Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mindfulness is one of the latest developments in meditation
Meditation is said to reduce stress and anxiety and lead to improved wellbeing.
With more people taking up mindfulness, it is good to learn the practices.
But what happens to your body when you meditate?
We asked the experts.
Question: What does ‘mindfulness’ actually mean?
It’s a word-of-mouth term that means the act of being in the moment, the tendency to let ourselves be fully present.
It focuses on breathing and calmness and relaxation.
It helps us tune in to our body reactions, the way we feel. It slows the brain’s processing of information, reduces stress and increases wellbeing.
Question: Where does mindfulness go from there?
Practice doesn’t happen in isolation but is a process that grows over time.
Most of us spend all our waking hours in front of screens.
A good regular kind of time in front of a television or a computer screen, if you have not meditated before, is about being present with that monitor or that book.
There is research which says that mindfulness improves brain function.
That means the impact goes deeper into people’s awareness and further down the brain from there.
It’s said by some to be ‘meditation inside’ as opposed to meditation outside.
For example, I can walk on my own, but I’m connected to a meditation room and therefore mindful.
Question: Are there different types of meditation?
There are three main kinds of mindfulness:
Mindfulness First – you are aware of the mind and the body and the sensations.
Mindfulness Second – this is focused on our breathing and our calmness.
Mindfulness Third – this focuses on the experiences of life as being meaningful and important.
Some people can teach mindfulness, but if we think about people in this country who go into hospital for blood tests, they don’t have meditation in their training.
Some nurses need some class on mindfulness.
Most of the time in my clinical work, you go into a room and someone is ringing somebody in India, or in the Falklands – if I want to relax I go into the room and the chatter stops and I can concentrate.
The person in the room can relax and focus.
Mindfulness is a breath of fresh air.
Question: How is it different from the traditional types of yoga?
It doesn’t mean yoga doesn’t work but it’s a new, new system.
Most of the time a health visitor, teacher or GP when they see someone at the hospital is qualified to offer mindfulness.
But in clinics or for people who are more disturbed, more vulnerable, sometimes I will do mindfulness.
It’s different and it’s based on principles that we may already know.
Question: What physical effects of meditation are there?
At one point I was talking to someone who had been meditating for 20 years and said that he used to have lots of headaches, so he noticed that it reduced his anxiety.
But it’s not like a pill. Meditations are very gentle. The therapies are a combination of meditation and therapy.
If you work with someone for a few sessions and have time to listen to their feelings, they realise they feel this way.
They might feel this way when they are anxious or angry, but in meditation that person will realise they are not feeling that way.
Question: How often do you meditate?
Mindfulness is still something I am learning.
Some of the techniques work in couples and small groups, but it’s much more about finding my own rhythm.
Some meditations – like deep breathing – are different from others.
Watch the video below to see a guest from Total Wellbeing America explain the different types of meditation.