What is mindfulness?

Maybe you’re familiar with the term mindfulness and maybe you’re not. But it’s quite possible you may have been using elements of it during difficult periods, perhaps without even realising. Maybe you spent time sitting in your garden with a cup of tea listening to the birds. Possibly you consciously turned off the news and just concentrated on your breathing to avoid feeling overwhelmed by so much suffering. Or perhaps you’ve discovered a love for walking around your community, discovering new areas of nature you never knew were there. All of these are mindful behaviours.

Mindfulness aims to reconnect us with ourselves, allowing us to become aware of our emotions, feelings and actions, giving ourselves time and space to do so.

It facilitates a connection with both mind and body, so we can be aware of ourselves alongside what is going on around us. It moves away from the busyness of our minds, and therefore moves away from the stress of it.

How to do it

Mindfulness can be used in everyday life and doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. Here are some examples of mindfulness activities you could try.

Breathing: Breathe in and out as you normally would and notice each inhalation and exhalation, notice your lungs expanding and notice when your mind wanders and bring it back to your breath. How was this different to the breathing you do every day?

Body scan: Spend a minute bringing your awareness to your body. Starting with your feet and moving upwards, notice any sensations, how does it feel where you are sitting/standing? Which part of your body was the easiest and most difficult to focus on? Where did your mind go? You can find guided body scans online, like this one:

Mindful walking: Walk slowly, be aware of the sensations on your feet and in the muscles in your legs. Notice what you are thinking, notice where your mind wanders and bring it back to your walking.

Mindful eating: Observe what you are eating and give it your full attention. Notice the textures of the food, smell it, notice the taste and notice the speed at which you chew your food – slow it down!

Mindful listening: Listen to what is around you, be aware of new noises within a minute of mindful listening, or notice if noises change.

Mindful emotions: As you sit, notice your breath. Move your attention to any emotional sensation you may be feeling. Be interested. How does it feel? If it had a shape what shape would it be, is it hot, cold, pleasant or unpleasant. Notice how it changes as you focus your attention on it.

You might also like to try one of our guided relaxations.

Mindfulness is something we can do every day to reduce stress and anxiety, so why not give it a go? And if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed by the thought of lockdown lifting, why not browse some of our self-help articles or give us a ring. Our Support Line is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and can be contacted by calling 0800 389 8820 or making an enquiry online.