Criminologist and personal trainer Ross Deuchar on the powerful impact of mindfulness on our fitness and psychological wellbeing
Mindfulness has been described as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. Forty years ago, the American professor of medicine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, realised the transformative potential of mindfulness and translated the ancient practices of cultivating mindfulness into western medical contexts.
In the contemporary world, growing evidence suggests that practising mindfulness meditation regularly can have a positive impact on our mental health.
As a criminologist and fully-certified mindfulness coach, I regularly conduct research with offenders in Scotland, the USA and Denmark. I have seen the transformative impact that breathing exercises and mindfulness can have on them, particularly (as is often the case) where they have a history of suffering from trauma.
Before the pandemic, I regularly volunteered as a support worker in the drug recovery café in HMP Barlinnie. An average of 15-20 men attend the café there each week, and I was able to introduce them to mindfulness ‘taster’ sessions. More recently, I have introduced the same tools to groups of women and men as part of their addiction recovery plans within the South Community Recovery Network in the Gorbals area of Glasgow.
These men and women, many of whom have a long history of experiencing trauma and a lifetime pattern of addiction, have often sat alongside me in meditation for over 20 minutes at a time. They have gradually begun to practise in their own personal time and found that it really begins to enhance their sense of psychological wellbeing and greatly supports them in their journey out of addiction.
I am also a part-time personal trainer and life coach and run three outdoor ‘body and mind’ boot camps a week in Glasgow. Over 40 people attend regularly, the vast majority of whom are women. They find the combination of completing 45 minutes of vigorous physical exercise, followed by 15 minutes of breathing exercises and meditation, very therapeutic.
Practising mindfulness is very often about meditation, but it is also possible to be mindful in lots of other ways. For example, we can choose to go for a mindful walk and really tune in to all things nature. We can eat in a mindful way, and truly absorb and appreciate the taste, texture and smell of our food. Over the coming weeks, I will also be coaching groups of women in using mindful approaches while weight training in the gym, to support them in weight loss programmes.
Whether I am meeting clients for personal training or leading group exercise classes outdoors, helping to support recovery groups or engaging clients in life coaching conversations, I always encourage them to literally ‘take a breath’ and to sit with a sense of acceptance, kindness and non-judgement. In doing so, many of them finally beginning to find a sense of peace within the context of the otherwise frantic world that they live in.
Ross Deuchar is a criminologist, personal trainer, life coach and mindfulness practitioner. If you are interested in attending any of his classes, PT sessions or courses, he can be found on the following online and social media channels:
T: @rossdeuchar and @deuchar_ross