Mindfulness has its roots firmly placed in Buddhist meditation and is loosely defined on the practice of ‘learning to live consciously in the present.’ An ancient art, mindfulness promises us a healthier, happier, more enjoyable life – claims which modern science has supported. According to research, allowing ourselves to live in the moment has proven benefits on our wellbeing.
With modern life demanding more from us than ever before and technology disrupting our lives, it’s not surprising that our interest in mindfulness continues to grow – with everything from courses, and apps to ebooks promising us to teach us a better way of being.
Mindfulness has been used for some time in physical health, for example Jon Kabat Zinn using mindfulness to help people with chronic pain. More recently Western mental health professionals have adopted mindfulness to treat people who suffer with difficulties managing their emotions, for example depression through to working with people with schizophrenia. At The Chelsea Psychology Clinic our clinicians have been delivering Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in a group format to help clients better understand depression and teach them strategies to manage the way that they respond or react to their thought patterns and experiences.
Advice from Dr Anna & Dr Elena
- When you start mindfulness practice it helps to find a space every day to find five or ten minutes to undertake formal mindfulness exercises. There is no achievement goal in mindfulness, you are learning to be here in this present moment and with whatever that brings. There are many ways to do this through courses and apps (see below) that teach you different ways of practicing and can give you the access to a lead mindfulness practice at home. Practicing some mindfulness exercises more formally can help you to notice your thoughts, urges, sensations, desires and dreams. Developing a formal mindfulness practice can be thought of a bit like building a new muscle in the gym, it takes time, practice, and repetition to become easier but there will always be something new to learn. The most important thing to remember is that your brain is designed as a thought producing machine and it will always be taking you away and noticing that you have been taken away and then bringing yourself back is being mindful.
- Using mindfulness in your day-to-day life does not have to mean just engaging in formal mindfulness meditation. Formal mindfulness practise can then allow you to call on your mindfulness techniques when you notice yourself being taken away by what is occurring in your mind or body. You may begin to notice that this indicates that you may be about to become emotionally overwhelmed. Being able to observe what is occurring for you will allow you to use your mindfulness ‘muscle’ that you have been building in the formal practice to bring your self back to this present moment, not the past moment or future moment that had taken you away from being here now in this moment. We can take any moment to practice being mindful, for instance making a cup of tea by noticing the sound of the water going in to the kettle, the sound the kettle makes as it comes to the boil, the way the steam comes of out of the kettle, the way the colour comes from the tea bag as your pour the water over it, the way the smell arrives at your nose, the way the cup warms in your hand, the way the tea feels as it enters your mouth – all little moments of being present and experiencing this moment and allowing all the other mental traffic to slide on by while you keep bringing yourself back to this moment and this cup of tea.
- Mindfulness can be helpful for most people. There is particular evidence for therapies for recurrent depression and use in therapy for emotion regulation difficulties. However, that is not to say that you need to be experiencing difficulties to get benefits from mindfulness. Mindfulness can improve your life experience and increase your knowledge and awareness of your self in this time and place.
The Mental Health Foundation teach mindfulness practice through its online course, Be Mindful
Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance, is a free 6-week online course
Calm – a free mindfulness app offers to teach mindfulness practice
Popular app, Headspace offers to teach meditation and boasts over 5 million users
The Mindful Kind – podcast by mindfulness blogger Rachael Kable