What is Mindfulness?

mindfulness woman

I'd read some articles about mindfulness and how beneficial it could be for well-being. The idea of carefully observing my thoughts and feelings without any judgement good or bad sounded appealing. You see, like many of us, I often judge myself and my judgements aren't always kind.

It therefore caught my attention when I learned that an eight-week mindfulness course was set to run at my local community centre. I signed up and my first session was just lovely. It made me feel so full of tranquility, calmness and a feeling of optimism about controlling my anxieties.

The lady who facilitated the session had found mindfulness after a bereavement. Her grief had been intense and mindfulness had given her a tool to help her cope. Interestingly, I discovered that mindfulness courses are actually "prescribed" by the NHS for depression and anxiety.

We spent the first 10 minutes of the session being mindful about a raisin that she'd placed on the palm of our hands. I never knew a raisin could be so beautiful. It sparkled at different angles, it was squishy between my thumb and forefinger and sounded squelchy when I put it to my ear! Its smell reminded me of Christmas and flooded my head with happy memories of baking a Christmas cake with my Mum. It was such a weird but wonderful mindful-revelation!

Mindfulness basically means that instead of letting your life pass you by on autopilot, you wake yourself up and reclaim the "steering wheel of your attention." Through mindfully maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment, you learn to live in the moment of your current experience. Mindfulness also involves non-judgment, meaning that you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings with the attitude of an impartial witness — without necessarily believing them or taking them personally.

Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) defines mindfulness as: “Paying attention; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” His definition shows that there are three specific ways in which your attention can '"shift gears'' when practising mindfulness. By being open to all your experiences, you find a way to greater health and wellbeing.

I left my first mindfulness session feeling much calmer about my anxieties. It also felt as though I had been kind to myself and it made me feel happy. Over the next week my homework is to enjoy a mindful meal and to bring mindful awareness to a routine activity such as washing the dishes or folding the laundry. Although I'm just beginning my mindfulness journey, I already feel how mindfulness can benefit our wellbeing.