What is mindfulness?
In 2020 I was interviewed by Lauren McQuade who is running a weekly radio show for her SoulKraft.
Listen to our conversation and find out what the benefits of mindfulness are, what kind of issues mindfulness can help with and a lot more.
How to slow down
Do you feel driven and restless to the extend that you cannot sleep at night?
Are you wired and also tired?
Or do you have endless to-do lists that drive you mad and keep you up until late at night?
Is it your mind that is in overdrive? Do you feel you cannot stop thinking? Are you constantly ruminating or worrying?
Maybe all of it? Or just some of these aspects?
When it comes to living our lives in our culture today it is really hard not to feel constantly rushed and driven. There is so much pressure on you. You are in information overload and surrounded by technology that is causing addictions and insecurities on a level we have never experienced before.
With all of that going on, How to slow down? is a vital question!
Here are some simple ways to begin to slow down.
Tip 1 on how to slow down
Pause! Take a moment every once in a while during your day and simply pause.
‘What?! ‘You might say. “I have no time for this!”
Let me ask you: Do you spend time on social media, watch TV, play games on the phone or browse the internet? There is plenty of time there that you could use to do something that will actually help you to slow down and make you feel better.
So, pause once in a while. It does not have to be for long. A couple of minutes can make a huge difference. But this is what you need to do when you pause. You need to become present and connect with your senses and your breath. Pause and notice how it feels to breathe. Pause whatever you are thinking and start looking around and really see what surrounds you. Find something pleasing to look at and savour the experience. Alternatively listen, smell or feel. Use the sense you find most pleasure in. But for those few minutes, or seconds you do this refrain from analysing, judging and thinking about the experience. And as best you can drop fully into the present moment. Notice how refreshing that is.
Tip 2 on how to slow down
Learn how to be mindful!
Mindfulness is the ancient art of mastering your mind and living your life more fully. If there is one way I know that is really effective in helping you to learn how to slow down, it is becoming more mindful.
Research has shown that Mindfulness can lead to:
- A 70 per cent reduction in anxiety
- A lot less stress and lower cortisol levels
- An ongoing reduction in anxiety three years after taking a course in mindfulness
- Longer and better quality sleep, with fewer sleep disturbances
- A reduction in negative feelings like anger, tension and depression
- An increase in disease-fighting antibodies, suggesting improvements to the immune system
- Improvements in physical conditions that can be stress related like psoriasis, fibromyalgia and migraines.
Want to know more? Read on!
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Celebrities who have embraced mindfulness
Mindfulness has been in the media quite a bit and has been embraced by many celebrities across the board. Film stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson and Meg Ryan believe in it. Politicians like Boris Johnson, when he was mayor in London, made sure his staff at City Hall received free help with mindfulness. Public figures like Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper, the CNN news anchor and journalist have embraced it. In fact Oprah Winfrey is so convinced by the power of Mindfulness that she has set up an entire television network – the Oprah Winfrey Network. The comedian Ruby Wax explored the topic of Mindfulness as part of her 2014 Sane New World tour. A number of leading footballers in the England Football Team were reported to be receiving help and support from psychologists and practising Mindfulness before and during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The players wanted to find balance and the inner strength to cope with the pressures of the game.
This is not just a trendy thing
Okay, just because some celebrities embrace something, that doesn’t mean this is good for you, right? It’s just one of these fads, isn’t it? Actually no, not really. Unlike a lot of other things that come and go Mindfulness has been extensively researched ever since it was introduced in a clinical setting by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s. He wanted to help people with chronic illness and chronic pain to manage their condition better – and he did. He was so successful that his course, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), is now accepted as an effective intervention in the American Health System and in the NHS in the UK. His project sparked the application of mindfulness ideas and practices for the treatment of a variety of conditions, such as addictions, eating disorders, self-harming, depression and anxiety, as well as stress-induced illnesses like migraine, chronic pain and insomnia. More recently it has been adopted in the field of performance enhancement.
