Mindfulness is a technique that aims to help people in a small but useful way. Often people can find themselves running on ‘autopilot’; that is that they are driven, task focused and generate millions of thoughts in each passing hour. Many of these thoughts are disturbing or self-deflating (I always make a mess of things, so why bother even trying?) and are backed up by our behaviour (pushing people away, withdrawing and stopping trying) and are very sticky (my pain or motivation is so bad I just cannot do anything today).
Mindfulness is a practice, which has its foundations in Buddhist traditions. It is now commonly being employed in psychology as a tool with which to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. It aims to help people stop being on ‘autopilot and helps them to train their minds to be able to experience “being”. Mindfulness is a very simple concept and in its essence means ‘paying attention in a particular way’; paying careful attention to the activity or event occurring, in the present moment, and non-judgementally (whether it be a sight, a sound, a taste, a smell, a sensation in the body, or mental cognition (this latter includes emotions and thoughts). This increases awareness, clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality.
Mindfulness is called a practice because training the mind in that way is difficult. It takes practice for us to master the skill controlling the thoughts that pop into our mind, maintaining our focus on this moment, and remaining non-judgemental. It is quite usual for our minds tend to dwell in the past and the future and continually ‘wander off’; part of the practice is being able to notice when the mind has wondered, accept this non-judgementally and gently bring the mind back to focusing on what we have identified.