Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of each moment of your day as it happens. Becoming more mindful helps reduce tension, stress and anxiety. It also helps you notice what supports your wellbeing.
Mindfulness involves becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations as you experience them. It helps you notice:
- tension building up and when you need to take a break
- whether your food is healthy and when you have had enough to eat
- whether you need more sleep or exercise.
It also helps you notice other people. You become more aware of:
- the effect other people have on you – who helps build you up and who brings you down.
- other people's experiences, needs and emotions, which makes your relationships better.
How mindful are you? Find out with the following mindfulness quiz
Ways of being more mindful
Developing a mindfulness practice
Start with the first step and do as many of the steps in order as feels right for you. Practice every day. Try 5 to 10 minutes to begin with. You may wish to set a timer for the length of time you want to practice for so you don’t need to keep watching a clock.
- Find a quiet spot to sit in on your own.
- Become aware of your breathing. If you get distracted, just bring your focus back to the rhythm of your breath going in and out.
- After a few minutes, bring your awareness to your body. Scan your body from your feet up to the top of your head. Notice any body sensations, such as whether you are hot or cold, or any tension or itches.
- Bring your awareness to your feelings. Practice naming these feelings, not getting caught up in them.
- Bring your awareness to your thinking. Notice your thoughts then just let them go, without getting caught up in them.
- Sit quietly holding in your awareness your breathing, your body sensations, your feelings and your mind. Enjoy this calmer and more spacious experience.
- Finally, if it is right for you, connect to your sense of God, or the universe, and allow yourself to be held in this greater context.
If noticing what is happening in your body makes you feel distressed, don’t do this practice, but talk about it with your family doctor or a counsellor or psychotherapist.
- An overview of mindfulness-based interventions and their evidence base (pdf) Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand 2011
- What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research (pdf) Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin, 2011
- Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis Freiburg Institute for Mindfulness Research, 2004