The New Year period is one where many people make resolutions and commit to making a positive change in their lives. These changes may be behavioural, physical, mental or emotional (or indeed spiritual for some) in nature. Usually, of course, they consist of all of these and each one brings its own habitual barriers to the change. It is of no surprise then that only around 25% of people stay committed to their resolutions beyond January (Forbes, 2018). As we all know, making a positive change requires will power, but when we take a deeper look, we discover that will power is actually part of the second step in the change process. The first step is present-moment awareness. It is to be mindful so as to catch the habitual response we want to change (or habitual barriers that might be preventing our change) before we spiral downwards and end up exactly where we didn’t want to be (again!). Once we have caught ourselves in the moment, we need the will power, mindset and techniques to help us to make the change.
In Psychological terms, Mindfulness is often called the “awareness-change” model. In its modern format Mindfulness retains its links to spiritual and wisdom traditions (particularly, but not exclusively in relation to its Buddhist roots) but has developed to consist of many different flavours, approaches and techniques that can help people on their personal journey of life. For some, this may be a deep, spiritual and/or religious journey. For others it may be about findings ways to get through the hassles of everyday life. Mindfulness can be used to help with specific health and well-being issues (such as anxiety, depression and stress) and/or to support personal development (such as career development, self-confidence and/or retirement). An aspect of Mindfulness that I feel underpins its effectiveness and its current popularity is that it offers techniques for us to navigate the difficulties of life and to lean into, accept and enjoy the positive moments.
Integral to its approach, Mindfulness is about being aware of and engaged in the present moment, no matter what that moment is actually like. Once we have this awareness, we are in a great position to take that second step and make a positive change. Sometimes that change is to think or do something in a different manner. Sometimes the change requires us to simply accept things as they are, to engage in the here and now, to be rather than to do.
Being mindful is a natural state of being in humans. It lies on a continuum where it’s opposite is mindlessness or autopilot. Whereas mindfulness is a state where we are fully aware of and immersed in the present moment, when on autopilot our mind wanders away from the moment and the habitual responses we may want to change can be strengthened. In our wandering mind state our barriers to change are also given license to air themselves.
The state of mindfulness can be cultivated through everyday activities (such as sports or hobbies) and/or the study and practise of the approach and techniques in a structured manner.
Here at the Centre for Lifelong Learning we offer a variety of short courses and workshops designed to support you personally. So, no matter what the second step may be for you in your life, you can travel the “awareness-change” pathway together with like-minded people through our class-based courses. Or if that is not for you right now, we also offer an online, self-directed course in which your level of engagement with the tutor and other participants is entirely up to you. Courses run each term for 10 weeks – giving us enough time to embed the techniques of Mindfulness. We have also launched our second mindfulness ‘here and now’ workshop taking place in May which will allow you to explore and discuss aspects of mindfulness that are relevant to your own personal journeys.
Find out more about all of our mindfulness courses here and hopefully begin to make the significant positive changes beyond the New Year period and into your everyday lives.
About the Blogger
Dean Howes is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick Centre for Lifelong Learning. He is currently undertaking his PhD with the centre, studying the role of pedagogy in the teaching and learning of mindfulness. As a leading member of the Mindfulness Research Network at the university, he is involved in promoting mindfulness and seeking funding opportunities for research in this area.