Only two years ago, few people would have been aware what mindfulness was, let alone the amazing benefits it can have for our mental health.
Yet now mindfulness meditation seems to have taken the UK by storm, with so many of us becoming more in tune with the notion of being "present"
It's one of the oldest forms of meditation and is based on the idea of being consciously aware of yourself and the world around you.
Mindfulness isn't about ignoring your thoughts, but acknowledging and accepting them while focusing on what you are doing in that moment.
The typical 'ABC' of mindfulness is:
- A for awareness
- B for "just being"
- C for creating that gap between experience and reactions
Dr James Arkell is a psychiatrist and specialist in mindfulness at Nightingale Hospital. He treats many of his patients with depression, anxiety and stress by using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
Here, he shares nine ways mindfulness can improve our mental health to show just how positive it can be.
- Mindfulness is increasingly recognised as a treatment for a number of mental health issues and is particularly useful for stress reduction and in people who have chronic or recurrent depression.
- Practicing mindfulness helps you connect to the present, and involves noticing and acknowledging thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
- Mindfulness involves recognising that your thoughts are mental events not reality.
- The gold standard treatment that has been shown to work is an eight week course called mindfulness-based stress reduction designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- Another successful treatment method is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for depression by Mark Williams - this is a couple of hours an evening a week in a group context with an opportunity to explore the emerging insights from the daily practice.
- There are a number of smart phone apps and books that people can use to help them get started with a few basic mindfulness exercises. One good one that I recommend to patients is Headspace App. There are also some useful articles at Frantic World.
- Once you have mastered the basics, you can do it anywhere – on the tube, at your desk, in the park - and it only takes a few minutes of complete focus every day.
- Mindfulness means being present with oneself, being connected to the present moment and being able to pay attention deliberately and non-judgementally to where you are right now.
- We spend so much time thinking about and regretting our past and also worrying about the future and how we are going to cope with life’s pressures and demands; mindfulness helps us not to do this so much.
Sometimes it's hard to just stop for a moment and ignore the crazy world that we live in, but our advice? Do it, just for a few minutes.