Mindfulness is simply about being present in the moment, paying attention and learning to practise non-judgemental awareness of the body and mind. Meditation has been practised for hundreds of years, most commonly under a religious or spiritual framework. However, only relatively recently has its value has begun to be understood within a secular context. Figures such as Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn in the US and Professor Mark Williams in the UK have pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation within a range of medical and wellbeing spheres. Its powerful effects have been proven to increase practitioners’ sense of wellbeing as well as their sense of calm; it has also been shown to cultivate attention skills and focus. Current research in the area explores the science behind mindfulness and its efficacy across many strands of health and wellbeing.
Mindfulness, when practiced regularly, has been shown to increase executive functioning in the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with reason, emotion and problem-solving. There are decades of neurological and behavioural research to testify that the use of mindfulness is a significant factor in altering our perceptions of stress and teaching us to relate to it differently. If viewed in this way, mindfulness can be seen as an exercise that, with regular training, gently improves the condition, strength and functioning of the mind, allowing us to enjoy a higher degree of focus and to respond to the events in our lives with far greater skill, flexibility and awareness. This in turn leads to a host of health-enhancing properties such as lessened stress/anxiety and a better sense of general wellbeing.
The applications of mindfulness are limitless. It can be used at work, at school, when studying, while cooking, when out walking and even while eating.