More about mindfulness
You might feel you need a bit more information before you commit yourself. You might wonder what Mindfulness is and what is expected of you, if you try it. You might also think, how on earth can one practice can be so effective in so many different arenas of life? Well the answer to the latter is quite simple. Mindfulness is much more than a technique or a practice. It is a way of being. A way of being that is pretty different from the way we have been brought up, at least in Western culture.
That still does not tell you much about what it is. So let’s get to it in a more concrete way. If you have a tendency to forget where you put things, or burn your toast, or have to go back to your car door to see if you locked it, YOU ARE NOT MINDFUL! You are in a state of mindlessness. What I mean by that is that your mind is either preoccupied with the past or with the future. You are not attending to the present moment.
Its relevance to anxiety
If you suffer from anxiety, chances are that your mind constantly obsesses about the situations that cause you anxiety. You either ruminate about past events and/or you worry about the future and how that will impact on you. In fact you are creating more anxiety by doing this at moments when there is no reason to be anxious. What Mindfulness helps you to do, is to step out of this habit of overthinking and allows you to re-evaluate your reality, by simply helping you to stay in THE PRESENT MOMENT. There are two aspects to mindfulness.
1) The first aspect is that of focusing awareness to what IS in the HERE and NOW. This can range from observing the environment we are in, to our body and its sensations, our thoughts, behaviours and feelings.
2) The second aspect is that of adopting a particular attitude toward our experiences in the present moment. This attitude is characterised by curiosity, openness, acceptance and kindness. It is the attitude of a loving observer who appreciates what is without the need to change anything.
Is that it, you might say? Why do I need to do a course, if it is that simple? Here is the thing: staying in the present moment sounds simple as a concept, but it is really difficult to do. Go on, try it right now. Try to stay fully in the present moment for just 30 seconds, without wandering off into thoughts, memories, associations or mind chatter. Hm, you might find it is not easy at all. And that is why I am giving you this course.
I will guide you through the HOW TO of Mindfulness step-by-step and in many different ways. I know from my own experience and from my experience as a Mindfulness teacher and therapist that we all have different ways of learning, different ways of understanding and different preferences. What works for one person, will not work for another. This is why my course looks at Mindfulness from a lot of different angles. Though the main way to understand and learn what Mindfulness really is, is by experiencing it. Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice. What you will learn about Mindfulness is taken out of the context of Buddhism. Fear not, the way I teach Mindfulness is free from any religious content.
A case study
When Richard came to my Mindfulness course he told me that he had suffered from anxiety for 22 years. His anxiety peaked a year ago when he lost his job. Since then he had been unable to return to work. He had shared that one of his strategies to calm his anxiety was to always achieve the best and be very critical of himself. This is a very common strategy, which unfortunately often causes even more anxiety, especially if it is paired with perfectionism. His GP recommended he should try Mindfulness. When Richard arrived at the first session, he was very anxious. Fortunately the group was extremely small. It meant that he was able to explore his specific issues in relation to Mindfulness in some detail. Over the weeks of the course you could see Richard transforming. The more he understood what Mindfulness was and the more he practiced it, the more he seemed to become himself: bright, caring and full of life.
Here is what Richard says about the course in his own words: ” It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Britta introduced me to Mindfulness over a 6 week course. The course involves a series of exercises which are reinforced with audio files and handouts to allow you to try them at home. These exercises provide you with essential life skills to cope with increasing pressures of work and society. Britta has been a fantastic mentor who is kind, calming, patient and accommodating. Thanks to Britta and Mindfulness I am now getting my life back and returning to work in the new year. I would recommend this course to anyone who suffers from stress or anxiety. ” (Richard, December 2018)
By now there are thousands of studies and research papers showing how effective Mindfulness practice is for your wellbeing. Organisations are increasingly concerned with the resilience and wellbeing of employees, in part because of a growing awareness of sick leave and staff turnover associated with stress and mental health problems. Since 2009 the number of sick days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24% and the number lost to serious mental illness has doubled. The leading cause of sickness absence in the UK is mental ill health, accounting for 70 million sick days – more than half of the total every year.
