Mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness?

You might have heard of mindfulness before. And you might have read about its role in reducing stress and combating sadness or anxiety. But what is mindfulness and why should you learn more about it?

We live in an extremely fast-paced world and tend to forget checking in with ourselves. Our thoughts are often with the future or in the past, dwelling on things that have been or things that might happen. In doing so, we can get overwhelmed, stressed and worried. 

Mindfulness on the other hand, involves focussing our attention on the ‘right here and right now’. It is a state of observing our present thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. It can be a powerful tool for identifying and managing troubling thoughts and feelings. It can also help avoiding harsh self-criticism and judgement.

There are many definitions of mindfulness, yet all grasping the same essence:
  • “Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.”
  • “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”
  • “Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself.”
  • “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a concept that is closely intertwined with mindfulness. In short, it refers to our ability to identify and monitor our feelings, thoughts and actions. It is our awareness of our own personality or individuality; our ability to tune in with our own emotions, both generally and in specific situations (situational awareness). It is also about self-acceptance and self-love whilst knowing and accepting our weaknesses. Once we understand our internal experiences, it becomes easier to monitor their impact on the external experience of others. 

Why Should You Practice Mindfulness?

There are many reasons to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Regularly practising mindfulness can help you develop a better mindset, foster your emotional wellbeing, improve your relationships and ultimately, live a happier life.                         

Mindfulness has been linked to: 

Improved Working Memory

Lower Anxiety Levels

Heightened Focus

Reduced Emotional Reactivity

Management Of Physical Pain

Reduced Stress

Achieving these benefits requires you to find the mindfulness practice that work best for you. One of the most well known and widely researched of these practices is meditation. However, there are many other techniques such as breathing exercises, journaling and yoga which you can explore below. Remember, there is no single-correct way of practicing mindfulness. It is your own journey and it is ok for it to look different to the journey of others. 

Mindfulness In Your Daily Life

Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, at any time of day. You do not need to be an expert to benefit from it. In fact, you might have even used mindful techniques, unknowingly, before!

Examples of mindfulness are:

Listening To Others

Both at work and at home, we frequently listen to others’ feelings, feedback and thoughts. But there are different ways of listening. Active Listeninglistening without judgement, emotions or crafting a response simultaneously – is a way to listen mindfully. By listening in such a way, we pay better attention and respond in a more compassionate and meaningful way. 

Eating Mindfully

Even the simplest daily activities, such as eating, can be transformed into meaningful experiences. The next time you sit down for lunch, instead of picking up your phone or letting your mind wander, draw your full awareness to your meal. Notice how your food smells and tastes, its texture and heat. Notice how it feels to eat this meal – in the here and now. This practice is called mindful eating

You can apply this to any other daily activity, e.g. brushing your teeth, walking to the bus or making a cup of coffee.

Before A Presentation

Certain situations, such as giving a speech or a presentation, can be stressful. You can deal with that stress by taking a mindful moment. Go somewhere quiet and practice some gentle breathing. Focus on what you are feeling. Do not get distracted by any negative thoughts or emotions, accept them and let them pass. They are not who you are. They do not define how good your presentation will be. Focus on your muscles, breathe and relax. 

How Can Beginners Practice Mindfulness?

There are endless opportunities to learn more about mindfulness and to start practicing – all from the comfort of your home. Just pick a technique that appeals to you and get going! There are so many resources out there, you just need to make use of them. In order to give you a head start we have compiled a list of further reading, helpful resources and practical exercises that you can access below. If you are familiar with mindfulness already, there are tools to help you implement mindfulness into your daily routine.

Meditation

Take a pause from your hectic days and tune in with yourself.

Journaling

Express your individual thoughts and feelings and reflect on them. 

Yoga

Improve your strength, flexibility and overall wellbeing.  

Meditation

For many people the first thing that comes to mind when asked about mindfulness is meditation.

Meditation is a way of taking a pause from our hectic days in order to tune in with ourselves. It can help us relax and relieve stress, connect with ourselves, manage pain or discomfort and reduce negative thoughts. There are many different meditation techniques out there. We can meditate on our own or in a group, follow a book, a tape, an app or videos. 

There is a huge pool of guided meditations and resources to choose from, some of which are listed in the other tabs. 

Contrary to popular belief meditation is not about ‘silencing’ and ‘emptying our brain. While this might be our perception of a buddhist monk practicing meditation it is certainly not so for meditation beginners. In mindfulness meditation we learn to gently focus on our breath. And we learn to recognize when our mind gets distracted from that task.

For this exercise, follow a few simple steps: 

  1. Sit on a chair or a cushion, or even lie down – whatever is comfortable for you. 
  2. Focus on one aspect of your breathing – the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or the rising and falling of your belly. 
  3. Embrace and accept any thought or emotion that might arise – without judging it. 
  4. Return to focusing on your breathing if your mind wanders too much. 

You could try this guided breath meditation to start with, or pick another one of the audios or videos in the next tab. 

Meditation Guide. Learn the basics of meditation.

Mindfulness Meditation. What is it, how to practice it and helpful tips. 

Body Scan. Try this meditation practice to relax your body from head to toe. 

Journaling

A journal is a record that can be used to write down your emotions, thoughts, tasks, goals, ideas and memories. 

