What is mindfulness?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a technique you can learn which involves noticing what's happening in the present moment, without judgement. You might take notice and be aware of your mind, body or surroundings. The technique has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don't have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.

Mindfulness aims to help you:

  • become more self-aware
  • feel calmer and less stressed
  • feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings
  • cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
  • be kinder towards yourself.

Many people find practising mindfulness helps them manage their day-to-day wellbeing, but it doesn't always work for everyone.


How does mindfulness work?

Mindfulness works by taking your focus to the present moment and away from other thoughts.

The way we think, and what we think about, can affect how we feel and act. For example, if you think or worry a lot about upsetting past or future events, you might often feel sad or anxious.

It is understandable to want to stop thinking about difficult things. But trying to get rid of upsetting thoughts can often make us think about them even more.

The theory behind mindfulness is that by using various techniques to bring your attention to the present, you can:

  • Notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. You may learn that they don't have to define who you are, or your experience of the world, and that you can let go of them.
  • Notice what your body is telling you. For example, you might feel tension or anxiety in your body, such as a fast heartbeat, tense muscles or shallow breathing.
  • Create space between you and your thoughts. With this space, you can reflect on the situation and react more calmly.


Can mindfulness help treat mental health problems?

Studies show that practising mindfulness can help to manage common mental health problems like depression, anxiety and feelings of stress.

There is some evidence that mindfulness could help with more complex mental health conditions, such as psychosis and bipolar disorder. But more research is needed in this area.

You might find mindfulness very helpful. Or you might feel like it doesn't work or makes you feel worse. It's important to do what works for you and your mental health. You can also talk to your doctor about what kinds of treatments might suit you best. You might find trying mindfulness is useful while waiting to receive other types of treatment.

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