Are we closer to becoming a mindful nation?

 Source:  Mick Marston

Source: Mick Marston

It seems our nation is waking up to the importance of mental health and well-being. One technique that has found its way into UK schools, prisons, hospitals, offices and even Parliament is mindfulness.

Mindfulness can be described as a tool to train the mind with gentleness - to sharpen present-moment attention by cultivating the attitude with which we pay attention; one of curiosity, acceptance, openness and compassion. This practice has shown to reduce stress and improve relationship with both ourselves and others . 

All of which has been carefully examined in the report Mindful Nation UK published in 2015 by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG). It is the culmination of over a year of research and inquiry into the impact of mindfulness training, reviewed in the light of scientific evidence for mindfulness and current best practices. 

This week A/UK attended a meeting in the Westminster Parliament, which marked two years  since the original publication. We got a look into the current status of developing and implementing mindfulness training in health, education and criminal justice.

Doctors, patients, pupils, ex-offenders and senior business leaders shared personal stories of how practising mindfulness has improved their lives and why they believe mindfulness should expand to every school, prison, hospital and office across the nation. And while the evidence for this case is stronger than 2 years ago there are quite a few challenges to overcome before the dream can become a reality, all of which the MAPPG are aware of.

One of these challenges is to find and train qualified mindfulness teachers. A problem that could potentially be solved by Artificial Intelligence, or to begin with an app containing guided meditations (such as headspace with 15 million downloads worldwide).

Although the MAPPG are wary of this solutions as they in their research have found that for mindfulness training to reach its full potential it must not lose its authenticity. What we gathered from the personal stories is that mindfulness training makes a life changing difference - but particularly when taught with compassion and kindness, by teachers who have gained great experience through personal practice.

Sure, an app can be a great introduction to mindfulness meditation. Or it can add to a deeper practice guided by real-life experienced teachers, in the companionship of real-life humans. But as the implementation of mindfulness in schools (for example) is so new, many teachers are teaching mindfulness to pupils while they themselves are learning how to practice.

Sustaining a daily mindfulness practice can be challenging and requires determination. So new practitioners who are also teaching in classrooms need training and support that goes beyond an 8-week training program. How do we provide new mindfulness teachers with this support? 

The MAPPG recognized that pursuing a Mindful Nation is an ongoing inquiry that requires further research and testing. We’re excited to follow their developments - follow it on twitter @MindfulNationUK, or their main website at The Mindfulness Institute.