By exerting more conscious control over our behaviors and attitudes, we learn to work with our intention, wise effort, and capacity to be kind to ourselves.
Why Adults Need Mindfulness Training
We live in a sea of thoughts and emotions and to get swept away on a strong current of thoughts and feelings is pretty easy. The bottom-line is that if we lose ourselves, we lose track of what’s actually happening around us. We are constantly bothered with thoughts from the past, or are frantically agitated about something that might happen in the future, as a consequence we are never available in our present. Such moments in which we lose our way can do us great harm. They make us forgetful and unaware and mindless resulting to losses and accidents. In today’s world most of the times we are flooded with feelings of fear and aggression. Many people who have committed acts of violence speak of being lost to themselves in that moment.
Why Kids Need Mindfulness Training
Globally an alarming number of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, obesity, eating disorders, and addictions, and engaging in cutting and other self-destructive behaviors, including suicide. Mindfulness in children helps in regaining peace and natural physical growth and development, focused attention and higher understanding and development of a compassionate and resilient personality.
Mindful children are better leaders, superior performers and display creativity and innovative skills way better than other children who have not been trained in mindfulness.
Mindfulness and the Brain
There is a lot of recent research about the neuroplasticity of the brain and on the positive impact of mindfulness practices. According to Dr. Kirk Strosahl and Dr. Patricia Robinson, “research indicates that brain training involving mindfulness practices can strengthen areas of the brain responsible for attention, emotional control, and problem solving. There is even emerging evidence that mindfulness-based brain training produces permanent structural changes in the brain.” These changes can truly change the way we perform, live our lives and perceive others.
Mindfulness training helps in
- Observing: Our typical reaction to stress is bottom-up attention, which “originates in the core structures of the limbic system and evolved to help us scan for immediate threats to our survival.” Mindfulness training allows us to shift to top-down attention, which “originates in the insula, a higher-order brain structure, which allows us to shift our attention inward so we can monitor and regulate how our body is reacting to stress,” and helps to “visualize and implement solutions to stress-producing problems.”
- Detachment: “If we get absorbed in a negative appraisal, like telling our self, that feeling angry isn’t okay because we should be positive… the neural circuitry responsible for exerting a calming influence isn’t being activated. This leaves the limbic system in a state of constant arousal… Acceptance of emotion without the need to react… triggers PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) activation, which in turn reduces activity of the arousal centers of the limbic system.”
- Self-Compassion: “Compassion-based mindfulness practice increases the density of gray matter in certain areas of the brain… involved in learning and memory processes, as well as emotional control, self-awareness, and perspective taking… It also appears that the experience of compassion for oneself and others strengthens neural circuitry responsible for regulating the activity of the amygdala, the brain center involved in producing negative emotions.”
Mindfulness in Schools
Benefits of mindfulness in educational settings
- Increases responsiveness to students’ needs.
- Supports stress management and stress reduction.
- Enhances classroom climate.
- Helps manage difficult students
- Builds strong teacher-student relationships.
- Strengthens attention and concentration.
- Reduces anxiety before testing.
- Improves classroom participation.
- Enhances social and emotional learning.
- Lowers aggression and stress.
- Improves creativity, learning and retention.
Let’s try this short “mindful of breath” exercise
1) Find a comfortable position, either lying down on your back or sitting. If sitting then uncross your legs and keep your back straight, letting your shoulders drop, releasing any tension.
2) Close your eyes however if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then find a spot on the floor near you and keep your eyelids soft while looking downward.
3) Now focus your attention on your breath. Simply pay attention to your in-breath and out-breath.
4) Bring your attention to your belly and feel your belly rise and expand with every breath.
5) Continue focusing on the experience of breathing…the in-breath and out-breath and the rise and fall of your belly. Imagine that you are “riding the waves” of your breath.
6) You may notice your mind wandering often with many different thoughts. When this happens just notice the thought that comes along without any judgement of the thought or yourself, and then gently bring your attention back to your breath, and the present moment you are in.
Continue for several minutes, or as long as you would like.. and enjoy the peacefulness which follows the exercise.
Lots of us think about trying mindfulness meditation, but it can be hard to know where to begin. We’ll show you how to start, feel better, reduce your stress, and enjoy your life a little more. Aadyanta-The Science of Life Brings to you its unique Mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy for Children at Pune and Gurgaon. Call: 91-99-10-047147 for details.
About author: Dr. Amitabh Singh is the founder of AadyantaLife. He provides personal coaching and consultations to the corporate leaders, business owners and top line executives. An alternative therapy healer, he specializes in Mindfulness Meditation coaching for Senior Corporate Executives.