What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is derived from Sati, a part of Buddhist traditions including Zen, Vipassana and Tibetan meditations.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) “Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wonder”
Mindful.org says “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”
Mindfulness has also being described as a moment to moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and this is what cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) talks about. CBT aims at understanding the links between thoughts, feelings and behaviours and when we practice mindfulness combined with CBT our mental wellbeing improves.
So as you can see mindfulness has slightly different meanings depending on the context in which it is used.
But a good question to ask is ‘how does mindfulness help our mental wellbeing?’
Whatever meaning you attach to mindfulness there is a common element which applies to them all “mindfulness is mind training”
When we practice mindfulness we are training the mind to become more aware. It is through this awareness we get an insight into how the mind works.
Often mental anguish such as depression, anxiety and anger come from over thinking. This thinking happens in the mind and is can be repetitive.
For example an anxious person is often worried about future events in a fearful way. In their mind they have imagined and worried about an event which has not happened yet, this implies their mind is not present. If they keep having anxious thoughts then the mind has been trained to worry about the future and it becomes a habit or vicious anxious cycle.
Mindfulness can break the vicious cycles in the mind. As you practice you become more aware of anxious thoughts as they arise and their corresponding sensations in the body. You start to notice that you are not focused on the present moment.
A great way to start mindfulness is:
Train the mind to be focused on what you are doing. If you are washing the dishes, having a shower or making a cup of tea, concentrate on the action. If the mind wanders with thoughts of future or past, gentle bring it back to the task at hand.
This will change your state of mind and improve your overall mental and physical wellbeing.
To learn more please visit Still Mind Training where you will find free resources on meditation and mindful breathing.