What is mindfulness
Mindfulness is a way of seeing yourself and the world around you more clearly. It is about being present for each moment of our lives. By learning to be more 'in the now', we can begin to relate very differently to stress, unhappiness, pain, anxiety or depression and live with more peace, creativity, resilience and fulfilment.
The practice at the heart of mindfulness is meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves giving yourself space to practice paying attention to your thoughts, your emotions, your body and the world around you in the present moment. It is not about emptying your mind, but more about noticing thoughts and experiences as they come and go, without judging yourself or your experience.
Over time, training your mind in this way helps you to see things more clearly and notice the good things in life as they are happening.
By practising mindfulness you can become more aware of common thought patterns and 'auto-pilot' reactions to difficulties. This gives you an awareness that lets you respond more skilfully to challenges as they arise.
Mindfulness courses guide you in learning how to make these practices a part of your every-day life.
Where does mindfulness come from?
Mindfulness is a basic ability that we have as people. Practising mindfulness is most often associated with Buddhism, but there are similar practices and ideas in many religious and spiritual traditions. Rather than being a simple set of techniques, mindfulness is something to be practised.
In more recent years the meditation practices that are the foundation of mindfulness have been combined with learning from modern psychology and other disciplines to develop standard training programmes. These are most often taught in a group over 8 weeks. Two such examples of mindfulness courses are Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). These courses have been extensively researched and have shown to have positive outcomes for many people around the world.
Secular mindfulness courses like MBSR and MBCT have no religious content.
Today people learn and practise mindfulness for all kinds of reasons. You can find out more in our section Why learn mindfulness?