even for the busiest of us, that is achievable. There are books, websites and apps to download if you prefer to learn in the comfort of your own home. There are also classes you can attend in Luxembourg, and there are psychologists who regularly teach mindfulness, together with techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when treating a variety of problems, such as those mentioned above.
So, it works, it is widely available, it is not too time consuming, it can help us all… so what are you waiting for?
By Susie Tunstall-Pedoe, October 2013