The word 'mindfulness' is often used by people describing self-care activities they use to manage their mental health. In particular, mindfulness has been suggested as a positive way of connecting more to the present when difficult thoughts begin to encroach on day to day living.
Various studies have shown practising mindfulness can help a range of mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.
But what is it?
The Mental Health Foundation defines mindfulness as being "a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. It helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them".*
And national charity Mind says it is "a technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what's happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings) – without judging anything. It has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don't have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it".**
How is this achieved?
Increased use of technology since the first lockdown began last year means exercises for meditation, breathing and yoga are a lot more accessible - and free - via websites such as youtube. But they're not for everyone. Instead, people have developed other strategies for including mindfulness in their daily activities, in order to achieve a sense of calm and well-being.
For example, people can eat mindfully, taking notice of each mouthful - not just the taste, textures and smells but the colours on the plate.
Or taking notice of the surroundings when out for a walk, including making an effort to notice the physicality of the movements made with every step.
But even these activities can be difficult for people new to mindfulness. Instead, there's a growing level of interest in absorbing activities which helps focus the mind. Often, these activities are linked to hobbies such as arts and crafts: painting and drawing being some of the most widely-known. But knitting, sewing and jewellery-making can all be used as mindful activities.
The BBC Mindful Mix is another way to practice mindfulness through a mix of music and natural soundscapes that allow the listener to focus on sounds, perhaps while undertaking other mindful activities.
Where can I learn more?
Below you can access a video posted by Mind in which mindful teacher Rebecca discusses the way she uses mindfulness to help herself control her thoughts, rather than allowing her thoughts to control her.
And Clare talks about how her dogs helps her keep up her mindfulness practice.