A 2014 meta-analysis of 209 clinical research studies with a total of 12,145 participants concluded that mindfulness training showed “large and clinically significant effects in treating anxiety and depression.” Mindfulness-training programmes have also consistently been found to reduce self-reported measures of perceived stress, anger, rumination, and physiological symptoms, while improving positive outlook, empathy, sense of cohesion, self-compassion and overall quality of life. Mindfulness training is associated with reduced reactivity to emotional stimuli, as well as improvements in attention and cognitive capacities.
By relating to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and events in life more skilfully, people who practice Mindfulness may be less drawn into unhelpful habitual reactions and more able to make good choices about how to relate to their circumstances.
This is particularly important when we think about relationships.
Relationships are very important to us. How we feel about others affects us deeply. And how we manage our relationships has a massive impact on our sense of self and our wellbeing at work and in our personal lives. At work how you feel about your co-workers and managers can impact how effectively you and your team accomplishes tasks.In the rest of our lives having good relationships, being able to maintain them and foster them is absolutely crucial for our wellbeing. Mindfulness training has been shown to make people who practice Mindfulness more likely to respond compassionately to someone in need, and enjoy more satisfying personal relationships.
Here is a case study:
34 mental health trust clinicians and staff attended mindfulness training delivered by a head for work. 93% of participants reported an improvement in relationships with colleagues. Independent research by UEA researcher Bronwen Rees highlighted the key benefits of the training as:
- creating space for more measured response so that situations do not get inflamed
- helping create greater empathy and ability to get on with others
- creating greater self-acceptance
Credit to: The Mindfulness Institute, October 2016.
In the light of all this, think about what Mindfulness could do for you! With so much evidence to back it up, it’s definitely worth a try!
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Wonderful course with a great, caring and informative pace. Very helpful lessons that will help me be happier.
Michael Lee, October 2019
I would highly recommend this mindfulness course. Britta is a great teacher and explained everything in great detail.
Sarah Gibson, October 2019
I have never done mindfulness before, and was initially sceptic about whether and how much it would help me. I found this course very useful. Under Britta’s guidance I have found myself better able to spot behaviours I wanted to correct and apply a mindful approach to improving them.
AT, Stirling, October 2019
Thank you for a useful and informative course.
RS, Stirling, October 2019
A gentle, safe space, interesting discussions and ‘light bulb’ moments, many thanks.
anon, October 2019
It was very wothwhile to attend again – to refresh and build on my mindfulness. Feeling more alive, being in the here and now. Thank you.
anon., October 2019
I just want to say a huge thank you for everything you have done for me over the last couple of months. The exercises you have taught me have been invaluable. Mindfulness is fantastic therapy and you have been a terrific mentor.
Richard, December 2018
Britta shows empathy and understanding as she gently guides the group through the Mindfulness exercises with a quiet authority. It felt safe to comment and ask questions. Mindfulness is suitable for all ages. Britta’s course has enriched my life and with practice can bring some calm and understanding into our busy lives and minds. The handouts and emailed exercises are excellent for future reference and practice. I highly recommend Britta’s Mindfulness course.
Pam, December 2018
Excellent course full of insight with plenty of transferable techniques!
M. Bunnell, Falkirk, October 2018
Very good mindfulness course – so much better than just following available mindfulness apps.
Jane C., Dunblane, October 2018
Britta is a fantastic teacher on mindfulness. It is a practice that I will definitely continue in my life and share with others. Thank you.
Paula, April 2018
Kimberley Sharp, April 2018
This was really beneficial and enjoyable. I would totally recommend for anyone interested in Mindfulness.
anon., April 2018
Practical tools to make you slow down and live more.
A.C., March 2018
Gave me a lot to work on and benefits from. Loads of new ideas.
I.B. Alva., March 2018
I now have a better appreciation of just being me.
Y.M., Stirling, March 2018
The whole world needs to be mindful and it would be a better place.
anon., March 2018
A very worthwhile course, it’s made me pause, reflect and appreciate more in my life.
anon., March 18
I found the first lesson a bit sceptical and thought this is not for me, but kept an open mind. I can honestly say I found the course to be very worthwhile.
anon., March 18
I was not familiar with mindfulness before this course, but I feel I would like to use it in my everyday life style now.
anon., March 18
I’ve really enjoyed the six week course. Britta is so lovely and patient. Looking forward to keeping practicing mindfulness and my life improves.
