Frequently Asked Mindfulness Questions
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying non-judgement attention to your thoughts, feelings & sensations in the present moment. This increased awareness enables us to experience each moment fully, without becoming caught up in our busy minds. Practicing this beneficial way of being is the beginning of a journey towards greater happiness, wellbeing & life satisfaction.
What are the potential benefits of mindfulness practice?
A wide range of research studies have reported that regular mindfulness practice:-
* Helps us to respond more effectively to stress
* Improves emotional resilience & coping skills
* Reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, pain & insomnia
* Improves self-awareness & self-acceptance
* Helps us to respond more skilfully in difficult situations
* Improves communication & relationships
* Gives us clarity, better memory & concentration
* Improves academic & professional performance
How do you practise mindfulness?
Mindfulness practice has formal elements (meditation) & informal elements (shorter exercises to help us cope with difficult situations in daily life). Informal practice also means simply learning to be present, moment by moment, in everyday life. We need regular practice to build up mindfulness skills, but we should gradually start to feel the benefits in all areas of our lives. Whether practicing formally or informally, key elements are intention, attention & attitude. We begin with the intention to be mindful & adopt an attitude of openness & kindness as we pay attention to our present moment experience, whatever it contains.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Meditation is an important part of mindfulness practice & has been proven to change our brains at a neurological level. Regular practice strengthens parts of the brain responsible for concentration, memory & emotional regulation, as well as calming the areas responsible for the stress response. Mindfulness meditation is quite simple - we focus our attention on something to anchor us in the present moment (breath, physical sensations, sounds, etc.) Meditation is not about completely emptying your mind or pushing thoughts away. It is simply observing what is happening in the present moment, without judgement. It is normal for the mind to wander - we learn to simply catch it & gently bring it back to our focus.
You do not have to sit cross-legged to meditate. Nor do you have to do it for hours! Little & often can be a great way to start - as little as ten minutes a day can be very beneficial, although you may find that you want to sit for longer as you begin to feel the benefits. Meditations included in the workshops & 6 week course are all guided.
Is mindfulness suitable for people with mental health conditions?
Mindfulness is not a substitute for seeking support from your GP, counsellor or other qualified therapist in treating anxiety, depression or other mental health diagnosis. However, in many cases, it can be a great support when used alongside other types of treatment & therapy.
If you are undergoing intense mental distress at the moment (either due to mental illness or life crisis), I recommend that you wait until your moods are stable for a minimum of three months. It is not wise to begin learning mindfulness when in the middle of a crisis. Mindfulness practice works most effectively when we are in a place where we can commit to regular practice (that may include sitting with difficult thoughts and feelings). This regular practice can then support us with future difficulties that may arise. If you are under the care of a GP or mental health care provider, you will need to discuss your suitability with them. If now isn’t the right time, I run mindful yoga sessions which will still teach you the principles of mindfulness in a gentle way.
How is the 6 Week Mindfulness for Well-Being Course Structured?
During this highly practical course, you will learn the basic techniques of mindfulness in a small group (approximately 6 - 10 people). Courses give you the opportunity to experience techniques that you can apply to enhance all aspects of your daily life. We practice formal meditation techniques, short techniques to bring mindfulness into your everyday life & exercises to help you cope with difficult situations. We also discuss the evidence base behind the benefits of mindfulness.
The course contains the following key mindfulness techniques:-
* Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation
* Body Scan Meditation
* Compassion Meditation
* Mindful Movement
* Informal techniques to help you respond more skilfully in stressful situations
Developing compassion for ourselves & others is an important part of the course. This element - not always found in mindfulness courses - is a powerful addition to mindfulness & can enhance all areas of our lives.
How does your course compare to the MBSR course?
The excellent MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course is an 8 week intense course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. MBSR courses have a set structure & often have a large number of participants. The Breathe Calm course is less intense but still includes the key elements of the MBSR course. Because numbers are limited (usually 6 - 8 maximum), we can cover similar practical techniques & theory in a slightly shorter time frame. The smaller group size means that the material can be adapted to suit your individual needs so that you can get maximum benefit from the course. Small groups also mean that there is more time to share experiences & receive individual support. Please note that there is no pressure to participate in discussions, just listening to the experiences of others in a supportive environment can be very beneficial. Home practice is required on both the MBSR & Breathe Calm courses although requirements are slightly less intense on the Breathe Calm course. Home practice is an integral part of learning to integrate mindfulness into daily life.
Is the course suitable for everybody?
The course is designed to be helpful for general stress & anxiety but if you have been diagnosed with (or suspect you have) clinical depression, an anxiety disorder, severe emotional distress or other mental health condition, you should contact your GP to discuss your suitability for the course. You may be able to get a referral for support more suitable for you. If you’re unsure if these classes or workshops are right for you, please get in touch (any information given will be kept confidential).
How long will it take to feel the benefits of practicing mindfulness?
This is variable but there is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates notable benefits after eight weeks of regular practice. You may find that you are less reactive & more responsive in certain situations. Friends & family may notice changes first! Beginning to practice mindfulness can also be quite uncomfortable as you may notice just how busy your mind is, or become very aware of unhelpful behaviour patterns. This is an important part of the process - as you become more self-aware, you can make changes that will benefit all areas of your life. Compassion for yourself is very important at this stage & is an integral part of the 6 week course.
Are there Buddhist or religious aspects to the course?
This is a secular course with no religious elements. All types of backgrounds, cultures and faiths are welcome on the course. However, mindfulness it has roots in 2500 years of Eastern meditative traditions, particularly Buddhism. Although the course is taught without religious or cultural connotations, it may help you to develop a deepening sense of awareness, peace & connection with the world around you.