Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us relate skilfully to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and the environment, increasing our awareness, ability to manage difficult experiences, and make wise choices.
When we train in mindfulness, we practise paying attention to what's going on in ourselves and the world around us, cultivating open-hearted and compassionate attention.
Rooted in ancient traditions of meditation, mindfulness has become the subject of increasing scientific attention in recent years, as a rapidly-expanding body of research is suggesting it can help people manage a range of physical and mental health problems, as well as promoting well-being generally. Research has consistently shown that programmes based on mindfulness can help people reduce their levels of stress.
Mindfulness courses which teach simple meditation practices have been shown to significantly reduce relapse rates among people prone to depression, as well as helping people manage a range of other health conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, addictive problems, eating disorders, and sleep problems. It has been shown to improve immune system response, speed healing and induce brain changes associated with increased positive mood.
Neuroscientific studies have shown that practising mindfulness appears to increase activation in the left prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain more associated with positive emotions and which is generally less active in people who are depressed.
Mindfulness seems to help reduce stress and improve creativity and functioning in a whole range of life situations (eg in education, the workplace, at home) and help anyone live a happier, healthier, more engaged life. Research has shown that more mindful people have greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of their emotions, and recover from bad moods more quickly. They also enjoy more satisfying relationships.