What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You’ve probably heard about mindfulness by now. But what does it mean, exactly? And how can you learn mindfulness meditation?

Mindful vs mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness and ‘being mindful’ refer to a state of being, where instead of being caught up in a whirlwind of thoughts about the past and future? You are fully focused on the present moment.

Of course that’s not so easy to achieve in modern life, where we are constantly worried about what’s ahead, or ashamed about things we’ve done, and what others think of us.

Mindfulness meditation is the tool that can help you to be mindful despite the stress of modern living. It’s an easy to learn way of meditating that brings you into the present. And it’s also a practice -- something you attempt to do daily, that gives better results the more you commit and continue.

Why bother with mindfulness?

Mindfulness is popular because it is simple to learn and it works. It is now evidence-based to help many mental health symptoms.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) now recommends mindfulness as a way to prevent depression if you’ve already had three or more experiences of depression in the past.

Various studies also show that mindfulness might help you with addiction, adult ADHD, anxiety and stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A mini 'how to' guide to mindfulness

When starting out with mindfulness meditation you will find it much easier to do if you have a very quiet and private location.

Of course once you have the hang of it, you will find you can do mindfulness anywhere. A few minutes at work, or even on a train when commuting, can do wonders to relax and focus you.

1. Set a timer.

This is not a necessity, if you have all the time in the world and want to experiment. But most people find they can relax more thoroughly into meditation if they know that an alarm will bring them back if they enter a very deep state. It can also inspire you to bit by bit try longer and longer sits.

2. Sit comfortably upright.

What matters with meditation is to have a straight spine but relaxed body. The idea is to be comfortable enough you can sit without moving for a substantial amount of time, but not so comfortable you fall asleep.

Yes. Many therapists in the UK have now taken additional training in mindfulness, sodyour hands relaxed on your knees. But if you need support, do what works for you. This might be to sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground and your hands on your thighs, or to be leaning against a wall with your legs stretched out in front of you. As long as your back is straight --d this keeps you from falling asleep.

3. Settle in and relax.

Focus on letting tension drop from your body -- from your shoulders, hands, jaw. Some people enjoy a body scan here, working through their body to relax each part.

Relax your eyes. Some people like to close their eyes, whereas others like to lower their gaze and soften it on a point ahead.

Breathe deeply, into your stomach and not just your chest. Your abdomen should rise and fall.

4. Focus on your breath.

The easiest way to do mindfulness meditation is to make it breath-focussed. Put your attention on your breath in a relaxed way. Notice your in breath and your out breath. See if you can make the in breath and out breath even. Pay attention the the quality of your breath, the sound of it. You might want to then pick one exact aspect of your breath to focus on, such as the moment the air enters your nostrils, or when the in breath becomes the out breath.

5. Notice and detach from your thoughts.

Your thoughts will start to be more insistent, trying to get your attention. Just notice each thought, without judgement. It’s just a thought, and thoughts pass, like clouds in a sky. Once you’ve recognised the thought, just let it go, and put your attention back to your breath.

Each time a thought distracts you, repeat this process. Notice, don’t react or judge, let the thought go, return to the breath.

If you suddenly realise you’ve spent ages distracted and forgot all about your breath, that’s ok. Don’t judge yourself or get upset. Just focus on relaxing again, and put your attention back to your breath.

6. Finish your meditation gracefully.

It can be tempting once your meditation finishes to jump up and rush on to the next thing in your day. Try to allow a minute to slowly readjust. Notice how you feel in that moment, and if you feel any different. Take a few deep and long breaths.

How long should I meditate for?

There is no rule here. A little bit is better than none at all. Aim for ten minutes a day, working up to twenty or more. Consistency is what matters. If you do miss a day or several, don’t judge yourself. Just start again when you can.

Can a therapist help me learn mindfulness meditation?

Yes. Many therapists in the UK have now taken additional training in mindfulness. So if you find a therapist you like the look of, it's worth asking if it's a tool they use.

And some counsellors and psychotherapists have also now qualified in one of the newer types of mindfulness-based therapies where mindfulness is a key component. These include:

  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) 
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).

Ready to learn mindfulness with a therapist, and start to live with less anxiety and stress? Book a therapist now and start moving forward.

Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. Mindfulness did wonders for her ADHD and her life Find her on Instagram @am_darcy

Need a Therapy Session ASAP?

Here's who's next available...

See other available therapists ›
Are you a therapist?
Apply to be on the platform  ›