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‘Mindfulness’ means paying attention to the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help you cope with everyday life and deal with tough times. Here are some different strategies you can use to build mindfulness, plus tips on what to do if you’re finding it hard.

This can help if:

  • you have trouble focusing
  • you often find yourself worrying or stressed about things
  • you want to improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
Girl with pink hair sewing on the street

Why practise mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about focusing on the present and living in the moment. When you practise mindfulness, you don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future.

There’s a lot of evidence that mindfulness can help you to:

  • clear your head and slow down your thoughts
  • be more aware of yourself, your body and the environment
  • slow down your nervous system and aid your sleep
  • concentrate
  • relax
  • cope with stress, depression and anxiety.

Being mindful helps you enjoy every little moment of life as it happens, which has a really positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Simple ways to practise mindfulness

You don’t need a guru to be mindful – in fact, you can develop mindfulness during regular activities like walking, driving or even doing something as basic as brushing your teeth. Here are some simple ways to become more mindful:

  • Focus only on the present moment. What is happening for you right now? Is your breathing fast or slow? Are you tired? Are you hungry? How do you feel?
  • Concentrate on what’s happening around you. Do you feel hot or cold? What does the air feel like on your face? What sounds can you hear?
  • Try not to be judgemental about anything you notice. Don’t label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Just notice them and let them be.

Building your mindfulness skills

When you’re ready to delve a little deeper into developing your mindfulness, here are some techniques to try.

Mindful meditation

Mindful meditation involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing or a word or phrase you repeat quietly. Allow your thoughts to come and go and try not to judge them. When your mind starts to wander, gently lead it back to your breathing or the word or phrase you’ve chosen. You can practise mindful meditation by yourself, or if you want some guidance, try using the Smiling Mind app.

Mindful breathing

Take a few extra minutes to focus on your breathing. What does your breathing feel like? What happens to the different parts of your body with each breath you take? What does your breathing sound like? Check out the ReachOut Breathe app if you want a helping hand.

Progressive muscle relaxation

This relaxation training involves tensing and then relaxing different parts of your body. It can work wonders for stress and anxiety. Get step-by-step instructions on progressive muscle relaxation in A how-to guide to relaxation training.

What if I’m finding it difficult?

Becoming more mindful involves training your brain, so, like most things you learn, it can take time.

Remember:

  • Don’t expect to be able to hold your focus for very long, especially when you’re just getting started.
  • It’s completely normal for your thoughts to wander.
  • The goal isn’t to have a totally ‘blank’ mind; it’s more about noticing and gently guiding your mind back when your thoughts do wander.
  • The more you practise mindfulness, the better you’ll become at it.
  • If you’re struggling with a particular strategy, try a different one. Every person is different, and you may find some strategies easier than others.

What can I do now?

  • Get into the habit of practising mindfulness every day – even if it’s just for a few minutes while you brush your teeth. A good time to set aside is first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Stick to your schedule for a week. How did you do?
  • Download and try out the ReachOut Breathe app.
  • Try the Smiling Mind meditation app.