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Mindfulness in an increasingly stressful world

It has long been known that the way we think and how we deal with our thoughts plays a big part in mental health. Mindfulness meditation is a mind-body based, psychosensory approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences.

Mindfulness meditation, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using a variety of therapeutic approaches.

MBCT is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and gentle movement with elements from cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression.

MBSR was originated by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at The University of Massachusetts Medical Centre and, in addition to helping people manage serious stress, it helps them deal with anxiety, pain and illness.

Mindfulness is a potentially life-changing way to alter our feelings in positive ways, and an ever-expanding body of scientific evidence shows that it really does work, not just for depression but also to help people deal with anxiety and emotional and physical pain.

Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them. Taking a course in Mindfulness can help people to have a real understanding of their emotions, boost their focus and concentration and even improve their relationships.

The background and science of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not some new fad. In fact its roots can be traced back to Buddhist traditions of over 2,500 years ago. However, mindfulness teaching and therapeutic applications were not established until the 1970s.

Since then, there has been considerable research into the effects of using mindfulness and it is now firmly accepted as an evidence-based approach with a vast array of scientific proof of its efficacy. For example, MRI scans of the brain’s Hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning, memory, compassion, introspection and self-awareness, have been shown to increase in participants of mindfulness programmes. Conversely, the brain tissue of the Amygdala, which plays a major role in stress and anxiety, has been shown to decrease.

Mindfulness in the workplace

Mindfulness helps people to live more fulfilled, relaxed, stress free and confident lives. In the workplace it helps them to be more effective team players, become more creative, set and achieve their goals, communicate well and resolve conflict.

Mindfulness was on the agenda recently at the world economic summit in Davos, and leading organisations around the globe, such as Apple and Google, have adopted mindfulness as a key component of their employee development and wellbeing strategies.