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What Is Mindfulness and How Can It Help Me?

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

What Is Mindfulness and How Can It Help Me?

Our lives are a blur of activity, moving from one thing to another, rarely taking a second to stop and live in that exact moment. We juggle work, home life, social life, busying ourselves to get everything done. Yet, do you find yourself thinking about what still needs to be done the following day when you sit down to relax? If so, practising mindfulness could be for you. Mindfulness is all about awareness of right here, right now, in the present moment, not looking back and not looking forwards.

Practising mindfulness meditation can help to support your mental health and wellbeing.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mental training technique that teaches us to be aware of our thoughts, moods, feelings, surroundings and bodily sensations as they are in the present moment. This enables us to see things as they are, not as we perceive or believe them to be.

Mindfulness techniques can be incorporated into different practices and programs. Such programs can help you manage your mental wellbeing and reduce stress. Mindfulness programs can also be used to treat recurring depression and even help with managing chronic pain.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

‘Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things.’ The Buddhist Centre.

There are many forms of meditation; mindfulness is just one form of meditation.

Remember mindfulness is the mental training technique of being aware of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you, in the present moment and without judgement. Meditation is one way that these mindfulness techniques are learned and practised. Meditations can be guided or non-guided.

However, you can apply the techniques and principles of mindfulness in most daily activities.

Therefore, you can perform mindfulness meditation in a quiet room, sitting still with your eyes closed with or without guided meditation. You can also apply mindfulness principles whilst outside walking in the park alone, looking and listening to your surroundings and noticing how your body feels. Similarly, you could be eating a meal quietly, looking at what you are eating, chewing slowly, savouring the flavours and sensations.

Here is a mindfulness meditation by Mark Williams at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, University of Oxford.

The body scan is a type of mindfulness meditation. It involves focusing on different parts of your body, acknowledging sensations but not overthinking them or trying to change them. You can then breathe into those parts of your body to help you relax them.

With your eyes closed, you start from the top of your head and slowly move down to your face, ears, neck and down the rest of your body until you get to your soles, tops of your feet and toes. Notice any warmth, tingling, itching, throbbing, coolness. Acknowledge, but don’t try to touch or change how you feel. At the end of the scan, open your eyes.

You can watch this 10-minute body scan meditation by Gill Johnson, Oxford Mindfulness Centre, University of Oxford.

Research shows that mindfulness is most beneficial when practised medication daily, ideally for at least minutes a day. However, a regular five or ten-minute daily practice can have a calming effect and help quieten your mind as well as being a good place to start to learn and develop a regular habit.

How Mindfulness Benefits Mental Wellbeing

With regular practice and patience over time, mindfulness benefits mental wellbeing.

Mindfulness helps you listen to your body and notice the physical and emotional feelings and signs of stress and anxiety, such as feelings of sadness, nervousness, darkness or tense muscle sensations, body aches, teeth grinding, and headaches. When you recognise the signs of stress and anxiety, you can acknowledge them and then take steps to manage or reduce your feelings of stress or worry.

Being in the present can help you enjoy and appreciate the things around you. You can notice the smaller things around you, like the sound of an aeroplane in the distance, the wind through the trees or the resting sounds of your home.

Learning and practising mindfulness should not be stressful. It is not a goal to pursue or achieve. Therefore, please accept that learning and making the practice a habit takes time. Don’t be hard on yourself; be kind, patient, and persistent.

How Can You Learn Mindfulness Techniques?

You can learn mindfulness through online or in-person courses with a teacher, either one-to-one or with a group. You can also learn by yourself, with family or friends through self-directed courses, books, and audio guides.

You can also learn mindfulness meditation and principles from good quality books, CDs, smartphone apps and downloaded courses.

Courses on Mindfulness

You can attend in-person or online taught courses on mindfulness. These programs are usually eight-week courses, but introductory classes are also available.

Use a teacher registered with the British Association Mindfulness-based Approaches (BAMBA) in the UK.

Online courses are also available from the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre, UMASS, and Be Mindful from MIND.

Links to all these sites are at the end of this article.

Books and Audio on Mindfulness

This book is recommended to health care professionals, and it’s the book I used to learn mindfulness. It was co-developed by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University and is an eight-week mindfulness program. It also includes a free CD with guided meditations.

The book is also available on Amazon audible for Kindle and audiobook.

Jon Kabat-Zinn has also written several books on mindfulness and meditation. You can check out his book, Mindfulness for Beginners or search for his books online or in a bookstore.

Smartphone Apps on Mindfulness

Based on the book in the last section, Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, an official app is available. The free version includes the first week of the eight-week mindfulness programme. To access the remainder of the program, you need to pay. The reviews from users are variable.

Orcha highly rates the apps below.

Gro Health is the highest rated app on mindfulness by Orcha. This app provides education and behaviour change support to help you start and sustain positive health behaviours. It aims to improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

You can have personal one-to-one coaching, optimise your nutrition, track health parameters, be motivated to be active and improve your sleep.

Gro Health costs £99 per year.

Mindfulness Coach was developed to help Veterans, service members, and other people learn how to practice mindfulness. The app provides a gradual, self-guided training program to help you understand and adopt a simple mindfulness practice.

This app is entirely free.

Foundations: Wellbeing & Sleep offers a range of tools for mindfulness activities. This app is entirely free.

Insight Timer offers free guided meditations and paid subscriptions to access courses and listen offline.