A few years ago, I used to feel as though I was on autopilot, going through motions without really appreciating things around me or trying to enjoy them. I’d dread the cooking and cleaning, as my mind would fill with negative thoughts: Did she mean this when she said that? I wish I had said this when he said that. However, unbelievably, the rumination reduced due to a 6 week (now 4 weeks), scientific based, online mindfulness course (Monash University, n.d.) that was free! Now, I’m not saying that it didn’t take practice because it did - and still does - but it did help. But what is mindfulness and will it help you? Check out this video by Smiling Mind which describes mindfulness:
The practice of mindfulness was founded by the Buddhists. It involves being aware (paying attention to the present) and acceptance (being able to observe your thoughts without judging them as good or bad). Mindfulness has become a bit of a hype over the past decade due to its versatility. A google search returns 235 million results! However, we need to be mindful (no pun intended) of this hype as a recent review of mindfulness research studies found that there are limitations and methodological shortcomings.
There are various types of meditation practices with no agreement on the classifications of mindfulness making it difficult to consolidate research results and come to a conclusion on their efficacy. The review does highlight substantial evidence indicating that mindfulness can help with depression symptoms, lower anxiety, reduce pain levels and increase emotional awareness. Another recent study of patients with cardiovascular disease determined that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) resulted in slower heart rates and lower blood pressure as well as a reduction in anxiety, depression and perceived stress.
On top of this, there is also a risk that mindfulness can have undesirable effects for certain people, under certain conditions and especially if not performed with a trained mindfulness practitioner. However, a simple, safe and effective exercise to try is a focused attention (FA) activity such as savouring. It has been suggested that focused attention (FA) mindfulness activities result in faster improvement in improvement of stress, anxiety and depression levels during treatment. Savouring has been shown to improve the psychological wellbeing across the life span so feel free to share with your friends and family, however be mindful that research across cultures is limited. Refer to the video below and grab a piece of chocolate (or another treat!). And remember, keep practicing if it feels safe to do so and it you will find it easier to live in the moment.