What is mindfulness? How do I practise it? How often do I need to practise? Will it really benefit me?
Mindfulness is simply paying close attention to the present moment without judgement or distraction.
Mindfulness can help you start to manage stress, improve your academic performance, strengthen relationships with others and boost self-esteem. Most importantly, practising mindfulness will encourage you to develop an attitude of friendliness, acceptance and curiosity.
How mindfulness helps
There is growing evidence that mindfulness:
- reduces stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms;
- increases resilience and peace of mind;
- enhances cognitive performance, such as concentration, memory and processing speed;
- improves study and work performance; and
- improves relationships and general wellbeing.
Brain imaging research also shows that regular mindfulness practice for 15 minutes a day over a six-week period produces growth in brain areas associated with learning and memory processes, emotion regulation and perspective-taking. Who couldn’t do with more of that?
What to do
Aim to practise mindfulness at the same time each day for a minimum of 10 minutes. Mindfulness activities range from breathing and sensation exercises to using your imagination by picturing yourself somewhere you find peaceful, such as a beach or mountaintop. You simply focus on the present. Be in the moment without judging the moment.
As everyone responds differently to mindfulness activities, what works for someone else may not necessarily work for you, so don’t give up after one or two attempts. Keep at it.
Sit in a meditation position or lay down and focus only on your body, from your toes to the crown of your head. Take in long, deep breaths. If a thought or image intrudes into your mind, acknowledge the thought and slowly bring your attention back to the present.
You can apply mindfulness to many aspects of your life. Here is a list of activities that you can try over the next week.
- Notice sounds around you. What can you hear right now?
- Notice what you can feel; for example, the feeling of your clothes, the air on your skin.
- Really listen and engage with your friend or whoever you are talking to.
- Hear the music, radio or TV and really connect with the words.
- Taste your food. What are the flavours? Smells? Colours? Textures?
- Read slowly and try to focus. If your mind wanders, return your attention.
- Walk with purpose and notice your body and your surroundings.
A good way to start improving your productivity and happiness is to download DeakinWELLBEING app. The app is designed to help you build and maintain healthy habits, such as mindfulness.
Here is a selection of mindfulness sessions led by Deakin counselling staff on YouTube:
More help and advice
ReachOut provide more information on mindfulness, as well as some mindfulness sessions you can try.
headspace provide 6 ways to practise mindfulness.