Mindfulness

Mindfulness as a practice has become pretty popular in the last few years with thousands of people looking to become more present in their lives. But exactly what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with our whole body, mind, and emotions.

Being mindful means feeling the ground beneath your feet, the wind in your hair, feeling connected to yourself through a lens of compassion, empathy, understanding, and kindness, and to others through that same lens.

Being mindful allows you to use social engagement, mirror neurons, creativity, adaptive thinking, problem-solving and your whole brain.

Pretty amazing hey?

In this blog post, we’re going to have a look at 10 amazing benefits of growing a more mindful brain (however the list is endless!)

  1.  Being aware of our emotions

Mindfulness helps us discover that we can see emotions just as they are; as strong sensations in our body or thoughts in our mind that have arisen at this moment. Mindfulness gives as perspective on our emotions. Without mindful awareness of our emotions, we use our past coping patterns to respond.

 

  1. Creating more space for choice

Through mindfully rewiring your brain you are able to realise that you have a choice as to whether these thoughts should take over the mind and a choice as to whether or not to act on them. Being mindful gives you time to think about how you are feeling, reflect on this, and decide how you want to act. When you are mindful, you are less impulsive and gain a greater perspective.

 

  1. Increased empathy for yourself and others

Research has shown that creating a regular ritual for focusing on gratitude helps you rewire your brain for more positivity, higher life satisfaction, and increased empathy. Also, practicing mindfulness seems to activate brain regions involved in empathy – the more kindness and empathy we show ourselves by taking time out to ‘fill our own cups’, the more we wire our brains to be empathic toward other people.

 

  1. Whole brain integration

Research has also shown that mindfulness and reflection aids whole brain integration which is when all the parts of the brain are able to function together – left and right brain connections, cortical (learning, self-regulating brain regions) and subcortical (body, safety, relationships and emotions) connections. A healthy brain is a well integrated brain. Healthy play is also a naturally mindful process that helps to develop mindsight (the experience of being mindful). It is spontaneous, present, in the moment, and aids healthy whole brain integration, or rewiring after trauma and toxic stress.  Children also naturally explore and self-regulate as a part of the process of unstructured play.

 

  1. Builds emotional IQ and insight

Through practicing self-reflection and non judgement of different sensations and emotions we develop improved insight into what seems to be ‘driving’ certain patterns of behaviour and become less reactive and more proactive (able to intervene to self-regulate before emotions become too destructive). Creating a family reflection space is a great idea to model social-emotional skills and provides a safe, calm down place for when big emotions may be raging. This space may include materials such as breathing cards, yoga poses, art activities, and sensory items. Through regular practice calming down and self-regulating using mindfulness strategies, you are able to widen your window of tolerance to stress. Mindfulness, allows us to reflect on our thoughts and actions with empathy and kindness, which in turn improves emotional IQ and insight.

 

  1. Decreases symptoms of anxiety

Much research has found that being mindful reduces anxiety by calming the amygdala (flight/fight/freeze response). Researchers at the University of New Mexico found that participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course decreased anxiety in participants. Similarly, a review of 114 studies found, in the context of poor physical health, consistent improvements in mental health and wellbeing, particularly reduced stress, anxiety and depression where a mindfulness-based intervention was used.

 

  1. Improved optimism and self-control

Being mindful can improve optimism and self-control. A prison offering Vipassana meditation training for inmates found that those who completed the course showed greater optimism and better self-control. The self control/ self-regulation comes from building more connections into the prefrontal cortex in the brain.

 

  1. Reduced stress

Evidence also suggests that children who used mindfulness practices more frequently reported higher wellbeing and lower stress scores. Also, a study found that office workers who practiced Mindfulness for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress!

 

  1. Improved sleep

Creating a family gratitude and mindfulness routine can help improve sleep in children, as well as increase empathy, reduce aggression, and improve emotional and physical symptoms.

 

  1. Increased neuronal activity in Prefrontal Cortex

Research has found that during the act of being mindful, the grey matter density in the prefrontal cortex increased (more brain connections were built), which is the area primarily responsible for executive functioning such as planning, problem-solving, cause and effect thinking and emotional regulation.

 

So have we convinced you to make mindfulness your superpower yet? It can literally rewire your brain for better health and integration, increase empathy toward self and others and help widen your window of tolerance for stress. Stay tuned for our next blog post on some fun ways to help build more mindful families!

 

Wondering what kind of items you can use to become more mindful? Check out our online store to see some of my favourite, most used items such as:

  • The Hoberman sphere (used for aid self-regulation and mindfulness skills)
  • The Go Yogi! Card Set (yoga for children)
  • Fidget Stress Toy (for relaxation)
  • Weighted Products

 

Where can I get more information?

To find out more about mindfulness programs that we run, check out our workshops page here: http://artisticrevolutions.com.au/services/workshops-and-training/ where we offer courses such as ‘Mindful Mummies’ and ‘Fill your Cup’ creative arts workshops.

 

References and recommended reading

  • Burdick, D. Mindfulness skills for Kids and Teens. PESI Publishing and Media, USA, 2014
  • Diggins, C, Interpersonal Neurobiology: The Effects of Mirror Neurons in Therapy. December 22, 2009 Landreth, G. L. (2002).
  • Levine, Peter A. (2005). Healing trauma: a pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body. Boulder, CO: Sounds True,2005
  • Nelsen, A. The Positive Discipline Workbook, Positive Discipline, 2011.
  • Siegel, Daniel J. Mindsight The New Science of Personal Transformation. Random House USA Inc, 2010
  • Siegel, Daniel J. and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole-brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing. Mind. Brunswick, Vic.: Scribe Publications, 2012.
  • Siegel, Daniel J., and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: Practical Exercises, Worksheets and Activities to Nurture Developing Minds. PESI Publishing & Media; Workbook edition, 2015.