Posted on: 24 April 2020
What is mindfulness?
This handy summary comes from meditation app Headspace:
“Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.”
But what about meditation? Aren’t they the same thing?
For many people the word ‘mindfulness’ conjures up images of sitting cross-legged and chanting ‘om’ for hours. But meditation is simply a way of practising the state of mind known as mindfulness – training yourself in moment-to-moment awareness so you can then apply it to everyday life.
Why should I try mindfulness?
Most people use mindfulness to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and to cultivate peace of mind.
There is strong evidence that cultivating mindfulness through regular meditation benefits your mental health. As an example, this meta-analysis from John Hopkins University found general meditation programs helped ease psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain related to stress. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754
Here’s Headspace again:
“Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate stress or other difficulties; instead, by becoming aware of unpleasant thoughts and emotions that arise because of challenging situations, we have more choice in how to handle them in the moment — and a better chance of reacting calmly and empathetically when faced with stress or challenges.”
So how can I get started?
The easiest way is probably through guided meditations, where somebody takes you through the principles of mindfulness and gives you exercises to do. The idea is to do one session a day of about 10 minutes each and get into a regular routine.
There are hundreds of providers but some of the best-known are Headspace, Calm, Buddify, and Balance. Most of these offer a free trial or free beginner’s sessions so you can see if it’s for you. These can be accessed via the website or mobile app, (or Hapi?)
But I’m already so busy!
If you’re feeling stressed to begin with, adding one more thing to your To-Do list might seem counter-intuitive. But everyone can and should find a few minutes every day to take care of themselves.
The most important thing is consistency – taking time every day to practice mindfulness in small manageable chunks of 3, 5 or 10 minutes will help you build a routine that’s easy to stick to. The ‘little and often’ approach is easy to slot into your life and soon you’ll be feeling the benefit.