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Beyond the Buzzword: Exploring the True Meaning of Mindfulness

Mindfulness has become a hot topic over the past few years, often being talked about as if it was a magical psychological “stress ball” of sorts. While there are certainly benefits to practicing mindfulness, a realistic understanding about what mindfulness is can help with getting the most out of it.

The Definition of Mindfulness

John Kabat Zinn, arguably, one of the most important figures in the mindfulness movement, offers this definition of mindfulness.

“Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, in the present
moment, without judgement, and with a sense of openness, curiosity, and friendliness towards our experience”.

Learning how to pay attention in this way, can help by:

1. Increasing our capacity to regulate our nervous systems and move out of stressed and

anxious states and into calmer, more regulated, and reflective states.

Mindfulness practice can help us to recognise more clearly what we are feeling from

moment to moment. The more aware we are of how we feel, the more able we are to

respond effectively to our needs, rather than reacting in automatic and unhelpful ways.

2. Increasing awareness of thoughts and behaviour, which in turn reduces the power they exert over us.

Mindfulness can help to create more distance from unhelpful or ruminative thinking. By

learning how to anchor your attention to something like the breath, you can “dip” in and

out of the stream of thoughts, be guided by them when they are useful, and learn how to

let them go of them when they are not.

3. Reducing our distress when experiencing uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions

All humans naturally gravitate towards pleasant emotional experiences and try to avoid

unpleasant emotional experiences. However, many of us feel like we are in a constant

struggle with our more difficult emotions. Learning how to sit with and observe your

emotions in a non-reactive way can help bring greater internal balance in the midst of

the various emotional weather patterns of our lives.

How Can You Start a Mindfulness Practice?

If you’re starting to feel like you could benefit from establishing a mindfulness, there are many ways to start. One of the simplest ways to begin is to take a breathing space throughout the day.

A breathing space is a way of slowing down, connecting to your breath, and simply observing what is going on in your mind and in your body in that moment. You might silently note what you observe to yourself, such as “I’m noticing a feeling of anxiety”, or “I’m noticing my mind racing”. Doing this can help to break out of autopilot, feel more grounded, and engage more intentionally with what is happening around you.

Try a guided meditation app to help guide you, as our own minds can be very distracting and easy for us to get caught up in judgement. One of our personal favourites at Eastern Shore Psychology, is the Insight Timer app. A free app, with thousands of different meditations, with numerous guides (finding the right voice to guide you is important!)

Joining a mindfulness group can also be of great help when you first start. Find a local group. It can be very useful to be guided by someone experienced in supporting people to develop a mindfulness practice, to help dispel myths and overcome obstacles with practice. Also, dedicating formal time like this is a sure fire way, to get started with a more regular mindfulness habit.

Look out for mindfulness groups coming up at Eastern Shore Psychology, in Hobart,

with Josef Vuister.

Josef Vuister is a provisional psychologist at Eastern Shore Psychology. He has completed his a Master of Professional Psychology at the University of Tasmania and undertaking his internship year. Josef takes a client centered approach to therapy, and aims to create a safe, warm, non-judgmental, and supportive environment in which individuals gaining insight into their experiences and feel empowered to move towards their goals. Josef has a keen interest in mindfulness and has been running mindfulness groups and retreats over the last couple of years. Contact us today, if you'd like to put your name down on the waitlist for our mindfulness evenings on Hobart's Eastern Shore (likely an hour at 5.30/6pm on a weekday - a great way to wind down from work/school/university - suitable for anyone) or if you'd like to book an appointment for therapy with Josef today (no referral required).

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