Mindfulness – what’s the big deal?

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Mindfulness in nature

Mindfulness has attracted the interest of health professionals and mainstream culture alike, with mindfulness books, videos and even smartphone apps rising in popularity in recent years.

Its sudden popularity may cause you to wonder if mindfulness is worth all the fuss, or if it’s just another ‘fad’. We explore this with the help of Black Swan Health’s Clinical Psychologist Registrar, Claire McArthur…

What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is sometimes portrayed as meditation or ‘doing nothing’ – but this is not always true.

According to Ms McArthur, mindfulness is all about paying attention in the present moment, without judgement.

Have you ever driven somewhere, but in hindsight had no memory of how you got there? This is a great example of not being mindful, otherwise known as ‘mindlessness’. Just like ‘mindlessness’, mindfulness can be practiced throughout your day-to-day activities.

Mindfulness may seem like a recent phenomenon, but it actually stems from ancient Buddhist meditation practices and was introduced into modern medicine and psychiatry in 1979. These days, mindfulness has become popular amongst psychologists and is used alongside traditional treatment approaches.

What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

Practicing mindfulness can be considered a form of meditation, but not in the clichéd sense of sitting in a lotus pose with your eyes closed, trying to clear your mind of any thoughts for hours on end.

Mindfulness practice involves simple activities and exercises that can be integrated into your day in just a few minutes – no extensive stillness or chanting required.

For example, have you ever experienced a time when you were so completely absorbed in an activity – playing sport, music, dancing, or talking to a friend – that you weren’t thinking about the future or the past? When your mind is focused solely on what you are doing, you are being mindful.

Why practice mindfulness?

The health benefits of mindfulness are profound. Over the past 20 years, research has shown that mindfulness-based interventions can improve stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and other conditions, as well as supporting overall wellbeing.

By simply taking a few moments to be mindful of yourself and your surroundings, you become more aware of what’s happening in your mind and body. This increased self-awareness means that unhelpful thoughts and emotions can be detected and addressed early on, so that your overall wellbeing can be maintained.

How can I practice mindfulness?

Anyone can use mindfulness to enhance wellbeing and quality of life. Black Swan Health’s Clinical Psychologist Registrar, Claire McArthur provides simple mindfulness exercises that you can try at work or home, in this Mindfulness Video Series.

Watch the first video in the series is below:

If you would like to find out more about mindfulness, or if you are interested in seeing one of our psychologists like Claire, visit: http://www.blackswanhealth.com.au/services/mental-health-services/counselling/.