Mindfulness; could it be an ancient solution to our thoroughly modern problems? Over the past 10 years, mindfulness has been largely touted as a practice which can help to reduce stress, regulate our emotions and increase our productivity — amongst a myriad of other benefits.
But what does science have to say? Is mindfulness really all it’s stacked up to be?
What is mindfulness meditation?
While you may think that in order to be mindful you have to control or stop thoughts — and exist in a state of unconditional positivity — this is not the case. Mindfulness is not about stopping or controlling thoughts or difficult emotions. Rather, it is about making room for your experience, whatever that is, by observing it from a place of openness, curiosity and non-judgement.
This means allowing the thoughts that are often entangled with judgements, opinions and preferences, to exist exactly as they are. The key to mindfulness is acceptance; being able to turn our attention towards what is happening in the present and without struggling with it or resisting it.
In fact, many of us practise mindfulness daily without even realising. Mindfulness is a completely natural quality of attention1 that we all have and that can be practised formally or informally:
- Formal mindfulness: This type of mindfulness, known as meditation, involves sitting quietly, and focusing your attention on one thing; it may be your breath, holding a soft gaze on an object, or scanning your body. Meditation involves noticing when you’ve lost focus (this is inevitable and part of meditation!) and gently guiding your attention back to your object of focus, over and over.
- Informal mindfulness: Informal mindfulness practice is about being fully present when engaged in everyday activities. Whether you’re in the shower, eating breakfast or on the train to work, you can practice informal mindfulness by consciously engaging your senses - really paying attention to what you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell.
Medibank is proud to be the Official Health Partner of Smiling Mind, a not-for-profit committed to improving the mental health of young Australians through the practice of mindfulness meditation.
How mindfulness benefits your health
So, can mindfulness really benefit our health? And what’s actually going on inside our brains? Here we explore three proven ways in which mindfulness is good for us.