Debbie is one of a very few organisational development professionals in New Zealand who is also a qualified (Level one) mindfulness teacher, certified through the globally recognised programme delivered by MTIA Australia.
Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness allows you to focus on what you are experiencing in the moment, thoughts, body sensations and emotions, as well as what's happening in your environment, with an attitude of openness and perspective. Through practice, you will become more attuned to your direct experience with increased awareness. You will notice when you are dwelling on past or future events, and how emotions and impulses affect your decisions, relationships and behaviours, and have an increased awareness of your relationship with chronic pain and illness.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Mindfulness works on many levels: cognitive, emotional, neurological and behavioural. In recent years, research in neuroscience has made compelling discoveries about the brain’s capacity to grow and change, including empirical proof that mindfulness helps to create new pathways in the brain that increase our ability to be more positive and creative. Research has found that people on an eight week evidence based mindfulness programme increased density of grey matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy. Mindfulness also has been proven to help us better manage chronic pain and illness.
HOW DO I BUILD UP A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE?
The best way to experience the benefits of mindfulness, is to try it out for yourself and see what happens. Here are some starter exercises you might like to explore, as well as some great books to read to find out more.
This is a very effective technique to settle the mind on the go and only takes one minute! Time one minute and count the number of breaths you normally take. Then you can count to this number of breaths in any situation to help bring your attention to the breath and the present moment.
1. Stop and become aware of your breathing
2. Follow your breath in and out, counting.
3. Rest your mind on your belly or your chest or at your nostrils.
4. Just be aware as you breathe in and aware as you breathe out for one minute.
THREE STEP BREATHING SPACE
This is an extended version of the mindful minute.
STEP 1: BECOMING AWARE
Turn your attention inwards and start by bringing your awareness to what is here right now. Closing your eyes can be helpful.
What thoughts are going through the mind? What feelings are here?
What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness etc, acknowledging the sensations, but not trying to necessarily change them in any way.
STEP 2: GATHERING AND FOCUSING ATTENTION
Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath
Move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out.
Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present.
And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.
STEP 3: EXPANDING ATTENTION
Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing.
If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right in to the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations.
In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.
Turn your attention outwards
PHYSICAL PAIN OR UNCOMFORTABLE BODY SENSATIONS
Adapted from a handout of the Center for Mindfulness, UMass.
It is not unusual to feel pain in the body – maybe a backache, pain from a chronic illness or even a headache. It is also not unusual to try to ignore these sensations by taking medication to mask these uncomfortable experiences. The body holds a lot of information, so when you feel pain, usually this means that your body is trying to tell you something. It is vital that you start paying attention. The next time you experience pain in your body, try the following steps.
The nature of the body can only be understood as a whole, for it is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the soul from the body.
Not all mindfulness programmes are created equal! The very successful and well researched MBSR Mindfulness programme developed by Professor Jon Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, is widely considered the global gold standard for mindfulness training, given it has 30 years of evidence based research to support its benefits.
MBSR is typically eight weeks long, research suggest it takes eight weeks for behavioural, emotional and neurological changes to stick. BlueSkyMinds offer programmes in New Zealand (contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org) also Openground offer a MBSR courses all over Australia and online.
At Everyday Nutrition, Joanna combines the very latest in nutrition science with extensive medical experience, enabling her clients to develop practical everyday strategies that will optimise health and well-being.
Joanna aims to empower people to make the most of life and learn what new foods they can enjoy, rather then feeling like they are missing out.
Food for thought