Ever had a time in your life when your brain just wouldn’t shut up? If not, great. Stop reading and go do something else.
Left to itself, the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts. In fact, the average person spends 47% of their lives ‘mind wondering’!
These thoughts will often be about something that happened in the past or something that might happen in the future – and they are often negative.
Why is thinking often negative?
We’re born worriers. Scientists believe that our brains have evolved a “negativity bias”, meaning we’re drawn to threats more than opportunities. We’re likely to detect negative information faster than positive information and generally have a background level of anxiety as our brain monitors the environment for possible threats.
Thinking can be very useful. But most of us spend too much time obsessing about things that have already passed, or worrying about things that might happen in the future. This stresses us out and (let’s admit it) rarely solves the problems.
But sometimes your brain is quiet, right?
- Cool, calm and collected.
- Focused and in control.
- On your game and absolutely loving it.
If you feel like there has never been a time when your brain was quiet, then maybe it’s time to try and experience these things for yourself!
We all want more calm, focus and enjoyment from life. This is where mindfulness comes in.
What is Mindfulness?
Think about mindfulness in terms of an ABC approach to life…
A. Develop Awareness
Staying focused on the present moment, turning down the volume knob on your brain by tuning in to your surrounding environment and becoming more aware of your bodily sensations.
B. Be with Experiences
See thoughts and feelings simply ‘as they are’ rather than avoiding, pushing them away or distracting yourself from them. Realise that thoughts are simply mental events that come and go – you can choose whether to act on them or not – do not to take them too seriously or identify too strongly with them.
C. Make Skillful Choices
Respond to events skillfully independent of what mood you are in, rather than having knee-jerk reactions.
The Spotlight Metaphor
Our attention is something that allows us to focus on one piece of information while ignoring the rest. A common metaphor for attention is a spotlight that (in mindfulness) brings the present moment into focus. Attention is closely linked to awareness and memory and Mindfulness is a form of attention training – learning how to keep up a non-judgmental awareness of present moment experiences. This is achieved through body focused Mindfulness techniques such as the body scan, breathing exercises, Mindful sitting and Mindful movement.
How will Mindfulness Improve my Life?
Mindfulness is scientifically proven to help us be on form by:
- Improving our focus and attention.
- Become more positively aware of ourselves and our body.
- Reduces stress
- Improve your performance at work or in class
- Helps beat addictions
- Becoming more emotionally grounded.
What’s the Proof? Show me the Science
People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years – and there’s a good reason for that! It’s only recently that scientists decided to check out what all the fuss was about. What they found astonished them.
Neuroscientists across the world have discovered that if you practice mindfulness then your brain physically changes shape! And this process affects peoples’ lives in the following ways.
1. Less Stress
Mindfulness turns down the stressful ‘fight or flight’ hormones and instead activates the part of our nervous system that is responsible for resting and digesting, which helps you relax and cope with stress.
(Benson, H., Beary, J., & Carol, M. (1974). The relaxation response. Psychiatry. 19, 37. 37-45.6)
2. More Creativity
Researchers discovered that ‘divergent thinking’ (the type of thinking that helps you generate new ideas) is promoted and increased in people that train in Mindfulness.
(Colzato, L., Ozturk, A. & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Front. Psychology. 3, 116)
3. Increased Focus
It takes just 11 hours of Mindfulness to change the structure of the part of our brain responsible for monitoring our focus and control. Neuroscientists found people who practice mindfulness can focus on tasks for longer without getting distracted.
(Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A. & Ostergren, M. (2012). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface. 45-52.)
4. Less Anxiety and Depression
Scientists studied people experiencing high levels of anxiety or depression in their lives. They found that that mindfulness techniques were extremely effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
(Stefan G. Hofmann, Alice T. Sawyer, Ashley A. Witt, & Diana Oh. 2010. The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review)
I’m Sold. How do I Start the Jouney?
It takes just ten minutes of mindfulness practice a day to start reaping the rewards. You’ve already started by checking out this website.
Now let’s get started – there’s no time like the present. Below, are a few gateways into mindfulness, even if you haven’t got the time to train your mind for ten minutes a day, there’s something here for you!
Challenge yourself to live more mindfully. Watch what happens…
Check where you’re at.
This may seem strange but ask yourself “where am I?” Take a look around. Notice everything without labelling or judging it as good or bad. Focus on the sounds, smells, people and objects around you. Take it all in.