On Wednesday I went to the RSA to listen to Dr Jonty Heaversedge, GP and Ed Halliwell, co-authors of “The Mindful Manifesto” and Tim Parks, celebrated author of “Teach us to sit still” discuss mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation, a technique that focuses particular attention to a purpose (which is different from just being aware of the purpose) non judgmentally in the present moment.
In a society where science is attributed more respect than more holistic solutions, the practice of mindfulness for wellbeing, both for patients with chronic health and psychological problems has been met with skepticism despite evidence to prove otherwise. For example stress can reveal itself in physical conditions; psoriasis is in some part a physical manifestation of stress. I know first hand, its close relation eczema appeared uninvited on my eyelids during my final degree exams. In a test of psoriasis sufferers who were receiving light treatment, those doing mindfulness practice as well recovered 4x more quickly than those without. Some argue it is a placebo – but if it helps people recover than that’s a good thing right?
GPs learn nothing of a healthy mind in their training and considering the impact the mind can have on physical illness there seems to be a disconnect. In stressful situations instead of focusing the mind the average person turns to habitual coping mechanisms including wine, fast food, TV, coffee, sugar – sound familiar?
We know it does us no good, both mentally and physically. Could we not be placing more importance on our personal mental wellbeing as well as that of a society? A growing body of evidence suggests that the practice of ‘mindfulness’ might be the answer. So it makes sense that the Government would invest in a practice that can help society be more healthy – right?
Tim Parks admits to fighting against mindfulness and also confesses to finding himself, after practicing mindfulness feeling that “we are fellow travelers” and as he puts it “absurd things like that”. He describes mindfulness as a reconnect to mortality and a way of seeing knowing and believing that has been hugely beneficial and regrets his skepticism for so many years.
Many people turn to mindfulness in the face of a crisis – the advice is as with many things in this life – don’t wait for a crisis – start now – just do it.