Mindfulness is a relatively new technique and certainly wasn’t around when I first looked for effective treatments/therapies for panic and anxiety.
I am going to give a brief overview of it and share some links to sites that have much more detail and information so you can then decide if it is something you would like to try.
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice which is very relevant for life today. It has a very simple concept of paying attention and noticing what is happening in the present moment; in a particular way; on purpose and non-judgmentally. This increases awareness, clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality.
Mindfulness does not conflict with any beliefs or tradition, religious, cultural or scientific. It is simply a different way of noticing thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells – anything we might not normally notice or think about in any real depth. The actual skills might be simple, but because it is so different to how our minds normally behave, it takes a lot of practice.
Children are naturally very good at being mindful. An adult may walk into the garden and think “oh I need to cut the grass and weed that border and cut that bush back and sweep the path”. Whereas a child may walk into the garden and notice the butterflies on the plants and the ants crawling around the patio or the delicious apples on the tree. They do not see the garden as a problem but a beautiful place to explore.
Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we don’t normally notice because our thoughts are too busy in the future or in the past – thinking about what we need to do, or going over what we have or haven’t done.
Being mindful helps us to train our attention on the here and now. Our minds can easily wander but every time we practise being mindful, we are exercising our attention “muscle” and becoming mentally fitter. We can learn to take more control over our focus of attention and choose what we focus on, rather than passively allowing our attention to be dominated by things which distresses us and takes us away from the present moment.
Mindfulness might simply be described as choosing and learning to control our focus of attention, and being open, curious and flexible.
Studies show that practising mindfulness can help to manage depression, some anxiety problems and feelings of stress. Some structured mindfulness-based therapies have also been developed to treat these problems more formally. In some cases these treatments are recommended as evidence-based treatments by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Note: NICE do not recommend using mindfulness-based treatments for social anxiety as there’s some evidence that mindfulness might make your symptoms worse rather than better.
Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. This training helps you to become more aware of your own thoughts, feelings and body sensations so instead of being overwhelmed by them, you are better able to manage them.
Mindfulness can be practiced by children, young people and adults. There are different ways to practice mindfulness so you need to find one that suits you.
Group courses are run to practise mindfulness in person and there are online courses too where you can learn through self-directed practice at home.
Those who practice mindfulness say that it gives them a much calmer outlook on life and situations and helps them manage their health and well-being. It doesn’t work for everyone though and some people may find they cannot fully commit to it and practice it regularly. Give it a go – you won’t know until you try it.