There has been a lot of hype around mindfulness and meditation over the past few years AND rightfully so! Western society has created a state of busyness in our lives where we fill all moments with urgency, action and constant thoughts. For many, this starts from the minute we rise to the moment we return to bed. In fact, it is almost seen as success to live a busy life filled with to-do lists and hard work! Making the space to be present, allows us to enjoy the simple things, embrace the journey and truly connect to not only ourselves but others.
There are many reasons to practice mindfulness and being still. Many people will mention that “I’m not good at it or “I can’t stop thinking” when it comes to meditation. It’s important to note that meditation or mindfulness is not the absence of thoughts, rather it is letting the thoughts come and go, and not attaching to them. I love the metaphor by Pena Chodron which sums this up perfectly;
“You are the sky, everything else is just the weather” - Pema Chodron
With a background in health I’m always interested in the scientific effects of mindfulness on the body! Research shows that mindfulness can down regulate the sympathetic nervous system - our fight-or-flight response. This system is switched on in times of survival, but in the modern day we now switch this on readily in response to mind-made stresses or urgency. The creators of Smiling Mind report: If we stay in this state for too long, it can impact negatively not only on our minds, but our bodies including elevated stress hormones and DNA changes.
Studies show that people who regularly practice mindfulness or meditation have longer telomeres (which are the end of our DNA – like the end of a shoelace)! Longer telomeres result in cells that keep on living, our DNA is protected for longer and most excitingly, ageing can be slowed down! (Blackburn and Epel, 2018).
Another benefit of meditation, is unconsciously making physical changes to the neural connections of our brain. Specifically, the regions associated with self-awareness, emotional processing, stress-responses, executive function and memory formation (McKenzie & Hassed, 2012). Emotional intelligence and compassion is also elevated in those that embraced mindfulness (McKenzie & Hassed, 2012). These changes can enhance our sense of wellbeing, joy, resilience, focus, empathy, productivity and motivation.
“Mindfulness is a practice that teaches us how to simply be ourselves, without having to be in some other place of time – or to be something else, or somebody else other than what and who we are” -Dr McKenzie & Dr Hassed
Kabat-Zinn says “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. Mindfulness can present formally in meditation practices. However, there are many other ways to achieve this including: mindful walking, awareness of the senses, breath work, short affirmations, imagery, body scans, mindful listening, yoga, mindful eating or drinking tea. Any act that fills you with a sense of relaxation, connectedness, inner stillness, insight or peace.
If you are interested in ways to integrate mindfulness, self-care or wellness practices in your life please reach out! Through coaching 1:1 and workshops, you can discover ways to introduce this in a way that’s authentic and aligned with your life and goals.
Are you ready to commence your Wholehearted Journey?
Blackburn, E, Epel, E 2018, The Telomere Effect, Orion Publishing Group Ltd.
Mckenzie, S, Hassed, C 2012 Mindulfness for Life, Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd.
Smiling Mind, 2020 What is Mindfulness, Smiling Mind, viewed 15 February 2020, <https://www.smilingmind.com.au/mindfulness>.