Mindfulness is a mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences.
Mindfulness exercises or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. 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.
It's been known for millennia that the way we think and the way we handle how we feel plays a big part in mental health. Taking a mindfulness course can give people more insight into their emotions, boost their attention and concentration and improve relationships.
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 stretching with elements from cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression. Mindfulness is a potentially life-changing way to alter our feelings in positive ways, and an ever-expanding body of evidence shows that it really works.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect how the brain works and even its structure. People undertaking mindfulness training have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotion – the pre-frontal cortex – which is generally less active in people who are depressed.
More than 100 studies have shown changes in brain wave activity during meditation and researchers have found that areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation are larger in people who have meditated regularly for five years.
Research shows that Mindfulness can help with:
There is growing evidence that Mindfulness in the workplace can improve productivity and decrease sickness absence, and increasingly employers are looking to benefit from its effect on workplace wellbeing. Find out more at Mindfulnet.
Almost three-quarters of GPs think mindfulness meditation would be helpful for people with mental health problems, and a third already refer patients to MBCT on a regular basis. (Source: ICM survey June 2009 of 250 GPs). With the increase in talking therapies being instigated across the UK this is something that you can raise and discuss with your GP.
Benefitting from mindfulness therapies
MBCT is usually a weekly course of classes taught over two months, but there are also online courses available that can be done in your own time, at home or even at work. These courses teach people how to manage their thoughts and feelings in a way that makes depression less likely to occur.
Such treatment has been shown to cut relapse rates in half for recurrent depression.
Find out more about mindfulness and its benefits on the Be Mindful website, where you can:
- watch videos and listen to podcasts
- find out about courses in your area
- share your experience of mindfulness at the The Oxford Mindfulness Centre
- give your support for increased access to mindfulness therapy on the NHS.
Mindfulness courses don’t require any religious or spiritual beliefs. Mindfulness is suitable for, and can help people with any religious beliefs or people with none at all.
Whether you want to learn new techniques for coping with stress in the workplace or at home, manage anxiety or depression or improve your concentration, energy levels and enjoyment of life, Mindfulness is a valuable tool. In fact, mindfulness meditation can have such a positive impact on our mental and physical well-being that many GPs say that all people could benefit from learning the techniques.
Find out more about mindfulness
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