Woman practicing mindfulness on bed

What is mindfulness and how can it help?

You may have heard of the concept of mindfulness, often referred to as mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness is often mentioned as one technique to help people improve how they deal with stress and anxiety. So what exactly is mindfulness and how can it help?

 

What is mindfulness?

How do you define mindfulness? Quite simply, mindfulness means focussing on the present and ‘feeling’ what’s going on around you. Mindfulness means bringing a greater awareness of what is happening around you and purposely focusing on what you are doing.

In practice, it means paying attention to where you are and what you are doing, thereby becoming better at responding (or simply becoming less reactive) to what is going on around you.

Anyone can do mindfulness. It’s a technique that we can all practice — and like all techniques, the more you practice, the easier it gets.

 

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Mindfulness techniques can help you in many ways.

  • Mindfulness can help you attain better mental clarity if you’re feeling overwhelmed, worried, confused or stressed.
  • Mindfulness can help improve your decision-making. If you’re feeling unsure, the simple act of ‘stepping away’ for a bit could help you re-assess the situation and help you get better at making the right decision.
  • Mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety. Akin to a moment of ‘time out’ it can help you get better at managing those negative feelings.
  • Mindfulness can enhance your attention and concentration. A common reason for your concentration wavering is that you are feeling mentally fatigued. Mindfulness is the equivalent of hitting the reset button.
  • Mindfulness can boost your creativity by allowing trivial worries and concerns to ‘settle’ while permitting the underlying creativity in your mind to ‘surface’.
  • Mindfulness can help you relax. People often don’t realise how tense and worried they are. Mindfulness allows you to be aware of that very fact, which in turn can help you become less tense.
  • Mindfulness can improve your wellbeing by combining the above.

 

So how can I get better at mindfulness?

Most of us spend large parts of our day not actively paying attention to some of the things we are doing. You’re often doing multiple things at once, like folding clothes while watching TV and keeping an eye on the kids. This means you’re more likely to go on ‘auto-pilot’ as your mind wanders.

By being more mindful, we are paying attention to what we are doing. When we are mindful, we focus on our senses. This means thinking about what we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear in the moment?

You don’t have to stop what you’re doing to try mindfulness. Instead, you can work it into a daily routine. Try it when you are washing the dishes, going for a walk or waiting for the train.

 

Mindfulness techniques and exercises

Mindfulness is essentially about mental relaxation. Here are some mindfulness tip and techniques to help you on your way.

  • Start practicing mindfulness by setting aside a few minutes.
  • Observe the present moment.
  • Pay attention to what your senses are telling you. What can you see, smell, taste, touch or hear?
  • Don’t judge what you notice. Just process it and let it pass.
  • Accept what is happening around you and see these things for what they are.
  • Once you start practicing mindfulness you may realise how much your mind actually wanders. This is perfectly fine – proper mindfulness means acknowledging and being aware that this is happening.
  • Let those feelings come and go, then gently bring yourself back to the present moment.

 

Finding mindfulness difficult?

You may find that you’re having difficulty concentrating when you first start practising mindfulness. This can be even more noticeable if you’re feeling stressed or worried, as your thoughts can wander even further or become quite intrusive.

Don’t feel bad about that. Everyone’s thoughts wander and at times it can be hard to fully focus on what you’re doing while not getting distracted.

As mentioned previously, mindfulness is a technique. You can start in small increments each day. See if it gets easier for you. Not every day will result in you getting perfectly mindful, but doing it more often will allow you to get better at it.

 

Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.