Mindfulness refers to the ability to be present and in this moment. Where else would you be you might ask? However if you take a moment to reflect on your typical train of thought throughout the day, you will probably discover a whole host of thoughts about the past or the future interrupt every moment.
The skill which we are focusing on here is to enhance awareness of the moment we are in by keeping our minds from wondering off. Mindfulness is a powerful tool to re-training your elephant, which as you know means you can stop old habits and develop new habits. Research has shown that mindfulness practice produces benefits in as little as two weeks.
The skills of mindfulness have been practiced for thousands of years in many different religious rituals and practices. However to master mindfulness and reap its benefits you do not need to be a master of meditation or take up yoga. You do not need to meditate for hours on end either. A small amount of time as often in the day as you can manage is all it takes to gain the benefits.
The benefits of practicing mindfulness are:
Give it a go. Try this exercise.
Pick up a small portion of your favourite food. Take a moment to look at it. Pick it up, view it from different angles. Smell the aroma. Hold it in your hand feel its texture. Is it hard or squishy? Is it juicy or dry. After you have spent a few moments really looking at it. Pop it in your mouth and roll it round your mouth. Think about how it tastes and it’s texture. Try this every time you have a meal for the next 30 days. Take a moment to really taste your food!
The video below is a talk given by Sara Lazar. She is a neuroscientist in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, who researches meditation.
She took non-meditators and gave them brain scans then gave them a 8 week meditation class. Scan showed increases in hippocampus (centre for memory and emotion regulation) and temporal-parietal junction (just above ear) perspective taking and empathy. She also noticed a reduction in the size of the amygdala (center for fight or flight area). Subjects reported improvements in their stress levels and memory but scans showed a physical change in their brains as well.
[Sara W. Lazar, PhD is a neuroscientist in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School.]