L. Mac, Falkirk, February 2018
Britta is lovely and gives great insight into what mindfulness can do for you. Thoroughly enjoyed the course.
Tracy, February 2018
The course reminded me of ways to bring mindfulness into my everyday life.
P.C., Stirling, February 2018
A very well structured and balanced course, providing an excellent range of tools, both for now and use in the future. Britta is a very skilled practitioner in her art.
Ann Marie, November 2017
Has equipped me with tools to better manage stress, self care + to “just be” and be more accepting.
Natalie McLurg, November 2017
Really enjoyed the course. A lovely friendly environment.
A.S., Stirling, November 2017
Important course to help us reconnect us with the small things in life that can bring us peace and pleasure.
Res, Stirling, November 2017
Great course and amazing facilitation by Britta. this has helped me to relax and more focus in life. I plan to keep practicing. Thank you!
G.H. Stirling, November 2017
This course is very different to anything that I have done before. I have learned a lot about myself + feel much calmer.
Gillian Taylor, Stirling, November 2017
Britta is a natural and compassionate teacher: able to coach, inspire & motivate making it so much easier to build the practice of mindfulness into daily life.
Stirling, anon, November 2017
Learned things I didn’t know I needed/wanted from this course at the outset.
anon, November 2017
It was a welcome oasis of calm. I think I will be able to get back to it when I need to.
anon, November 2017
I feel better equipped for life now. THANK YOU
L.F. Stirling, November 2017
Good pace & focus on mindfulness.
C.L., November 2017
Wonderful – life changing experience. Thank you!
anon, November 2017
I enjoyed the mindfulness course, it has helped me in my day to day life and would recommend it ti anyone who would like to deal with stress and anxiety.
anon, September 2017
Good and informative course and small enough group to be able to get the most from it. As Britta has other qualifications, she is able to add more value to the sessions.
anon, September 2017
The course helped me to slow down, become more focused on the present. It helped me cut off from my chronic pain which was amazing.
anon, September 2017
A very useful skill to develop in todays busy, demanding world. Taught in a very relaxing and supportive way.
anon, September 2017
Definitely worth a try, you will be pleasantly surprised.
D.G., Stirling, September 2017
“Britta has helped me to work through my grief and anxiety since losing my husband. Using mindfulness in my daily life has certainly started to help ease the pain.”
Nicola Hodge, Stirling, May 2017
“The sessions with Britta have helped me so much. To live in the here and now and gain acceptance with my emotions. Highly recommend giving yourself a gift for life by attending Britta’s sessions.”
Jeff, Falkirk, May 2017
“Excellent course with good value for money and most helpful.”
Ravind Busgeeth, May 2017
“If you want to understand what mindfulness means then do this course. It has changed my outlook on myself and my life.”
CFM, Stirling, May 2017
“I found this course to be most useful, informative and inspiring. Britta is a patient teacher and she explained all aspects very well.”
H.B. Cumbernauld, May 2017
“This course has motivated me to pursue mindfulness. Britta’s warmth and her expertise has opened me up to the possibility of working through my difficulties and of embracing vulnerability as a strength, not as a weakness.”
Steven Craig, May 2017
If you are stressed, run down or feeling overwhelmed with life, this course is perfect for bringing the balance back to your life.
DM Logie, February 2017
“A great course to help you slow down, become more aware and ironically then achieve more. Good for managing stress.”
K. Gardiner, February 2017
“Amazing course with amazing teacher. Made me aware about the world and myself; and made me to want to explore more. Audio files were really helpful and the way how they are done are really helpful.”
Natalia P., February 2017
“This course is quite life changing. I am aware that I am at the beginning of a journey, but I am willing to embrace that and keep going.”
K. Whyte, February 2017
“This was a fantastic course. I signed up for it due to issues with stress & anxiety levels. This course allowed me to recognise how my behaviour & thinking patterns were compounding the problem & gave me tools not only to deal with anxiety in the moment but also to reduce the problem going forward. In essence I can now be proactive rather than reactive.”
