It’s very fashionable these days to talk about ‘mindfulness’. It’s often mentioned as a great way to de-stress, stop worrying and just ‘be happier’ generally………………but what actually does it mean to be ‘mindful?’ and why does it make us more happy?
To be ‘mindful’ means to ‘do something, on purpose, paying our full attention to it’.
If you sit at the table to eat your breakfast, no phone, iPad, TV or radio on in the background, and concentrate fully on chewing each mouthful of your food, you are ‘eating mindfully’ fully aware of what you are doing. You can wash the dishes mindfully, or dry your hair mindfully. Any activity can be ‘mindful’ if you fully pay attention to the doing of it.
We are all at fault for ‘multi-tasking’, eating whilst on our phones, or surfing the internet with one eye on our TV programme. When do we ever truly ‘stop’ and give our minds a rest? Even when we are meant to be going to sleep, we are often making ‘mental tick lists’ of all of the many things that we need to do better, or need to get done tomorrow.
How does mindfulness, and mindful meditation in particular help us to de-stress and be happier?
We have one brain, but within it there are different parts with different functions. When we are in a stressful situation ( modern life) our ‘primitive’ brain ( a part called the Amygdala) releases the stress hormone adrenaline, which is meant to help us either ‘run away’ from being attacked or ‘fight’ the thing that is about to attack us.
These days we are more likely to be stressed out by School or work so we really don’t want all of that adrenaline sitting in our bodies making us feel ‘tense, anxious, and down’ (these are the effects of stress hormones in the body.) One way to decrease these is to use exercise as a way to disperse them, but another way is to train your brain to deal better with stress.
This is where Mindfulness and mindful meditation can play a role. Mindful meditation decreases the brain’s stress response and rewires your brain so the more ‘logical’ part of the brain (The Pre-Frontal Cortex - PFC) gets stronger. People who meditate for only 10 minutes a day show an increase in activity in the PFC and a decrease of activity in the Amygdala. Meaning that they don’t release as much stress hormone in times of stress.
Meditation also helps us to ‘step out of thinking’. Often we can walk to school and arrive and not remember any part of the journey because we have been worrying about something the whole way there. Has that ever happened to you? Why not try walking to school mindfully, noticing the trees and listening to the birds tweet. Really noticing every detail of your journey.
Mindful meditation gives our brains a nice rest from thoughts and allows it to quieten down. People who meditate find it easier to notice when they are ‘lost in thought’ or ‘negative self-talk’ and they can find it easier to catch themselves when they start telling themselves things like ‘I’m rubbish at this’, ‘I can’t do this’. Negative self-talk is something that we all do, but it isn’t a helpful or constructive practice. Mindful meditation helps us to recognise when we have slipped into ‘negative’ mode and to step out of it.
So in conclusion: If you learn to be more mindful you will definitely feel less stressed, and you will be kinder to yourself, which in turn will make you feel happier!
If you would like to learn how to be more mindful and train your brain to respond more positively to stress, there are a number of options open to you. Ms Alhadad is running Yr9 Drop-in sessions on ‘How to meditate’ on Fridays after school in the Chapel. Mrs Hunt is offering a Yr11 Drop in at lunchtimes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Chapel and mindful meditation will be offered as part of this.
If you are in Yr 7, 8 or 10 and are interested in learning how to ‘rewire your brain’ to be happier and less stressed….then please see Ms Alhadad and she will organise a time for you to learn this amazing life transforming skill.