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Mindfulness

Introduction to mindfulness

Mindfulness has become a buzzword in recent years as people are rediscovering the benefits of practicing something which has been around for thousands of years.

Mindfulness involves taking our minds away from future planning or from analysing the past and spending time focusing on the present moment, which sounds simple enough – but with our busy minds, isn’t always easy.

And why would we do this?

There is a wealth of research on the benefits of practicing mindfulness including:

  • Increased resilience to stress
  • Improved executive functioning
  • Better working memory, planning and focused attention
  • Improved immune system
  • Better physical health
  • Better sleep
  • Decreased relapse into depression
  • Increased emotional intelligence
  • Increased compassion

Maybe because of all these benefits, people who practice mindfulness report feeling happier.

In this section, you’ll find information on how to bring mindfulness into your daily life, alongside guided meditations that you can use to support your practice.

People often ask how much/how often they should practice mindfulness. Any mindfulness is better than no mindfulness! However, you’re more likely to feel the benefits by practising little and often, rather than for a longer period once a month. If you can find 45 minutes to practice regularly, then you will soon feel the difference. However, if your life just doesn’t allow for that, could you manage 20 minutes, or just 10? Even if you start with 2 minutes daily, building up to more when you can, you are starting to train your brain and build new, beneficial neural pathways.

Mindful moments

If you find it difficult to make time for meditation of ‘formal’ mindfulness, don’t worry. Informal mindfulness can be practised easily, wherever you are, whatever time of day it is.

Informal mindfulness is where you simply bring your attention to whatever you are doing, particularly habitual actions. Rather than going into auto pilot with your mind thinking of other things, try really paying attention to what you are actually doing. Feel the sensations involved. Notice any sounds. Be present with that habitual activity.

Below are just a few suggestions of when and how you can do this. But really, you can do it anytime, anywhere.

  • Set an alarm or reminder maybe even every hour and when it goes off, take your attention to your breathing, for the whole of one breath (or more if you want). Feel the breath coming all the way in, notice the pause as it changes direction and becomes an out breath. Then sense it all the way out, with another short pause before the next breath begins.
  • Each time you walk to the bathroom, or other short journey, take your attention to your feet walking on the ground. Notice the pressure at different points – when there is contact and when there isn’t.
  • Each time you make a drink, try focusing on the actual process of making it; the physical motion of how you pick up the kettle and turn on the tap, reaching for a cup – all the complex movements that go into this everyday, seemingly simple action.
  • Each time you wash or rinse your hands, take your attention fully to the process, the motion of turning on the tap, the sensation of water on your hands – how that might feel different with soap. Notice all the different sounds.
  • Each time you sit down and settle or rearrange yourself in your chair, bring your attention to the movement, feeling the change in pressure, sensing whether one part of your body is slightly warmer than another, getting a sense of posture, noticing how the movement changes your breathing.

Explore guided exercises, videos, and more to help you get healthier and happier  ‘Headspace’ Mindfulness for your everyday life
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