8 Nov 2013

I've been hearing a lot about mindfulness recently. To be honest I hadn't known anything about it or even been aware of what it was until a few months ago when a number of friends and acquaintances started telling me (with great enthusiasm) all about the mindfulness courses they were on and the benefits they were getting.

But I still wasn't that much interested until I heard that Mindfulness is being used very successfully to treat depression. Of course, I started listening then.

So apologies if you are all way ahead of me here already and know everything I'm about to say.

Although based in the concept of mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition, it can be practised independently of religion. Mindfulness is defined as the art of 'Paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment without making judgements'. Immediately we can see how anchoring ourselves in the present moment will automatically prevent our minds from sliding down the well-known habits and tracks of thoughts to those dark places (usually focussed on the past or future, very rarely in the now) which bring us right down.

There's a very interesting video by Mark Williams (Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University) on YouTube on the science of mindfulness. Apparently, regular and sustained practice of the discipline really does affect the physical construction of the brain, separating the part of the brain that experiences events with the part that makes up stories about them. I can see how that would be really useful.

With this in mind, I resolved to be more mindful in my daily walk home from the bus stop – and it's extraordinarily difficult! Not the least of my problems was dragging my brain back from this blog I was planning to write on the subject of mindfulness...

But I have to report on the basis of a couple of experiments that, yes, colours seemed brighter, the air fresher, I noticed things I'd never noticed before, and opened the front door feeling really charged up and ready for the day. So I think I'll start to learn more and add another skill to the depression fighting toolbox.

Now I wonder if someone has written a "Mindfulness for Dummies" book...

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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