Learn About Mindfulness

The following module 'Week 6: Mindfulness' is from the free online course The Science of Happiness from the University of California, Berkeley that explores the roots of a happy, meaningful life.

So what is mindfulness?

For starters, simply put, the term "mindfulness" refers to a moment-by-moment, non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

We'll tease out what that definition means over the next two sequences of videos and readings. In this next video, we provide a road-map for our week on mindfulness, in which we'll survey a wide range of mindfulness studies, explore how mindfulness is linked to happiness, and identify ways to build mindfulness.

As Emiliana suggested in the above video, mindfulness is fundamentally about paying attention to what you're doing and sensing in the present moment. So does sharpening our focus on the present moment actually make us happier?

In this video, researcher Matt Killingsworth explains how he addressed that question using some innovative methods. Though he never uses the term "mindfulness" in this video, the phenomenon he describes - the challenge of keeping our minds focused on what we're experiencing in the present moment - is central to the concept of mindfulness.

Does Mind-Wandering Make You Unhappy? Click to read this essay on Greater Good

Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology

How does mindfulness promote psychological well-being? What are its core mechanisms? What value do contemplative practices add to approaches that are already effective? From leading meditation teacher Christina Feldman and distinguished psychologist Willem Kuyken, this book provides a uniquely integrative perspective on mindfulness and its applications. The authors explore mindfulness from its roots in Buddhist psychology to its role in contemporary psychological science. In-depth case examples illustrate how and why mindfulness training can help people move from distress and suffering to resilience and flourishing. Readers are guided to consider mindfulness not only conceptually, but also experientially, through their own journey of mindfulness practice.

"It’s not a luxury to actually cultivate mindfulness. It’s becoming an absolute necessity.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

As the above image highlights you can choose from a number of ways to learn mindfulness– Learn Online – Find a Teacher – Stress Test – along with books, audio and online apps.

The YMCA is the UK’s leading health, fitness and education charity and they offer courses and management training on mindfulness.

M – Moment to moment attention

Time is never wasted if you learn from it and pay attention to it.

I – in the here and now

Be present in the moments. When you listen – really listen.

N – non-judgemental attitude

“A day spent judging another is a painful day. A day spent judging yourself is a painful day.” Buddha

D – detach from unhelpful thoughts

Don’t believe in everything you read, think or hear. Detach from anything that makes you unhappy.

F – forgive and be grateful

Refrain from spending too much time in the past, regretting what you did or didn't do.

U – unconditional acceptance

The greatest gift you can give someone is to love and accept who they are.

L – learn like a child

Be a sponge and get excited - remember we had to fail many times before we could walk.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius.

How can mindfulness help you?

Mindfulness can change the way you think and feel about your experiences, especially in stressful moments. It can really improve your ability to manage difficult situations and make wiser choices for yourself and others.

Try to adopt 10-15 minutes of mindfulness techniques:

  • Start your day with some basic stretching or yoga and connect with your body listening to its tensions and stress. Help relieve these by starting your day as you mean to go on. Get ready for the day ahead.
  • Take a break in the day to focus on your breathing. We should breathe about 12-20 times per minute (in through the nose, into the stomach and out through the mouth).
  • Focus and surround yourself with the people that make you feel good.
  • When you look, ie really see, take everything in and appreciate every moment.
  • When you think, don’t overthink - focus on how you are feeling.
  • When you eat and drink, really taste it. Appreciate it.
  • When you relax, clear your mind and include body-scan meditation.
  • When you sleep, focus on your dreams.
  • Turn your passion into your job. It’s easier than finding a job that matches your passion. After all we spend most of our time at work.

Lastly: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift - that’s why it’s called the present.” Bill Keane, American Cartoonist.