What is Mindfulness
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness means paying attention to what is presently occurring, with kindness and curiosity.
We might be paying attention to a thought, a feeling, physical sensations, other people or the environment around us, but to be mindful means to give the present moment our full attention, without distraction.
With time and practice, mindfulness helps us to more fully appreciate the relationship between our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations and the outer world. We learn to see how they are all connected, and that this shapes our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us.
We are all capable of mindfulness – some people are naturally more mindful than others, and all of us have times when we are more mindful than at other times. Mindfulness practice is about training our ability to pay attention so we can improve wellbeing and decrease distress.
Practising mindfulness helps us to feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, and more balanced and in tune with what is happening within and around us. This helps us feel calmer and clearer, which in turn boosts wellbeing and provides an important foundation for learning.
Who is mindfulness good for?
Everyone! We can all be mindful: children, teens, adults, young and old can all benefit from being mindful and from learning mindfulness practice.
The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be done anywhere. With practise, you can overcome many of the things that hold you back from feeling in tune with yourself and your environment.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Research shows that, when practiced over time, mindfulness:
- Decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Decreases the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
- Improves concentration and the ability to learn.
- Increases resilience.
- Increases calmness.
- Enhances self-awareness.
- Helps with conflict resolution and the development of positive relationships.
- Increases wellbeing.
With mindfulness practice, we can overcome distractions and over-thinking, and live more calmly and clearly in the present moment. We can feel kinder and more curious about others. We spend less time worrying about the future or fixating on the past and can allow unhelpful thoughts to simply pass by so we can focus on the task at hand. This reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Over time better focus and attention helps build resilience and wellbeing.
Frequently asked questions
Mindfulness is the practice of giving your full, open-hearted attention to what is immediately occurring, physically and mentally, within and around you. It's about being aware of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling in each moment, and being kind to yourself in the process.
Mindfulness enhances your ability to appreciate life’s beauty and respond, rather than react to life’s challenges.
Through mindfulness, you can learn how to support your own wellbeing, and develop the skills and resilience needed to face life’s challenges. Mindfulness gives you the tools you need to be the artist of your own life, sculpting your brain in new ways to reduce stress and anxiety and enhance wellbeing.
Mindfulness has been shown to positively affect the brain in areas responsible for attention, sensory processing, learning, memory, empathy and compassion. Mindfulness gives us choices, enabling us to gain more control over our lives. Research shows mindfulness helps children and young people to achieve academically, through increased attention, improvements in short-term memory, ability to apply prior learning to new situations, increased creativity and development of independent thinking.
This is a common misconception. Mindfulness helps us to intentionally plan for the future and learn from the past, without getting distracted by worry.
Have you ever noticed that thinking about work takes up more energy than actually doing it? Most of us have experienced stress over a test or meeting that becomes so overwhelming that we can’t focus on studying to prepare for it, or felt such anxiety about the enormity of our workload that we feel worn out before we even begin.
Mindfulness helps us to focus on the work we’re doing now, knowing that paying attention to the task at hand will benefit us in the future.
Mindfulness gives our over-taxed brains a chance to rest and refresh. When we notice what is happening in our bodies, our minds may momentarily ‘empty’ of repetitive, intrusive thoughts, only to fill up again with an awareness of physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells and tastes.
Thoughts will continue to come and go, and mindfulness helps them do so without us getting caught up in them. While over-thinking about what happened yesterday, and what may or may not happen tomorrow, we may be missing the important moments that are happening right now. Mindfulness gives us the mental strength to direct our attention to where it needs to be.
No. This is another common misperception and is akin to zoning out, which usually happens when we are feeling depleted or bored. In fact, mindfulness is almost the exact opposite of this. While mindfulness does help us to feel relaxed and calm, it also increases our ability to engage with and be curious about what is happening in the present moment. These are the passive and active qualities that come into a place of balance with repeated mindfulness practice.
Meditation is a formal and effective practice for cultivating greater mindfulness. It helps minimise distraction so that we can take notice of how we are feeling and thinking, and what we can see and hear, smell, touch and taste.
When we practise mindfulness meditation, it becomes easier to apply this quality of attention to our daily lives. So, for example, instead of walking the dog and worrying about bills and to-do lists and other things that weigh on our minds, we can focus on the task at hand and learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Yes, you can. However, if you want to undertake mindfulness as a way of life, we strongly recommend you learn to do so with a qualified teacher.
Mindfulness puts a spotlight on what is presently occurring in your life, which at times may be overwhelming. A good teacher can help you address the feelings that arise from practising mindfulness and work through them.
Mindfulness teachers can also help your practice develop and grow as your skills develop, and will assist you to get more out of practicing mindfulness. Participating in the MEG Online Mindfulness course and engaging with the trainers in the online forums is a gentle yet comprehensive way that you can begin or expand your mindfulness practice.
No. While many cultures and religions have traditions of mindfulness practice, our programmes are informed by a range of scientific research that have proven the benefits of cultivating clear, focused attention.
In Aotearoa, we have the opportunity to explore Māori views on mindfulness, too. We are able to consider how indigenous wisdoms can contribute to exploring ways to live with greater awareness and compassion in the midst of all life’s circumstances.
The evidence to support mindfulness is convincing. That's why an increasing number of organisations and institutions are promoting, delivering and researching the benefits of mindfulness practice.
The Mindfulness Education Group (MEG) is an ethical business focused on social good. We have adopted the ‘triple bottom-line’ of supporting the wellbeing of people and planet, while generating a profit.