What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice. It is a practice which is increasingly relevant for life today. In essence, it means paying attention in a particular fashion: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally. This increases one’s awareness, clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality. (Kabat-Zinn, no date)
This practice does not conflict with any beliefs or tradition, religious, cultural or scientific. Simply put, it is a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells; anything we might not normally notice.
The skills themselves may be simple, however, due to them being so different to how our minds typically behave, it can take a lot of practice.
Animals and young children are usually very good at being mindful, in the present moment. For example, they observe finer details that others would simply overlook.
Why be mindful?
Being mindful allows us to train our attention. Our minds wander about 50% of the time, but every time we practise being mindful, we are exercising our attention “muscle” and increasing our level of mental fitness.
It enables us to increase our level of control over our focus of attention, and also enables us to choose what we focus on with a finer level of detail, rather than passively allowing our atttention to be dominated by thoughts of distress, taking us away from the present moment.
Mindfulness may simply be described as choosing and learning to take control of our focus of attention, as well as being open, curious and flexible.
Kabat-Zinn, J., no date. Mindfulness. [online] getselfhelp.co.uk. Available at: