Mindfulness was once thought of as a new age buzz word but has now become mainstream. With more people turning to mindfulness to manage stress, Quids in! takes a look. What is it and what can it do for us?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, ‘mindfulness is a combined, mind-body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings and mental health.’
In more simple terms, mindfulness is just the act of being aware of our thoughts and feelings. It’s about tuning into our minds and bodies to get a better picture of how we’re feeling.
The idea is that if we can understand our thoughts and feelings a bit better, we can manage them better, too. Crucially, mindfulness isn’t based in religion or spirituality. The NHS recommends it, and there is more and more science to back up its benefits.
What are the benefits?
Mindfulness is recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) as a way to help prevent depression in people who have had it in the past. It has also been shown in various studies to help with stress and anxiety, especially in helping us break out of negative thought cycles.
A study by Oxford University and The Mental Health Foundation found practising mindfulness could lead to:
- 58 per cent reduction in anxiety levels, (ie, lowers anxiety by three fifths)
- 57 per cent reduction in depression
- 40 per cent reduction in stress
A Quids in! survey found two thirds (68%) of readers felt frightened, anxious or depressed on account of money worries. Mindfulness can help make fears around making ends meet and keeping food on the table easier to manage. Worries over money, debt or our health are the kind of things that can spiral out of control.
When we’re caught in a cycle of worry it can be tough to break out of and our health can suffer as a result. Something as simple as mindfulness can help us break these cycles in the short term. Long term, this can mean we’re more likely to make positive progress in tackling our problems.
How do I practice mindfulness?
Just by taking notice of the present moment, we are practising mindfulness. By paying attention to the way we feel and the things we see for a couple of minutes, we can break out of cycles of negative thoughts.
The NHS recommends picking a regular time each day to practice mindfulness. That could be for a few quiet moments after breakfast, last thing before bed or any point in between. The most important thing is to try and stick to a similar time each day as this helps our brains get better at it.
We can practice mindfulness when we’re out and about. If we want to take it a step further, we can practice mindful meditation, too. These are usually guided sessions, where we sit and meditate for around ten minutes each day. There are lots of meditation sites out there that offer free guided mindfulness meditation. Try to find one that comes recommended, or check the comments to see how other people found it.
Here are three to start with:
- The Free Mindfulness Project
- Palouse Mindfulness
- Free meditation downloads from Oxford professor Mark Williams
It can take a couple of goes to feel the benefit but if it doesn’t feel right, try something different. If it seems to increase anxiety levels, maybe talk to a GP. This isn’t for everyone and more specialist help could be what we need.
There are other ways to clear our minds, of course. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, (get some ideas here). And tasks that are a bit involved, for example baking or model-making, can squeeze out the negative stuff in our minds for a bit.
Where can I get more info?
If you’re interested in finding out about mindfulness and what it can do for you, check out the following links:
- NHS info on mindfulnes and mental wellbeing
- Mental health charity Mind’s page on mindfulness
- Mental Health Foundation’s info on mindfulness