What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword these days, but all it really means is taking time to stop, disengage from your thoughts, and give your mind some space to slow down. Professor Mark Williams, former director of Oxford Mindfulness Centre in the UK, says:
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.”
Many people find mindfulness very helpful. It’s a simple type of meditation practice which can help bring life back into focus again and put emotions and thoughts into perspective.
How can I be more ‘mindful’?
Mindfulness is easy to learn and practice in your daily life, either at home alone or with others. It can help you to relax, quieten your mind, and let go of thoughts that can make you feel stressed or unhappy.
You can try one of the many meditation apps available or you can join a meditation, Tai Chi or yoga class. At first you might find it’s a good idea to practice with other people and/or with a leader who knows about mindfulness.
How can mindfulness help me stick to my medication?1
A bit of research has been done into how mindfulness can help people with long-term health conditions. There is some good evidence to suggest that practising mindfulness regularly can:
…make it easier to manage yourself and your feelings, which…
…can reduce stress and depression, so….
…you get better sleep, so that…
…you make better decisions, which…
…helps you avoid temptation to get into bad habits, which…
…can support good health and good habits.
How can mindfulness help me cope with daily stresses?2
Millions of people find that mindfulness helps reduce stress and anxiety, and lets them truly relax in mind and body. By taking a step back from your thoughts and focusing on your breathing, you can find some headspace to slow down your thoughts and just let them come and go without feeling the need to act on them.
You can try the following simple techniques, available through our mindfulness podcasts to help you relax:
- Art of breathing: Learn to focus on your breathing during stressful or difficult situations
- Body scan: Recognise negative thoughts and let them go while still paying attention to the present situation
- Progressive relaxation: Identify tension, pain, distractive and unhelpful thoughts and learn to let go of them
- Guided visualisation: Allow negative thoughts to drift through your mind, without any negative judgement and find a ‘calm’ place you can go to
- Distractions: Learn to cope with distractions and accept thoughts as they arise
- Breathing and reframing: Replace negative thoughts through a positive reframing technique
- Stepping into a mindful presence: Understand the benefits of distractions and how to minimise these in everyday life
Lots of people find mindfulness quite difficult at first, and actually find that it makes them more agitated, as they get frustrated because they can’t ‘control’ their thoughts.
The key is to stick with it, and to be kind to yourself. It’s OK if your mind wanders – that’s what minds do. It’s a human trait. Just lead your consciousness back to your breathing and the present moment. It’s noticing that your mind has wandered and calmly noting it to yourself that is the soul of mindfulness. “Oh look,” you might say to yourself, “My mind has gone back to that time I missed the bus, I wonder where it will go next time?” Try to let go of ideas like ‘emptying your mind’ or ‘controlling’ your thoughts. All you need to do is notice your thoughts, and let them go.
Where can I learn more about mindfulness?
There are a number of places you could go to find out more about mindfulness:
Your healthcare team
You could start by asking your healthcare team if they can help you find out more about mindfulness. They may have some leaflets or books they can give or lend to you. Someone in your team may have been trained in teaching mindfulness, or there could be mindfulness classes or sessions held in your hospital.
Libraries and bookshops
Ask your local library or bookshop if they have a section on mindfulness, or search for mindfulness in online book stores.
Online and mobile application resources
There are many resources dedicated to mindfulness, from short articles online to whole websites and mobile applications. A quick search can bring up lots of options.
- Salmoirago-Blother E, Caey MP. Can mindfulness training improve medication adherence? Integrative review of the current evidence and proposed conceptual model. Explore (NY). 2018; 14(1): 59-65.
- Your guide to health and happiness. Available at https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/04/16/meditation-and-cancer-patients/. Last accessed December 2019.