Blog post

Mindfulness: How can it help improve our mental health?

Zara Kayani explores what mindfulness is and how it can be used to help improve our mental health.

By Zara Kayani - 9 October 2018

There are various ways in which we can improve our mental wellbeing. Recently, there has been a large emphasis on mindfulness. The definition of 'mindfulness' differs however, generally speaking mindfulness encompasses being aware of your surroundings, thoughts and emotions at present without passing judgement. For some, mindfulness practices like, yoga, meditation and going on walks provide a break from the stresses of the daily routine, helping to gather thoughts and control emotions. For others, mindfulness comes from religious practices. The concept of concentration is a vital element of mindfulness. Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular and people are starting to recognise the benefits to their psychological as well as physical health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, mindfulness can be incorporated into your everyday life. Let's take a normal working day to be an example of how mindfulness can be put into practice. As soon as you wake up, let your body naturally adjust to having just woken up rather than sprinting out of bed. On the way to school, university or work, take time to think about the plan for the day and perhaps, switch off your phone for the length of the journey. During the day, be aware of how you interact with people and the activities you do. It may be beneficial to do a couple of breathing exercises if you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed. Spend time eating lunch and use this to reflect upon your surroundings. If possible, go for a 10-minute walk to feel refreshed physically and mentally. On the commute home, remove any distractions and take in what's happening around from you from the sights, smells and voices. Before going to sleep, reflect upon the day and list three things to be grateful for.

Now, what does the research say regarding these mindful practices? Do they actually improve mental wellbeing? Mindfulness can be used to treat a variety of clinical disorders. A study conducted by the University of Oxford has shown that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been effective alongside mood boosting drugs in depression patients. Those who practiced the therapy were 23% less likely to become depressed again within a five month period. According to the University of Surrey's research, those who took the 'Be Mindful' MBCT online course showed a 58% reduction in anxiety and a 40% reduction in perceived stress. Interestingly, a recent study has also suggested that mindfulness practices can help stave off dementia. Research by the University of Derby has looked at how mindfulness can help improve sleep in patients with fibromyalgia.

Remember, caring for the mind, body and soul is vital! The importance of regulating our emotions and feelings is necessary to maintain our overall wellbeing. As we know, anyone can suffer from changes in their mental state. Mental health does not discriminate. Talking about such changes and seeking the right help is vital. Get in touch with the student wellbeing team on campus who can offer help and support. For more information on mindfulness, visit Mind, the mental health charity, or the NHS website for more detailed information.

About the author

Zara Kayani
BSc (Hons) Psychology student

I am an undergraduate student studying BSc (Hons) Psychology.