You may think about wellbeing in terms of what you have: your income, home or car, or your job. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on wellbeing.
Becoming more aware of the present moment means noticing the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that you experience, as well as the thoughts and feelings that occur from one moment to the next.
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings.Sometimes also called “present centredness”, it can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better.
Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, as opposed to focusing on the past or the future, using techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga.
Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they’re better able to manage them. Practising mindfulness can give more insight into emotions, boost attention and concentration, and improve relationships.
Mindfulness is relevant to all ages and there are different ways to practice mindfulness. Groups, and online courses, are available where you can learn through self directed practice at home. You can also practice without religious beliefs.
Mindfulness and mental health
Mindfulness is a suitable approach to manage mental ill health as well as for those who want to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
Mindfulness meditation can help people in different ways. Evidence shows support for approaches such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which helps people to cope with stress, and for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which may help people with recurring depression. They provide a flexible set of skills to manage mental health and support wellbeing.
The evidence for mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect how the brain works and even its structure. People undertaking mindfulness training have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotion, the pre frontal cortex, which is generally less active in people who are depressed.
More than 100 studies have shown changes in brain wave activity during meditation and researchers have found that areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation are larger in people who have meditated regularly for five years.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive behaviour therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression.
It’s clear that work still needs to be done to increase the availability of mindfulness as an effective intervention, however its popularity is gaining momentum as it becomes more common in the nations dialogue.
Evidence shows that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy can, on average, reduce the risk of relapse for people who experience recurrent depression by 43%. Research also suggests that it’s particularly effective for vulnerable groups who are more likely to relapse (J Williams et al, “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Relapse in Recurrent Depression: A Randomized Dismantling Trial”, 2013.). As a psychosocial approach to staying well, it is a cost effective and accessible treatment for individuals and providers (M Williams and W Kuyken, “Mindfulness based cognitive therapy: a promising new approach to preventing depressive relapse”, 2012).
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction aims to address prolonged periods of stress which can lead to poor mental and physical health.
The approach incorporates different techniques including meditation, gentle yoga and mind body exercise. It has been developed and studied since the 1970s for its impact on mental health.
Mindfulness in the workplace has been popularised by a number of global companies including Google however among smaller businesses mindfulness is not yet widespread however RAMH are an active participant and encourage staff and service users to use mindfulness in their daily routines