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- Relaxation technique
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness aims to reconnect us with ourselves to alleviate stress. It also helps us to feel more attuned with our emotions and generally more aware of ourselves both mentally and physically.
Mindfulness is a specific way of paying attention to what is happening in our lives in the present moment, as it truly is. Of course it won’t eliminate life’s pressures – but with practice it can help us take notice of (and hopefully stop) negative, habitual reactions to everyday stress.
The most common way this technique is practiced is through mindfulness meditation. This usually involves practitioners focusing on sights, sounds and physical sensations while trying to reduce ‘brain chatter’. Some people struggle with mindfulness meditation at first, finding it hard to focus their attention, but this is to be expected and may require practice. Practicing the technique regularly can help people take a step back, acknowledge their ‘brain chatter’ and view it accurately and without judgement.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
MBSR looks to help people cope with stress using mindfulness techniques such as gentle stretching, mindfulness meditation and other mind-body exercises. The aim is to offer a greater clarity on what is happening, to help people recognise stress triggers and deal with them in a productive manner. According to the Mental Health Foundation, the majority of those who take part in MBSR courses are reported to feel more engaged in work, less anxious and have fewer physical symptoms of stress.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
Designed specifically to help those prone to depression, MBCT combines mindfulness techniques (such as meditation, stretching and breathing exercises) with elements of cognitive therapy that help break negative thought patterns.
As well as helping those with recurrent depression, this therapy has been proven to help with a variety of mental health issues, including:
- anxiety disorders
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- obsessive compulsive disorders
Benefits of Mindfulness
Since the concept of mindfulness arrived in the west in the 1970s the claimed benefits have been substantiated by several clinical studies. The aim of mindfulness is to help individuals do the following:
- recognise, slow down or even stop negative, habitual reactions
- see situations with more clarity
- respond more effectively to situations
- enhance creativity
- feel more balanced at work and at home.
- reduced anxiety
- Better quality of sleep
- Few negative feelings, including tension, anger and depression
- Improvements in physical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, studies looking at the effectiveness of MBSR have reported that nearly three quarters of GPs have said they feel all patients would benefit by learning mindfulness meditation.