Why all this Mindfulness talk…..now?
It seems that the Mindfulness conversation is everywhere.
Why now, I wonder? After all, Jon Kabat Zinn PhD., a microbiologist, started his research in 1979. He initiated a weekly practice with patients from the Massachusetts Medical Center, which he called Stress Reduction. He quickly discovered how powerful and effective mindfulness practice is. Yet it seems to have taken almost 30 years to become well known.
Could it be that we have to run faster and faster to keep up with life? We are constantly connected and have to respond. There is very little down time, if any. People have to eat fast, walk fast, talk fast and even sleep fast.
Stress and Anxiety have increased. Young people, children even, feel anxious and stressed. If, in addition, you also grew up with parents who generated anxiety in you…..well, then you are just a mess.
So, I think, we have reached a place of desperation. Desperate for some calm, some peace, some downtime, a way to really feel our lives. Only we have no clue how to go about it anymore.
Hence, Mindfulness has reached momentum. I think that is fantastic!
This simple, yet powerful practice re-balances us, physically and emotionally. We re-learn to focus on the present moment, which is all there ever is. Instead of worrying about the future and ruminating on past events, we begin to simply notice without judgment….gently, lovingly.
Mindfulness …..although I wish I could come up with another name……. is by far the most powerful, miraculous process to heal physical and psychological issues I have ever experienced. There is no shortage of things I have tried personally and in my practice, therefore I feel that I have some authority to comment on this.
Everyday people have had amazing, almost mysterious success. A client of mine with serious arthritis found relief when he started practicing mindfulness meditation. The simple act of being present in the body, listening, observing non-judgmentally can bring to the surface what the body needs to heal itself.
It’s possible, with mindfulness, to shift decade old belief patterns that keep us stuck and fill us with despair. Frequent feelings of hopelessness can bring us to the brink of suicide. Often, in my experience, some of the most gregarious acting people shock us with the decision that they cannot continue with life.
But!!! – our brains are not hardwired, the neural connections are in reality very plastic! Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it neuroplasticity. Therefore, the brain can actually learn to decrease the messages that send despair and hopelessness and increase messages of calm and joy.
Mindfulness affects the structure and neural patterns present in the brain.
I was convinced that psychotherapy was the only way to learn to change. I believed we had to learn the origin of our thoughts and beliefs, talk about them and learn to change them. It is long and laborious, but understanding the origins of our dysfunction seemed the only way out for a long time.
Yet…….mindfulness is the alternative!
It is necessary to recognize our patterns and habits, but when we are willing to pay attention, they will rise to the surface.
Here are just a few research cases, if you are a scientist at heart and need evidence for its effectiveness.
A 2012 TEDxCambridge talk in which Dr. Sara Lazar, Neuroscientist of Harvard Medical School describes her research on meditation and increased cortical thickness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8rRzTtP7Tc&list=PL_XZQmAKJPU9t1pNGe6ESfFxF2RLI_uYn
In 2003, for example, scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined a group that included alumni of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s eight-week course. They found that when they received flu shots, the meditators’ immune systems produced more antibodies in response to the vaccine than did the non-meditators.
In a 1998 University of Massachusetts study, patients with psoriasis who meditated while receiving ultraviolet treatments for their skin healed four times faster than the control group—regardless of whether they had any previous meditation training.
Another study (2007) reported by Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook, Ph.D., showed better stress regulation with Mindfulness. They measured a faster decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol after a stressful laboratory task, among Chinese undergraduates after 5 days of meditation training at 20 minutes a day. These students also reported less anxiety, depression, and anger compared to a group of students that received relaxation training.
A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study (2004) demonstrated a correlation between mindfulness practice in couples and an enhanced relationship. The couples reported improved closeness, acceptance of one another, autonomy, and general relationship satisfaction.
So, wherever you are struggling in life, there is hope…..and it isn’t some complex, difficult process. It’s called Mindfulness Practice.
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