There’s been quite a lot of talk lately about mindfulness meditation – and rightly so, if its positive potential health outcomes are anything to go by.
Research from studies so far carried out suggests that mindfulness meditation can bring benefits that include the following:
- stress reduction
- reduced risk of depression
- positive physical changes to the brain
So it’s no surprise that mindfulness meditation is making waves in the wellbeing and health pages, and the NHS Choices has a good introduction to mindfulness here.
One of the elements of mindfulness is a kind of state that involves observing one’s own thoughts without following them or acting on them. This is normally described by using a physical analogy.
In his clear, concise (and actually quite inspiring) book on the subject entitled Quiet the Mind, author Matthew Johnstone likens the process of observing your thoughts and letting them go to being a deep sea diver, watching bubbles of exhaled air float up to the surface. The NHS choices page has an equally calm way of visualising this way of observing our thoughts but not being distracted by them:
Stand back and watch them floating past, like leaves on a stream
Other suggestions for how we could use this type of meditation are now being discussed. There’s a recent article on the Huffington Post - well worth a read – on the subject of how mindfulness could be applied in relationship contexts. The article was written by psychology expert Lisa Firestone (click the link for more of her articles).
And it makes perfect sense, really. The author has a realistic view of relationship dynamics and doesn’t overthink or overcomplicate things – and has a sharply perceptive take on the kind of things that happen during relationship rows. And by applying mindfulness, she argues that we can approach things differently. Not by bottling things up or repressing them – but by observing ourselves and then acting in a more controlled and rational way.
There are also other suggestion for ways we could use mindfulness, such as one book available on Amazon (which I haven’t read but does look interesting) on mindful parenting. In much the same way that if we observe ourselves during a relationship upset, it could be useful to also identify and change our responses to triggers within family life such as temper tantrums and other behaviours.
Mindfulness is also getting quite a lot of attention for a couple of very important reasons. The first of these is that it doesn’t require any greatly specialised skill. It’s not like learning a language or how to drive a car. Sure, it definitely helps to get advice on it from reputable sources, but it’s not something that requires those who wish to try it out paying any money beyond buying a good physical or e-reader guide to it. Or, indeed, borrowing a book from the library. The second thing is that mindfulness meditation doesn’t come with any philosophical system attached to it, beyond the belief that taking time out to relax and meditate can lower stress and boost our mood.
And in this busy world where we’re rushing around and juggling work life with family commitments, commuting and so on, a bit of time out has to be a good thing.