Mindfulness

Mindfulness

Immerse yourself in the present, with non-judgemental experience

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How can mindfulness nourish you?

In its simplest form, mindfulness is nothing more complicated than choosing to direct your attention to what’s happening[1] in the present moment. This can mean being fully present while going on a bushwalk, or savouring a meal attentively and without hurrying, focusing on the experience of your senses rather than speculating about the future or worrying about the past.

Practising mindfulness as a form of meditation has its roots in Buddhist tradition originating some 2500 years ago,[2] and more recently in the Zen school which was brought to China around the fifth century CE.[3] In modern times, the idea of mindfulness as a path to reducing stress and improving mental clarity was popularised by Jon Kabat-Zinn. After learning about Buddhism as a student,[4] he went on to establish the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts in 1979.[5]

Today, the terms ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ are often used interchangeably, but not all instances of mindfulness are necessarily a form of meditation,[6] and there are many other forms of meditation than mindfulness alone.

Benefits of mindfulness

The mainstream acknowledgement of the benefits of mindfulness has influenced major companies such as Google,[7] Apple[8] and Salesforce[9] to prioritise teaching their employees the practice. According to one study, 22% of companies surveyed in 2016[10] offered mindfulness training.

Research suggests mindfulness may reduce the symptoms of generalised anxiety,[11] and its possible benefits for reducing stress are well-documented.[12] Mindfulness has been reported to potentially be a promising treatment for mood disorders such as depression,[13] and the results of a meta-analysis suggest that it may be effective in preventing relapses[14] into depression. 

Evidence suggests mindfulness may lead to improvements in focused attention, as well as the ability to regulate emotions.[15] Research has also shown mindfulness may increase the concentration of grey matter[16] in parts of the brain associated with memory and learning. 

Mindfulness may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Alcohol and drug addiction
Anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders
Anxiety
Asthma
Blood pressure
Body dysmorphia
Brain fog and clarity
Breast cancer
Cancer
Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
Concentration, focus and problem solving
Creativity
Depression
Diabetes
Headaches and migraines
Heart conditions and heart attack
IBS and bowel disorders
Immunity issues
Indecision
Insomnia and sleep disorders
Love and Relationships
Memory and cognitive function
Mental health
Mood imbalances
Pain relief
Sadness
Stress and tension
Weight control and obesity
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What to expect from a mindfulness session

Because there are so many ways to practise mindfulness,[17] what you can expect will depend on the style of mindfulness you choose. If your preferred form of mindfulness includes meditation exercises, you will usually be invited to sit in an upright and balanced position, and guided by your teacher to progressively relax your body.

A popular type of mindfulness meditation involves directing your awareness to each part of your body[18] in turn. Another common way of developing greater clarity and focus is to pay attention to your breathing.[19] Whenever you notice your mind wandering off to different subjects, gently bring your awareness back to your breath.

Mindfulness is not limited to still, meditative states, however. You can enjoy a mindful walk through a beautiful, natural environment, paying full attention to what your senses are experiencing[20] as you walk. You can mindfully examine a work of art or even practise mindfulness while performing ordinary daily activities,[21] investing your full attention in simple tasks such as cooking, instead of doing them ‘on autopilot’ while your mind is elsewhere.

Trying simple mindfulness exercises in daily life, such as focusing on the present moment while brushing your teeth, is arguably one of the few wellness practices that you can safely undertake with virtually no risk. However, even mindfulness meditation may have unexpected effects,[22] notably if practised without the guidance of an experienced teacher, so please consult your medical professional before commencing. 

If you have any concerns at all, also speak to your mindfulness instructor, who will be happy to address these and explore the option of tailoring the session to your individual requirements. 

References

  1. What is Mindfulness? | mindful.org
  2. What exactly is Vipassana, the meditation technique President Kovind swears by? | Lifestyle News | indiatoday.in
  3. History of Zen Buddhism | The art of Zen education resource
  4. A Brief History of Mindfulness in the USA and Its Impact on Our Lives | psychcentral.com
  5. History of Modern Mindfulness | Mindful EAS
  6. Mindfulness Vs Meditation: The Difference Between These Two Pathways To Well-Being And Peace Of Mind | medicaldaily.com
  7. 3 Reasons Everyone At Google Is Meditating | fastcompany.com
  8. Why Google, Nike, and Apple Love Mindfulness Training | inc.com
  9. Meditation Has Become A Billion-Dollar Business | fortune.com
  10. More Companies are Investing in Mindfulness Programs | hbgnow.com
  11. Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder | The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry | PubMed
  12. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Stress Management in Healthy People | The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  13. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review | Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology | APA PsycNet
  14. Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Prevention of Depressive Relapse: An Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis From Randomized Trials | Complementary and Alternative Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
  15. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation | Nature Reviews Neuroscience
  16. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density | Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging | ScienceDirect
  17. Yes, mindfulness is really a thing | Beyond Blue
  18. Body scan mindfulness exercise | mp3 | livingwell.org.au
  19. Mindful Breathing | Practice | Greater Good in Action
  20. Mindfulness – is it for you? | au.reachout.com
  21. Mindfulness | SANE Australia | sane.org
  22. Can mindfulness be too much of a good thing? | Current Opinion in Psychology