What is mindfulness?
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can change how we respond.
By turning our attention to the present moment and increasing our awareness of our thoughts, feelings and the world around us, we can enjoy life more. This is a concept called mindfulness.
Mindfulness can help to improve mental wellbeing and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a useful treatment for depression.
Read on to discover how mindfulness can improve your life.
What can mindfulness do for you?
Current evidence suggests that mindfulness may improve your health and wellbeing in 3 ways. It can:
- help you to manage stress better
- improve your physical health
- improve your relationships with others
Mindfulness helps you to achieve these results by grounding you in the present moment - preventing you from getting caught up in worries about the past or future. Techniques to help you be more ‘present’ include focusing on your physical sensations or breathing.
To examine your thoughts and feelings and then to take a step back from them is a big part of mindfulness. This may help you to spot negative thought patterns and recognise how unrealistic they can be. Once you realise that your thoughts don’t have to define or control your experience of the world, it can feel easier to let go of them.
Mindfulness can also make you better at spotting symptoms of anxiety and stress so you can deal with them more effectively.
If you often experience stress from your job, mindfulness may be able to help. There’s increasing evidence that mindfulness can have a positive impact in the workplace. It’s thought that being more mindful may lower perceived stress, while improving concentration.
What mindfulness can’t do
Mindfulness can improve your health and make life appear more manageable but it isn’t a miracle cure.
While mindfulness is used to help treat mental health conditions like depression, it’s not a replacement for professional therapy. Always see a doctor if you’re worried about your mental health. It’s even recommended that people with social anxiety should steer clear of mindfulness-based therapies as they may make symptoms worse.
So, how can you start working mindfulness into your day?
To warm up, practise mindfulness whenever you have a spare moment. This could be on the train to work, while you’re eating lunch or when you’re out for a jog. Pay extra attention to how these activities stimulate your senses - the chirping of birds, the freshness of the air or the smell of a cup of coffee.
Another mindfulness exercise is to name your thoughts and feelings. Notice how you react to different situations. For example, if you feel worried about falling behind at work, you could say ‘I am anxious’.
Once you master these techniques, read our next article to find out about more formal mindfulness exercises you can try. You could also download our app to see how mindfulness lowers your stress levels with our mood tracker.