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What is Mindfulness

You’ve probably heard of the term Mindfulness, but might not know exactly what it means and how it can help. Mindfulness is about being present – about noticing the feel of the keys under your keyboard as you type, or the taste of a cranberry as you chew. Our heads are often so full of what we need to do next that we don’t focus on our experiences in the moment.

The practice of Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years, but has recently become popular and is being used by psychologists to help with conditions like depression and anxiety to increase a sense of wellbeing. Mindfulness can be developed through meditating, helping you think more clearly and process negative feelings more effectively.  The practice of Mindfulness or “Mindfulness meditation” has been endorsed by some ‘A ‘list celebrities like Meg Ryan and Goldie Hawn, who acts as an advocate for the technique.


Backed by research

The Mindfulness technique was shown to be as effective as anti-depressants in a study in the American journal Archives of General Psychiatry¹. In cases of recurring depression, researchers in Wales, Toronto and Cambridge found practicing Mindfulness reduced the risk of relapse by 50%. Scientists have shown that just eight weeks of sustained practice can result in increased density of grey matter in several regions of the brain2


How does it work?

If you want to give it a go, you could follow this simple technique:


Try sitting up, with your eyes open or closed, or walking outside.


Take a moment to pay attention to the sounds around you – those nearby and those further away. Think about any sensations you feel in your body: is the air cold or warm on your skin? Notice the pressure of your body against the chair, or of your feet on floor.


Now focus on the physical sensation of the breath going in and out. Can you feel it in your nostrils? Your chest? Your abdomen? Try to become aware of any sensations.


Whenever a thought pops into your head (it might be ‘What shall I cook for supper?’ or ‘Mindfulness is so hard – I can’t stop thinking’), just notice it without judgement, and let it gently drift away, returning to focus on the breath.


If you practice this for a while and get used to focusing on sensations you’re feeling, and concentrating on your breath, you can try to immerse yourself completely in whatever you’re doing. When you’re washing your hands, feel the sensation of the water, breathe in the smell of the soap, feel the softness of the towel as you dry your hands.


People who have tried these techniques have found it helps put things in perspective, calms their thoughts and improves concentration. It can help you notice more about the world around you and feel more in control.


Written by Sara Allison




1 US National Library of Medicine: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density Sara W

2 Archives of General Psychiatry: As Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Tighten, Mindfulness Meditation Holds Promise for Pain Relief Julie A. Jacob


Useful Web site:

Mindfulness NHS 




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