Welcome to the Mindfulness Course for Individuals, and thank you for choosing us. We believe that, by the end of the course, you will really be able to feel the benefit of practising Mindfulness in your daily life.
Mindfulness Meditation Creates Awareness:
Mindfulness is best learnt through practising meditation and understanding the science of the brain.
The course will start by teaching you how to focus your attention on breathing, using a sitting meditation, which will train you to become more aware of inner and outer experiences.
Once a person has become more aware, it will give him/her a more responsive, compassionate, clearer and wiser way to experience events. It will allow you to adapt to your changing environment.
We will also discuss the science of Mindfulness throughout the course.
Mindfulness Creates Balance, Compassion and Perspective:
Mindfulness helps smooth out the ups and downs of daily life. It can be used as an antidote to stress, and also to improve focus. Many of us often feel overloaded or as if we are on autopilot during the day but, by using Mindfulness, you will train yourself to focus your attention, using meditation techniques to create awareness.
This awareness will give your mind space and allow you to make wiser, more rational choices, instead of emotionally reactive ones. This emotional regulation will give you a way to achieve balance, perspective and equanimity.
By using Mindfulness, you will appreciate the present moment more and reduce distractions and thoughts about the past or what's going to happen in the future, to create clarity. This will give you a sense of contentment and help you relax.
You will learn to deal with life experiences and challenges in a different way and improve health, performance and relationships.
Enjoy those wonderful little moments you sometimes miss:
The aim of the course is to introduce you to the practice of Mindfulness and give you an understanding of what Mindfulness means and what it can do, because a person who is aware of his or her mind and body will find it easier to respond to any given set of circumstances on any given day.
We also believe that over time, with practice, you can begin to use these skills naturally throughout the day. This will allow you to be in the present more often, which will give you more positive interactions with the world and allow you to enjoy those wonderful little moments you sometimes miss.
Mindfulness is a meditative, scientific and philosophical way of interacting with our world.
There is scientific evidence which states that Mindfulness can help change the neuroplasticity of the brain in very positive ways. We will discuss this in more detail later in the course.
These positive changes result in the improved performance of the Brain's Executive Function, the higher level of the brain, which looks after perspective taking, decision making, long-term planning and learning.
Research also suggests that, by using Mindfulness, the brain's emotionally reactive centre, the Amygdala, which triggers the 'fight, flight, freeze' stress response, can be overridden by the conscious part of the brain which can activate the 'relaxation response' and restore balance to the mind and body.
Mindfulness can also improve relationships at work and home by increasing emotional intelligence, which results in more compassion, kindness and empathy.
Therefore, Mindfulness promotes health, performance and relationships.
Harvard and Stanford University Research:
A 2011 study, from Harvard University, showed that participants in an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course exhibited measurable changes in the grey matter of their brains.
'The results suggest that participation in the course is associated with changes in grey matter concentration in the brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking.' (1)
Another study from Stanford University showed that Mindfulness can reduce the reactive effects of the amygdala and strengthen the connections to the higher areas of the brain, which can override emotions. (2)
Health, Performance and Relationship Benefits:
Research shows that Mindfulness practice can improve health, performance and relationships. We will discuss the positive benefits of Mindfulness throughout the course, and also present some of the scientific research behind Mindfulness, which we believe will deepen your knowledge and understanding of the subject.
Anyone can learn Mindfulness:
Before we start the course, we would like to state that anyone has the ability to learn Mindfulness. Some people might take longer to discover the potential of Mindfulness than others but it doesn't matter.
Mindfulness is an individual, step-by-step, process because we all have different motivations for starting Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a skill that needs practice, like any other skill you will learn in your life.
One thing is for certain: by doing regular practice you will break down those unhelpful mental habits and impulses and become more aware and mindful. You will start making more rational decisions and feel more compassion for yourself and others.
Your day will go more smoothly:
By using Mindfulness practice, your day will go much more smoothly: it will be calm and won't feel like you're in the middle of an ocean storm. It will feel like your 50,000 feet above the storm and looking down at the waves from the window of your plane.
Those waves will be just gentle ripples on the surface of a big pond. You will be seeing through mindful eyes.
Our hope is to offer you a way to deal with life's ups and downs in a mindful way, using a combination of regular formal and informal activities to gain an authentic and natural way of living.
How are things going?
Well done, you have now completed Week 4.
Sitting and Yoga Meditations:
This week we will be continuing with alternate yoga and breathing meditations for the regular practice. We would like you to do the 20-minute yoga practice and the 30 minutes sitting meditation on alternate days.
However, if you prefer the sitting, body scan or yoga, go for it, and have 7 days with one of these. At this point in the course it's important to choose the practice which you find the most beneficial.
By Week 5, you might have found a meditation style that is really working for you. If that's the case, stick with it and use one of the other styles during another part of the day, or do one of the other informal practices like eating, cooking, swimming, running or simply walking.
