In the 1960s mindfulness (or meditation) was something that hippies and mystics engaged in. Five decades on and mindfulness meditation has firmly established itself in the mainstream of society.
Because research has found that it’s a powerful tool that can help in all areas of our personal and professional lives.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is widely considered to be the father of ‘modern’ mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn first used mindfulness in a clinical setting to help people with chronic pain that was no longer responding to traditional medicine. The Stress Reduction Clinic Kabat-Zinn founded in 1979 continues to deliver the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program he introduced.
Over the years, thousands of people have benefited from the program; proof indeed that mindfulness is an effective and dependable counterbalance to stress and anxiety, one that enhances positive emotions, insures and strengthens our health and well-being.
Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as follows:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
This means having conscious awareness of one’s own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors, without evaluation, or the formation of an opinion.
Kabat-Zinn notes that: “We are apt to get caught up in the urgency of everything we have to do, and so caught up in our heads and in what we think is important, that it is easy to fall into a state of chronic tension and anxiety that continually drives our lives on automatic pilot.”
When we perceive everything as important we put ourselves under immense pressure. We are so caught up in doing all these important things – trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time, that we scarcely have time for being anymore. And when we do too much, when the pressure is so high that it pushes us past the tipping point, we experience stress and anxiety and we compromise our happiness.
Like any activity that you want to do well, mindfulness takes practice. It’s only through repetition that you’ll experience true benefits. The good news is that recent research indicates that with as little as 20 minutes of mindfulness practice daily the brain actually changes. With frequent practice, you can limit the time you spend misusing your imagination (e.g. catastrophising) which in turn reduces the amount of stress and anxiety you experience because the part of the brain that sends messages of anxiety and distress slows down, and the part that sends messages of calmness and comfort to the body becomes more active.I’ll close with another of my favourite quotes from Kabat-Zinn:
If you’d like to see what mindfulness practice is like I’ve prepared a 10 minute exercise for you. Just click here. Below the exercise, you’ll find some links to some interesting mindfulness resources.
Tony Yuile is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Performance Coach based in Wellington, NZ where he specialises in helping people suffering from anxiety, stress, panic, phobias, trauma, depression and other anxiety related issues. Tony uses a range of techniques that may include coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, mindfulness, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and various psychotherapy approaches. If you are looking for 1:1 tailored support, contact Tony today to discuss what options might be available to you. If you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.