Mindfulness is a mind-body approach that has become popular to help people manage anxiety, stress, recurrent depression, pain and long term medical conditions.
Mindfulness has its origins in Buddhist and Eastern Traditions drawing on meditation techniques. Mindfulness can be used as a spiritual practice but in the mental and physical health context it is non-religious.
Use of mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention was started by Dr Jon Kabat-Zin as a way of helping people live with chronic medical conditions. Meditation, breathing, yoga techniques and an attitude of acceptance were adapted to assist people to find a different way of being with their pain and suffering. Clinical research showed the benefits of this approach and it was developed further by others for treatment in depression, anxiety and addictions.
Mindfulness practice focuses on bringing your complete attention to the present moment and paying attention to your experience in a non-judgemental way. Bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings are acknowledged and explored in the present, with the breath often being used as a focus. The idea is to develop an accepting attitude towards your bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings, whatever they may be, pleasant or unpleasant. This may help you to feel less overwhelmed and more able to manage and be with whatever is going on in your body and mind.
‘Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.’ Jon Kabat-Zin
Courses in Mindfulness are often run over a set period of weeks and daily practice is encouraged to build these techniques into everyday life. Research continues to show that the inclusion of mindfulness plus fostering an attitude of kindness and compassion in daily life can help improve our wellbeing.
We can all get caught up in the whirl of our thoughts and feelings, the business of life. Sometimes it can be helpful to stop for a little while and just to take a moment to check in with ourselves and focus on where we are right now. So why not try bringing a little mindfulness into your life? Here are some suggestions of places to find out more:
Listen to the Mental health Foundation’s podcast on Mindfulness
Mindfulnet has plenty of information for you to browse.
Breathworks is an organisation which focuses on mindfulness and health, using mindfulness to manage living with pain and long term health conditions.
Self Compassion and loving kindness can also be a focus for mindfulness practice. Visit Kristen Neff’s website to find out more.
Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world by Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman
Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman
Mindful Compassion: Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to transform our lives by Paul Gilbert and Choden
Leaves Falling Gently: Living fully with serious and life-limiting illness through mindfulness, compassion and connectedness by Susan Bauer-Wu