“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness is about focusing your attention on the present moment – in short, learning to manage your attention. It’s about being in the present rather than the past or future and being aware of the chance to have a better quality of life, increased focus, and decreased stress.
This can bring some much-needed calm to our hectic lives. However, there are some misconceptions about the practice.
Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace.
Myth 1: 'Mindfulness is just meditation'
Mindfulness is often used in place of meditation, and vice versa. While the two are linked – mindfulness is just one of many forms of meditation.
Mindfulness teaches you to focus your attention on the present and if other thoughts come up, to notice them without any judgment and return to focusing on your breath. By breathing deeply and focusing on when these feelings come, we can allow them to come and go and accept them as what they are – without dwelling on them or letting them impact how we are feeling.
Being in the here and now helps us to enjoy and appreciate things more, whether that be our partner, family, holiday, art, food or drink.
MYTH 2: 'Mindfulness is only for Buddhists'
Mindfulness is often associated with Buddhism; however, this 2500-year-old tradition is not linked to any one belief. Anyone, anywhere, anytime, can tap into the power of mindfulness. I am not a Buddhist; however, I use mindfulness daily to incorporate kindness and compassion.
Mindfulness focuses on breathing as a way of paying attention. The aim is to appreciate the thoughts, feelings and sensations that happen around us and use breathing as a way to notice them but let them pass by. With practice, mindfulness can help us to recognize our thought patterns and how they affect our thinking so that we can positively work with them.
MYTH 3: 'You can only practise mindfulness in a quiet space.'
Quiet spaces can help you practice mindfulness and make it easier to notice your feelings with more clarity than if you were in a busy environment. But you can also practise mindfulness as you go about your day. Whenever and wherever you can, immerse yourself and your senses.
As Eugene Farrell, a Health and wellbeing expert, says, “Moments happen all the time, and we pass through them without noticing; just noticing more allows us to appreciate more.”
MYTH 4: 'Mindfulness is only good for mental health.'
It’s probably no surprise that mindfulness can benefit our mental well-being, but did you know that it has positive effects on the brain itself? Research conducted by academics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School showed that after an eight-week programme, mindfulness training increased the amount of grey matter in subjects' brains. This type of brain tissue is associated with memory, learning, the regulation of emotions and the ability to see the world from multiple perspectives. It has also been shown to have a positive physical impact on conditions such as chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and addiction.
One of the best things about mindfulness is that anyone can do it. But, like any technique, it needs practice, and initially, you may feel that your efforts make little difference.