Mindfulness is an intentional practice of focusing our minds on the present moment and working to accept our thoughts & emotions without judgment. It is a state of being fully present and aware of our bodily sensations and feelings - which can be a lot harder than it sounds!
Mindfulness draws on Buddhist traditions, and has been used therapeutically in psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s. Mindfulness is a learned skill that can help us to become more attuned to our thoughts and feelings, helping us to keep our responses calmer and more level. In the current age of information overload, we are often planning, worrying, hoping, or thinking about all kinds of things from the minute we wake up to the time we fall asleep at night. Over time, this can be emotionally draining and take a toll on our overall well-being.
Intentionally putting a halt to overthinking the past or worrying about the future can help us to come back to our bodies and feel at peace in the present moment. Mindfulness has been found to be useful for improving both mental and physical well-being in a variety of different settings, and it can be an excellent addition to anyone’s toolbox of mental health strategies.
Mindfulness is a state of mind, and it gets easier to achieve the more we practice. Meditation is one common way to practice mindfulness - but it is not the only way! Because mindfulness is a state of being, we can actually apply it during nearly any activity, especially as we practice and become more skilled.
Mindfulness practice often requires us to tap into our physical senses. By focusing on noticing what we’re feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting and hearing, we refocus our minds to the present moment. Breathing exercises are another common mindfulness practice that can help us to feel more present and centered. Emphasizing our physical sensations and allowing our thoughts to flow in and out without judging ourselves is a critical part of mindfulness. As this process starts to feel more natural, we can apply it during:
Mindfulness is meant to be an adaptable skill that helps us be more resilient in all kinds of situations!
There are decades of research showing the many benefits of mindfulness exercises and mindfulness meditation practices. In addition to helping reduce stress and improve mood in the short-term, consistent use of mindfulness techniques can have real therapeutic benefits. For example, studies have shown that mindfulness-based treatments can be effective for mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. Benefits can go even further, helping to minimize even physical symptoms like chronic pain, high blood pressure and sleep difficulties. There is also some evidence that practicing mindfulness can help improve communication and relationships. As a behaviour-based, noninvasive therapy, mindfulness is an excellent strategy to help improve and maintain overall well-being.
For beginners interested in learning more about mindfulness, it can be hard to know where to start. Mindfulness is a skill that takes time, effort and persistence to learn. Consistency is key and even a few minutes of practice each day can add up to a big impact.
If you’re interested in beginning a mindfulness practice, there are a number of ways to incorporate this into your day-to-day life. To start, you might consider trying:
If you’re interested in learning more about how mindfulness can be used as part of a more formal mental health treatment regimen, consider connecting with a mental health professional for guidance. However you choose to learn, mindfulness can bring immense benefits for your mental and physical wellness, and is safe for most people to try on their own.