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Have you ever started eating a snack bar, taken a couple of bites, then noticed all you had left
As humans we are often "not present" in our own lives. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us, or poison ourselves with toxic self critism.
Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future. Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It will not eliminate life's pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. It helps us recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.
Since the late 1970's there have been more than 1000 publications documenting medical and psychological research on mindfulness which demonstrate its validity and breadth of application.
There are currently two well respected formal approaches to Mindfulness: MBSR & MBCT. MBSR & MBCT are taught using a standard curriculum, and all teachers follow a formalised development route. Other approaches to mindfulness can be equally effective and valid, but are less likely to be well regulated.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn , "mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally."
Mindfulness practitioners learn how to pay attention on purpose by practising specially developed mindfulness meditation practices & mindful movements. With practice, practitioners learn to slow down or stop brain chatter and automatic or habitual reactions, experiencing the present moment as it really is.
When practicing mindfulness, everyone, however much they practice, will experience thoughts creeping in to their heads uninvited. This is fine - its just what brains do, but how we respond to these thoughts is important.
If we start to think about the thought, or get annoyed with ourselves for not being able to retain our focus, it stops us paying attention and takes us away from the present moment. If we just acknowledge the thought and let it go without judgement, we retain our focus on being in the present moment.
As with all new skills, the more we practice it, the easier it becomes. Canadian psychologist, Donald Hebb coined the phrase "neurones that fire together, wire together". In other words, the more we practice mindfulness, the more we develop neuro-pathways in the brain associated with being mindful, which make it easier to be fully in the present moment.
By learning to experience the present moment as it really is, we develop the ability to step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events, see things as they really are and respond to them wisely rather than on auto pilot.
Mindfulness is for everyone from all walks of life, young or old. Mindfulness is not a religion and there is no necessary religious component to mindfulness - anyone, with any belief system, can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
Although Mindfulness may have had its origins in the east, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation are now relatively mainstream and the scientific community has found data positively correlating mindfulness and meditation to stress reduction
In the last 30 years, the most widely recognised Mindfulness practices, MBSR & MBCT have been developed and researched in the West. Recent neuroscience & clinical research has helped explain why mindfulness meditation practices work, which has accelerated its use within traditional medical circles as a powerful healing tool even further.
Mindfulness has its origins in ancient meditation practices. The founder of modern day Mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970's. Since then over 18,000 people have completed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme to help with conditions as diverse as chronic pain, heart disease, anxiety, psoriosis, sleep problems and depression.
In the 1990's Mark Williams, John Teasdale and Zindel Seagal further developed MBSR to help people suffering from depression. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combined CBT with Mindfulness. MBCT is clinically approved in the UK by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a "treatment of choice" for recurrent depression
The most recognised and researched modern forms of Mindfulness are MBSR & MBCT. MBSR & MBSR are normally taught as 8 weeks programmes with participants meeting for 2-3 hours a week as a group, and home practice in-between meetings. Participants are taught a number of specific meditation practices proven to help reduce "brain chatter" and respond more appropriately to thoughts and feelings. Most MBSR / MBCT training includes a body scan exercise, two sitting meditations, walking meditation, gentle stretching and body awareness exercises, a three-minute mindfulness meditation.
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