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Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is both incredibly simple and incredibly complex.  It can be used to increase your level of concentration and focus, and it can also be used to rebalance your experiences so that negative sensations are less overwhelming. 

 

Key practices involve focussing on the breath and on experiences in the body for anything from 10 minutes to 40 minutes.  Over time practitioners find that these lead to increased levels of self awareness and appreciation both for themselves and those around them.

 

Key attitudes include trust, acceptance, beginner's mind, patience, non-judging, non- striving, letting go.

 

Scientific studies have demonstrated that it can be effective in order to

 

  • enhance mental resiliance and stamina  (eg Novak Djokovic, world tennis number 1).

    Novak Djokovic, on mindfulness - “the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Soon this time will feel vital to your day. And after that, you’ll feel the changes in how you think all day long. The negative energy will slip by. The positive energy will dominate”.  Andy Roddick, one of Djokovic's former rivals, had notes on all his opponents; in his view, prior to his mindfulness practice, Djokovic was "mentally fragile".  He is now renowned as the toughest mental competitor in the world of tennis.

  • reduce stress for soldiers in war zones  (eg US Marines)
  • increase creativity (eg Google employees)
  • lose weight
  • combat addictions and mental health challenges (eg Ruby Wax)
  • reduce levels of physical pain experience
  • strengthen the immune system

Evidence

The Workplace

 

From Transport for London study

http://mindfulwork.co.uk/tfl-case-study/

Since 2009, around 600 Transport for London (TfL) employees have been through the programme and qualitative evaluation shows that, immediately afterwards, nearly all employees said that they made changes to their lives as a result.

Among employees who have attended the course, the number of days off for stress, anxiety and depression fell by 71% over the following three years, while absences for all conditions dropped by 50%. There are also qualitative improvements, with 80% of participants reporting improvements in their relationships, 79% improvements in their ability to relax, 64% improvements in sleep patterns and 53% improvements in happiness at work.

 

Education

 

University of California in Santa Barbara – study on mind wandering in 2013. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/brief-mindfulness-training-may-boost-test-scores-working-memory.html

48 students were split into two groups. Both groups were tested for working memory and verbal reasoning for GRE tests (university entrance tests). One group had mindfulness training, the other nutrition training  for 8 x 45 minute sessions over 2 weeks. The group that had received mindfulness training had a 16% increased improvement in their working memory and verbal reasoning skills relative to the control group (both were tested before and after the intervention).

 

Scientific details

 

The brain is plastic – ie it can change shape. This has been recognised by scientific studies over the last 20 years.  Over 5,000 new brain cells are produced every day – that means that your brain is 18% different over the course of 10 years – you really can change the way you relate to the world.

Eg taxi drivers have a larger posterior hippocampus (part of the brain needed for navigation) as they have to learn “The Knowledge”.

 

The Amygdala – the part of the brain that reacts to threats – can be reduced in size when mindfulness practice is undertaken - this has been confirmed by MRI scans of the brain.

 

The Insula - this part of the brain tells us how our body is feeling and also gives us sensitivity to the feelings of others.  This part is activated by mindfulness.  Farb et al – study in 2007. http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/2/4/313.full  also discovered that mindfulness uncoupled narrative (historical) focus in the brain from experiential (present) focus in the brain. This means that science shows us that the brain becomes more used to dealing with present instances, unprejudiced by past associations

 

Prefrontal cortex  - relates to choices and attention.  The left side relates to compassion and wellbeing and is developed by mindfulness – eg Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk has this side of his brain massively more developed than non meditators.

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© Paul Jeffrey Mindfulness