10 Mindful Minutes is a great book for anyone wanting to understand how and why mindfulness is such a powerful antidote to stress. This book review neatly points out the best bits of the book! Enjoy!
Why we need to act now
- A toddler smiles about 600 times/ day this reduces dramatically as an adult
- Kids in the UK are the least happy kids in the world, followed by kids in the US
- As many as 60% of children feel disengaged from school
- The wonders of the Brain
- Social – Emotional intelligence is made up of
- Self awareness
- Self Management
- Responsible decision making
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
Mindfulness gives people the ability to regulate their sense of wellbeing by greater emotional awareness, understanding, acceptance and the ability to correct or repair unpleasant mood states. This translates to good mental health in the long term.
How the brain works
- Amygdala acts as the guard dog of the brain, responsible for emotions – it releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline when negative and is able to entirely shut down the pre frontal cortex.
- Hippocampus helps with memory and spatial navigation
- Limbic brain manages emotions, long term memory and behaviour
- Prefrontal Cortex is where higher thinking occurs, it’s the wise old owl
- Reptilian brain controls eating, sleeping, breathing etc.
- Children are predominantly right hemisphere dominated, meaning their emotions control their world. Their left hemisphere only kicks in at age four, and logic, understanding and rational thinking begins to emerge. Parents are predominantly left brain dominated, hence the challenges
- Every time we have a new thought or take new action, electrical currents fire in the brain, the more that thought occurs, the more the electrical currents wire together and the easier and more automatic that thought becomes. Hence the saying, neurons that fire together wire together.
- Secure attachment leads to improved self esteem and more empathy and consistency as adolescents.
- The brain needs breaks, when it has some ‘down time’ in mindful moments, the brain is able to consolidate memories and think more effectively.
- The average American preschooler watches 22 hours of TV a week.
- Over a 65 year life span the average American wastes 9 years watching TV.
- Children who watch violent movies or play violent video games don’t necessarily become violent, they do however become more apathetic, losing their sense of empathy, their emotional part of their brain becomes desensitised to the violence making it more acceptable.
- When the amygdale hits the ‘flight or fight’ button, cortisol is released triggering:
- Heart beats faster
- Breathing becomes shallow
- Muscles tighten
- Blood pressure and blood sugar rise
- Perspective becomes obscured
- Digestion and immune functions are put on hold
Neurogenisis was the old held belief that the brain was formed in childhood and can’t be changed as an adult. (The opposite of neural plasticity.)
Neuro plasticity means that we can change the structure of our brains and our behaviour at whatever age (oldest new neural growth was at 92 years) by refocusing our attention and developing new habits.
Your brain is like the engine in a car, without the engine that car can’t move. Without your brain you couldn’t see, hear, run or play. Like the engine, different parts of your brain are responsible for different things. Hold two fists together explaining the left (emotional) and right (logical) hemispheres.
- In learning mindfulness were able to sooth our minds, we can reduce cortisol levels, increase dopamine and train our brains to become less reactive to events and more conscious and in control of our responses.
- Jon Kabat –Zinn took two groups of healthy people and taught one group mindfulness. After 3 months the mindfulness group showed a 44% decrease in psychological distress, 46% decrease in colds and headaches and 24% decrease to stress responses. Other group showed no changes at all.
- Mindfulness calms the stress response, strengthens attention, promotes brain integration, fosters better sleep and strengthens self awareness.
- 3 minutes/ day of mindfulness is enough to make a difference.
- Bring mindfulness into your life by awakening the senses, smell your way around a garden, look for a heart shaped pebble along the beach, making different sounds with a stick, anything that focuses your attention on just one sense at a time.
- Children that learn music have a thicker corpus callosum (the bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain) which means that can go back and forth from left to right brain thinking faster and easier.
- The most important thing in life that will create resilience is the clear intention to be happy.
- Depressed teens taught mindfulness techniques, three times a day, reduced anxiety and depression, increased sleep quality and improved self esteem.
- Pessimists are up to 8 x more likely to become depressed.
- Gratitude can add up to 7 years on our lives and reduces likelihood of depression, bulimia, phobias and substance abuse.
- “A human being experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us... our task is to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein.
- “Go to the balcony” – imagine being at a party where an emotionally fuelled fight occurs, you’re involved and engaged. The fights broken up and a friend drags you out to the balcony to calm down and create a little distance from the issue and perspective on the problem. Go to the balcony any time you need a little air, it’s a great metaphor for mindful breathing during stressful situations.
- “Be kind... for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato
- Side effects of kindness, or the helpers high include:
- Reduced feelings of depression
- Less hostility and isolation
- Increased optimism
- Greater joyfulness
- More resilience
Great book, and well worth a read, particularly if you have young children.