When many of us think about meditation, we tend to conjure up an image of yogis and monks sitting still for hours on end, chanting and ringing bells. The truth is, while some practitioners choose to meditate like this, this isn’t the only way.
One type of meditation in particular has become well known in the psychiatry world as a way of helping to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. This type of meditation is called mindfulness meditation. Brought over to the west in the 70s, this Buddhist meditation practice has gained popularity after a string of studies proved its effectiveness.
The recent surge in popularity has been helped in part by Andy Puddicombe, former Buddhist monk and co-founder of the ‘Headspace’ website and app (an interactive site with guided meditations and an overview of mindfulness as a concept).
“There has been a massive change over the past five years in the way in which we perceive meditation. Our aim is to demystify meditation – mountaintops, granola, yogis in loin cloths sitting cross-legged – you don’t need any of that stuff to achieve a happier, healthier state of mind.”
Andy explains that the benefits of mindfulness are ‘defined by the user’ and can involve reduced stress levels, better quality of sleep or even lower blood pressure. Andy started his practice aged 10, when he went with his mother to a mindfulness class. He says he continued his practice, as he wanted a calmer, quieter mind and to not feel so overwhelmed by his emotions.
What continues to drive the popularity of mindfulness is the science behind it. In recent years there have been so many scientific studies proving its benefits, it is proving difficult to ignore. On top of mindfulness meditation, mindfulness based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are being used to help those with more serious issues such as addiction, chronic pain and recurring depression.