Is your mind full or are you mindful?

Mindfulness first came to the attention of many people when it began to be included in the recommendations that GPs made for patients suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression.  The NHS decided to offer patients mindfulness because the scientific tests showed that it was as effective as medication in helping people to cope with life’s difficulties.  So, what is mindfulness and is it only for people who have clinical symptoms?

Mindfulness teaches you to focus your mind and gives you simple tools to help you break old habits, build better relationships, remain calm even when you are facing difficulties, relax and get to sleep.  By simply teaching you to focus your attention, and without drugs, mindfulness changes your brain because it helps to build new neurological pathways.  When these new pathways are built up people become more resilient and generally happier.

Mindfulness might have started as an antidote to stress and depression but most people who learn it are simply interested in building a happier life.  It has become so mainstream now that

it is taught in schools and there is even a mindfulness group of MPs in the House of Commons.

Of course, this can all sound too good to be true.  It is important to understand a bit about what is involved and how mindfulness is taught.  Mindfulness does require some practice.  The basic mindfulness course is eight weeks and each week people are taught a new tool.  Just like other skills we learn in life if they don’t get used they go rusty.  The tools of mindfulness are the same.  Regular daily mental practice will make sure that the tools remain practical and useful.

There are a lot of good books, CDs, and apps on the market and that is a good way to get started.  However, if you live near to Brackley, you can also find the Hinton Barn Farm Retreat Centre which is a community-based project offering mindfulness to anyone who lives locally. The Centre was started three years ago and is run by Jenny Robinson who studied at Bangor University and is now getting her Doctorate from Cranfield University.  Jenny and her team specialise in teaching mindfulness and they run specific courses on using mindfulness for pain management, using mindfulness for stress, and mindfulness for health.

The farm setting and the natural environment are really important to create a sense of peace and a place that everyone can relax and feel at home.  Jenny says, “These days everyone is very busy, and we offer a quiet place, a place of peace.  When you are calm, life is just so much better.  But of course, it is easy to leave the centre and step back on the treadmill again, that’s why learning the tools is important because you can take them with you wherever you go.”

Your Letterbox asked Jenny to teach us one tool so that we could have-a-go.  This is what she suggested.  When you next log on to your computer, instead of sitting there waiting impatiently or instead of checking social

media or texts – stand up and shake your hands like you are trying to flick water off the ends of your fingers.  Sit down again and shut your eyes, notice how your fingers tingle.  Keep your mind on the tingling until your computer is logged on.  Simple.

Ah, but when you try it, it is not so simple because the mind keeps wandering.  Jenny laughs and suggests we come along to her centre.  If you are interested in mindfulness you can read more and find out about courses on: