ohn Barter is a practicing Psychologist and Director of Sydney-based health practice, Well-Aware-Ness Psychology. He is also a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and former Buddhist Monk.
By helping us connect more consciously to our experiences of life, Mindfulness can often create a mental calm and clarity that can potentially reduce stress, enhance health, increase energy, and help us feel happy and at ease with our self and others.
Best of all, Mindfulness is a practice we can include as part of our everyday lives.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an approach to life that Buddhists have practiced and developed for more than 2,500 years, but it is only in the past decade that this approach has moved from ‘monastery’ to more mainstream arenas.
Mindfulness, as the term denotes, is a mind – fullness with a deliberate mental attention and awareness. Mindfulness is ‘coming to our senses’ both metaphorically and literally, both externally and internally – as it happens, ‘here and now’.
Mindfulness for health
Mindfulness techniques have been shown to assist in the management and reduction of stress that we often feel in our day to day lives. Stress can be a key factor that reduces our ability to function, flow and flourish.
Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol can potentially be reduced by practicing Mindfulness, while the helpful hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) can be enhanced.
With less muscular stress and tension, there can be greater ability for our heart to pump blood and healing hormones through our body and it can be easier for our lungs to oxygenate our blood, body and brain.
Mindfulness for mental calm and clarity
By aiming to create a sense of mental calm and clarity, Mindfulness can help us avoid being caught up in thoughts and ruminations which drive stress, fear and worry. With some ‘mental breathing space’ we can mindfully choose the particular thoughts, mental states, emotions and behaviours that we wish to engage and enhance.
We can also mindfully choose to disengage and drop those thoughts, mental states, emotions and behaviours that are not so helpful to our self or others.
Mindfulness becomes the way in which we can consciously create and condition helpful and meaningful ways of simply ‘being’, while deconditioning and decommissioning the unhelpful and often self-limiting ways of being.
The main approach to developing our capacity to be mindful is in two principal areas:
1. It is primarily developed through the exercise of meditation.
2. It is subsequently also developed and strengthened through everyday Mindfulness, which means being more aware and focused on our day to day present experience.
Mindfulness Meditation involves directing and developing attention to a meditation object such as the sensation of our natural and normal breathing ‘in and out’ technique, as it is felt at the nose, chest or abdomen.
Practiced on a regular basis it helps to exercise our brain’s ability to be consciously present and not distracted or disturbed by superfluous thoughts, ideas or memories, as well as other external sensory stimulus.
Through continued regular practice, Mindfulness Meditation can lead to enhanced mental calm and clarity, as well as emotional stability and greater self-awareness.
Everyday Mindfulness can be exercised and enhanced by being more conscious of simple activities. For example, by connecting consciously we can focus on actions such as ‘just walking while walking’, ‘just eating while eating’, ‘just cleaning while cleaning’, or ‘just cooking while cooking’. It can help to ‘transform the ordinary into the extraordinary’ simply by being present and doing things with
Mindfulness and care.
This practice of everyday Mindfulness can help create a conscious connection to what we are doing and can help bring a mental calm, clarity and presence. In this way, Mindfulness may enhance both the experience and the resulting outcome of all that we do in our day to day lives.
The X Factor
In today’s frantic and frenetic world, it gives more reason for people to look to techniques such as Mindfulness to help add that ‘X Factor’ to living well and being well.
Not only can it help with how you cope with everyday life and its varying challenges, it can also help you to be more aware of yourself, your body, as well as your environment.
By focusing on the present, connecting consciously and enjoying just ‘being’ in life as it is now, Mindfulness can provide a powerful tool that we can use every day to help manage our stress more effectively.