What is Mindfulness?
To be mindful, is to be in the here and now, the very current moment. You are not stuck in your head, worrying about things, focusing on the past and future. Rather, you are observing what is unfolding in your mind, your body, and around you, at that very moment. You are also using your 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) to immerse yourself in that experience. Mindfulness has three main qualities:
Living in the moment
Acknowledging and accepting what is, and
Being kind to yourself
Through mindfulness a person can become more tolerant and accepting of their experiences, and to be kinder to themselves.
Practising mindfulness can help you develop:
Curiosity (vs judgment and criticism)
Awareness (vs autopilot and detachment)
Acceptance (vs avoidance and suppression)
Responding (vs reacting out of habit)
The benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is known to have many beneficial effects on health and wellbeing, including reduced stress, reduced anxiety and improved mood and concentration skills. To get the most benefit you should practise being mindful daily, and not go more than two days back-to-back without some kind of mindfulness practice.
How to practise Mindfulness
A simple way to get started on your mindfulness is through a 3-minute mindful breathing exercise. This helps you understand what it’s really like to pause and be still and try to only focus on your breathing. When you do this, you’ll find thoughts do enter your mind that might momentarily distract you from your breathing. This is normal, but rather than judging yourself about your wandering thoughts, you’ll learn to practise being curious about your mind, rather than criticising, blaming or getting frustrated with it for wandering off. For best results, the 3-minute breathing practice should be done three times a day.
You can also apply mindfulness to other everyday activities such as eating, showering or getting dressed. For example, when eating mindfully, focus on how the food looks (colour, shape), the texture of the food, the taste, whether there is a smell associated with the food, the temperature of the food, any lingering taste you might experience.
Mindfulness can be practised alongside a CBT-Program where you can learn how you react to unpleasant experiences. Most people react in ‘autopilot mode’ which often means getting stuck in unhelpful patterns of thinking and acting. In autopilot, you may go about your day consumed by thoughts and worries, rather than being focused on what you are doing. You may feel irritable, tense, worried or frustrated, or you may judge yourself as weak, stupid or even worthless because you can’t control your feelings. Through a mindfulness-enhanced CBT program you’ll learn to create a calm space in your mind, from which you can observe what’s happening and choose to respond effectively, rather than react out of habit.
This article is based upon the first learning module in the ‘Introduction to Mindfulness’ course from THIS WAY UP. If you found it useful or would like to learn more, we recommend you sign up for the rest of the 4-lesson course.
THIS WAY UP is a trusted Australian provider of evidence-based, internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs.
As a not-for-profit and joint initiative of St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales, its mission is to reduce the burden of mental illness by providing accessible online treatment for anxiety disorders and related mental health conditions.
THIS WAY UP offers a range of self-paced online courses that teach clinically-proven strategies to help you improve the way you feel. Some courses are available for a small fee, however if Sonder refers you, you can access them at no cost. To find out if which courses are suitable for you and receive a free referral, simply start a chat with our team via the home screen of the Sonder app.