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What Is Mindfulness?

What Is Mindfulness?

/mʌɪn(d)f(ʊ)lnəs/

noun

1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”

2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

 

That’s what the dictionary tells us, but what actually is mindfulness?

In a straw poll of the first five websites offered up with the Google search ‘what is mindfulness’, we got these five answers:

  1. Mindfulness aims to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
  1. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
  1. 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.
  1. Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself.
  1. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.

So, five different, albeit similar answers, but it still doesn’t answer our original question:

What Is Mindfulness?

To understand mindfulness, we need to go back 2,500 years. Buddhist monks practiced a form of what is essentially ‘paying attention’ but they did it in a particular way, on purpose and non-judgementally. Think of it as a method of focusing your complete attention on the task at hand, a character trait that in this day and age of everyone rushing around at a million miles an hour is more useful that perhaps you realise…

Little known in western culture until as recently as 1979, mindfulness was introduced into the mainstream by an American medical professor called Jon Kabat-Zinn. He treated patients in chronic pain with a technique he developed known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) where he took elements of eastern teachings and Buddhist concepts and developed them to treat a variety of conditions in both the healthy and the unhealthy.

Since Kabat-Zinn first formulated MBSR (and you can watch a great video here where he explains what mindfulness is), there have been many academics and medical professionals who have embraced mindfulness and incorporated it into their treatment regimes, including Mark Williams, the Founding Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre who, alongside colleagues from Cambridge and Toronto universities developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, aimed at helping prevent the relapse of depression.

  • Clinical trials have shown MBCT to be as effective as antidepressants
  • In patients with multiple episodes of depression, MBCT can reduce the recurrence rate by 40-50% compared with usual care
  • Approved by NICE, the therapy is available in the NHS

‘It lets us stand back from our thoughts, and start to see their patterns. Gradually we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over, and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us. Most of us have issues we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively.’

Mark Williams

How Do We Become More Mindful?

We need to become more aware of the world around us. We need to switch off autopilot and notice what’s happening, not just in the world around us but also within ourselves, our thoughts and feelings. Wake up to new sensations and focus. By having the ability to connect with the moment you are in you become better able to manage your thoughts, feelings and emotions and you will see improvements in your relationships with your partner, colleagues and family, you will be more productive and you will see the world with more clarity.

Now What?

Read the Mindfulness page on the website to find out how we can help individuals and groups and then you know what to do – call Jules.

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