Mindfulness really can change lives, I have seen it do amazing things, but mainly my passion for mindfulness came from my own experience after I had a significant head and neck injury, it give me my life back. It really is life changing, as not many practises can take action from a bio-psycho-social level concurrently - with just intention and attention. Its mind blowing and very real.
Mindfulness has a massive impact on many different people’s lives, from individuals living with secondary mental health disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia, to someone looking to improve their wellbeing. I think Mindfulness helps us to cultivate a new attitude which can bring improvements in our relationships, wellbeing and outlook.
To gain insight and awareness into how they react to situations and within themselves. Mindfulness can help us identify patterns of behaviours, feelings and thoughts and to learn to have some acceptance. This can be incredibly beneficial in changing people’s lives and attitudes.
I believe that mindfulness practice has the potential to help us come back to this present moment experience. This offers us…. (1) the possibility of opening up a gap in the endless busy and negative patterns of mind and (2) an opportunity to notice and appreciate more of what we value and enjoy.
Together, this can transform lives – in ordinary but profound ways. This is especially true for those who are struggling with illness, bereavement, chronic stress and so on. Yet, so many people feel brought down by the everyday grind of a life. Mindfulness practice has something to offer all of us. However, mindfulness is not an easy answer or quick solution to all our ills. It requires commitment and ongoing intention, and remembering to come back and start again, time and again.
The way mindfulness first transforms our life is by giving us a wake up call. Rather than discovering mindfulness, a common experience on first starting with even a simple practice like mindfulness of the breath, is how distracted, reactive and mean to ourselves we really are. Seeing this can often motivate us to keep going. We get a shock, but provided we are not too overwhelmed by how poor our attention is, we are inspired to see if we really can train our brains and develop our mindfulness.
With practice, benefits accrue. There is usually a honeymoon period where we are amazed at how much energy and mental effort we can save when we are not constantly reacting. We experience relief when we realise we have a choice as to how we speak to ourselves internally. When we notice how often we are lost, and then commit to being present, we can experience the awe and wonder that is all around us (and which we usually miss).
This level of mindfulness may be enough for some, but if we keep going, we just keep going deeper and learn more. Some of this learning is painful, but if you hit this layer, you know you are on the right track
Changes in self compassion are at the heart of mindfulness. Developing this stance is essential if you want to work at this deeper level. We can only get a good look at these deep habits if we drop the judging. It won't help us here.....
Eight weeks for the rest of your life is how we frame a basic mindfulness training course. For those who find benefit, the journey is just beginning. Be ready but also excited about what's to come.
Yet even with a eight week program we can find changes in the cognitive, emotional and interpersonal domains. Even short term practices can provide benefit. Just five minutes of mindfulness before going to a therapy session helped therapists work more effectively and in a way that their clients found noticeable. (Dunn et al, 2013)
Mindfulness can give you the space to turn around and look back at yourself and see clearly what you need as well as what you already have. From there can make better choices based on a more authentic, trustworthy, felt experience of reality rather than being lost in the busyness of your mind.
This is a big question, but in a nutshell I would say that mindfulness enables people not to be driven by reactive thoughts and emotions; this helps them to remain steady in the face of difficulties and to find joy in simple pleasures, and ultimately supports a flourishing, ethical, and deeply free life.
In many ways, mindfulness is like a spirit level, it goes where it is needed. If you learn mindfulness to worry less or deal with pain, as long as you practice it will work. There are so many health conditions as well as anxiety and depression which we know this helps with, but at a deeper level, mindfulness connects us to ourselves and others. We are more present to our own lives and so can enjoy more of what there is to enjoy and deal differently with the difficult things. Over time as we learn to listen to ourselves more it's easier to tune into what we really feel, and that can lead to big changes!
Mindfulness, in the context of compassion, can give us the insight that much of what occurs in our mind and experience is not of our choosing and ‘not our fault’. Not blaming or shaming ourselves for what goes on in our mind can allow us to turn towards our human experience and see it for what it is: the product of millions of years of evolution. We can, however, take responsibility for how we relate to our experience, and focus on the kind of mind we wish to cultivate. In compassion-focused therapy, the kind of mind-set that we intentionally practice building and applying is a compassionate mind. Research continues to suggest that practising compassion for self and others supports well-being and reduces a range of mental health problems and vulnerabilities.
Mindfulness in all its forms helps me to be more aware of my inner and outer environment, and of the impact my actions make on both myself and others. Mindfulness helps me to notice what I say and do with more subtlety, hopefully with more compassion and wisdom, and to be open to others and otherness in a more creative, healthy and less defended way.
