The University of Nottingham has embarked on some research on the potential benefits of mindfulness on overall mental wellbeing in young people.
This brings to attention the very interesting and ancient practice of Mindfulness which has a growing following and focus these days. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist practices and in particular the Anapanasati Sutta. This specifically concerns mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation, as a part of paying attention to one's body in quietude. Modern mindfulness practices are defined as "the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment". In short, being fully absorbed in and attentive to the here and now, and whatever you are doing in a given moment in time.
The keywords here are ‘intentional’ and ‘attentive’. Have you ever done that? Have you ever intentionally given yourself over completely to the moment? We all frequently get absorbed or overwhelmed by the moment but usually in the context of an activity or particular experience - when we are afraid, highly aroused, fully focused on an activity. During such times we forget to be bothered by other things, things that would normally stress us, worry us or weigh us down. But this has nothing to do with mindfulness – this is forgetfulness. This is forgetting about ourselves as we are overwhelmed by emotions or an experience. I recently went on ‘Mumbo Jumbo' at Flamingoland. As I hurtled around the 110 degree bends I wasn’t wondering about the ironing that needed doing. Nor was I observing myself. I reacted and tried to survive!
Mindfulness is a deliberate focus. It can require effort as our minds, initially at least, will wander, race, dart from topic to topic. Mindfulness is about ‘noticing’ that. Observing it, bringing it back to the here and now. This can be difficult as it is the antithesis of modern living and way of being. And the very act of doing it leads to a ‘new state’, physiological changes in the body, in our breathing, heart rate and so on. And if we are non-judgmental, friendly and kind to ourselves this can have wide ranging benefits. Mindful eating can help to combat obesity for example. Paying attention to things, noticing them and studying them also empowers us – we stop reacting and start observing and learning and taking control.
Have you ever studied your pain? When Milton Erickson treated patients with chronic pain, he often asked them to describe in exact detail the nature of the pain, to study it and analyse it – the location, whether it had a colour or shape, the intensity, whether the intensity changed, whether it moved, whether it reduced and so on. This had at least two purposes – the language used often helped him to understand that persons relationship with their pain, but, also, when you begin to study and focus all your attention on pain it’s character can change, as can its impact on you.
Hypnotherapy is a form of mindfulness. It often begins with a focus on breathing, on your body, on the here and now and on a journey – a journey to where you want to be, and how you want to be.