Why is mindfulness important?

A guide to mindful living

Figuring out how to do the right thing with our lives can be overwhelming. What are we supposed to do? Is change possible? What things are really important? If there is one principle that can comfort us and help to begin answering these questions, it is mindfulness.

If it sounds complex or esoteric, don’t be deterred. Mindfulness is actually much more simple and approachable than it sounds, and it is not restricted to any particular religion or philosophy. To live mindfully means coming into the awareness of this exact present moment: where even just for a brief few minutes, we are not dwelling on the past or worried about the future. The concept is very closely linked to conscious living, but there are some differences. Conscious living means recognising that our actions are part of a bigger, collective picture. But mindfulness is all about being present, and witnessing what sensations come up in the present moment.

Let’s look at some examples. Sipping your cup of morning coffee mindfully means noticing: How does it smell? What does it taste like, look like, and how is drinking it changing your alertness? Another one: When you walk in the park mindfully, maybe you’ll begin to notice the breeze on your skin, the trees rustling in the wind, and the warmth of the sun on your face. Perhaps there are dogs barking, or birds chirping. Stopping to notice these details is exactly what mindfulness is.

Seven attitudes of mindfulness

Bringing mindfulness into our lives is one of the most transformative (and easiest!) practices we can do. Not only does it bring more gratitude, happiness, and wonder into our lives, it is beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing too. And particularly during periods of anxiety and uncertainty, it is even more important to focus on what we can control: how we react to the present moment.

Mindfulness benefits our brain

Scientific studies show that practising mindfulness every day can help to reduce pain, reduce blood pressure, and improve sleep, as well as relieve stress and anxiety, improve self-esteem, and increase feelings of calm and focus.

The core mindfulness skills

These skills can help you to understand the various forms and attitudes that mindfulness can take: having a non-judgemental attitude of ourselves and those around us; having patience while noticing thoughts, emotional feelings, and physical sensations come up; having trust that these things are here to guide us through our experiences; and accepting or being able to let the things go that no longer serve us, whether that is old habits, old thoughts, or old feelings.

How to practise mindfulness daily

Here are some ways to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines: observe by pausing in the moment and noticing what is around you, writing things down in a journal, participating in an experience with our full awareness, and doing one thing at a time, are all examples of mindfulness. Headspace is an excellent resource for mindfulness, with guided meditations, resources for better sleep, and tips on how to be mindful in just three minutes per day.