What is Mindfulness and how will it help me?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ability to observe what is happening in each moment, with an attitude of acceptance, curiosity and kindness. This awareness can include our thoughts, feelings, body sensations or behaviours, as well as the outside world.  

Why acceptance? I don’t want to accept that bad things just happen and not do anything about it.  

Acceptance does not mean that we do not want to change things for the better. But in order to do that, first we need to be able to look at reality as it is, with as little interference from our habitual emotional responses and interpretations as possible. Mindfulness can help with that aim.

How could a mindfulness program help?

A mindfulness program introduces you to the basic techniques that can help you develop mindfulness in your everyday life. This then may help you to respond to stressful situations in new ways, reducing the emotional reactions that often accompany and exacerbate stress.

When is best to do mindfulness?

People often mix up mindfulness in everyday life with the mindfulness exercises we do to develop it. We call these exercises ‘formal practice’.

The aim is not “to do mindfulness” but to be mindful, as a habit, in as many moments in our life as possible. It is not an easy thing to do, as our thoughts and emotions tend to run off in all directions, without us noticing. Formal practice can help us develop this habit, the same way going to the gym can help us become stronger.

You can do your mindfulness exercises (formal practice) at any time. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to develop a habit to do your formal practice at the same time every day, because it helps to develop a habit. It does not really matter when you do it, as long as you do it regularly.

What is the evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions?

The first research study about mindfulness was published nearly 40 years ago, and a very large amount of research has been conducted in the past 20 years especially. In non-clinical samples, mindfulness-based interventions have been found to reduce stress and improve general well-being.  As clinical treatments, they have been shown to be effective for recurrent depression, some anxiety disorders, chronic pain and addictive behaviours.

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