J. Brown, February 2017
“I found the course to be very helpful, especially if yo practice the audio guides as they really change your way of thinking.”
Una McCrae, February 2017
“This course is helpful at all stages of life. Enriches every day life.”
Pam, February 2017
Britta is a superb teacher, she delivered her mindfulness course in such an interesting and stimulating way; a wonderful introduction to how to begin to approach life in a mindful way. (anon., November 2016)
Very worthwhile and beneficial. Wish it was more than six weeks!
J. McCleary, November 2016
Britta is an excellent facilitator – patient, kind – exudes calmness.
Jan, November 2016
A wonderful course which was person-centred whilst delivering theory – just enough – and guides for practice. A calm space.
Alison, Stirling November 2016
Very helpful to consolidate being more mindful day to day. I wasn’t sure if I needed a formal course, but I would highly recommend it.
anon., November 2016
Great tools to use in everyday life.
anon., November 2016
I would recommend to anyone. I feel much more in tune with myself and my priorities in life.
anon., November 2016
Excellent introduction on the subject of mindfulness.
Rodger Lyall, September 2016
The course is a must have, if you want to practice mindfulness. It will teach you the tools you need to succeed!
Lisa Heming, June 2016
A very well facilitated course, very helpful and supportive introduction to mindfulness and meditation.
A.H., Crieff, June 2016
This has been a terrific , practical and informative course where the 6 weeks have flown by. It has improved my wellbeing already and I must keep the good work going now that the course is over! I would recommend this course to people.
A.S.. Falkirk, June 2016
The course was very informative, Britta is the perfect guide for the start of this journey of mindfulness.
T. Smith, June 2016
Britta’s mindfulness course provides a gentle and informative introduction to mindfulness. Britta enhances the learning with useful resources and creates a safe environment for personal development.
P. Smy, June 2016
This course provided the best possible introductory environment to encourage me to choose to be more mindful and embark on a journey of experiencing and appreciating life in the present.
anon. April 2016
Very informative, practical course. Have certainly learned some valuable skills to take with me into life
anon. April 2016
A gentle paced insight into the philosophy and techniques of mindfulness and the positive impact it can make on my daily being.
D. Bell, April 2016
Thank you Britta for a really interesting course. It was useful on so many levels and I can see myself incorporating many of these techniques into my life. (anon., Jan 16)
The course has been informative, with practical skills to develop a mindfulness approach to life.
anon, January 2016
Mindfulness with Britta taught me how to relax and even had me sleep soundly for the first time in months when I was struggling with anxiety. I’m looking forwards to putting what I’ve learnt into practice for life and strengthening my awareness as I go.
Emma, Stirling, November 2015
A worthwhile course to make you evaluate daily expectations and how cruel we can be to ourselves. Very good!
I am so pleased that I did the mindfulness course with you. I think that I have had an excellent return on the investment!
anon., November 2015
This course has been interesting and informative. I look forward to taking Mindfulness further in my daily life. I would highly recommend it.
D. More, November 2015
An excellent introduction to mindfulness with a good balance of theory, understanding and practical sessions.
anon., September 2015
I really needed to get off life’s treadmill and invest in myself a bit more. Britta’s course has allowed me to do that and what I’ve learned will help me keep up the good practice.
Di, Stirling, September 2015
Excellent course: Very relaxed and informal. Lovely people. Learned a lot without always realising it!
P. Burton, September 2015
Britta’s course led me to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the practice of mindfulness and of how to integrate this into everyday activities.
Linda, Stirling June 2015
Highly enjoyable and informative course, would definitely recommend this to others. Great teacher – very warm and welcoming and puts the group at ease.
John, Stirling June 2015
It has been very useful, and during the course I could see the benefits and the small changes on my life. Very happy that I decided to join it and will truly recommend it.
Britta is a fantastic teacher. Knowledgeable, personable and thoughtful. Also really positive, supportive and engaging.
Oonagh, March 2015
A very worth while course.
anon., March 2015
Very good course. Enjoyable and informative.
Fiona Frew, March 2015