People practice mindfulness for a wide range of reasons. Secular mindfulness courses like MBSR and MBCT were developed primarily to help people alleviate stress and anxiety, manage pain, and prevent relapse into depression. However, people who are in good health use mindfulness to enhance their well-being, kindle their creativity, build their resilience, and improve how they communicate with others.
A large amount of research has been done around using mindfulness practice to prevent a relapse into depression. The findings are positive, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is now recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellent (NICE) as a means of helping people who are currently well from relapsing into depression
Mindfulness practice allows you to observe the memories and negative thoughts that can cause you to spiral into depression without letting them take control of your mind. It lets you be aware of them, knowing that they will pass. In this way it can help you to see the world as it is, free of preconceptions and without judging yourself or your feelings.
Juggling responsibilities and being unable to switch off can leave you in an panicky spin of worry over unfinished to-do lists and potential worst-case scenarios. It puts your body on a permanent state of high alert, which is both physically and mentally exhausting.
By letting you be present in the moment, mindfulness practice can help you create a space of calm, where you can gain perspective on your situation and be compassionate to yourself and the toll that things are taking on you. It also equips you with greater focus, so that you can get things done more efficiently, without your mind dashing ahead to the next task, deadline or demand.
MANAGING PAIN AND CHRONIC ILLNESS
Our minds and our bodies are intrinsically linked. When we are ill or in pain it causes all kinds of feelings - stress, fear, worry, perhaps anger - which in turn can aggravate pain and cause an overall feeling of exhaustion and helplessness.
People practise mindfulness to help relate to pain and illness in a different way. It helps you untangle the complicated feelings that can make the effects of the pain or the illness worse. In this way it can both alleviate pain, and give you the space to identify what it is that you really need to do to make your situation more manageable.
INCREASING FOCUS, PRODUCTIVITY AND CREATIVITY
Mindfulness practice can increase your ability to focus your attention on the present moment and work more efficiently. It can help you gain a different perspective on a familiar issue, think beyond your preconceptions, and notice things you haven't seen before. It also feeds your courage and your curiosity, making you more willing to try new things or fresh approaches without the overblown fear of failure looming over you.
Even large successful companies, such as Google and other workplaces are offering mindfulness training to their employees to help them both deal better with stress and anxiety, and enhance their creativity. There is also now a major mindfulness initiative in UK Parliament
INCREASING WELL-BEING AND LIVING WITH MORE JOY
Being present in the moment is both calming and energising at the same time. It lets us experience what we have right now rather than racing through our days on auto-pilot.
Memories of the past and worries about the future will always be there, but using mindfulness practice they don't need to cloud your vision of the every-day things happening now that can bring you joy and peace. In the same way mindfulness meditation can help you recognise the activities and experiences that make you happy, so that you can make more time for them.
DEVELOPING SELF-AWARENESS AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Being more compassionate to yourself is at the heart of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness meditation lets you experience your feelings without judging yourself, in the knowledge that feelings do not define who you are, and that they will pass. This leads to growing self-awareness and emotional intelligence, the positive effects of which trickle into every aspect of your life, from how you treat yourself and make decisions about your life, to how you relate to others.
GAINING A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON TOUGH TIMES
According to research, mindfulness may boost your resilience. Coping with challenging situations can make you feel as if the life is draining out of you. You spend your time worrying about how to fix things and all the possible worst-case scenarios the future might hold.
Mindfulness practice can help you identify feelings that are based on memories, expectations and fears, rather than on the reality of the situation. This can bring you clarity on your situation, giving you greater control over how you respond to difficulties and let them affect your life.
IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNICATION
Mindfulness meditation can help you relate to other people differently. Research suggests that mindfulness practice may increase the activity of the part of the brain that lets us feel empathy and compassion. By understanding the viewpoints of others, as well as by cultivating our ability to observe our feelings without having to act on them, we can improve the way we speak to, listen and understand others.