Mindfulness: the key to wellbeing

Life coach and mentor Satyam, explains the benefits of ‘mindfulness’ and how you can practice it in your everyday.

Satyam Veronica Chalmers

For centuries spiritual gurus from around the world have been teaching mindfulness practices, such as meditation, as the key to creating consciousness or what could also be called ‘wellbeing’. Science is now catching up proving that mindfulness practices have a multitude of physical and psychological benefits.

Years ago I met one of these spiritual guru’s called Amma, who is commonly referred to as the ‘hugging saint’, because she travels around the world each year hugging thousands of people. About 10 years ago I went to her Ashram in Southern India. I was fascinated to watch each day as hundreds of Indian’s from all over India, who had travelled for days, would stand in line waiting patiently to receive a hug from this amazing woman. She would sit on the stage and hug her devotees, one at a time, from 10am until the early hours of the next morning, without a break.

One day I sat and watched her closely and not once did she get tired or look as if she resented all these people wanting something from her. She simply gave hug after hug, and sometimes some words of wisdom, with the greatest sense of love, peace and compassion. I then had the opportunity to sit on the stage with her and for the first time in my life consciously felt a deep sense of connection to an inner well of peace, love, joy and aliveness. I felt like I could reach out and touch this energy, like a liquid floating in and around me. My thinking mind seemed to have gone silent and I was overflowing with love.

Within hours of this experience I had disconnected from this feeling and I was back into my old patterns of fear and thinking. However, this experience stayed with me after I left the ashram. I wanted to experience this connection more, thus began an intensive decade exploring different types of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Mindfulness can be defined as awareness of the present moment in an open, non-judgmental, and accepting way. In other words, it is being aware of what is happening in the here and now, rather than being constantly consumed by thoughts about the past and future.  It is about embracing everything in the moment, even the uncomfortable stuff that we don’t want to acknowledge.

Dr Dan Siegel, in his book The Mindful Brain, explains that by developing mindfulness we are more capable of dealing with fear, have greater insight, more empathy, greater access to intuition, more attuned communication with others, more sense of morality and greater ability to respond in the moment rather than react. He looked at studies done on individuals who have a regular meditation practice, and however surprising, he also found that these same qualities showed up in studies on effective parenting skills. So it could be concluded that parents who practice mindfulness regularly are more capable of raising healthier happier children.

Other scientific studies are showing that the regular practice of mindfulness:

  • Reduces blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Increases serotonin and dopamine
  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Improves immune function
  • Reduces calcium loss
  • Improves response time and reflexes
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Increases optimism and decreases depression
  • Improves IQ and learning capabilities
  • Produces greater efficiency and output
  • Increases your ability to manage time
  • Improves concentration and memory

There are a multitude of benefits to practicing mindfulness on a daily basis. Mindfulness practice is anything that supports you to quiet the mind and focus on the present. Meditation is a great way to practice this, however it can also be any other practice that is focused on the here and now. For example, next time you’re walking down the street notice the air around you, the colours and textures in your surroundings, the light filtering through the trees, the feel of the earth under your feet, the smells, and anything else that you can sense. Also, notice your thoughts, however place more focus on what is happening within you and around you in the present moment rather than giving too much focus to the thoughts. They will come and go on their own, without attaching to them and getting lost in the past and future.

Or next time you’re washing the dishes, notice the feel of the water on your hands, the smells of the kitchen, look closely at the plate you’re washing as the water slides off it, notice how your body is feeling, what emotions are present etc. Be like a child washing dishes for the first time. Open your mind to noticing and sensing something you never sensed before. You will be surprised at the peace that can come from washing the dishes with presence.

It might take a little effort at first as the mind is very adapted to constantly thinking about the past and future, however it is worth starting with a few minutes a day. Once you start to feel the benefits from just a few minutes, you will naturally want to increase the time you focus on being mindful. Then before you know it you’re living more mindfully and feeling happier and healthier.