Earlier this year, a special parliamentary group was assigned the task of assessing the potential impact of mindfulness. This week it has recommended that the Government makes mindfulness therapy more widely available: via the NHS to more than half a million adults diagnosed with depression and in schools, prisons and workplaces.
So, what is mindfulness? The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition is simply "the state or quality of being mindful". Amongst the many other wordy definitions that abound, perhaps the most succinct is “the non-judgement of oneself and moment-to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings.”
Increasing numbers of studies into the impact of achieving a mindful state have shown it reduces stress; leads to greater levels of mental and emotional well-being and breeds resilience. For instance, some very recent research from India suggests that mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions, without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down. At difficult times, the simple act of pausing and observing the mind may help us stop getting sucked in and wallowing in it.
These difficulties do not necessarily need to be of depression inducing magnitude: it could be a child pressing your buttons or a temporary overload in the family diary situation. Or it could be that the cake you’ve lovingly baked for a special occasion has turned out flat as a pancake. Similarly, indulging in a spot of mindfulness doesn’t need to involve a six week course with a therapist.
Nature lovers have been shown to display a high moment-to-moment awareness, whilst a connection to nature is associated with feelings of awe, vitality, purpose in life and positive emotions. Next time you are outside, just take a moment to pause, breathe and take in the beauty that autumn has, yet again, bestowed upon us. You cannot fail to be awed and revitalised by the sight of trees in full autumnal colour or the rich fruity scents of an autumnal hedgerow or garden. Keep breathing, slowly and deeply, and a sense of calm will ripple through you. Smile.
So next time the post school chaos or littlies witching hour leaves you stewing over what went wrong and who did what and how you think you should have dealt with the situation better, take a step outside. Get closer to nature and enjoy her bountiful offerings of sights, sounds and smells…and breathe. Better still, as the clock change approaches and the nights become well and truly drawn in, take a while to sit in a Garden Escape. Protected from the elements, disconnected from technology and reconnected with your breaths….look, listen, sniff and breathe. There. Much better.