Taranaki teachers

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Taranaki teachers are decreasing their stress levels and growing parts of their brains responsible for compassion, memory and concentration.

That’s providing they keep practising and expanding upon the mindfulness techniques taught to them recently by Mental Health Foundation mental health promoter Grant Rix.

Mindfulness has been shown to benefit our brains to such an extent that we can feel calmer, more aware, have an increased ability to focus and concentrate, remember things better and feel happier.

The more we practise it, the more we can stop worrying about past problems and future fears, and focus more fully on the here and now.

Grant has given two Mindfulness for Stress Reduction Workshops to teachers, and says they were both a great success, with participants reporting greater feelings of calm, clarity, and increased energy. He is quick to point out though, that although effective for reducing stress, practising
mindfulness is more about growing wellbeing than it is about attending to perceived problems.

Grant is excited about the growing research into mindfulness and its proven benefits.

“The neuroscience is quite amazing; brain scans are showing changes resulting from mindfulness training that are not just functional but structural. These are probably permanent,” Grant says.

It’s like riding a bike

“Mindfulness becomes established in a person – like riding a bike – and after a period of time your capacity for present moment awareness becomes increasingly natural and spontaneous,” he adds.

Grant has been practising mindfulness for more than a decade and says he feels more grounded in his body now.

Astoundingly, the brain grows in the areas responsible for learning and memory, while decreasing in the fear centre. There is also growth in the empathy and compassion areas, a decrease in feelings of stress and anxiety, and growth in the areas responsible for attention and sensory processing.

Trapped in a pinball machine

“By bringing your attention to what is occurring in the present moment inside and outside of your body, you actually experience more through the senses. When we aren’t being mindful we tend to get hijacked by our thinking and can easily get lost in our internal stories… a bit like being stuck in a pin ball machine! So we miss a whole lot of what is happening around us.”

Grant gave the teachers an introduction to mindfulness, and then did a 10-minute mindfulness breathing exercise.

“I also gave some take home tips like the simple act of taking a moment to pause and breathe and smile.”

He also suggested mindful walking where the participants use cues from their surroundings to help them remain present with their experience.

 

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