Quick guide to mindfulness and wellbeing

By paying more attention to the present moment, including our thoughts and feelings, and the world around us we can improve our mental wellbeing. This awareness, known as ‘mindfulness’, can help us enjoy life more, understand ourselves better and be more prepared for handling life’s challenges.

The origin of mindfulness is from Buddhism, but being mindful is a skill that anyone can learn and benefit from – you don’t need to be spiritual or have any particular beliefs to try it. Mindfulness is widely used by the NHS as one treatment option for anxiety and depression, along with other talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling.

How can mindfulness help?

There are varying opinions in the field of popular psychology. It seems that we may each have around 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day of which 75% are negative. We are all different, so it is worth thinking about what that percentage is for you and how that might be affecting your life.

Mindfulness is one way of increasing the awareness of your thoughts and feelings and managing unhelpful thoughts. It can also assist you to develop more helpful responses to difficult feelings and events, be kinder towards yourself and feel calmer. You will also be able to manage stress better, sleep more soundly and manage various physical health problems, such as chronic pain.

Thinking traps

Sometimes we have powerful negative thoughts in response to an event, comment or situation. These thoughts happen automatically and are known as ‘thinking traps’. By recognising our habit of falling into these traps we have the chance to step back and choose a different way of thinking and responding.

Here are some examples:

  • Catastrophising: Over reacting to a challenging situation or event. When one thing goes wrong, then in your mind it is the ‘end of the world’. Such as thinking that when a child is in detention at school this will end in a life of crime and prison, or assuming that a minor health issue is the cause of something life threatening.
  • Rejecting the positives: This is the inability to accept when something good is said about you or your achievements. You attempt to minimise praise by thinking ‘anyone could have done that’, ‘it’s not such a big deal’ or by rejecting it outright.
  • Negative comparisons: Comparing yourself unfavourably with other people and finding fault with yourself, such as differences in achievements, relationships and material possessions
  • Name-calling: Using harsh descriptions of yourself such as a ‘failure’ or ‘stupid’ when you have made a mistake
  • Being clairvoyant: Anticipating that the outcome of a situation, either now or in the future, will be negative. This will hinder your motivation and confidence in making decisions
  • Should and could: Being dissatisfied with what you have done, or could have done, recently or in the past, leading to you holding on to regrets rather than learning from experience.

Counted Breath Meditation  

This simple meditation is one way of introducing mindfulness into your daily life, and can help you to ‘switch off’ and help you get to sleep at night. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Move away from distractions such as mobile phone, television or computer
  • Sit comfortably in a chair with your hands held loosely in your lap and both your feet on the floor
  • Close your eyes and let your breathing settle into an even rhythm
  • Start to breathe in and out more deeply and begin counting on each ‘out’ breath e.g. breathe in, breathe out – one, breathe in, breathe out – two
  • If thoughts come into your mind and distract you, try not to engage with the thoughts, instead, restart your breath count from the beginning
  • If you get to ten breaths, well done! If not, don’t worry, just use this meditation technique regularly and your ability to focus on your breath should increase.

Need crisis support?

For urgent support with a mental health crisis call 999 or visit your local Accident & Emergency department. For non-emergency situations contact your GP or visit www.nhs.uk.

Useful links

Samaritans - free and confidential emotional support, whatever the circumstances, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org for help.

The Silver Line – free and confidential helpline for older people available every day and night of the year on 0800 470 80 90.

Mind – call the Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or search for ‘mindfulness’ at www.mind.org.uk.

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