Arwen Raddon (Diploma in Holistic Coaching)

Originally stemming from ancient Buddhist thought, today mindfulness means many different things (Boyce cited in Wellness Professionals, 2016). It incorporates a range of practices, e.g. meditation; small acts of kindness; yoga asana (poses); pranayama (yogic breathing); body scanning; time in nature and so on. Importantly, however, mindfulness is not just a set of practices, but a way of being in the world; a deliberate state of mind in which we choose to act in a mindful way. This could mean seeking to be aware, present, thoughtful, considerate and compassionate towards ourselves and others as an integral part of our daily life (Hall, 2013; Wellness Professionals, 2016). Mindfulness can also be, then, a ‘basic training of the mind’ (Hall, 2013: 45 drawing on Siegel, 2010), a ‘disposition’ we tend towards (Barnhofer, Duggan, & Griffith, 2011), and a form of healing (Kabat-Zinn, 2015), as opposed to any one activity that we take up. The specific practices that help each of us reach a mindful state will, inevitably, be different. The internet is full of discussions asking why people struggle to meditate (e.g. Hilton Anderson, 2013). Perhaps this explains why so many things are now parked under “mindfulness”.

The core aim of a mindful approach to life is to build a higher sense of awareness, openness, observation and remembrance of things occurring around and within us (Dreyfus, 2011; Kabat-Zinn, 2015), whilst managing our resulting reactions and emotions in a balanced manner. For example, rather than judging whether emotions are “right” or “wrong”, we choose to simply observe a feeling and to just let it happen, without clinging on to the emotion (i.e. obsessing about something that has happened or could happen). Rumination and worrying are natural human states, but it can be harmful to remain in those states too long and too often, being linked to neuroticism and depression (Barnhofer et al., 2011). So we adopt a mindful approach to work towards recognising our emotions, allowing rather than suppressing them, and then letting them pass. The power of this approach is that, whatever we feel at this moment, we strive to understand that it simply “is what it is” (it’s neither “good” nor “bad”) and it will pass, as all things do (it’s temporary).

Since the 1990s, mindfulness has seen a huge growth in interest and a boom in research trials in the fields of health, wellness and therapy (Williams & Kabat-Zinn, 2011). Many studies can now provide clear evidence that practices adopted under (though not confined to) mindfulness can bring a variety of benefits. For example, incorporating regular yoga, meditation, breathing practices and stress-reduction practices into everyday life can bring significant benefits in maintaining all-around mental and physical health and well-being (American Osteopathic Association, 2016; Art of Living, 2016; Giovanni, 2016; Mahtani, 2010). Mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce stress levels, anxiety and even physical pain (Wake Forest Medical Center, 2011; Wellness Professionals, 2016; Williams & Kabat-Zinn, 2011). Given that a mindful approach helps us to avoid over-attachment to life events, and assists us to manage our mood and reactions, it is believed to have long-term and powerful benefits for our mental health, which it is argued need to start from a young age, instead of waiting for a major episode to occur in our lives (Hawn & Holden, 2011).

Mindfulness practices can give us a combined sense both of control and acceptance, enabling us to deal with change (Hall, 2013). Whilst these are two seemingly contradictory things (control and letting go), it is also about recognising those areas in life which we can and cannot control, or our sphere of influence (Covey, 2013). We can waste a lot of time worrying about things which are ultimately out of our control, which is unproductive and highly stressful (Covey, 2013). This will eventually affect our health if we continue to be in a high-stress situation. The cortisol hormone is released in our body when we face stressful or threatening situations. Whilst it is useful for real, immediate-threat situations, and was vital for early human survival, extended exposure due to continued stress has a very negative impact on the body and is increasingly common in modern life, leading to many more serious illnesses (Fell, 2013; Hall, 2013; Tirisula Yoga, 2015; Wellness Professionals, 2016).

Taking a mindful approach to life, both feeling control and acceptance, can help to increase personal resilience, or the ability to cope effectively with tackling and living through adverse situations in life (Hall, 2013). Inevitably everyone will experience some challenges and setbacks in their life, but practising mindfulness can help individuals to work more effectively through the issues, hold less internal stress, and ultimately move on more rapidly and calmly from the problems (Hall, 2013). It is not surprising, then, that psychotherapists are increasingly using mindfulness as part of treatments for trauma and depression to help build acceptance and embed new ways of being that can eventually replace negative and self-destructive habits (Colgan, Christopher, Michael, & Wahbeh, 2016; Eisenlohr-Moul, Peters, Pond, & DeWall, 2016; Heeren & Philippot, 2011). Quite a lot of research has been done on bringing mindfulness into the workplace too, particularly for high-stress jobs and areas such as healthcare, emergency and intensive care units where ability to cope under stress whilst also being compassionate can be very challenging (Gauthier, Meyer, Grefe, & Gold, 2015; Kabat-Zinn, 2015; Röthlin, Horvath, Birrer, & Grosse Holtforth, 2016; Van der Riet, Rossiter, Kirby, Dluzewska, & Harmon, 2015; Westphal et al., 2015).

