What is mindfulness and how can it help?

Most of us frequently find ourselves being ‘swept away’ by a current of thoughts, feelings, worries and responsibilities. Perhaps we just want things to be different from how they are right now. This can be particularly powerful when we are faced with difficulties that defy all our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Feeling stuck in this way can be really draining because we just go round in circles trying to THINK our way out of a problem or why we are feeling so awful. Mindfulness offers a different way to work directly with this struggle and, in doing so, can dramatically improve the quality of our life.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation and has its roots in Tibetan Buddhism but has been adopted by the West as a non-religious approach to awareness training. Awareness training is learning how to become more aware and present in each moment of life. We might think we are already all too aware and that is our problem but in fact we tend to be mostly aware of our thoughts… There is more to us than just thoughts! We have a body that allows us to experience feelings/emotions, and millions of other sensations, pleasant and sometimes not so pleasant. Mindfulness helps in training our awareness to all of these aspects that make up our experience as they’re happening: not yesterday, not tomorrow, but right now!

This may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do. However learning to do this in a way that suspends judgment and self-criticism can have surprising results. The good news is that this makes life more enjoyable, interesting, vivid and fulfilling. It can also have beneficial effects on our general health and wellbeing as well as on our management of specific challenges such as low mood, over-worrying, or when we have chosen to change a pattern of behaviour which we’ve come to see as detrimental to our health.

Many people who practice mindfulness regularly report finding inner strengths and resources that help them approach life with more ease as well as helping them make wise decisions about their health and life in general.