My first few posts will be on a topic that I have found to have really had a positive effect in my life over the past few months , and therefore I would like to share some of the information I have learnt about Mindfulness.
‘It is said to take only 8 weeks for highly significant changes in the pattern of brain activation , and not only are problems such as stress and chronic pain improved, it has been proved that biological changes to what people are doing with their minds is having positive effects on their bodies’ Michael Chaskalson
Until recently it’s a word that few people out of Asia had heard of, and now it is in every direction we look.
So what is it?
‘Being mindful is paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non judgmentally’ Says Jon Kabat-Zinn . Jon Kabat-Zinn was a student of Buddhist teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Zen Master Seung Sahn . He is the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which I will be talking about in future posts.
I decided to give mindful meditation a go, and purchased the audio book by Michael Chaskalson,’Mindfulness in Eight Weeks: The revolutionary 8 week plan to clear your mind and calm your life‘ . I can honestly say that sitting still and focusing on just your breathing, and being in the present moment, is really not as easy as it seems- especially if you have never meditated before.
During this 8 week course you do various mindfulness meditations such as a body scan, walking meditation, and breathing meditation.
And what are you training your mind to do?
To simply learn to let your thoughts pass by without paying attention to them. To acknowledge that you have had that specific thought, and to non-judgmentally say ‘its just a thought’ , let it pass and to bring your attention back to your breathing.
You learn to use your breath as an anchor, and as soon as your mind starts to wonder you bring it back to focusing on the in breath and the out breath, nothing else. Over the 8 week course and throughout the various meditations spanning from 10-40 minutes , you train yourself to constantly bring your attention back to the present moment when your mind starts to wonder.
How easy is it?
In the beginning I struggled with sitting in silence for even the shorter 10 minute meditations, and kept thinking of all the things I could be doing with that time ,what I needed to do that day, planning what I was going to have for lunch etc. However every few minutes Michael Chaskalson assures you that it’s totally normal and not wrong that your mind has gone off track, and to kindly bring your attention back to your breathing. It wasn’t until he said those words every few minutes that I realised just how much I could not keep my mind still in that moment and focus only on my breathing. It was the first time I understood that my mind was quite demanding of my attention and very exhausting! You start to notice how often useless and negative thoughts pop up, and how we naturally take these tiny bits of information to build a story and make up an often unrealistic scenario in our heads. We all know what you think can have powerful effects on how you feel and what you do. Therefore our automatic negative thinking patterns can be unhelpful which is why through mindful meditation you can learn not to take any notice of these thoughts.
What do I learn?
So you learn over and over through all the daily meditations, to bring your mind back to your breathing and focus on nothing else, just that moment. Your mind will wonder off probably over a thousand times in the 8 weeks, and you will bring your attention back to the now , to your breath each time, and through that you start to train your brain. You teach yourself to let these thoughts be and then just let them pass, to distance yourself from them. Michael Chaskalson says we ‘Start to see that they are just mental events, not true , not reality , not me. Thoughts are just thoughts.’
What happens to us?
From the book by Michael Chaskalson’ Mindfulness in Eight Weeks: The revolutionary 8 week plan to clear your mind and calm your life‘ he acknowledges the following :
‘According to the 2010 UK Mental Health Foundation Report on the benefits of mindful training:
- People who are more mindful are less likely to suffer psychological distress, including anxiety and depression
- Greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of your emotions and recover from bad moods more quickly
- Less frequent negative thoughts and are able to let go of them when they arrive
- Higher more stable self esteem that is less dependent on external factors
- Enjoy more satisfying relationships and can communicate better, less troubled by relationship conflict
- Higher success in reaching personal and academic goals
Harvard Medical School Helpguide states the following benefits:
- help relieve stress
- treat heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- reduce chronic pain
- improve sleep
- alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- couples’ conflicts
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Forbes magazine contributor Alice G. Walton states in her post 7 ways meditation can actually change the brain ‘Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good’
If anyone is interested in giving this a go, I highly recommend getting the audio book by Michael Chaskalson ‘Mindfulness in Eight Weeks: The revolutionary 8 week plan to clear your mind and calm your life‘. He has trained in Mindfulness for over 40 years, and as well as writing books, has a website called Mindfulness Works .
I can assure you once you start listening , you will find it hard to forget what you are hearing as it so relevant and imperative that we spend time on our mental and emotional fitness just as we do our physical fitness. Taking a few minutes to listen on the train or instead of waking up first thing in the morning to check social media and emails, to rather spend a few minutes listening to what he , or any other teachers of mindfulness have to say.
I have loads more interesting facts and information coming up in future posts so if you are interested but don’t have too much time to go looking into it, just take a few minutes to read the links I post and keep popping in to read my blog- I’m happy to be sharing my knowledge with you 🙂
Check out my pinterest for more 🙂 https://www.pinterest.com/uniteandinspire/mind-body/