Mindfulness is paying deliberate attention to things as they are without judgement. We spend much of the day on automatic pilot going through the motions while our minds are anticipating the future or ruminating about the past. Being absorbed in the constant stream of “noise” in our head does not allow us to participate and appreciate fully what is happening in the moment affecting how we interact with others, perform and experience the here and now.
Mindfulness has proven benefits for health and wellbeing. The 8 Week Mindfulness Course was originally developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre to teach meditation techniques in a non-religious, effective and person centred way to reduce physical symptoms made worse by stress, anxiety and depression. Any condition involving chronic pain, fatigue, low mood, headaches, digestive problems and inflammation (including various skin conditions) is made worse by the physical impact of stress. Stress can become chronic itself without the presence of illness when we are in a cycle of constant worry, anxiety or just by being busy all the time. This chronic stress, once ingrained, cannot simply be shut off by telling ourselves to relax nor is it practical to “give it all up”.
Mindfulness teaches you to take time each day to programme the mind away from the chronic stress-inducing thought patterns that can be so damaging. Each of the 8 weeks builds on the previous to develop the skills needed to rewire the brain to not set off the constant stress response to the slightest trigger. This rewiring of the brain has been shown on functional MRI scans to occur after only 4 weeks of practise and the benefits felt are directly related to the time spent doing mindfulness. Slowly you will start to notice you feel calmer, less reactive and more attentive. Symptoms made worse by stress may start to feel less prominent and you can focus more on noticing and appreciating the things around you with all the benefits that come with this.
The long term effects of chronic stress, anxiety and depression has become a recent focus of medical research with regards to how it affects our health in later life. Chronic depression, anxiety and stress have all been identified as independent risk factors for heart disease and Alzheimers. Although mindfulness is known to effectively reduce stress, anxiety and depression in the short term, studies are now underway to determine if people who practice mindfulness are mentally and physically healthier in later life.
Mindfulness is also being taught in schools. Teenagers who have been taught mindfulness through a 6 week programme still used the mindfulness practices and demonstrated greater wellbeing (as compared to before learning mindfulness) at a 3 month follow-up. A much larger study through Oxford University is now investigating if teenagers taught mindfulness are less likely to develop mental health problems than teens who were not taught mindfulness. This is a big and complex study that will take several years to complete.
Mindfulness has been applied to many health conditions to reduce the suffering and improve the wellbeing of the people affected. In particular, it is being taught to people undergoing treatment for cancer, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia with good results. At the core of this is learning mindfulness through the basic 8 week Mindfulness for Health and Wellbeing Course. If you would like to attend an Mindfulness Session to learn more about mindfulness (recommended) or to book straight on to an 8 week course please contact us to book.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, the website Be Mindful is a great resource.
What people say:
“Having been a bit sceptical about the whole idea of mindfulness, thinking it was something airy-fairy and hippyish, I have had my opinion completely changed since taking the 8 week course. I now actually think everyone should do the course whether they are young, old, stressed or content with their lot. It’s helped me understand how my mind works and how I can have more control, be more ‘mindful’ in effect, over my mind and my approach to life itself. It’s left me calmer, happier and better equipped to handle everything that life throws at you.” June 2018
“Learning mindfulness has been fascinating. On the one hand, it feels at first like you are doing nothing. Yet you’re reprogramming your brain, out of old, bad habits, and into better, more positive ways of viewing events and responding to emotions, and dealing with ‘stuff’. I’ve felt a better sense of calm within, and it’s a tool/method that I can use wherever and whenever I may be. It is important because there are so many activities / therapies you can sign up to help your body, but mindfulness is one for your brain.” December 2017
“I have really enjoyed this 8 week course. Debbie is so welcoming and creates a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where you feel comfortable expressing yourself. The course is great and it has been so useful learning some tools to use for whenever I might feel anxious or overwhelmed. It has made me realise how much I ‘live in my head’ and shown me the importance and benefits of being aware and present in everyday life! Highly recommended!” March 2017
“It’s like seeing the world change from black and white to colour!” April 2017
“I have suffered from yo-yoing depression / anxiety for many years even though I managed to hold down senior demanding careers but to the detriment of my health. I have been on various medications of varying strength but they did not improve my high anxiety or mood. I started the course, recommended by a friend, as something to fill a day and get out of the house but I was not expecting the gradual effect, week by week, of the power of mindfulness knowledge and the CBT topics we covered. It has made such an impact on my equilibrium and I have managed to decrease my medication (GP supported) with no negative effects. I would do the course again.” December 2017
“This has been a hugely insightful course. Debbie has covered material in a very calm and non-judgemental way and really helped to open my mind. I hadn’t appreciated how my mind wanders and how busy my thoughts are and how exhausting this is. This course is for anyone who wants to reconnect with themselves, appreciate what a good job they are doing and to start to begin to live more for the moment. Thank you Debbie for a great course.” participant with PTSD, March 2017
“Mindfulness helps me to clear my mind and get to sleep more quickly. I sleep more deeply after I practise it in the evening.” April 2017
“Having suffered a heart attack and consequently looking at ways of dealing with stress, I have found the mindfulness course run by Debbie to be very helpful and effective. I cannot thank you enough! It has changed my approach to so many aspects of my life; from eating to cycling. It enabled me to experience them afresh, by clearing away all the mental clutter which so often obscures the rich colour and beauty in life. April 2017
“It has been life changing and completely surprised me at how valuable it is to changing the way I think and insight into my own lifestyle and behaviours. I am amazed at how being more aware I am now at being in the moment than just constantly DOING and STRIVING! My headaches have improved hugely and I am less tired and just generally enjoy life more! I have made changes in my lifestyle as a result and in how I approach different things / people. Thanks so much Debbie – it has and continues to be an enormous asset in my life (and I didn’t think I needed it!)” April 2017
“The course has helped me to relax and in turn has had a positive effect on my sleep pattern. I also think when I’m in uncomfortable situations I do try not to have a negative reaction when things get tough. Have started noticing and appreciating everyday things around me and take the time to stop and enjoy them.” November 2017
“I have a long history of overthinking, automatic pilot, anxiety and depression. This has helped me take time to stop and put things in perspective. I now have a routine which helps enormously with work and relationship perspectives. I still need a lot of practise but it has already changed my life. I had no idea I could focus my thoughts and mind that way.” March 2018
Please read these testimonials from people who have attended a Simply Mindfulness course