Remarkably, mindfulness is not just found to change habits of mind and cognitive functions, but can actually alter the very structure of the brain in ways that are not yet fully understood (Davis & Hayes, 2011; Giovanni, 2016; Mcgonigal, 2010; Wellness Professionals, 2016) For example, the amygdala area of the brain has been observed to reduce in size in those who practice regular meditation. In health terms, this means our stress levels will be lower in the long-run too since the primordial “fight or flight” part of our brain is physically reduced  (Adrienne, Taren, Creswell, & Gianaros, 2013).

Since these are just a few of the very important issues mindfulness can help the individual to deal with, I would argue that it is like to be very useful and beneficial for many people are who seeking a holistic life coach. Although I personally might not introduce it under the banner of “mindfulness” initially, since I noticed that can be off-putting for some people.

References:

Adrienne, A., Taren, J., Creswell, D., & Gianaros, P. J. (2013). Adults, Dispositional Mindfulness Co-Varies with Smaller Amygdala and Caudate Volumes in Community. PLoS One, 8(5).

American Osteopathic Association. (2016). The Benefits of Yoga. Retrieved from http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx

Art of Living. (2016). Benefits of Yoga. Retrieved from http://www.artofliving.org/yoga/yoga-benefits/top-ten-yoga-benefits

Barnhofer, T., Duggan, D. S., & Griffith, J. W. (2011). Dispositional mindfulness moderates the relation between neuroticism and depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(8), 958–962. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.07.032

Colgan, D. D., Christopher, M., Michael, P., & Wahbeh, H. (2016). The body scan and mindful breathing among veterans with PTSD: Type of intervention moderates the relationship between changes in mindfulness and post-treatment depression. Mindfulness, 7(2), 372–383. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0453-0

Covey, S. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. a. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy (Chicago, Ill.), 48(2), 198–208. doi:10.1037/a0022062

Dreyfus, G. (2011). Is mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 41–54. doi:10.1080/14639947.2011.564815

Eisenlohr-Moul, T. a., Peters, J. R., Pond, R. S., & DeWall, C. N. (2016). Both Trait and State Mindfulness Predict Lower Aggressiveness via Anger Rumination: a Multilevel Mediation Analysis. Mindfulness, 713–726. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0508-x

Fell, A. (2013). Mindfulness from meditation associated with lower stress hormone. Retrieved from https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/mindfulness-meditation-associated-lower-stress-hormone

Gauthier, T., Meyer, R. M. L., Grefe, D., & Gold, J. I. (2015). An On-the-Job Mindfulness-based Intervention For Pediatric ICU Nurses: A Pilot. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 30(2), 402–409. doi:10.1016/j.pedn.2014.10.005

Giovanni. (2016). SCIENTIFIC BENEFITS OF MEDITATION – 76 THINGS YOU MIGHT BE MISSING OUT ON. Retrieved from http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/

Hall, L. (2013). Mindful Coaching: How Mindfulness Can Transform Coaching Practice. London: Kogan Page.

Hawn, G., & Holden, W. (2011). 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children – and Ourselves – the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happier Lives. New York: Perigee.

Heeren, A., & Philippot, P. (2011). Changes in Ruminative Thinking Mediate the Clinical Benefits of Mindfulness: Preliminary Findings. Mindfulness, 2(1), 8–13. doi:10.1007/s12671-010-0037-y

Hilton Anderson, C. (2013). Why is Meditation So Hard? Retrieved from http://www.thegreatfitnessexperiment.com/author/chariander

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2015). Mindfulness. Mindfulness, 6(6), 1481–1483. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0456-x

Mahtani, R. (2010). Power Pranayama: The Key to Body-Mind Management. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House.

Mcgonigal, K. (2010). The Big Brain Benefits of Meditation. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/brain-meditation/

Röthlin, P., Horvath, S., Birrer, D., & grosse Holtforth, M. (2016). Mindfulness Promotes the Ability to Deliver Performance in Highly Demanding Situations. Mindfulness, 1–7. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0512-1

Tirisula Yoga. (2015). 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTTC), Hatha/Ashtanga. Singapore.

Van der Riet, P., Rossiter, R., Kirby, D., Dluzewska, T., & Harmon, C. (2015). Piloting a stress management and mindfulness program for undergraduate nursing students: Student feedback and lessons learned. Nurse Education Today, 35(1), 44–49. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2014.05.003

Wake Forest Medical Center. (2011). Demystifying meditation: Brain imaging illustrates how meditation reduces pain. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405174835.htm

Wellness Professionals. (2016). Module 3: Mindful Coaching. Brighton.

Westphal, M., Bingisser, M. B., Feng, T., Wall, M., Blakley, E., Bingisser, R., & Kleim, B. (2015). Protective benefits of mindfulness in emergency room personnel. Journal of Affective Disorders, 175, 79–85. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.12.038

Williams, J. M. G., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). Mindfulness: diverse perspectives on its meaning, origins, and multiple applications at the intersection of science and dharma. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 1–18. doi:10.1080/14639947.2011.564811

 

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