What is mindfulness?
If you ask a Buddhist or a yoga practitioner or a psychotherapist what their definition of mindfulness is you often get many different responses.
In the world of psychotherapy and psychology there are many excellent practitioners who are combining mindfulness techniques with other treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy and are achieving great results with their clients.
However there is little appreciation that mindfulness is more than a handful of techniques. Mindfulness should be though of in frameworks. Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist and Yoga frameworks, which include:
- Developing love and compassion and living in a harmonious society
- Learning single pointed focus
- Learning body scanning techniques
- Learning positive detachment techniques
Why develop it?
The challenge with studying mindfulness is that researchers often cherry pick mindfulness techniques and study them in isolation. For example, the researcher, Barbara Fredrickson has studies loving kindness meditations and found a significant improvement in feelings of competence, control and self reported wellbeing from this activity. Loving kindness meditation techniques encourage the practicioner to have an external, positive focus. This may be on people they love or for a wider focus covering all sentient beings.
Other studies have looked at body scanning or single pointed focus techniques. Many of these studies, from major universities around the world, indicate a significant positive impact on mental and physical fitness from practicing these different mindfulness practices.
Jon Kabat Zinn has been a pioneer in this area. He developed an 8 week mindfulness program called the mindfulness based stress reduction program (MBSR) which takes a number of elements from Buddhist practices and packages them up in a secular format. His research, on his own framework, indicates significant mental and physical benefits to developing and sustaining a mindfulness practice.
Can it be developed?
Think of mindfulness as a program rather than a single activity. The program contains a series of brain training exercises to help you flourish and grow.
If you go to the gym you might do some stretching and some cardio. The next day you might do a back work out and the following day a chest workout. On the next day you might engage in a team sport.
This is how it is with mindfulness. Different techniques do different things to the structure of our brains:
Learning to focus helps us be more focused, dampens the stress response and enables us to be less reactive
Body scanning enables us to explore how our physical filters which impact the way we think, feel and communicate
Learning deep diagrammatic breathing reduces amygdala activation and helps us be less reactive
Developing love and compassion for others helps us see the world from other perspectives, deepens our relationships and helps us feel happier (greater left pre frontal cortex activation)
Exploring our triggers and filters through labeling thoughts and emotions enables us to learn from and grow from emotions and painful experiences
Who can be a mindfulness coach?
Andy Roberts from Breathe London has a masters in Applied Positive Psychology from UEL in 2006. His dissertation was on how to introduce mindfulness into organisations. He is a Sivananda yoga teacher and has trained in Vipassana meditation techniques. He lectures in mindfulness to medical students at James Cook University in Queensland
Dorinda Talbot is a psychotherapist and has been teaching and practicing Zen meditation techniques for many years
What is you next step to becoming more mindful?
For one to one or group session contact Andy Roberts or Dorinda Talbot
Find out more and book an appointment with our Mindfulness coaching therapists: