26 Jun 2016

Professor David Cresswell on mindfulness

From Sunday Morning, 8:40 am on 26 June 2016

A ground-breaking academic study into mindfulness published earlier this year in Biological Psychiatry has brought a scientific lens to mindfulness meditation. Professor David Creswell led the research and he joins Wallace to reveal the results.

David Cresswell

David Cresswell Photo: Supplied

Interview highlights

David Creswell: Mindfulness is a capacity for openly and receptively attending to your present moment experience. We’ve all had times where we’re not all that mindful - our minds are wandering, we’re on automatic pilot. Mindfulness is the opposite – it’s learning how to be attentive to your present-moment experience, whether it’s body sensations, your feelings, it could be thoughts that you’re having, mental images.

One of the predominant ways people learn is through mindfulness meditation practises. We can sit people down and ask them to close their eyes and just focus their attention on the sensation of breathing, right there at the nostrils. If you notice that your mind gets distracted, just recognise you’ve been distracted come back to the sensations of breathing. The opportunity with these mindfulness practises is to start to notice how you’re reacting. What’s the automatic script that I’m playing? What are the feelings and thoughts that I have?

What we find in our studies is that people start to report a change. They say ‘I took a pause. I didn’t have to continue to play this automatic script that I normally play and I could more effectively decide how I wanted to respond’. In that way, mindfulness practises give people some freedom to be better regulators of their experiences.

I see it as a useful tool. It has a very few side effects - I think the main side effect is well-being.