Mindfulness as an idea or approach to stress or pain management may be very new to us, but in fact it has been around for a very long time. Its roots are in the Buddhist practices of meditation that have been in use for approximately the past 2,500 years.
We in the West have become interested in these meditation approaches for about the last thirty years. In that time much research has been done into the effectiveness of meditation and mindfulness. This research has found that mindfulness meditation improves our ability to cope with stress and even pain; it improves our immune system and general health, as well as helping us feel calmer and more relaxed in our day to day activities. You would imagine that this may take the edge of our ability to work in a productive way but is fact research has shown that when we regularly practice mindful meditation our ability to work and creatively problem solve improves.
Mindfulness can be defined in many different ways. However, the common factor in any description of Mindfulness that you will find is the fact that it is a state of focused awareness of our inner and outer environment. Our inner environment includes our thoughts and feelings as well as physical sensations within the body. Our outer environment is everything that is going on around us – the sounds in the room and outside, the temperature, level of light, the presence or absence of others around you and even the more subtle things such as the shadow cast by the light or the gentle breeze that may be coming through the window.
Mindfulness as a type of meditation essentially involves focusing your mind on the present. To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts and actions in the present, without judging yourself. Mindfulness meditation is also known as insight because the intention is to gain insight as to the true nature of reality and in mindfulness meditation practice, every aspect of experience is welcomed and appreciated.
As a result of this ongoing research many doctors are beginning to advise meditation and mindfulness to patients for a variety of health issues, and many doctors are taking up the practice of meditation themselves. Also many of the programmes that health educators are now devising for people living with chronic stress and chronic illness such as Arthritis, Fibromyalgia & M.E. contain a module on mindfulness in some form.
The practice of mindfulness can be beneficial to all, young and old. It is simple to learn and quickly effective when practiced regularly. It costs nothing to practice, you need no tools or equipment, can be done anywhere and without drawing attention to yourself. So why not give it a try.