What Is mindfulness And meditation?
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening right now, by observing what’s going on inside (your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) and outside (your interactions and surroundings) with an open mind and without judging.
Mindfulness helps us stay focused and present when we practice the two kinds of meditation offered in SB&T: Active Thinking, where we intentionally direct our thoughts and imagination to think positive thoughts and feel positive feelings (like kindness and compassion) - and - Resting the Mind, where we let it all go.
Why should I try it?
“Research has proven that mindfulness training integrates the brain and strengthens the important executive functions that support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success.”
-Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Clinical Professor, Author of Mindsight and forthcoming Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.
Studies have demonstrated the many positive side effects of kindness and compassion:
- Kindness makes us happier - acts of kindness cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain which creates a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
- Kindness makes us healthier and is good for our hearts - the emotional warmth associated with kindness produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which expands the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
- Kindness keeps us young - Kindness and compassion reduces inflammation in the body. Oxytocin reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source.
- Kindness creates better relationships - when we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, and existing ones are strengthened.
- Kindness is contagious - when we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to 3-degrees of separation.
How does it work?
Thoughts and the brain
You can rewire your brain just by meditating because our brains change based on how they are used. Every time you have a thought, neurons connect like little impulses across the map of your brain. When these neurons connect, your brain grows thicker and stronger in certain places based on the thoughts you think. We can actually change the circuitry of the brain to help us be more peaceful and compassionate, simply by directing our thoughts and imaginations. Just like a bodybuilder lifting weights to build muscle, the more you think positive thoughts, the stronger the part of your brain that allows you to experience positive feelings will become!
Stress and the body
Many of the body’s functions work automatically, like breathing, blood pressure and digestion. These functions are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is divided into two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) - the “fight or flight” response during stress, intense activity, and emergencies, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) - the “rest and digest”, or calming response.
The SNS or “fight or flight” is responsible for what happens to your body in response to very stressful situation. Adrenaline circulates through the blood, affecting every organ. Your heart pumps faster, blood pressure rises, breathing becomes faster and more shallow, pupils expand, and your muscles tighten. The SNS is your body’s natural response during emergencies, but often times it is triggered during everyday stress, and when this happens it can make us feel unhealthy.
When we practice mindfulness and meditation and focus on deep relaxed breaths, we can turn off the SNS and turn on our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), also known as “rest and digest”, which calms us down and helps us to relax. When the PNS is activated, your heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, breathing slows and deepens, pupils shrink, and muscles relax. This promotes good digestion, supports your immune system and just makes you feel good all over.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY STOP, BREATHE & THINK
Tools for Peace inspires people of all ages to develop kindness and compassion in everyday life. Founded in 2000, TFP has partnered with over 20 organizations, universities and schools, and continues to strengthen and support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success.