Everything you need to know: Your daily guide to mindfulness
Are you mind-full or mindful? Hmmm….
So often we find ourselves saying “how quickly did the time go?!” or rushing through the day ticking off our to-do list without even noticing how quickly we are breathing as adrenaline fuels our bodies.
We often pay attention to what goes on inside our minds rather than what is actually going on right in front of us. We are experts of thinking back on emotionally-loaded memories, whether that be “what he or she said” that hurt your feelings, or what “I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done” and perhaps we find ourselves thinking it will all be better WHEN “I lose weight” or “when we go on holiday”…
Maybe we entertain ourselves with the vision and possibilities of the future, which lend to anxiously planning, worry, being upset at what did or didn’t happen… oh golly I’m winding myself writing about it. And what is all that for?
We rarely pay attention to the present moment.
Studies have shown that bringing awareness to the present moment; to your physical body, thoughts and feelings, can improve your mental wellbeing.
Stemming from Buddhist teachings’ Berkley University’s Greater Good Magazine, defines mindfulness as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn – founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program in 1979, states it is the “presence of heart”.
Mindfulness is comprised of three key tenets:
- Present moment attention: the capacity to focus on the present moment whether it be internally or externally referenced (e.g. mind awareness, body function awareness, using our sense or awareness of the external environment)
- Non-judgement acceptance: withholding judgement from your experiences, thoughts, feelings and emotions and accepting them for what they are – fleeting
- Awareness: being self-aware of your actions and how they may affect you and others
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel or think in any given moment. Just like a car blasting rock n’ roll music down the street, your thoughts too, shall pass.
WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US
Mindfulness practice has been shown to
- Help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and prevent anxiety and depression 
- Increases positive emotions in those who live in the present moment
- Decreases negative emotions in those who report more non-judgement acceptance in their lives
- Reduce stress
- Increase focus
- Relieve chronic pain
- Increase empathy in individuals such as health professionals by promoting the release of oxytocin – a neurohormone key for social bonding 
- Improve emotional regulation including reduced impulsivity
- Alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome 
- Contributes to improve weight management, reduce systolic blood pressure and attentional bias towards food cues compared to diet therapy alone  In a pilot study, MBSR has even been shown to support cardiovascular recovery in cardiac patients during their first year of recovery  and may be supported as an adjunct therapy for hypertension .
Oh the list can go on! Basically, we become better humans, ha!
Interestingly enough, a major component of Intuitive Eating – an approach that unifies mind and body to honour your hunger and fullness – is based upon a mindfulness principle called interoception. This is what has also been shown to promote improved cardiometabolic factors.
Although studies are still quite small, since its introduction in the 70s there are now over 200 studies published on mindfulness and many research labs now dedicated to the field!
Neurological studies even show changes in brain wave activity, especially in the part of the brain called the amygdala – the emotional centre of the brain.
Mindfulness is now included within the National Institute of Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines as an effective way to prevent depression in adults who have had a history of three or more bouts of depression, how cool?!
So how can we begin to weave it into out day?
Remember, it’s a PRACTICE, that is it is something we consistently do and continue to do to experience its benefits.
TOP TIPS TO ENHANCE YOUR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
- Label thoughts and feelings
This can be a great way to separate yourself from your thoughts and acknowledge that they are exactly that – thoughts. Not fact.
- Bring your attention to the functions of your body e.g. body scan
Notice how your lungs move up and down when you breathe, and bring your attention to your heart beat whilst laying on a mat or on the bed. Notice how your body works for you every day, how it tells you when you are hungry and when you are full.
- Walk mindfully
Leave your headphones behind and take note of the sounds of spring! The birds chirping, the train passing by, the kids laughing at a distance… just notice what it feels like as your feet support you walking, the wind graces your face and the sun rays kiss your skin.
- Bring awareness to your thoughts or how you stand when doing the ‘mundane’ things such as brushing your teeth, washing your fruits and veggies
Notice what you are thinking or how your posture is when you engage in habits that are typically ‘mindless’ and effortless.
- Employ your five senses when mindfully eating
Notice what your food looks like (is it colourful? Beige?), smells like, sounds like, tastes like. What are the textures? Be present and savour your food.
At Embody Health London we incorporate various mindfulness exercises with our clients. If you want to learn more about our services and how we can support you towards optimaEnquire today!
Parmentier, F.B.R et al., 2019, Mindfulness and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in the General Population: The Mediating Roles of Worry, Rumination, Reappraisal and Suppression, Frontiers in Psychology https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00506
Alamount et al, 2019, Effectiveness of mindfulness based cognitive therapy on weight loss, improvement of hypertension and attentional bias to eating cues in overweight people. International Journal of Nursing Science, 27;7(1):35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnss.2019.12.010
Nijjar PS et al., 2019. Randomized Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Cardiac Patients Eligible for Cardiac Rehabilitation. Scientific Reports, 9(1):18415. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54932-2.
Loucks et al., 2019, Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction (MB-BP): Stage 1 single-arm clinical trial. PLoS ONE, 14(11):e0223095. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223095.
Naliboff BD et al., 2020. Mindfulness-based stress reduction improves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms via specific aspects of mindfulness. Neurogastrointestinal Motility, 7:e13828. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13828.
Bellosta-Batalla et al., 2020 Brief mindfulness session improves mood and increases salivary oxytocin in psychology students. Stress and Health. doi: 10.1002/smi.2942.