What Is Mindfulness?


Mindfulness has become one of the greatest buzzwords in the psychological world and outside the psychological world in the past few years. So much so it’s almost lost all meaning and become synonymous with taking time out, having a break or enjoying a cup of tea.

It’s something I’ve started practicing and, in the interest of getting all the facts, I asked Alice Shires, Clinical Psychologist, to provide some information.

Hi Alice, Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for the readers of KiKi & Tea. Tell me, what is mindfulness? And what is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness involves paying sustained attention to each event experienced in the present moment within our body and mind, with a non-judgmental, non-reactive and accepting attitude.

To be unconditionally present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is. Mindfulness is achieved through the development of awareness and equanimity. Equanimity is the ability to remain unperturbed by an event experienced within the framework of one’s body and thoughts as a result of objective observation.

Mindfulness meditation comes from a Buddhist teaching and tradition but has been increasingly utilized in a secular way. There has also been an increase in interest in mindfulness within its traditional settings and teaching.

Why is mindfulness important for mental health?

In learning to be mindful, we can begin to counter many of our everyday stresses, anxiety, depression and general suffering because we are learning to experience events in different way, a more detached or objective way. The sitting practice of mindfulness meditation gives us an opportunity to become more present with ourselves and our experience just as we are. It teaches us how to stop perpetuating the unnecessary suffering that results from trying to escape the discomfort, and even pain, we inevitably experience as a consequence of simply being alive.

Who should be practicing mindfulness?

Anyone can consider practicing mindfulness but in order to establish a good practice and make progress a guide or in some cases a mental health specialist might be necessary to guide some people through their training. Particularly if they experience mental health problems.

How often and how long should you practice?

If you are new to it, try to sit for 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase to 20 or 30 minutes. Some people practice for longer periods but it is important not to set the goals too high and give up. Regular practice is important and the length of practice can build slowly. Daily practice is very good for building the skills of mindfulness.

Do people need to do it with a clinical psychologist or can they do it on their own?

If someone is interested in pursuing mindfulness they might wish to connect with a meditation instructor or take a class at a Buddhist Meditation Centre. There are plenty of websites that offer simple instruction in mindfulness of breath to get started with mindfulness practice.

For those that require mindfulness as part of a psychological therapy process, Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an evidence-based approach that integrates the best of Eastern and Western Psychology aimed at the development of skills to treat a wide range of psychological and psychosomatic conditions.

Are there any online resources you would recommend for our readers to get more information?

  • Mindful Self Compassion: A clear account of what mindfulness is and where it came from.
  • Mindfulness.net.au: For information on mindfulness integrated CBT which is a method of therapy integrating CBT and mindfulness training
  • The Art of Living: The art of living is a wonderful account of Vipassana meditation technique

Thank you for your time!

Have you tried mindfulness meditation? Have you tried other kinds of meditation?

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  • Gary

    I hadn’t really paid much attention to this concept. Thank you for your summary. It’s food for thought.

  • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    It’s funny how I stumbled across “Mindfulness” this weekend on my own not knowing you were going to publish this post this week… :)

    As soon as I read about mindfulness I recognised that I had been practising much the same thing in my own life for a while now… I think people who have been following my blog over the past 12 months might be able to see this change in me…

    This time last year I was in the middle of a transformative process where I decided to change my way of thinking… I decided to focus more on the moment and become more aware of my emotions, and become less reactive and more positive… and for the most part I think I’ve achieved that… I’m certainly way more happy and contented than I used to be… and much more focussed and aware. (I just had no idea that what I was doing was called “mindfulness”.)

    I haven’t tried the meditation technique yet – I have to admit I’ve never been that good at meditating – but given the changes I’ve made to my thought-processes over the past year, maybe I don’t need to…

    Anyway, I think I’d highly recommend “mindfulness” to anyone who thinks they need to change their outlook on life – I stumbled upon this way of thinking by myself (typical me) – but having a guided process to achieve the same result probably would have been better (if I had known)

  • http://www.jfgibson.com.au/ Jodi Gibson

    I remember learning about Buddhism at school and thinking what a wonderful, peaceful existance it seems. I think mindfulness is something I really need to incorporate into my daily life. Life is so busy and sometimes it seems that it just zips by. To be focused and connected to ones mind, body, soul and spirit would bring a peace. Thanks for sharing and provoking me to do something.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      Mindfulness comes from Buddhist practice! I’ve been doing it a week now and even in that short time it’s making a difference. Definitely give it a go!

  • http://sonjalouise.wordpress.com SonjaLouise

    We used mindfulness as the last activity of the day while I was in hospital. It was a really great way to wind down and ‘get back in your body’ after spending all day in therapy. I really wish I’d kept it up! Keen to start again, and see how it effects my anxiety levels.