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Mindfulness trains your mind to be strong so you can lead a healthy way of being. Neuro-scientific research shows that people who practice mindfulness regularly are more focused, relaxed, productive, calm and happier as they feel empowered in their life and how they react to daily demands.
When we are anxious, stressed, depressed or suffering from chronic illness or pain, we usually act through habit and learned ways of coping which might not actually be helpful and could exacerbate the issue. We may distract ourselves (by drinking too much, procrastinating or overeating) or we may be thinking continuously of ways to resolve the problem. We may criticise ourselves in a manner that is unkind and harsh. This can leave us feeling debilitated and exhausted, with our self-esteem and confidence spiralling downwards.
By paying attention to our breathing, thoughts, feelings and body, we become mindful and are able to sit completely with our experience. This can make us aware of when we are being judgmental, engaging in automatic negative thinking or entertaining our inner critic. We develop the skills and wisdom to deal with our difficulties more effectively, in a way that is compassionate and kind. Letting go of resistance and accepting what we cannot change liberates us to feel truly alive, rather than surviving life on auto pilot.
Although mindfulness doesn’t eliminate difficulties or stress, it helps us to have more choice in how we handle challenges in the moment which gives us a better chance of reacting empathetically and calmly. This is because we are more aware of and accepting of our unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Therefore, the practice of mindfulness does not mean we will not experience strong emotions (such as anger) – rather it allows us to be aware of our feeling and more thoughtful in how we respond, whether that’s empathetically and calmly or with a measured direct expression of the sensations and emotions we are feeling.
We learn mindfulness through meditation. At first, this helps familiarise us with being in the present for a limited period of time. However, we can practice mindfulness informally through many activities that help us be present in the moment and unhook from our inner narrative, drawing awareness to our emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. Over time, practicing mindfulness regularly develops our ability to be present all the time and enables us to truly embrace the full range of life’s experiences.
Mindfulness is not about changing anything; it is about becoming fully present with our experiences, which oddly enough makes life more enjoyable. It enables us to have better relationships with others and we develop a more intimate relationship with ourselves, which makes us more productive and happier. It has been proven that mindfulness promotes emotional well-being. Neuroscientists have found that mindfulness can change the circuitry and inner workings of the brain. Due to the rising awareness of the benefits, schools and organisations are increasingly using mindfulness to enable people to function more effectively.