Where to Start?

For those new to mindfulness I would highly recommend reading ‘Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Mark Williams is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University.

Before you rush out to get the book I would recommend beginning by listening to his recordings once or twice a day before bed and/ or in the morning or if you have spare time during the day. I would recommend listening to the same recording more than once to the point you feel you can understand and practice his directions before moving onto the next.

Hope this helps and remember you can miss a day, week, month or year and always return to practice when you are ready.

Flow, Daydreaming and Addiction

Homer-Simpson-Zoned-Out

You will find in this piece a link to a very interesting article explaining the difference between “Flow” and “Daydreaming” and the ability of mindfulness to eliminate cravings.

For those who are not aware of the term, “Flow” means to be fully absorbed in an activity to the point of losing yourself in the joy that comes with doing it. It is the timeless flash when there is no sense of self, no me, just a body effortlessly flying through space toward the inevitable goal. Flow is associated with the highest levels of human functioning and achievement. Top athletes, musicians, hackers, stockbrokers, and poker players all report taking advantage of this condition of peak performance.

Flow is inhibited in most humans by the tendency to over think every move and second-guess our instincts. In this way Flow is the opposite to daydreaming. When daydreaming—or “mind wandering,” we’re caught up in our fantasies, self-reflection, fears and desires. In a flow state, on the other hand, we’re mindful and totally focused on the present moment.

It is accepted that it feels good to be focused on the moment in a flow state and bad to be fantasizing about greener pastures, or what might have been or what could be. Flow has been linked to peak performance whilst daydreaming has been significantly correlated with depression, anxiety, and addiction.

In the brain it is the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) one of the most active areas, involved in emotion and memory processing that has been shown to interfere with the flow state. The PCC becomes very active when we are daydreaming andcalms down as we become more mindful of our immediate experience. Numerous studies have linked PCC activity to the sensation of craving and have demonstrated the role it plays in addiction.That is, daydreaming and addiction are linked.

Addicts who develop lesions in the PCC (thus rendering it ineffective) have reported an immediate loss of craving and addiction. The hope is that teaching addicts to voluntarily reduce activity in the PCC through mindfulness can give them an enormous leg up in overcoming addiction. Similarly mindfulness offers great potential for aiding those suffering from anxiety and depression which are directly and indirectly linked to addiction.

http://deconstructingyourself.com/flow-machine-human-brain.html

Neuroscience Explains Mindfulness

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Harvard neuroscientists report that brain structures change after only eight weeks of meditation practice.

MRI scans showed that mindfulness groups increased gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum. Brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective taking.

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12793/how-meditation-changes-your-brain-a-neuroscientist-explains.html

Professional Certificate in the Therapeutic Use of Mindfulness

Looking over the horizon. (Image from swissre.com ad.)

I have just completed the Professional Certificate in the Therapeutic Use of Mindfulness delivered by Padraig O’ Morain at the  Institute of Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy (IICP) Ireland. The course was really beneficial and I learnt a lot from others on the course and from Padraig himself.

Thanks to the course I have gained the ability to teach mindfulness meditation to others at a one to one and group level. I have gained a much greater knowledge of the science behind mindfulness and its effects on the brain.  I have also learnt about the application of mindfulness to stress, anxiety, addiction and depression.

My upcoming posts will be about passing on some of what I learnt and relating it to my daily life.

Breath more, see more, feel more: A simple pathway to mindfulness