Mindfulness helps you make friends with yourself and realise that you are not only your thoughts and feelings. You learn to appreciate more, see beauty in the world around you and develop greater compassion for yourself and others. You learn the art of acceptance. That letting go allows individuals to live happier lives.
Bringing mindfulness into your everyday life enables you to spend less of your time going over what’s already happened or second guessing possible scenarios for what could happen in the future, and instead more of your time enjoying the good stuff that’s going on right now. It opens your eyes to savouring the little moments which are actually the big moments, to appreciating who and what is in your world, and so experience more joy throughout your life.
At the very beginning, changes can be small but highly positive, such as being less quick to anger, feeling less anxious, or sleeping better. Mindfulness inserts a “gap” between the thoughts and emotions that come into our minds, and how we react. By not immediately jumping in to our thoughts and emotions, we become calmer, happier, wiser, and kinder.
As the practice deepens, the beneficial changes become more substantial, for example preventing relapse for those who have suffered from clinical depression. The Buddha also spoke of a complete transformation, which he called Enlightenment, but regardless of whether we reach that exalted state, we can still gain hugely positive changes in our lives from every step on the path.
Of course, if all people embarked on the mindfulness journey, then there would be wider benefits for society and the environment. A society where people are calm, wise, happy, and compassionate, would surely be a better place to live. So, I think that we could regard positive events like the Mindful Living Show to be examples of a much-needed “intentional cultural evolution”, and all who participate deserve to be praised!
At its simplest level it helps people to gain an insight into their minds, allowing them to observe patterns of thinking and behaviour. It helps you Increase your self-awareness, and manage yourself better as a result. It gives you both control and responsibility for your own life. As such it can be challenging, but has the power to be truly transformative and hugely life changing.
It can release them from the hell of constant, grinding stress, anxiety and worry – once they can step out of that, everything else can begin to change: their diet, their health, their relationships, their career, everything.
Mindfulness shows people how they can unbind themselves from the unhelpful habit –driven emotions, thoughts and behaviours that make our lives more difficult. Mindfulness allows people to find a place of balance where they have more choices, learning to respond wisely to difficulty rather than being caught up in it.
I have been privileged enough to witness some incredible transformations in people’s lives and relationships with themselves and others through the process of their attending 8 week mindfulness (MBSR and MBCT) courses. There is something about the magic of mindfulness practice and the alchemy of the group process that can be truly healing.
By helping them understand that they have the resources, in their body and their breath, to manage a great deal of what life throws at them. That taking 10 or 20 minutes out of their day to sit quietly is easily repaid by the benefits it brings
It’s going to sound provocative, but until you’ve experienced mindfulness (or whatever you term you use to describe it) you’re not really living. You’re existing, yes. And busy. And maybe succeeding… But I feel like the living really begins when you can step out of the goldfish bowl of your mind. Then things get really alive. Did for me, anyway.
I love this quote of Marcel Proust: ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ To me mindfulness is being able to tap into the happiness that life can provide.
It can bring a true sense of peace within and without. Help feel more alive & joyful too.
We have incredible potentials to live healthy and happy lives with others. The answers lie within our cells just like our cells know what to do when we cut a finger. Mindfulness is an essential tool in releasing that knowledge and a cornerstone of our well-being.
I not only believe but KNOW that mindfulness change individuals' lives. Both because I know this in my own experience but also because as a psychotherapist I work with so many people over a period of years in such differing circumstances that I'm privileged to witness the profound shifts that can happen. They may not appear dramatic to the observer but anyone who has really developed and deepened a mindfulness practice knows how life-changing this can be. For example, instead of flying off the handle at a casual remark from your boss, partner or friend in a reactive way that you might later regret, you might recognise that you are "triggered," that strong emotions are arising and you might take a moment to pause, breathe, ground yourself in your body and choose a wiser response. Learning how to de-escalate reactivity is a skill that often partners, families and colleagues notice and comment on with great appreciation!
When I was diagnosed with cancer 16 years ago I already had a well-established mindfulness and meditation practice but I discovered all over again how supportive and transformative this can be. As I write I'm facilitating a mindfulness retreat for people living with cancer and we have four alumni attending one of whom has come to every retreat for the last five years. There is distinct difference between those who are just beginning to grasp the foundations of mindfulness and how to practice it and those who have been practising for many years and have discovered the power of mindfulness to help them face their fears, calm anxiety and find an inner oasis of equanimity in the midst of very challenging circumstances. They tell me that they return each year to help deepen their practice. As founder of this retreat, Awake & Alive Mindful Living with Cancer, it's deeply rewarding for me to see how mindfulness practice does indeed shift the experience of people living with serious illness. I see how they are able to transform negative emotions and thought patterns and live with uncertainty with more balance, ease and joy.