What You Need to Know About Mindfulness
With the rise of mindfulness apps and a growing awareness of the benefits of meditation, more and more people are being swayed into practicing mindfulness regularly. Rooted in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, there's a lot of confusion about what mindfulness is exactly, and how it can benefit us all in the chaos of the 21st century. What is it? Mindfulness teacher and University of Massachusetts professor Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it best when he describes mindfulness as “much ado about nothing.” It's the antithesis of everything society tells us about relentlessly moving towards success. Mindfulness is about non-doing; to be still, totally aware and non-judgmental of your body and its surroundings. Although it sounds pretty simple, it's difficult to find or appreciate that kind of silence and focus in our daily lives, and as such it's a skill that requires honing through meditation. Even if you don't practice Hinduism or Buddhism, being mindful and learning to be present is something that stretches beyond the boundaries of religion. Achieving mindfulness requires a little training, which is where mindfulness meditation steps in. Why practice mindfulness? Mindfulness is a way to de-stress and improve general well-being through meditation. It helps us to accept whatever comes our way without criticism, and better comprehend the world and our relationships. It may sound lofty, but it's a good place to begin making important life changes and shape self-perception. Although mindfulness has been around for hundreds of years and has split into several different schools of thought, science is only just starting to catch up. It's good news though: mental-health clinicians are beginning to incorporate mindfulness concepts into their treatments to relieve anxiety (following research led by Kabat-Zinn), and a study conducted by Dr. Madhav Goyal, an expert in meditation programs at John Hopkins University, has shown that 10-20 per cent of participants who displayed depressive symptoms and practiced mindfulness meditation showed improvements compared to other methods. This is only the tip of the iceberg, however, and Ruth Baer, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, has noted improved well-being and a reduction in stress in a variety of people – from students and cancer patients to eating-disorder sufferers – through practicing mindfulness meditation. How to get startedIf you've never practiced before, it might be worth starting with Headspace – a useful app designed by mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe following a decade spent in meditation training across the world. Headspace has a 10-minute guided meditation that's a great introduction and easy to try out even on the way to work. The more extensive sessions require subscription and payment, but are worth it if you want more time to melt into the present. If you're thinking about getting more serious, look into meditation classes in your area and do some further reading: this article and its references are a great place to start, and you might also watch Kabat-Zinn's amazing presentation to Google staff, which is on YouTube. For those looking for a spot of travel with their wellness, we cover mindfulness workshops in our experiences, too, and the beautiful backdrops are an added bonus!