Mental health awareness week: What is mindfulness?

Taryn Davies
Published: May 12, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Week, now in its 15th year, aims to bring the discussion of the illness to the forefront, all the while fighting the stigma attached to it. And this year's campaign is focusing on mindfulness and the impact it can have on mental wellbeing.

Mindfulness isn't about zoning out, it's more about being present in the moment, paying attention to the little details in life at the minute and not worrying about the past or the future.

Chances are you've been mindful before, you just weren't actually aware you were doing it.

Mindfulness is a practice that allows you to observe your feelings and thoughts about experiences, whether they're good or bad. This helps you to manage and react in certain ways to stressful occasions, allowing you to stay mentally healthy.

What is mindfulness?

We spoke to Dr James Arkell, consultant psychiatrist at the Nightingale Hospital, about mindfulness and how it now recognised, more and more, as a form of treatment for different mental health problems.

mental health mindfulness

One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime

This week’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on mindfulness, why is this increasingly being recognised as a form of treatment?

Mindfulness is increasingly recognised as a form of treatment as it has been proven to be an effective treatment for relapse prevention of depression.

The reason it works to well as it encourages the patient to be aware of what makes them vulnerable to the downward mood spirals, and it can help also help them understand what depression is.

What does the treatment involve?

There are a number of different ways in which mindfulness can be used as a treatment for mental health problems. MCBT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) is one of the most common ways - this is a group based treatment and consists of 8 weekly classes (2-2 ½ hours) and daily self-practice of the therapy.

Mindfulness is about recognising that your thoughts are mental events, not reality – practising it means being connected to the present, noticing and acknowledging thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.

Can people carry it out on their own?

Yes, mindfulness is unique in that once you have mastered the basics, you can do it anywhere – on the tube, at your desk, in the park - and it only takes a few minutes of complete focus every day.

You can download apps or read books to help get you started with basic and simple mindfulness exercises.

Do you think people who don’t particularly suffer from mental health problems should incorporate mindfulness into their lives?

Yes, in today’s busy world, having a mindful moment can be hugely beneficial for wellbeing and stress levels.

What common stigmas would you like to see dispelled when it comes to mindfulness and Mental health?

Mostly, the common stigmas come from a lack of understanding of mindfulness as a valid and useful therapy for treating mental health problems.

mindfulness beat depression

Can you use mindfulness to beat depression?

Why do we need mindfulness?

One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their life.

Last year alone, over 11 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety or depression. The economic consequences of poor mental health have been estimated at £100 billion in the UK.

Mindfulness is backed by evidence to be helpful in treating conditions like depression and anxiety, plus it's hugely cost-effective.

Research also suggests that exercising outdoors could help beat anxiety and depression.

mental health

Mindfulness has been proven to be a cost-effective

How you can be mindful

If you're looking to be more mindful, you can do the following activities:

Take a course – Find a course in your local area at Alternatively, the web-based course has shown to reduce levels of depression, anxiety by up to 57%, and stress by more than 40%.

Go for a walk – Don't listen to music as you walk, instead take in your surroundings. Give your brain a break by thinking about your body and movement in the moment.

Record memories on camera - How many memories do you have that you'd wish you caught on camera. Having photos is a great way of being mindful of those moments when they go by. It's a great way of reinforcing the idea to be aware of the small moments that last forever.

Be mindful when you eat - Slow down your mind and take away all distractions when you eat. Take your time to savour and taste the food you are eating.

Turn off technology – Change your routine for the evening and turn off technology to avoid mindless scrolling and take time to concentrate on your mind and boyd by taking a bath or going for a walk.mental health awareness week mindfulness