Do you meditate or practice mindfulness regularly?
Anyone who follows me, reads my newsletters or visits my YouTube channel will know that I am a big believer in the power of our minds to help heal us and allow us to create better, healthier and more enjoyable and fulfilling lives.
And not only do I know this from personal experience – and from witnessing the positive effects of prescribing meditation to my patients, as part of my lifestyle medicine practice – the scientific evidence for meditation is stacking up.
It’s no surprise that meditation is on the rise across the UK. The mental health impact of the pandemic has lead to more and more people seeking help with their emotions and self regulation. And the growing scientific evidence supporting the positive effects of mindfulness on mental health has lead to an uptake across our schools and universities, our businesses, and even our government, with hundreds of British politicians receiving mindfulness training in recent years.
the growing scientific evidence supporting the positive effects of mindfulness on mental health has lead to an uptake
Just how popular is mindfulness in the UK?
So how popular is mindfulness in the UK, really?
A study in 2018 suggested that around 15% of British adults had learned to practice mindfulness specifically (with around 9% doing so regularly) and another study showed that about 26% of us practice some type of meditation (12% have a regular meditation practice). And all the evidence points to the number of people practising having grown further since then.
The majority of us learn our mindfulness practice from a book, course, or app. The use of mindfulness apps in particular is on the rise, fuelled by the pandemic. Mindfulness apps Calm and Headspace (fun fact: both built by British entrepreneurs!) were launched in 2012, and started making serious money in 2018. But it was the impact of the pandemic that further increased their reach: Headspace had 3.75 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020, and maintained an average of three million for its quarterly downloads that year, while downloads for Calm reached almost 10.5 million worldwide in the second quarter of 2020.
Why are meditation and mindfulness becoming more popular?
As I’ve already said above, the pandemic has been a huge driver in the increased uptake of meditation and mindfulness. A combination of fear and anxiety about COVID itself, the challenges of repeated lockdowns, and uncertainty about the future lead to more and more people seeking something to help them manage all those emotions and tensions.
The attention economy
Between social media, the ‘always on’ culture of receiving work communications at all times of the day and night, the gig economy of multiple jobs and never-ending tasks, and increasing numbers working from home, many of us are feeling drained by too many claims on our attention. It can be hard to switch off and stop scrolling. Mindfulness is a great way to calm our minds, centre ourselves and bring our attention inward.
The unsettled feel of the times we’re living in – COVID, the political divide over so many contentious issues, the war in Ukraine, climate change, the economic uncertainty of the cost of living crisis – is contributing to a crisis in mental health. More than ever, people are seeking a way to feel more in control, to feel calmer, to find a quiet space inside themselves to recharge and heal.
Mindfulness is a great way to calm our minds, centre ourselves and bring our attention inward.
Start (or resume!) your mindfulness practice today
If (like most of us, I imagine) you are feeling the negative effects of both modern life and global pressures, and you haven’t yet tried mindfulness – or perhaps you have tried it, but didn’t establish a routine around it, or have let your practice slip away – now is the perfect time to start (or re-start!). If you’re new to this and not sure where to start or what to do, you can read my guide on how to meditate.
If you think meditation is difficult or complicated, it really isn’t! And you’ll be surprised at how much meditation helps when you practice regularly.
Meditation and Mindfulness: what’s the difference?
Meditation is the skill of developing focus and being content in the present moment. It’s your own, uninterrupted breathing space. It’s a practice that can help you manage your thoughts and feelings and deal better with difficult emotions like fear, worry and grief, as well as having all sorts of mental and physical health benefits.
According to the British School of Meditation there are four main schools of meditation:
So yes – mindfulness is just a form of meditation. It’s about creating an awareness of your body, including the sensations within, and your emotions in the present moment.
You can try out my free meditations here.