Mindfulness is the next big thing. Hell of a statement I know but with the internet awash with evidenced based models such as cognitive behavioural mindfulness & less evidenced based more aligned to spiritual meditation, how do people use mindfulness techniques? Clearly, neither technique is more or less successful just the model that works for an individual. Now then I have to declare my hand here, I subscribe to cognitive behavioural models of coaching and subsequently mindfulness. That said mindfulness is mindfulness and the premise is the same – to help people to relax, be less anxious, have less stress and to balance thinking to help to be in the moment by paying purposeful attention to the present moment.
There are two main mindfulness-based programmes. Both of which currently have a significant evidence base to support their effectiveness. These are the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Programme (MBCT) developed by Mark Williams, John Teasdale and Zindel Sigal. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme in the early 70′s at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This approach was initial thought as a programme to help sufferers of chronic pain and chronic medical conditions. Since its inception, MBSR has evolved into a common form of complementary medicine addressing a variety of health problems.
There’s increasing evidence that Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) could help to reduce our anxiety levels and teach us new ways to manage stress. The results of various clinical studies and research speak for themselves, highlighting benefits such as:
- A 70 per cent reduction in anxiety
- Fewer visits to your GP
- An ongoing reduction in anxiety three years after taking an MBSR course
- An increase in disease-fighting antibodies, suggesting improvements to the immune system
- Longer and better quality sleep, with fewer sleep disturbances
- A reduction in negative feelings like anger, tension and depression
- Improvements in physical conditions as varied as psoriasis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The evidence in support of MBSR is so strong that almost three-quarters of GPs think it would be beneficial for all patients to learn mindfulness meditation skills (http://www.bemindful.co.uk/ – accessed 8/04/2014)
So with the weight of evidence how can we use mindfulness in our day-to-day busy lives. Having completed the training for Cognitive Behavioural Mindfulness to help my coaching clients focus upon stress at work and at home, I have a few quick and easy exercises to incorporate into your day-to-day life.
- Walking Meditation – this is not easy as people can feel very self-conscious. However, feeling your feet on the ground as you walk and being quiet concentrating on your breath, can help to cultivate relaxed attention.
- Mindful Break – day-to-day activities at work can be time consuming and stressful. For a few moments turn away from your work station, close your eyes, clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Try to remain “in the moment” allow thoughts to flow into your mind and let them flow out, accept them and let them go. Bring yourself slowly back into the present and remember mindfulness is to help you to pay attention to the moment and not necessarily make sense of anything particular.
- Breathing – I remember when in training a great way to focus upon your breathing for mindfulness. Take your left or right foot, focus upon breathing in and up through your foot, leg, belly, chest and out though your head. Odd I know but really good relaxation. Try reversing the breathing – though your head and out through the sole of your foot.
- Get outside – try to do your walking meditation in an open green space if you have one. Feel the environment and the grass beneath your feet, rather that the day-to-day worries. Hear the birds, the rustling of the leaves and the breeze on your face and skin. This will allow you to enjoy the moment and the place your are in rather that the “auto pilot” nature of modern life.
So there you are just a few tips to help you with a few mindfulness techniques that will not necessarily draw too much attention to what you are doing. As mindfulness expert, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, says:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Don’t feel limited by these techniques feel free to mix and match to fit them into your life anyway you can. When you apply yourself almost anything can be done mindfully, I will leave that thought with you! Individually these steps may seem small, but you might be surprised at the effect they can have. If you would like more information or more techniques please drop me a line and tell me what you think about mindfulness.