Mindfulness is the practice of deliberately bringing your attention to something in the present moment. This could be your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, or something in the surrounding environment. Mindfulness means noticing these things without judging them to be good or bad. Mindfulness can mean practicing formally for a set amount of time or deliberately paying attention to things in your daily life.
Practising mindfulness, even a little bit, has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, help with difficult emotions like stress, and improve concentration and memory. It may also help if COVID-19 related events are affecting your life. (Mental Health Foundation, NZ, 2012)
Mindfulness involves becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations as you experience them. As you become more aware of what’s going on for you, you get better at being able to meet your own needs. For example, you might become better at noticing when you need a break, when you are hungry or full, and when you are tired or need to get out for some exercise.
It also helps you notice other people. You might become more aware of other people’s impact on you or better at noticing other people's experiences, needs and emotions.
Because of this, mindfulness is great for helping reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Even practicing mindfulness a little bit has been shown to be generally helpful, but the more often you practice, the more helpful it is. (Dr Chantal Hofstee, 2016)
Slow down and bring your full attention to what you are doing.
Breathe slowly and calmly while paying careful attention to each breath.
Do one thing at a time.
Take time to smell the roses – or look at the stars, stroll on a beach, stroke a pet.
Write a journal or draw a picture, paying full attention as you do.
Develop a daily mindfulness practice.
(Happify Inc, 2020)
Developing a mindfulness practice
There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness. Why not check out our selection of mindfulness apps? Here is one exercise for you to try. Start with the first step and do as many of the steps in order as feel right for you. Practice every day, try for 5–10 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. Apps like Smiling Mind and Buddhify have a timer you can use, or you can try one of their guided mindfulness exercises. It is important to remember that it is normal for our minds to drift off when we’re practicing mindfulness. An important part of mindfulness is the simple act of bringing our mind back to focus on the sensation we’ve chosen.
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.
Kris Garstang is consulting clinical psychologist at Life Mind Psychology. She has practiced as a registered clinical psychologist for over twenty years and is a fellow of the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists. She has expertise in different evidence based psychological therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy. Areas of interest include primary mental health, e-therapies, mental health leadership and workplace wellbeing.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Kris Garstang, Clinical Psychologist, Life Mind Psychology
Last reviewed: 24 May 2022
Apps or online programmes that may help with mindfulness
An app created by the Canadian organisation, the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Colombia, aims to help teens and young adults with anxiety, including panic, test anxiety, social anxiety, performance anxiety, perfectionism and worry.
This is a story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku – this pūrakau speaks about the struggle between all of our Atua to separate Rangi and Papa. From that darkness, we can now experience the light or Te Ao Mārama.
(Jase Te Patu, NZ, 2020)
2. The stars of Matariki
This narrative is about the 9 stars of Matariki. The theme speaks about kaitīakitanga or taking care of our Earth Mother Papatūānuku, ourselves and each other. Especially now, all these things are super important.
(Jase Te Patu, NZ, 2020)
3. The great fish of Māui
With the help of his brothers, Māui was able to fish up the biggest fish ever caught. This became the North Island of Aotearoa and the South Island, the waka! This is a beautiful pūrakau about how when we help one another, great things can be achieved.
This course is for anyone, because everyone can benefit from mindfulness. No previous experience of mindfulness is required.
The course will explain how mindfulness works, but above all this is a practical course. The course will ask you to explore different mindfulness techniques and reflect on your experience. This course is not designed to be therapeutic for significant health problems so if you have any concerns in this regard then it is recommended that you speak to a suitably qualified health practitioner.