Minfulness and its benefits

Silhouette of a brain in a head side profile
What’s going on in there? Image CC from Openclipart by Laobc

I’ve noticed recently that there is increasing talk about mindfulness, even within mainstream media and non-yoga places. For example, in my other job (the full-time one!), I am on Twitter and a learning technology professor tweeted a link to some new mindfulness research findings, and suggested that savvy companies and organisations were picking up on the importance of mindfulness for their employees and the benefits it can bring to the workplace. The article is is published on a human resources website.

So what is meant by mindfulness? My interpretation of its most basic element is that you have a full mind, but full on one thing. You are mindful (careful, focused), on the one thing that you’re doing at that point in time. Generally when you learn about mindfulness you start by focusing on the breath or the body. Later you can apply it to your daily life, focusing specifically on the task you are doing.

What are the benefits of this? Well, according to human research studies, mindfulness meditation can structurally alter the brain, with beneficial results. The article references studies which found that it can cause structural differences in the brainstem region concerned with cardio-respiratory control, which suggests benefits like improved immune responses, positive effects on breathing and heart rate. Meditators also display changes in the cerebral cortex linked to making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories and improving attention. And changes in the hippocampal which lead to more positive emotions, emotional stability and more mindful behaviour. Mindfulness has also been found to lead to less negative self-talk, less anxiety, increased ability to screen out distractions, increased compassion and empathy, and less stress,

These changes are good for all people, but if employers encourage their employees to practice mindfulness there could well be beneficial outcomes in terms of focus, attention and performance in work.

As the article says: “The trick is to do it regularly and to build the ‘mindfulness muscle.’ That is when benefits spill over into personal and work life.”

Want to know more? Read about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of this specific approach.

Or, if you are in Aberystwyth you could take a new 8-week mindfulness course which is starting in January 2014. No prior experience is necessary, it’s non-secular and open to all. More information on the local meditation group’s new website.

There is also a short article dispelling seven myths of meditation on the Elephant Journal website.

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