Last updated May 25, 2020 at 2:55 pm
A worldwide odyssey exploring mindfulness and whether it can help handle the crazy world we live in takes home top prize – and you can see it free.
Why This Matters: You might have a different perspective on mindfulness after watching My Year of Living Mindfully.
The world is confusing and unsettling, even more so now than ever before, and more of us than ever are finding it affecting our mental wellbeing. We are more likely to suffer from a psychological disorder than we are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer.
But go searching for guidance amongst the mountain of information about what we should eat and drink, how much to sleep and exercise, and what we should do or avoid, and you could get lost.
That was the case for Australian health journalist Shannon Harvey, whose one-year journey exploring mindfulness was followed for the film My Year of Living Mindfully. The story begins as a year-long experiment but ends up being a life-changing experience.
And now that exploration of Shannon’s mind has been awarded Best Film in the 2020 SCINEMA International Science Film Festival, the biggest science film festival in the southern hemisphere.
The search for the brain’s equivalent of 30-minute jog
Shannon’s search for the brain’s equivalent of a 30-minute jog around the block, or the mind’s daily serving of five fruit and vegetables, led her to mindfulness meditation – the ancient mental awareness practice. In recent years, it has been shown to be just as effective as medication and psychotherapy in treating everything from chronic stress and pain, to depression, anxiety and addiction.
However to find out exactly whether it was having an effect, or really was just all in her mind, Shannon enlisted a team of scientists to track her brain structure and function, stress hormones, immune system, gene expression and cellular ageing to see what would change if she meditated every day for a year.
What begins as a story into whether it can help her ended up leading Shannon on a 30,000km trek around the world, from the bright lights of Manhattan to one of the world’s largest refugee camps where she met a community of African refugees turning to mindfulness for severe post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by war, torture and homelessness.
Taking home the big prize at SCINEMA
The epic story has now collected Shannon and husband Julian the Best Film gong at SCINEMA.
“As a health journalist and filmmaker who strives to make science-based storytelling accessible, this is an incredible acknowledgement, opportunity and above all, a true honour,” says Shannon.
The film blew away the judges with not only its story, but impact on the audience. Cleverly told and constructed as it follows Shannon on her quest to rewire her mind, they said they were swept along for a ride into places they didn’t expect.
And as much of an impact that it had on Shannon, it also made an impact on the judges
“This film did a great job of linking the personal experience which can often be dismissed as anecdotal, to scientific research, which can often be viewed as dismissive of practices like mindfulness and meditation that originate in spirituality,” says SCINEMA judge Lee Constable.
“I personally have dipped my toe into meditation and mindfulness through my background in theatre studies and the occasional yoga class, but my ADHD mind is not one to slow down or become silent for even a second so I have always struggled to reap the benefits that others find.
“Watching this year-long journey was a good reminder of the dedication and practice that not only mindfulness, but all of the brain rewiring we embark on to better ourselves, can take.”
My Year of Living Mindfully will form part of the program for this year’s SCINEMA Festival, and is free to view from 27 May until 3rd June.
Sign up to watch here.
You’ll have a different perspective afterwards.