What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means keeping our attention in this moment intentionally. In mindfulness practice we observe what ever is there in this moment in a non-judgmental way. An essential part of the practice is to develop the ability of accepting anything that arises in the moment.
The attention can be placed on many different focal points such as the body sensations, senses, emotions or thoughts. The most commonly used focuses for the attention are bodily sensations or the breath. A key aspect of the practice is to learn how to listen to the body, emotions and thoughts and to allow them to be as they are in this moment.
The aim is to integrate the skills learned during mindfulness practice into our every day life. Mindfulness practice offers us a tool which allows us to live here and now rather than being caught up in the past or worrying about the future. When we become aware of the habits which are not useful for our well-being, we can start changing them and become happier.
The busy modern day life style increases our stress levels. Mindfulness practice helps us to clarify the mind and to process difficult thoughts and emotions as well as stress. Mindfulness practice has become more and more important during recent years as it offers a natural way to cope with and manage stress.
Mindfulness: research and benefits
The Western mindfulness practice was developed in the 1980’s in the University of Massachusettes Medical School, USA. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness practice, did a lot of research on Eastern mind related practices and developed an 8-week long MBSR-program (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) based on this knowledge. Nowadays there are several thousand research studies concerning mindfulness and its positive effect. Mindfulness is used in medicine and psychology extensively. For example United Kingdom’s National Health Services (NHS) recommends mindfulness for treating depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program makes measurable changes in brain structure:
The participants of this study demonstrated increased grey matter in the regions of the brain that are important for learning, memory and compassion. Additionally, grey matter decreased in the regions related to stress and anxiety.
The most significant benefits
- Decreased stress hormone levels
- Improved concentration
- Increased emotional intelligence and human relationship skills
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps to deal with sleep disorders, chronic pain, depression and anxiety