Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mindfulness to enhance relaxation and wellbeing

In our last blog we talked about anger and how the practice of mindfulness can be used to aid relaxation and bring about an increased feeling of calm and wellbeing, but what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is currently very popular and sometimes it seems you can't go far without reading about its benefits somewhere. However, mindfulness has actually been around a long time – indeed it has its roots in ancient eastern meditation practices. Mindfulness was introduced to modern healthcare by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn.

So what can mindfulness do for you?
It is a natural process of the human mind to wander and make up stories or 'chatter'. However, what we often don't recognise is that these thoughts strongly affect our emotions. Despite being processes of our mind, we can get caught up with them and find ourselves feeling angry, upset, sad or jealous.

Mindfulness practices work to inhibit negative thinking patterns and the over active limbic system that can occur when people are feeling depressed of stressed. An expert in mindfulness, Professor Mark Williams at Oxford University, claims that brain patterns actually change with the practice of mindfulness and this has been backed up by numerous studies.

What does mindfulness involve?
The process of mindfulness is about learning to accept the 'chatter' of the mind, allowing it to come and go, while concentrating on the here and now. A mindfulness exercise is given below. It demonstrates how powerful your own thoughts can be in how you feel. While doing the exercise you will notice how much the mind wanders.

Sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed. For the next six minutes concentrate on your breathing. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your rib cage and follow the air in and out of your lungs. Let your thoughts come and go and each time you notice your attention wandering, gently refocus it (you will need to do this again and again). For the next three minutes expand your awareness to include your body and your feelings as well as your breath. For the last minute, open your eyes and connect with the room around you as well as your body, your feelings and your breathing (Harris, 2007).

Further information
Tasim Martin-Berg, a counselling psychologist at First Psychology Edinburgh, has written a helpful article about mindfulness. The article explains a bit more about the practice and benefits of mindfulness and has a list of useful resources.

There are a variety of self-help materials to help you learn to become more mindful. A good one to start with is Jon Kabat-Zinn's CD, Mindfulness for Beginners.

For details of practitioners who offer mindfulness based therapies at our centres, please see your local centre's website at: Aberdeen | Borders | Dundee | Edinburgh | Glasgow | Inverness.

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