What is mindfulness? (Taken from The Counselling Directory)
Mindfulness aims to reconnect us with ourselves to alleviate stress. It also helps us to feel more attuned with our emotions and generally more aware of ourselves both mentally and physically.
The Mental Health Foundation has reported that anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health issues within the UK; something that could, in part, be attributed to busy modern lives. Multitasking and juggling commitments has become commonplace, with many people feeling as if they aren't truly present in their own lives.
Mindfulness is a specific way of paying attention to what is happening in our lives in the present moment, as it truly is. Of course, it won't eliminate life's pressures – but with practice it can help us take notice of (and hopefully stop) negative, habitual reactions to everyday stress.
The most common way this technique is practised is through mindful meditation. This usually involves practitioners focusing on sights, sounds and physical sensations while trying to reduce 'brain chatter'. Some people struggle with mindfulness meditation at first, finding it hard to focus their attention, but this is to be expected and may require practice. Practising the technique regularly can help people take a step back, acknowledge their 'brain chatter' and view it accurately and without judgement.
Other forms of mindfulness practice may involve physical movement. Exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi both involve meditative movements that can help improve physical self-awareness and quiet the mind.
While these types of mindfulness practices are useful for everyone, those with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression may benefit from a more structured therapy that incorporates mindfulness, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.