What is mindfulness?
As a simple meditation practice, mindfulness can be learned by most people.
It's historically associated with Buddhist meditation, and in recent years it has been integrated with contemporary psychological theory and research and is now applied as an evidence-based intervention for managing stress and promoting wellbeing.
For more information, see the NHS guide to mindfulness and how to look after your mental health using mindfulness.
If you've never heard of Mindfulness, watch this 12 minute video of the founder of Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, introducing mindfulness. If you've got the time there's a longer version (72 minutes) of the introduction to mindfulness.
Brief mindfulness practices
You can do this any time. Give yourself a 3-minute breathing space using these audio-guided mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness Introduction Series
Suffolk County Council ran a series of 8 mindfulness sessions which introduced the practice and some of it's benefits. Each session had a slightly different focus, so skills and understanding could be developed. However, each session also stand alone.
Some of the session were filmed by Steven Bush and are available below as a resource for anybody to use. We are hoping eventually to have all 8 sessions available.
You can also find further reading and resources from learning about mindfulness (PDF, 127KB).
Session One: Recognising Automatic Pilot
The first week focused on times when we find ourselves running on auto-pilot. By learning to focus our attention on the task at hand, we can be more efficient and effective in the things we do. We practiced eating-with-full-attention a raisin or some chocolate!
Session Two: Mental time-travel and connecting with the present moment
We discussed the ways in which our minds can distract us with chains of thought that result in us 're-living' the past or 'pre-living' the future. Whilst this can be useful at times, it's not always a good thing. We practiced focusing on the present moment with an exercise on noticing the sights and sounds around us.
Session Three: Getting perspective - stepping back and observing
There are times in our day when it can be helpful to step back from a situation in order to see it more clearly. We focused on learning how to redirect our attention when we need to by practicing awareness of our own breathing.
Session Four: Becoming aware of stress and the body
We can easily spend so much time 'in our heads' that we almost forget we have a body, but research suggests that the body and mind are far more closely connected than we might think. This week we practiced a short meditation called 'body scan' to start to notice how stress can show up in the body and what we can do about it.
Session Five: Weathering the Storm Within
There will be moments for all of us when thoughts, feelings or stress seem to go on overdrive. Mindfulness can help us to regain calm and perspective. Based on the idea that 'the mind is to thought what the ear is to sound', we will focus on an exercise in which we practice observing sounds and thoughts.
Session Six: Approaching challenges with 'radical acceptance'
Some problems are resolved through hard graft, but many need a different approach. This week we will look at the skill of 'radical acceptance', which can help to free up energy we previously devoted to struggling with the types of problems that don't seemed to get solved through more struggling.
Session Seven: Prioritising and re-connecting with what matters
One of the great benefits of mindfulness is that it doesn't tell us what to do or think, but it gives us choices. This week we will look at prioritising where we focus our energy and attention day to day. We will consider how our personal values link up with mindfulness practice.
Session Eight: Mindfulness and everyday life
Applying mindfulness to real life shows that sitting meditation is not the only way to practice. This week we will discuss ways of bringing mindfulness practice into daily life. As part of this, we will learn a quick technique called Three Minute Breathing Space.