What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be described as follows:

The awareness that comes from – paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, with interest and kindness to the way things are.
 Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness therapy is based on the use of attention training and meditation techniques to enable you to become more aware of physical sensations, thoughts and feelings. The awareness that develops over time enables you to be more aware of the reactive, busy and scattered nature of your mind. This awareness leads to the ability to move towards a quieter, more focused mind state. Mindfulness provides a vehicle to transition from the stress-state of conditioned reactivity to a more adaptive, responsive place of considered, calm and intentional action.

Mindfulness can also be described as a mind-state that arises from regular practice.  It is a bit like going to the gym to get fit, the more dedicated you are to regular practice the more the mindfulness develops.  This is why the traditional programme is delivered over eight weekly sessions with a commitment to regular daily practice. In clinical trials, it is this regularity of the practice, over time, that has been proven to help people suffering from recurrent depression, and other mental health problems.

I offer MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) which evolved out of MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) and shares 95% of the same content (the extra 5% being the cognitive elements).  To learn more about mindfulness take a look at this YouTube video from BUPA.

So how does mindfulness help?

Well, our attention wanders pretty much most of the time; our thoughts easily run away with us.  We believe that thinking is something we do consciously, but much of the time thinking is something that just happens to us.  Mindfulness can help us to train the brain to recognise when our attention has gone off into the past, or when it is projecting out into the future.  We begin to see when the mind gets caught up in unhelpful thinking patterns and we are able to bring it back to present moment awareness.  This is especially important for mental wellness as depression is often characterised by rumination, that is the brain becoming preoccupied with things that have happened or things that might happen.  Anxiety is often a projection of the mind into a world of hypothetical worries and imagining worse case scenarios. Our own thought process can actually become quite unhelpful when we suffer from a mental illness, mindfulness lets us see this in a kind and understanding way.  This recognition is powerful and takes us a step closer to mental wellness.

Training in mindfulness is also helpful to counteract our habitual stress response, stress is held in the body as well as in the mind; mindfulness practice helps us to recognise this.  The mind-body connection is important, we often feel we live in our heads, but we actually live in all of our body, and our emotions are experienced in the body as well as in the mind.  In the western world we have become very disconnected from our bodies, mindfulness puts us back in touch so that we recognise stress and emotional responses in our bodies more readily.  With mindful awareness, we are in a position to make informed choices, rather than reacting habitually when life throws us a problem.

In taking life for granted we fail to notice it
– Stephen Bachelor

Contact me if you would like to know more about mindfulness.

Sally Otto


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Sally Otto Therapy Bedfordshire
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