Mindfulness is an ability to observe what is happening in each moment, with an attitude of acceptance, curiosity and kindness. This awareness can include our thoughts, feelings, body sensations or behaviours, as well as the outside world.
Acceptance does not mean that we do not want to change things for the better. But in order to do that, first we need to be able to look at reality as it is, with as little interference from our habitual emotional responses and interpretations as possible. Mindfulness can help with that aim.
A mindfulness program introduces you to the basic techniques that can help you develop mindfulness in your everyday life. This then may help you to respond to stressful situations in new ways, reducing the emotional reactions that often accompany and exacerbate stress.
People often mix up mindfulness in everyday life with the mindfulness exercises we do to develop it. We call these exercises ‘formal practice’.
The aim is not “to do mindfulness” but to be mindful, as a habit, in as many moments in our life as possible. It is not an easy thing to do, as our thoughts and emotions tend to run off in all directions, without us noticing. Formal practice can help us develop this habit, the same way going to the gym can help us become stronger.
You can do your mindfulness exercises (formal practice) at any time. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to develop a habit to do your formal practice at the same time every day, because it helps to develop a habit. It does not really matter when you do it, as long as you do it regularly.
The first research study about mindfulness was published nearly 40 years ago, and a very large amount of research has been conducted in the past 20 years especially. In non-clinical samples, mindfulness-based interventions have been found to reduce stress and improve general well-being. As clinical treatments, they have been shown to be effective for recurrent depression, some anxiety disorders, chronic pain and addictive behaviours.
There are currently two mindfulness programs available for students. The first are Mindful Monday drop-in sessions, held every week of semester at 12pm. You'll have the opportunity to learn and practice some techniques together with a facilitator and other students. You can attend one, a few or all drop-in sessions. Register for a session.
The second program is Beginner's Mind, a more structured course in which Dr Marianna Szabó will introduce you to simple mindfulness practices that are commonly used in programs based on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). These sessions are held each Friday of semester at 3pm. Register now.