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3 January 2017

Could mindfulness improve your mental well-being?

Endorsed by the NHS as a technique for improving our mental wellbeing, mindfulness is about focusing our awareness on the present moment.

Endorsed by the NHS as technique for improving our mental wellbeing, mindfulness is about focusing our awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings and thoughts.

It’s easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing and quality of life.

Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.

He says it can be an antidote to the "tunnel vision" that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we’re busy, stressed or tired.

"When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh many things in the world around us that we have been taking for granted," says Professor Williams.

"Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.”

Studies have found that mindfulness programmes, where participants are taught mindfulness practices across a series of weeks, can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood.

How you can be more mindful?

Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.

"Even as we go about our daily lives, we can find new ways of waking up to the world around us," says Professor Williams. "We can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the 'autopilot' mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life."

For more information on mindfulness go to www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx