What is Mindfulness?


What is mindfulness?

Mindful meditation is a way of training yourself to understand the world in a healthy, more clear way. Some people describe it as the opposite of mindlessness, you’re re-learning how to see the world. The practise trains you to pay attention to your thoughts, knowing that they are transient, and see things with greater clarity so that you can take wiser and more considered action to change those things which need to be changed. People have been using forms of mindful meditation for centuries with roots in buddhism although the modern version has only really been around since the 1970s. Many use it as an alternative (or accompaniment) to formal therapy, as the practise itself is very therapeutic and helps to deal with the stress of day-to-day life.

How do I do it?

Although mindful meditation takes practise, it’s unlike the traditional forms of meditation which quiet the mind and encourage you to “switch off”. It’s more about realising your thoughts, as they drift into your head, it’s important to acknowledge the thought and then let it drift away whilst you guide your mind back to your breathing or focus point. Rather than get stuck in memories from the past or worries about the future, mindfulness encourage you to stay present and allow your thoughts to come and go happily, some people like to visualise their thoughts as bubbles floating and popping or feathers drifting through the air. You need to observe your thought patterns without criticising, be compassionate with yourself, this re-trains your brain to not get stressed or hung up on things beyond your control, catching thought patterns before they become unhealthy. There are many classes and books which can guide you through the meditation and teach you to utilise mindfulness properly, like anything, the more you practise the easier it becomes.

Why do people do it?

Getting into the habit of this healthy thought process is a great defence against mental health issues, depression and anxiety being treated with Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is being backed by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Recently introduced was the idea of teaching mindfulness in schools so young children can learn how to manage stress and train themselves at an impressionable age to see the world with this sensible clarity; when you see how incredible the testimonials are from people who’s lives have been changed so dramatically from this kind of thinking it seems like a great idea. In fact even huge companies in the US like Facebook and Google have started introducing mindfulness and meditation seminars for their workers to relieve stress and encourage a happy, calm work environment. When your mind gets used to thinking this way it makes you happier, improves your memory, lets you react to situations calmly and sensibly and be overall more present to enjoy life. With good mental health comes good physical health too, stress is terrible for your immune system and the relaxing of muscles that comes with meditation is great for relieving tension.