Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originated in Eastern meditation practices, where attention is brought to the present moment. Mindfulness can occur whether you are sitting in meditation, washing the dishes, watching television, or running a marathon. It is the opposite of mindlessness, where you feel out of touch with yourself and your mind is elsewhere.

You don't need to sit on a mountain meditating to be mindful. It's best to take mindfulness into everything that you do. People become happier by becoming more aware of their behaviour in the present moment.

Mindfulness exercises encourage you to be aware of the experience inside your body, such as sensations, thoughts, and emotions, as well as aspects of the environment, such as sights and sounds. Thoughts of the past and the future disappear as you focus on the present. Nothing is evaluated as good or bad, true or false, healthy or sick, or important or trivial. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental observation of an ongoing stream of distractions as they arise.

Mindfulness can play a significant role in stress reduction. Research suggests that mindfulness helps with many conditions, including pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and disordered eating.

Each person has a unique way of being mindful - and regular meditation practice will help you to find yours. Excessive and unnecessary mental and emotional activity drains your energy. When the mind is dominated by dissatisfaction, it's difficult to feel calm or relaxed.

Instead, we feel fragmented and driven - wanting everything now. This mind state affects our ability to see situations clearly.

Mindfulness is not the answer to our problems, but we can see them more clearly through a mindful focus.

Foundations of Mindfulness Practice

The skill of observing ourselves, almost from outside ourselves, in a compassionate, non-judgemental way takes practice and education. Jon Kabat-Zinn outlines attitudes of the mindful observer in his book Full Catastrophe Living (1990):

  1. Non-judgment
  2. Patience
  3. Beginner's Mind
  4. Trust
  5. Non-striving
  6. Acceptance
  7. Letting Go