The practice of mindfulness has roots in ancient meditation practices and enables people to focus on the present moment, instead of dwelling on the past or feeling concerned about the future. Becoming mindful often involves practising techniques that are usually associated with yoga and meditation.
Mindfulness is a practice whereby you become more aware of the present. This includes your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, as well as the world around you. A heightened awareness of these things means you are better able to identify patterns in your own reactions, and this better equips you to cope with life.
Being mindful can be beneficial for everyone, and there is no limit to the age at which you can start practising mindfulness; it is suitable for children, young adults and adults. Those who have suffered from anxiety, depression or stress may find mindfulness particularly helpful, although mindfulness is also useful to those who have no past history of mental illness and simply want to improve their general wellbeing.
Mindfulness has been associated with increased concentration levels, attention span and a reduction in stress, anxiety and addictive behaviours. It can also have a positive effect on physical problems such as heart disease, hypertension and chronic pain.
It should be noted that like all talking therapies, mindfulness does not necessarily work for everyone.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are two mindfulness therapies. The difference between them is the following:
Mindfulness-based stress reduction aims to help people cope with stress through a combination of meditation, yoga and body awareness.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy aims to prevent relapse in those who have previously experienced depression. It uses techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combined with mindfulness and mindfulness meditation.
NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends MBCT for people who have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression, and are currently well.
Mindfulness can also be useful for a range of other mental health problems, studies have shown that it is effective for preventing anxiety and other mood disorders and can have a positive effect on those with conditions such as bipolar disorder.