Mindfulness has been described by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “an openhearted, moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness” (2005, p.24). Mindfulness is an ancient concept, with a presence in a wide range of spiritual and religious traditions. Research supports the use of mindfulness as an effective intervention for a wide range of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, substance use and chronic pain.
Mindfulness refers to being able to pay attention or bring awareness to our experience in the present moment without becoming ‘hooked’ or caught up in our thoughts by judging them or by wishing that things were different (Roemer & Orsillo, 2009). Rather, “mindfulness means paying attention with flexibility, openness and curiosity” (Harris, 2009, p.8).
The Blackdog Institute offers specialist assistance with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. Its website has many great resources including the factsheet Mindfulness in everyday life. This factsheet contains the following simple techniques designed to introduce the principles of mindfulness, which can easily be integrated into your everyday life:
1. One Minute Exercise: Sit in front of a clock and focus your entire attention on your breathing and nothing else, for the minute. This can be a great quick way to get present during the work day, just use the clock on your task bar.
2. Mindful Eating: Eat your meal slowly, paying full attention to which piece of food you select to eat, how it looks, how it smells, its texture and taste – how you cut the food, the sound of your knife and fork or chopsticks against the plate, the muscles you use to raise it to your mouth.
3. Mindful Walking: While walking concentrate on the feel of the ground under your feet and your breathing. Observe what is around you as you walk, notice what you can see (other walkers, trees, cars), notice what you can smell (ocean air, food as you walk past cafes, the earth), notice what you can feel (e.g., the wind or sun on your face), notice what you can hear (leaves crunching under your feet, the clinking of cutlery in cafes, birds etc).
With all of the above exercises the goal is to stay in the present. As thoughts come, observe them and let them pass, gently bringing your attention back to the present moment – with openness, curiosity and flexibility.
Australia Counselling connects you with counsellors and psychologists throughout Australia who practice mindfulness-based approaches to therapy and counselling. Visit our mindfulness approaches page to find a counsellor or psychologist in your local area.