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Mindfulness

Author : Sanne Truijen

Last update: 19 november 2021
Mindfulness is about being present and attentive in the moment. You can apply it to everything you do. It is used to treat stress, anxiety, burnout, and symptoms of tension, but it can also help to improve your quality of life. Read on to learn more about the benefits of practicing mindfulness.

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about being present in the here and now. You’re giving your full attention to the moment; observing it with all your senses. When you practice mindfulness, you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical senses without passing any judgement. You simply observe.

Where attention goes, energy flows

By practicing mindfulness, you learn how to direct your attention. Being able to properly focus your attention on the task at hand, means it becomes easier to avoid non-helpful thoughts. The result: Improved concentration and a calm, relaxed mind. Stress is reduced and you experience the things you give your attention to more intensely. This makes you better able to soak everything in and get more enjoyment out of your life.

You’re also less likely to respond to situations on autopilot. Instead, you make conscious choices. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never get angry again, but it does enable you to respond more thoughtfully – whether this results in a calm response or appropriate anger. Additionally, improved awareness means that you’re less likely to overstep your boundaries.

The role of meditation in mindfulness

Meditation is a part of mindfulness, but they are not the same thing. Meditation is an exercise: You sit down and take the time to clear your head, focusing on the silence or your breath. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is something you work on all day long. You can use it all times. It’s not an exercise, but a way of engaging with the world – with attention, in the moment.

The origins of mindfulness

Originally, the practice of mindfulness came from Buddhism and Hinduism. From here, it slowly found its way into modern, Western psychology. It’s now used to alleviate various psychological symptoms.

Why or when should you practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness has various benefits and you might practice it for a range of reasons.

Here’s a list of mindfulness benefits

  • Research shows that mindfulness reduces stress and improves quality of life [1]
  • People who practice mindfulness experience improved attention, alertness and cognitive activity (your memory, for example) [2]
  • Your ability to concentrate also increases [3]
  • It works preventatively against anxiety, for example
  • It increases your productivity and energy
  • You enjoy your life more
  • It contributes to better relationships and communication
  • Mindfulness helps you sleep better
  • And, in addition, being able to get swept up in the moment improves your sexual experiences


Reasons to practice mindfulness:

  • You often have the sense that life is just happening to you. You have a busy schedule and, as a result, you’re not fully aware of everything you’re experiencing. Life is passing you by
  • You want to enjoy yourself more and, in the process, experience peace, introspection and stillness in your life
  • You want to worry less, to be less consumed by your thoughts, and to simply be more present
  • You’re experiencing physical symptoms as the result of tension or stress. For example, headaches and pains, but also, fatigue, insomnia, and high blood pressure can also be signs of stress
  • You’re having trouble sleeping or you suffer from general fatigue
  • You want to learn how to concentrate better and how to hold your attention
  • You have depression and/or suffer with anxiety
  • You’re experiencing the psychological consequences of chronic illness or adversity

Mindfulness can help to alleviate certain symptoms, but it’s definitely also practiced by people who aren’t experiencing any symptoms. Even in these cases, mindfulness can still add value and enrich your life.

How does mindfulness therapy work?

Mindfulness treatments can be divided into two groups. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

MBSR is a set program of eight sessions. It’s an intensive mindfulness training that combines knowledge from yoga, meditation, Western medical science, and cognitive psychology. The program makes you more observant about the difference between the things you’re experiencing and what your thoughts are. As a result, you learn to respond more consciously and break patterns.

MBCT is a variant of MBSR that is specifically aimed at preventing relapses into depression. As a result of this therapy, you learn to recognize triggers that might cause you to have a relapse. You learn how to see these non-helpful feelings as something that will pass with time.

Practicing mindfulness doesn’t always mean going through the set protocols of MBSR or MBCT. A psychologist will work with you to see which exercises are of value to you. They’ll then make these part of your personalized treatment. These could be exercises from either MBSR or MBCT.

Meditation as part of mindfulness

Meditation techniques are used to teach you to live more mindfully. Through meditation, you’ll learn how it feels to be completely in the moment.

Some example exercises include:

  • Focused attention: A meditation exercise where you focus on your breath. When your mind wanders off, you keep bringing your attention back to your breath
  • Noting: This is noticing certain thoughts and feelings during meditation. It helps you to learn more about your habits, tendencies and behavior when triggered by certain stimuli
  • Body scan: During this type of meditation, you get in touch and connect with your body. You scan your body from top to bottom. You go through each individual body part. By doing this, you become aware of any discomfort, feelings, or pains that are present in your body at a particular moment. These feelings may be manifestations of stress or anxiety

For example, a body scan goes as follows:

  1. You close your eyes and become aware of your body.
  2. You take a few deep breaths in and out, and let go of any thoughts about your daily activities.
  3. Do these thoughts keep coming back? Then shift your attention back to the speaker’s voice.
  4. Become aware of where you’re lying or sitting. How does it feel? How does your body feel at the moment?
  5. Then, guided by your therapist’s words, go through all your different body parts in your mind. For example, starting with your toes and ending with the crown of your head.
  6. Sometimes during the meditation, you’ll also be asked to temporarily move or tighten your muscles, or the body part that you’re currently focusing on in your mind, before relaxing again.
  7. Then move your attention up to the next body part, through your ankles to the lower legs, then the knees and so on, up to the top of your head.
  8. Next bring your attention to your body as a whole and see how you feel now, fully relaxed and present in the moment.
  9. To round off the meditation, it’s nice to bring some motion back to the body by tightening some muscles or stretching your arms and legs for a moment. Then open your eyes.


Is mindfulness therapy covered by my health insurance?

More information about mindfulness therapy costs and options for health insurance reimbursement is available here >>

Where can I find a good therapist and how can they help me?

Do you have any questions about mindfulness? Or would you like to speak to a psychologist about which treatment options are appropriate for you? It’s important to find a psychologist who makes you feel safe and comfortable.

Do you have any questions about mindfulness and would you like to know if it’s right for you? Then call us on 0851 308 900. Together, we can see if mindfulness is a suitable solution for you. We’ll make sure you receive appropriate support and expert treatment.

Mindfulness at OpenUp

Want to see if mindfulness is right for you? OpenUp offers very accessible, free mindfulness sessions.

Author : Sanne Truijen

Psychologist

“Mindfulness gives you an anchor to focus on, so you are in the here and now. This helps us to cope with all kinds of challenges.“

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