Presented by: RMIT Social Innovation Hub

MY YEAR OF LIVING MINDFULLY
2019 | 96 min | AUSTRALIA
Directed by: Shannon Harvey
World Premiere

Followed by Q & A with filmmaker and guests

In the midst of a growing mental illness epidemic, an investigative health journalist enlists a team of scientists to put meditation to the test. But after a 30,000 kilometre journey around the world from the bright lights of Manhattan to the dusty refugee camps of the Middle East, what begins as a year-long self-experiment transforms into a life-changing experience.

Amidst a global mental health crisis, when we are more likely to suffer from a psychological disorder than we are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer, there’s not one, single recommendation for what we should be doing to take care of our mind.

From the producers of the internationally acclaimed documentary The Connection, comes a new feature film and global Impact Campaign that will ignite informed discussion and more importantly, meaningful change.

In the same way that the World Health Organisation advocates that physical exercise has numerous important benefits, it is time for an evidence-backed movement towards helping us protect, nurture and nourish the one filter through which we experience our lives… our minds.

Award-winning health journalist Shannon Harvey faced a troubling paradox. Despite unprecedented progress in modern medicine, 140 million people around the world are addicted to drugs and alcohol. At the same time, more people will die by suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists or criminals combined. Why?

For Shannon, the problem was personal. Overwhelmed with exhaustion from insomnia and an incurable autoimmune disease, the 37-year-old mother of two young children needed to make a change. But although there was a mountain of information telling her what she should be eating and drinking, how much sleep she should be getting, and how much exercise she should be doing, when Shannon looked for a widely-accepted evidence-based recommendation for what she could do to protect, nurture and nourish her mind – there was nothing.

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, which in recent years, 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.

Following in the footsteps of self-experimentalists such as Morgan Spurlock and Michael Mosley, 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.

Shannon’s subsequent 30,000 kilometre journey around the world took her to unexpected places, from the bright lights of Manhattan, where she met skeptic-turned mindfulness advocate Dan Harris, who had a panic attack in front of millions of people live on Good Morning America, to the frontline of a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, where she met a community of African refugees turning to mindfulness for severe post traumatic stress brought on by war, torture and homelessness.

In this story, the best of investigative science journalism meets the most personal of storytelling as Shannon interweaves her journalistic diary with intimate stories of the people she meets along the way, and the unprecedented interviews she has with leading scientists including molecular biologist-turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, best-selling author Daniel Goleman, pioneering neuroscientist Richard Davidson, and the father of contemporary mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

At a time in which there has never been a greater need for a cheap, simple, and effective solution for psychological suffering, this story begins as a year-long experiment and ends up being a life-changing experience.