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Look Ma! I'm in Parliament

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Well, this mindfulness thing seems to be taking off, which I never expected. When I first went to Oxford three years ago to get my masters in MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) I wouldn't tell anyone what exactly I was studying I thought it sounded fluffy. I would say I was studying science and then just mumble the 'm' word. Now it seems to have become the zeitgeist.

But like all zeitgeists it may swing the other way. People may start making mindfulness perfumes or dressing in white mindfulness turbans with recordings of 'ting ting' sounds plugged into their ears.

On the other hand, the positive results of practicing mindfulness, for even a short while can be seen loud and clear in a brain scanner and this isn't fluffy. Empirical evidence shows that cortisol and adrenaline lower because the activity in the amagdala (the alarm system of the brain) is calmed (which in turn brings down the stress hormones.)

We need some sort of braking system because in this culture we live with the constant anxiety of not having enough, fear of the future and the mania to stay busy. If there is no 'off' switch you won't just get stressed they'll contribute to certain cancers, diabetes 2, heart disease, obesity, infertility, mental illness. (You get the idea.) This is the only reason I began my studies otherwise I would have hugged a tree (not really).

Anyway, the point is last week I went to the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on mindfulness in the Houses of Parliament. The panelists included professionals in criminal justice, mental health, education, journalism, politics, four school children and (get this) me. There they were, MPs, Lords and Baronesses and me. (I wish my parents could see this their, heads wouldn't just spin, they'd fall off.) The day ended in applause from the 'big wigs'.

The kids were the most effective and touching. A twelve year old said that before he starts an exam or something taxing, he just sits and feels his breath waiting for his brain to clear until he feels his anxiety fade. Imagine if everyone knew this? We might reduce the number of people, especially kids from burning out in the name of getting and A+.

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