Journaling is an alternative way in which we can practice mindfulness. It allows us to express our individual thoughts and feelings and to reflect on them. It is a practice that requires us to slow down, focus and look inwards – something that we tend to forget in our busy lives. Above all, it is really easy to implement on a daily basis and can be done anywhere. 

So, why should we start journaling? 

Simply, there is no reason not to journal. It can be used to calm specific feelings of anxiety or depression or more general distress and emotional turmoil. It helps us sharpen our focus and turns our attention inwards. It can be used to increase positive thoughts and decrease negative ones. It can be used to create positive emotions. It can also be used to envision our future and visualize our goals.

There are many different types of journaling (click here for some examples), each with its own benefits and uses. There is no right or wrong, when deciding how to journal.

Here are some ideas for journaling applications in case you don’t want to use a classic pen-and-paper journal. They all have free basic versions you can use and additional paid upgrades.

 

  • Penzu. Private, 100% customisable journal.
  • Daybook. Journal that safeguards your memories and helps you to reflect upon past experiences, analyze and improve yourself. 
  • Diaro. Simple, effective and personal diary to keep life moments and ideas always with you.
  • Daylio. Self-care bullet journal with goals, mood diary & happiness tracker. 
  • Day One. Easy-to-use journal to capture anything, from once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments. 

How to start journaling. Article on how to begin journaling, including a downloadable workbook to help you get started. 

20 Types of Journals. See what types of journals are out there, and how you can benefit from keeping each of them.

Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management. Journaling, as a stress management and self-exploration tool, can be stress relieving when the practice is focused on gratitude or emotional processing.

83 Benefits of Journaling. Explains effective journaling, the research behind its beenfits and gives writing prompts. 

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient form of movement that involves physical poses, concentration and deep breathing. It combines physical, mental and spiritual practices that can boost our strength, flexibility and overall wellbeing. 

 There are many different types and disciplines of yoga and which one you choose depends on both your expectations and physical abilities. The next tab provides several ‘Yoga Practice Videos’, sorted by difficulty, to help you get started. 

At-home yoga videos you can follow for free:

 Beginners:

Intermediate:

Advanced:

How Does Yoga Work? This article explores the history, philosophy, health and wellness benefits, and various branches of yoga.

What is Mindful Yoga? Learn all about its benefits, specific mindful yoga poses and mindful yoga retreats to help you cultivate greater awareness, consciousness and improved quality of life.

Yoga for Beginners Guide. Created specifically for you—to give you all the tips, guidelines and recommendations you will need to start a successful yoga practice. 

A Guide to Yoga. NHS guide explaining all you need to know to get started with yoga, including the health benefits, yoga styles for beginners and finding a yoga class.

10 Yoga Poses You Need to Know. Good and simple poses to learn as you build a regular yoga practice.

Benefits of Practicing Yoga. From increased strength to flexibility to heart health. 

Additional Resources 

Below are further links to helpful articles, videos and websites that provide more information on mindfulness. 

Most of these applications have free versions and offer paid upgrades: 

 

  • Headspace – meditation and mindfulness for any mind, any mood, any goal. 
  • Insight Timer– meditation and yoga for sleep, anxiety and stress. 
  • Smiling Mindnot-for-profit daily meditation and mindfulness guide. 
  • Happify – overcome negative thoughts, stress and life’s challenges. 
  • Calm – guided meditations, breathing exercises and sleep stories. 
  • Be Mindful – clinically proven mindfulness course. 

Breathing exercises help to recentre the mind, reduce stress and anxiety and improve concentration. If you want to read more about exercises to help you cope with stress or difficult emotions, click here for our module on healthy coping strategies. 

10 Breathing Techniques. If you’re interested in trying breathing exercises to reduce stress or anxiety, or improve your lung function, here are 10 different ones to sample. You may find that certain exercises appeal to you right away. Start with those so that the practice is more enjoyable.

1-Minute Deep Breathing Exercise. Add a touch of spaciousness to your day with this super-short meditation.

3- Minute Mindful Breathing. Feel more settled and calm by spending a few minutes focused on your breathing. 

Box Breathing. A simple breathing technique to manage anxiety. Calm your breathing and body when under stress. 

5 Mindfulness Breathing Exercises. You can do them anywhere, anytime.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). MyMynd PDF Guide to PMR.

Triangle Breathing. Short video to help you calm down. 

Mindful Eating. Mindful eating is a simple-to-learn life skill which can lead people to enjoy a satisfying, healthy and enjoyable relationship with food. 

6 Ways To Practice Mindful Eating. Six simple guidelines to keep in mind to discern between mindless and (more) mindful eating, and bring our bodies and minds back together.

Mindfulness Guide. What you need to know before practicing mindfulness. 

Mindfulness For Sleep. Mindfulness practices and habits can help us fall asleep and stay asleep. This guide gives tips for meditation, movement and mindfulness practices to ease into sleep.

Mindfulness. Short NHS guide to mindfulness. 

What Is Mindfulness? Mind provides information on mindfulness, how to practice it and how it can help with mental health problems.

General Websites:

BAMBA. An inclusive community of mindfulness practitioners, teachers, trainers and researchers. 

Mindful.Org. They work to provide insight, information and inspiration to help us all live more mindfully.