What is mindfulness?
It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, as well as the world around you, can improve your mental wellbeing. Some people call this awareness "mindfulness." Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better.
Mindfulness with Peter Helmer
Peter has been teaching and facilitating mindfulness groups and individuals since 2006. He is previously an actor and musician working in that field for over a decade, before re-training as a mindfulness practitioner. Initially training in a monastic setting and later in the community completing the MBSR teacher training course.
Peter is currently running three mindfulness groups:
- Free weekly mindfulness (Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays)
- Monthly mindfulness group for staff with Long Covid
- Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) eight week programme
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.
Notice the everyday
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
Keep it regular
It can be helpful to pick a regular time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
Try something new
Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
Name thoughts and feelings
To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: "Here's the thought that I might fail that exam". Or, "This is anxiety".
Free yourself from past and future
You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been "trapped" in reliving past problems or "pre-living" future worries.
Mind have suggested a list below of useful mindfulness exercises you can try:
This involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat. Try this when drinking a cup of tea or coffee for example. You could focus on the temperate, how the liquid feels on your tongue, how sweet it tastes or watch the steam that it gives off.
Mindful moving, walking or running
While exercising, try focusing on the feeling of your body moving. If you go for a mindful walk, you might notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet or hands against different textures on the ground or nearby surfaces, and the different smells around you.
This is where you move your attention slowly through different parts of your body. Start from the top of your head and move all the way down to the end of your toes. You could focus on feelings of warmth, tension, tingling or relaxation of different parts of your body.
Mindful colouring and drawing
Rather than trying to draw something in particular, focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil against the paper.
This involves sitting quietly to focus on your breathing, thoughts, sensations in your body or things you can sense around you. Try to bring your attention back to the present if your mind starts to wander. Many people also find that yoga helps them to concentrate on their breathing and focus on the present moment.
The above examples are not the only ways you can practise mindfulness. So many activities can be done mindfully. Different things work for different people, so if you don’t find one exercise useful, try another. You can also try adapting them to suit you and make them easier to fit in with your daily life, such as mindfully cooking dinner or folding laundry.
Practice mindfulness of thoughts in this 7 minute video with Peter
Listen to Peter's 10 minute basic mindfulness audio clip
Listen to Peter's 12 minute mindfulness body scan
The Headspace app delivers guided meditations, providing tools to build resilience, reduce stress and aid better sleep. NHS staff have been given free access to the app until 31 December 2022.
A clinically proven online mindfulness course approved by the NHS, Be Mindful helps you to manage your stress through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
The Calm app offers guided meditations, breathing programmes and ‘Sleep Stories’ to help you de-stress and clear your mind.
Relaxation workbook by CNWL Talking Therapies
In this interactive workbook you will learn about a varity of breathing relaxation techniques and exercises, such as the square breathing technique, four-two-six breathing, seven-eleven breathing, visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, body scan, 54321 sensory relaxation exercise.
Breathworks provides mindfulness courses and resources to help with long-term conditions, including pain and stress.
Mindfulness drawing book
Get creative and download this mindfulness drawing book to complete in your own time.