What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is something I added to Derval.ie at the end of 2020. Members have really resonated with it. I’ve put this blog together to tell you all you need to know. 

Mindfulness Is:

  • A way to wake up to our present experience; thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body.
  • An ability to reserve judgement on our situations, rather than becoming our own biggest critic.
  • A way to increase the space between us and our thoughts, helping us to engage only with the ones that are useful.
  • A lesson in how to embrace all emotions, removing the stress of trying to “fix” or change them.
  • A way to change how we relate to stress, and improve our perception of how we’re able to handle it. 
  • An approach that teaches us how to choose wise responses and informed decisions.

Scientific Benefits of Mindfulness:
The evidence base for mindfulness has exploded in recent years. While it’s not a fix-all, and should not replace professional mental health support if needed, the research shows that courses of mindfulness can help to prevent the relapse of recurrent depression and reduce anxiety, as well as improving various aspects of physical health and the immune system.

Some of the tangible changes that have been demonstrated after a course of mindfulness include:

  • Physical changes in the brain – increased size of the areas associated with emotional regulation and problem solving, decreased size of the area associated with stress and fear.
  • Reduction in cortisol levels in saliva samples, a hormone indicative of stress levels.
  • A positively statistically significant difference in pre-post tests to measure stress, burnout, depression, wellbeing and empathy.

How to Practice Mindfulness:
You can practice mindfulness either formally, through setting time aside to meditate, or informally by incorporating it into your day. You can also attempt to incorporate a blend of both.

If you decide to practice it formally, it helps to create a comfortable space to do so, either in a supportive arm chair, or even on your bed. 

Make the environment nourishing in whatever way feels right for you, within the parameters of possibility. A busy house is not always silent, but that is OK too. You can meditate with eyes closed, or with a soft gaze. You can also meditate sitting or lying (or even standing if you wish!). Your mindfulness practice can be carried out without any audio guidance, or you can use a guided meditation to aid you. If practicing mindfulness informally, choose activities that you’re doing anyway and scaffold your mindfulness onto them. This means that you’re not excessively growing your to-do list, and adding to existing stress. 

Dr. Michelle O’Driscoll & I have developed a mindfulness journal – “The Pause”, which has tips & tools to help you practice mindfulness in your busy day-to-day life.  Read more about The Pause here.