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Mindfulness is the human ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not thinking or reacting to what’s going on around us. It improves our quality of sleep, our mood, relationships with self and others and, although it is a natural process, most of us forget to be mindful.
Over the last 40+ years, since I started the twice daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, I have found that I also practice mindfulness on a daily basis, and especially when I have a crisis or any stress, it helps me to focus on being more optimistic and resilient, rather than focusing too much on the stress. Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses and increasing our overall health, including brain health.
Practicing mindfulness includes:
- Setting aside some regular daily time, and at any time (as needed) finding a quite space to be mindful
- Being still
- Quietly observing the present moment. I find this can be enhanced or learnt, by focusing on individual muscles, slowly moving from the toes and feet, up to the head
- Stopping judging things, including your own thoughts or reactions
- Returning to observing the present moment as it is
What mindfulness is not:
- It is not about “fixing” you or about fixing your problems
- It is not about stopping your thoughts (nor is meditation)
- It is not a religious practice
- It is not an escape from reality
- It is not a panacea or remedy
Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re remodelling the physical structure of your brain, which is important for brain health.
The best thing about mindfulness is you don’t need to pay someone to teach you, as you already know how to do it, anywhere, any time of the day or night.
MSc, BPsych BA, Retired Nurse
Co-founder and CEO, Dementia Alliance International
Adapted from an article published on 22 June 2021 as part of the Brain Health Awareness Month blog series on Kate Swaffer’s website https://kateswaffer.com/2021/06/20/mindfulness-and-brain-health/
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Meditation and Mindfulness