What is mindfulness?
When you feel like a computer with too many windows open, it’s time to restart – and mindfulness trains your mind to do just that. It is a way to fully focus on the present moment, without distraction from thoughts and emotions. Instead of reacting on impulse or out of habit, you can choose to respond skilfully.
Done daily, it re-sculpts your brain in as little as eight weeks, scientists at Harvard Medical School have found. It is the mental equivalent of going to the gym: you train your mind to be more fit when challenges come your way.
How does it help?
With its roots in Buddhist meditation, the benefits of mindfulness are now widely recognised by neuroscience:
MRI scans show the brain’s prefrontal cortex, associated with concentration and decision-making, becomes thicker after eight weeks of mindfulness. Meanwhile the amygdala, your fight-or-flight centre, shrinks – meaning thoughtful responses to stress overtake primal ones.
Under pressure, US Marines who trained in mindfulness performed better at complex thought and problem solving and had more control of their emotions, according to research.
The government recommends mindfulness as an NHS treatment for depression, and it has been shown to calm anxiety.
How does it work?
As you read this, wriggle your toes. Feel your feet on the floor and the earth far below. Think about the uplift in your spine and the openness of your chest. Become aware that you are breathing – and arrive in this moment. Not in the conversation you have just had or the crisis you still need to deal with. Arrive here. Arrive now.
Congratulations, you have just tried mindfulness. But as with fitness for your body, it takes daily practise to reap full rewards.
The mindful advantage
What participants say of LiveWorkWell’s six-week mindfulness training: