Mindfulness can make all South Africans feel and function better
Many research studies have proven that being mindful is good for you and provide the same benefits as quality psychotherapy. Research conducted by Prof Werner Nell from the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal) found that many positive associations between mindfulness and psychological well-being found in international studies, also occur in a multicultural South African context.
Those who are more mindful have been found to be less likely to be depressed, to worry less, and to experience lower levels of anxiety, as well as to exhibit greater psychological well-being than those who are not very mindful. However, up to now, very little research on mindfulness and psychological well-being has been done in South Africa, so it remains unclear whether these benefits would also be valid in our unique and diverse multi-cultural context.
But what is mindfulness all about?
In short, mindfulness happens when people pay full attention to what is happening in the present moment in an open, accepting, and non-judgemental way. Because of this, the term “present moment awareness” is also often used to refer to mindfulness. When a person is being mindful, their attention is placed on their immediate moment-to-moment awareness, and not on thinking. Thinking actually takes us out of the present moment, and can cause our experience of life to become dimmed as we miss what is right in front of us due to being absorbed in our own thoughts.
Why is mindfulness important?
Prof Nell’s research has shown that higher levels of mindfulness were associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction, as well as with increased levels of meaning in life and hope for the future. Furthermore, these associations were generally equally strong for participants from a variety of different cultural groups, suggesting that the benefits of mindfulness are cross-culturally valid.
Whilst additional research is required to investigate this phenomenon in even broader contexts, the initial results are very encouraging. Those who are interested in cultivating mindfulness in a more structured way can enrol for an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, which teaches and cultivates the mindfulness in a structured but gentle way. MBSR courses are presented all over the world, and their effectiveness is backed by a large number of scientific studies. Why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose, but you might just be surprised at what you gain!