What is Mindfulness?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a skill, the skill of noticing in a kindly way our experience, just as it is, in this moment.  If we know this, then we can perhaps choose how best to look after ourselves and those around us, to decide how best to respond rather than react mindlessly. 

Mindfulness is also called heartfulness because at the core of all meditation exercises is a strong sense of compassion and kindness, to ourselves and to those around us.

Where does it come from?

Aspects of mindfulness are found in many different religions especially Buddhism.

Modern, secular mindfulness took shape largely through the work of Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre where the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course was designed and clinically tested.

Since then various other mindfulness treatments have been subject to full scientific scrutiny and proven to be effective such as the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy which is now recommended for those with a history of three or more episodes of depression by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

How can Mindfulness support children?

Research, although at an early stage in respect of children, has already indicated that regular mindfulness practice can improve mental wellbeing and resilience.

It has, for example, the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, to bring greater calmness and relaxation, as well as improve sleep.  It has also been demonstrated to help young people to be more ‘focused, (to) improve working memory and enhance problem solving.’* *Weare, K. (2012) Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People. University of Exeter.

Regular mindfulness not only supports the learning process, but also allows the development of more effective self-regulation and the opportunity for children to become kinder to themselves and to those around them.

Indeed, encouraging research is also being undertaken currently on the beneficial aspect of mindfulness in respect of autism and ADHD. Singh et al. (2011)  A mindfulness-based strategy for self-management of aggressive behaviour in adolescents with autism. Dr. Lidia Zylowska, Mindfulness Meditation Training in Adults and Adolescents in 2008.

How can Mindfulness support Staff?

Mindfulness has also been demonstrated to enhance the “well-being and resilience of staff”, with benefits including: “Improved staff well-being, job satisfaction, better performance and reduced stress-related sickness.” Wellbeing and Performance of School Staff’’ by Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor, Universities of Exeter and Southampton.

Indeed regular meditators are:

  • happier and more content.
  • enjoy better and more fulfilling relationships.
  • stress, anxiety, depression and irritability decrease.
  • the immune system is boosted.
  • mental and physical stamina increase.
  • Memory improves. Mindfulness: A practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. 2011. M Williams, D Penman. Piatkus. 2011

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