WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

WHAT-IS-MINDFULNESS-Organic-Coconut

by Sarah Choyce, Wellbeing Consultant at Wellness Assist

Mindfulness appears to be a bit of buzz word at the moment…do you agree? Sure it’s out there, but do you actually know what it means and what the phenomenal benefits of it are? (ok, I should probably declare now that I’m convinced it is a vital skill, read on, to find out why!)

To break it down, mindfulness is really just about attention and attitude.

In fact, the definition is:

‘a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.’ (Psychology Today)

Being mindful allows us to access all the resources our amazing brains are capable off, think creativity and flexibility to get you started.

Practicing mindfulness helps us to protect our amygdala – the part of our brain that initiates stress and the part responsible for our ‘fight or flight response’ Basically, when we are stressed, the amygdala is firing all the time. So in chronic stress states, the amygdala actually becomes fatigued and it literally ages us!! I don’t know about you, but for me, I don’t think that’s ok, especially when we can do something about it!!? Enter mindfulness.

Another important piece of information here is what a telomere is. Telomeres hold our DNA together – as we age, they get shorter – so researchers have found that telomeres are actually a measure of physiological age. Why is this relevant? Mindfulness actually has the ability to make said telomeres longer.

Completely off track, but fabulous all the same – telomeres were discovered by an Australian-American lady named Elizabeth Blackburn, she won a Nobel Prize for her research in 2009(!)

Mindfulness has been applied in many studies in the areas of mental health, neuroscience, clinical studies, focus and performance and has resulted in improved relationships both personally and professionally for its adopters.

The more I know about mindfulness, the more I’m fascinated, and also the more I feel like it has to be in my life – I mean really, what sort of health professional would I be if I didn’t walk my talk?!

Mindfulness is:

  • about taming the inner critic
  • capable of changing our brains and
  • it is about erasing the should and shouldn’t’s and accepting what is. Please don’t misunderstand this point – it’s not about letting the world pass you by, but rather training yourself to think in a way that reduces unhelpful stress.

Mindfulness isn’t:

  • Difficult nor does it have to be time consuming.
  • About needing a retreat or even a quiet place – you can do it on the run so you can enjoy your busy life without a busy mind.
  • Something we do once and the world is perfect. It is a skill to be practiced – so when the challenging times come – as they inevitably will – you can be the one who is cool in the crisis!

With my nursing background, of course, awhile ago, I needed more answers, or I guess, definite proof that it really worked. I didn’t have to look far. The icing on the cake was that I recently got to hear Associate Professor Craig Hassed speak (he actually visited Toowoomba). Craig is a Senior Lecturer and Mindfulness Co-ordinator at the Department of General Practice at Monash University. He further convinced me that mindfulness could actually, pretty much be the new running (everyone’s doing it these days, aren’t they?). He also called it life’s most important life skill – WOW!! A man of that standing, and he’s saying that mindfulness is a fundamental life skill, that really got my attention!

With that as my closing statement, I think my opinion is clear and that the verdict is in, mindfulness is here to stay! At the end of the day though, it’s what you think that really matters! Here are some tips for bringing mindfulness to your life….

Try doing less:

Complex Multitasking – it is actually a misnomer (impossible) – humans cannot sustain focus on two different tasks – there is a ‘gap’, called an ‘attentional blink’ when we switch from one task to another – this is the reason why there are laws about texting and driving a motor vehicle!

Mind wandering – catch yourself when your mind is elsewhere – by ‘being’ where we are, we are able to fully engage in that environment and enjoy it for what it is.

People pleasing – whilst nobody wants to disappoint, we need to ensure we make time for ourselves (I know there are circumstances where this isn’t easy, but truly, it is self-preservation – we all need some ‘refresh’ time)

Try doing more:

Appreciating your surroundings – when you stop and look around, life is pretty amazing! We are so lucky to live where we do – make the most of it!

Practicing gratitude – a simple mindful task is thinking of three things you are grateful for each day – when we focus on the good stuff – we don’t give time or energy to the not so great situations in our lives.

The final word – mindfulness is a form of training, and as with any training, it needs to be consistent to see the cumulative effects. The good part is that even after 6-8 weeks you can expect to see noticeable results.

There is an fabulous app called ‘Smiling Mind’ – I would recommend that this is a great place to start if you are considering adding mindfulness to your skill base (psst, I suggest you do!)

Sarah Choyce – Wellbeing Consultant at Wellness Assist

Sarah is a passionate health advocate and has been a Registered Nurse for well over a decade. Though the services of Wellness Assist, she loves empowering people and groups to make sustainable good health a priority. See more of what is important to Sarah and Wellness Assist at www.facebook.com/wellnessassist.

‘Organic Coconut is an online health food store and healthy living blog based in Queensland, Australia. Specialising in Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Coconut Foods and Natural Body Products, the team behind Organic Coconut aim to help you improve your mood, heal your body and enhance your life through an integrative approach.’

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