Mindfulness is a type of meditation which focuses on being fully aware or present in the moment. It means noticing and paying attention to where we are and what we’re doing.
Other forms of meditation include: guided visualisations, ‘clear mind’ meditations (which unsurprisingly aim to clear one’s mind!), loving/kindness meditation (also known as ‘open heart’ meditations) which cultivate a feeling of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness towards oneself, one’s surroundings and even the sources of one’s stresses in life. Other types of meditation are more physical - such as yoga or Tai Chi. And some types of meditation use sounds - such as chanting or repeated mantras (e.g. transcendental meditation).
There’s growing research which shows that when you practice meditation and mindfulness, you’re actually rewiring your brain, which in turn can reduce stress, anxiety and depression and generally improve your mental wellbeing.
Meditation can also help your hippocampus, the part of your brain which is responsible for memory. Research has shown that people who regularly suffer from depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus. According to some recent research, regular meditation can even increase the size of your hippocampus.
Try setting aside 15 minutes every day to do your meditation or mindfulness techniques. I used to take the tube to work and this worked really well as a place for my morning meditations.
Don’t worry when your mind wanders. That’s totally normal - the trick is simply to observe that your mind has wandered and take it back to your guided meditation, to your breath, or to observing your body. The more aware you are that your mind has wandered, and the more you ‘train’ your brain, the better able you will be to re-focus your mind during other parts of the day.
Consider a mindfulness course such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) for depression and anxiety or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for stress. Look here to find your local provider or speak to your GP to see if you can be referred.
Find your local yoga or meditation centre. Most yoga practices involve meditation/mindfulness techniques and many yoga centres offer introductory courses to meditation. You could also try your local Buddhist centre (if there’s one nearby).
Meditation Practices, Mindful
About Mindfulness, Mind
UCLA, Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre, has free guided meditations and podcasts
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, gives information about what it entails and its benefits
Oxford Mindfulness Centre, has some useful information and also organises courses (if you’re within striking distance of Oxford)
UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organisations, lists all accredited teachers of Mindfulness
Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, By Mark Williams and Danny Penman