Mindfulness

Provides information on mindfulness, how to practice it and how it can help with mental health problems.

Mindfulness exercises to try

Here are a few exercises you could try. You don't need any special equipment:

  • Mindful eating. This involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat. For example, when drinking a cup of tea or coffee you could focus on how hot and liquid it feels on your tongue, how sweet it tastes or watch the steam that it gives off.
  • Mindful moving, walking or running. Notice the feeling of your body moving. 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 that are around you.
  • Body scan. This is where you move your attention slowly through different parts of the body, starting from the top of your head moving 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. Focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil against the paper, rather than trying to draw something in particular. You could use a mindfulness colouring book or download mindfulness colouring images.
  • Mindful meditation. This involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, your thoughts, sensations in your body and the things you can hear around you. Try to bring you focus 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. See our page on types of alternative and complementary therapy for more information meditation and yoga.

Different things work for different people, so if you don’t find one exercise useful, try another. You can also try adapting them so that they suit you and are easier to fit in with your daily life.

Mindful eating

Watch Jonny explain a mindful eating exercise:

You can find more examples of exercises to try in our page on relaxation exercises. Some people find practising mindfulness in nature can have extra benefits – see our page of ideas to try in nature for suggestions.

"The mindfulness colouring really helps me unwind and relax in the evening. It promotes better sleep and I go to bed feeling ready to rest rather than anxious and wired."

Tips on getting the most from mindfulness exercises

When you do any mindfulness exercise, the key steps are:

  • Pay attention – for example, when you shower in the morning, make a special effort to really pay attention to the feel of the water on your skin.
  • Notice – when your mind wanders, which is just what minds do, simply notice where your thoughts have drifted to.
  • Choose and return – choose to bring your attention back to the present moment, usually by focusing on your breathing or another sensation in your body.
  • Be aware and accept – notice and be aware of emotions you are feeling or sensations in your body. Try to observe and accept these feelings with friendly curiosity and without judgement.
  • Be kind to yourself – remember that mindfulness is difficult to do and our minds will always wander. Try not to be critical of yourself. When you notice your mind wandering, you can just gently bring yourself back to the exercise.

It can also help to:

  • Set aside regular time to practise. Regular short periods of mindful meditation can work better than occasional long ones. If you struggle to find the time, you might want to decide on one or two routine activities which you will try to do mindfully each day.
  • Make yourself comfortable. It can help to do mindfulness in a space where you feel safe and comfortable and won't be easily distracted.
  • Go slowly. Try to build your practice slowly. Remember, you’re learning a new skill so it’ll take time to develop. Most people find it hard to sit and meditate for long periods of time at first, so try to do a few minutes and gradually build up to more.
  • Be patient. There's no need to set ambitious goals or put pressure on yourself. Many people find it takes a while to feel comfortable doing mindfulness exercises.

The mindfulness of dogs

Watch Clare talk about how her dog, Watson, reminds her of some important principles of mindfulness:

"Mindfulness makes me feel safe because even when I can't access my counsellors, carers, medication and relapse prevention plan, mindfulness is still there. Nothing can take it away."

This information was published in June 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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