What is mindfulness?

Last updated at 06:13
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WATCH: Naz went to meet some kids during their mindfulness class.

Classes on mindfulness are taking off in some schools in the UK.

From dancing, to stretching, to playing games...exercises often relax your mind and can help improve your attention and awareness.

You might have a class at your school, or mindfulness may be a word you've never heard before in your life

Well, never fear, Newsround is here to explain what it is and why people are talking about it.

A short history on mindfulness

Kids sitting on floor with eyes closedGetty Images
Mindfulness seeks to improve your skills in noticing what happens in the mind and body

Mindfulness is a practice that has been around for thousands of years. It helps train your attention.

Claire Kelly, Director of Curricula and Training at the Mindfulness in Schools Project told Newsround that, "mindfulness is an exercise in training our minds to be in the present moment. If we are more aware of what we are feeling, seeing, sensing or even doing... we can better choose how we respond to it and what we might do next."

Being relaxed, happy, and just taking a chill

Mindfulness student

It has a rich history, with it's roots in various religious and non-religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga.

More recently, non-religious meditation has become increasingly popular.

It can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better.

Some mindfulness meditation practices are similar to yoga, such as the body scan, which involves an awareness of your body.

Mindfulness...provides a life skill that pupils can come back to time after time, equipping them to handle their own thoughts and feelings, teaching them to concentrate, withstand distractions and be more confident

Claire Kelly, Director of Curricula and Training at the Mindfulness in Schools Project

If you want to learn three simple ways to practice mindfulness, watch Mrs. T's top tips below!

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WATCH: Mrs. T's top tips on mindfulness

When I get aggravated I can just look back on what I learnt... and feel calm

Mindfulness student

What are the benefits of teaching mindfulness in schools?

  • It can help you to be more aware of what is happening in the now, rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen.
  • Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better
  • Time spent sitting quietly allows you to reflect on your day and what you have been doing.
  • It's helpful to step back from the busyness of life and appreciate what is going well.
  • It may improve your concentration and ability to think clearly.

How can you be more mindful?

The guidance from the NHS says: "Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness."

Here's what Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says you can do if you want to make the change:

Notice the everyday

"Even as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk," says Professor Williams. "All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the 'autopilot' mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life."

Keep it regular

It can be helpful to pick a regular time - the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime - during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.

Try something new

Trying new things can also help you notice the world in a new way.

Watch your thoughts

"Some people find it very difficult to practice mindfulness. As soon as they stop what they're doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in," says Professor Williams.

"It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn't about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.

"Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing 'thought buses' coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.

"Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking."

Name thoughts and feelings

To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: "Here's the thought that I might fail that exam" or, "This is anxiety".

Free yourself from the past and future

You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been "trapped" in reliving past problems or "pre-living" future worries.

Do you practise mindfulness at school or at home? Do you find it helpful? Let us know by commenting below