Mindfulness is a practice that individuals and groups can do on a day-to-day basis. It can enable people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. As a mind-body approach, it can increase our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.
A growing body of evidence has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, with the UK Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending MBCT for the treatment of recurrent depression. Research also shows positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others.
Mindfulness can be used as a tool to manage your wellbeing and mental health. With good mental health, you can:
Mindfulness practices are not new and have origins in the contemplative traditions of Asia, especially Buddhism. In the last 40 years they have been formulised into the therapies of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), traditionally delivered in eight week classes.
“Typically mindfulness practice involves sitting with your feet planted on the floor and the spine upright. The eyes can be closed or rest a few feet in front while the hands are in the lap or on the knees. The attention is gently brought to rest on the sensations of the body – the feet on the floor, the pressure on the seat and the air passing through the nostrils. As the thoughts continue, you return again and again to these physical sensations, gently encouraging the mind not to get caught up in the thought processes but to observe their passage.”
Mindful Nation UK – Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group
There are different ways to learn about mindfulness and how to practise it in your daily life. It can be learnt in person, either through a group course or one-to-one with a trained teacher. There are books, audios and videos and online courses too, where you can learn through self-directed practice at home.
“I had always considered myself to be an ‘anxious’ person but, before I started to practise mindfulness, I didn’t realise that this was largely because I simply did not have the skills to know how to lean into the full range of human emotions, particularly those that I found difficult.”Meet this month's featured teacher