Keep doing the one you like:
It's important to understand that all of us are different and that one style of meditation will suit one person more than another and that a different style will suit different circumstances or days. Give yourself the opportunity to use all of the different types of meditation, just in case you find one isn't helping you on that particular day.
The Informal Practice for Week 5:
This week we will be doing 4 informal practices. The first is a happy memories activity, the second a mindful seeing exercise followed by a Check In and a STOP exercise. The last two exercises are ways to set yourself a reminder and an emergency STOP, a 5-minute meditation to get you back on track when you are having a negative experience at any time during the day.
In the previous sections we learnt how the release of the chemical dopamine promotes wellbeing and the feelings of hope, motivation and optimism. We learnt that dopamine is released when we reach a goal and get rewarded, as well as when we are enjoying an activity like cooking or eating.
The science also tells us that dopamine is released when we think about a happy memory. That means that when we meditate and bring present moment awareness to a positive experience, we feel good.
The informal practice for 'Happy Memories' this week will be a guided meditation visualisation of a happy memory.
At the start of the course we talked about bringing Mindfulness into your daily life as much as possible and allowing yourself to openly monitor your environment in the present moment.
Mindful seeing at an art gallery is a wonderful way to bring awareness into your life. We want you to go to an art gallery and examine some of the paintings or sculptures on display and spend some time looking at the brush strokes or the message the painter is communicating. Look mindfully.
It will also help you if you have a look at some background information on the painter or sculptor before you visit the gallery. After you have done this once, go back another day or week and have another look. Each time you go you will see something different.
Check In and STOP:
The last two parts of the informal meditation for this week are the Check In exercise and what happens if you have an emergency and you just need to STOP.
The first practice is a way to set yourself an alarm, so that if you forget to meditate for a few days or weeks you can remind yourself to go back to it. Check In is a good way to assess how everything is going.
A good analogy is a weather report. From time to time we all need to look at the weather to see what's going on. The idea behind the Check In is to get yourself into the habit of giving yourself a reminder after you have finished the course. Often a person can stop doing Mindfulness practice and suddenly find himself feeling overloaded and on autopilot again. Reminding yourself to Check In is a good way to re-evaluate you current position.
STOP is a 5-minute emergency meditation for those of us who are having a problem day or are in the midst of a negative event. Listening to the 5 minute emergency STOP guided meditation will allow you to return to your breathing and bring your balance back.
Once your balance has returned, you will be able to look at the same problem but through mindful eyes. You will avoid reaction and instead give yourself time to get information up to the prefrontal cortex and make a mindful response.
The Science: The Executive Function
In the science section we will be looking at the executive function. The executive function is the higher level of the brain which controls decision making, evaluation, intuition, analytical skills and problem solving.
As we have already discovered, Mindfulness strengthens the neural pathways to the executive function through neuroplasticity. Strengthening these pathways by using mindfulness helps to bypass the amygdala, the security guard, and get the information up to the prefrontal cortex where more rational decisions can be made.
This is a very important strength to have when you are feeling stressed or under pressure. By practising Mindfulness, you will be able to trigger the 'relaxation response' and get information to the executive area of the brain and make a calm, cool and balanced decision for any event, whether it's positive or negative.
The Science: Happy Memories
In the previous sections, we learnt how the release of the chemical dopamine promotes wellbeing and the feelings of hope, motivation and optimism. We learnt that dopamine is released when we reach a goal and get rewarded, as well as when we are enjoying an activity like cooking or eating.
The science also tells us that dopamine is released when we think about a happy memory. That means that when we reflect on a positive experience, we feel good. We can use Mindfulness to build more of these happy memories and create our own mind library of positivity.
This week we would like you to continue with your daily reflection each day, which includes anything that came up in any of the meditations. The reflection part of the course is a way for you to see any patterns of behaviour that you could change or do more of. Over time, Mindfulness gives a person more cognitive flexibility and allows us to find new ways to deal with problems.
Your reflection might include things like: 'I handled the meeting very well today.' or 'That date went really well.' The idea of keeping a reflection journal is for you to look back at the week or the past few weeks and observe your strengths and weaknesses with present moment awareness.
Let's begin Week 5 with alternate days of the sitting meditation and yoga. However, if you don't feel like doing this, stick with one of your favourite meditations. That's ok.
As you begin Week 5 we would like to remind you that if thoughts and feelings enter your mind, it's good. It means you are starting to become more aware of things. As these thoughts enter, we would like you to observe and watch them, and not judge them. Let go of them, by focussing your attention on breathing and returning to the present moment. It doesn't matter if you have to do this 100 times during the meditation because over time it will become easier.
Our Mindfulness for Individuals Course can help smooth out the ups and downs of daily life. It can be used as an antidote to stress, and also improve focus, learning and performance as well as improve relationships and increase creativity.
Our Mindfulness for Children Course is an excellent Social and Emotional Learning tool. Mindfulness for Children has many benefits, which include improved learning, focus, compassion and relationships.