Today, Mindfulness can be found everywhere, from schools to prisons to corporations to sports teams. One of the people to thank for bringing it into the mainstream, is Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR is an eight-week course, with over four decades of scientific research behind it. It is widely considered the gold-standard for mindfulness training.
MBSR began at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) Medical School, where Kabat-Zinn was a professor of medicine.
He took a modern, scientific-based viewpoint to traditional Buddhist principles and practices of Mindfulness and meditation. He developed a clinical, evidence-based approach to reducing stress. It was Kabat-Zinn’s scientific approach that inspired me to travel to the US to train as an MBSR teacher at UMASS.
There are virtually no barriers to the application of mindfulness. If you have a mind, you can be mindful. And if you’ve lost your mind, even more reason to practice mindfulness!
Mindfulness is a state of deliberate, non-judgmental focus in the present moment.
You can practice informally (being aware of sounds and sights as you’re walking around for instance), or formally (by practicing mindfulness meditation). The line between mindfulness and mindfulness meditation is somewhat blurry; I like to keep it simple. I define formal practice as anything that is 10 minutes or more, and informal practice anything less than 10 minutes.
What is meditation?
Meditation practice is a great tool that hosts a variety of benefits: it can reduce stress and anxiety, enhance self-awareness, allow you to stay present, improve sleep and decrease blood pressure (just to name a few 😉). Read our Meditation for beginners blog to find out more.
Meditation includes the following components:
Awareness and focus – Being attuned to what is happening in the present moment, including sights, sounds, tastes, smells, physical sensations or thoughts you might otherwise overlook.
Acceptance – Accepting whatever it is you might be feeling or thinking, without judging it, changing it, or changing your reaction to it.
Observation – Recognising unpleasant sensations, thoughts, and feelings as temporary and fleeting, observing them objectively without reaction or judgment.
Why is mindfulness important?
1. You don’t immediately react.
Instead, you take a moment to pause and then use your rational mind to come up with the best solution.
2. You become more aware of your thoughts.
This awareness allows you to step back from your thoughts and not take them so literally. That way, your fight-or-flight response will not be initiated in the first place.
3. You have greater focus.
You’re able to complete your work more efficiently, and you’re more likely to get into “the zone” or “flow”.
4. You can shift your attitude to the stressor.
Rather than just looking at the negative consequences of the stressor, mindfulness offers you the space to think differently about the situation itself.
5. You are more sensitive to the needs of your body.
You may notice tension and pain earlier and can then take appropriate action. Deep breaths is a great way to feel this.
6. You become more aware of the emotions of others.
Your emotional intelligence rises, and you become less likely to get into conflict. Your thoughts and emotions become better as your emotional regulation is strong.
7. You have an increased level of care and compassion for yourself and others.
This compassionate mind calms you and inhibits your fight-or-flight response.
8. It turns on your “being” mode of mind.
Your “being” mode is associated with the rest-and-digest response, whereas your “doing” mode is associated with the fight-or-flight response.
9. It reduces activity in the amygdala.
The amygdala is the part of your brain central to switching on your fight-or-flight response.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
There are many benefits of mindfulness once you begin to meditate daily. It can assist stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia and high blood pressure. It can also improve attention, improve sleep and decrease job burnout. It is also important to note the positive impact mindfulness can have upon your physical health.
Each one of us experiences stress in our everyday lives, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. There are many different ways to address our stress and overwhelm. Personally, Mindfulness is the technique that carries the most additional benefits.
Mindfulness not only addresses the stress that is currently in your life – it will also help you defend against future stress. A daily mindfulness practice, even for a few minutes a day, will support you in creating a deep and lasting sense of peace.
How to practice mindfulness?
There are many ways to practice, here are a few techniques you can try:
Try to take the time and focus on your senses from touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. Next time you prepare a meal, sit down with no distractions and try to savour every single bite!
Live in the moment
Try to be present and enjoy the simple things in life as they come your way. This is a great way to practice if you are new to practicing mindfulness.
Treat yourself the way you would treat a close friend or family member. Think about how you treat yourself and ask the question, would I act the same way towards a friend or family member?
This is a bit different to traditional sitting down meditation or a guided meditation but try find a quiet place perhaps 20-50m in length and focus on the experience of walking. Focus on your steps, focus on your breath, the sounds, sensations and your balance. Once you reach the end of the path, turn around and continue walking.
Do it your way – whether you love cardio, lifting weights, group workouts, visit our latest blog to find out more techniques that you can start including in your health and wellness routine.
Whilst mindfulness and meditation are important, there are also so many other things you can do to feel your best and achieve a healthy body and healthy mind. Why not visit our Recipes section to add a few to your grocery shop this week, good food = good mood, right!? Wherever you are on your journey, Anytime Fitness is here to support you every step of the way!
What are the 3 qualities of mindfulness?
Awareness and Focus
Does mindfulness help mental health?
Daily practice, even for a few minutes a day, will support you in creating a deep and lasting sense of peace. Try starting mindfulness practice 10 minutes everyday, and slowly increase.
How do I include mindfulness in my everyday life?
Start small and slowly work your way up! You can practice mindfulness first thing in the morning after you wake up, or before bedtime.
Written by Chibs Okereke, Stress & Burnout Specialist, MSc Organisational Psychology, PG Dip, BA (Hons), Accredited Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher, Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School
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