Could mindfulness be the key to good mental health?

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing our attention to the present moment without judgement, and it has been used by Buddhists for several thousand years. So, it’s by no means a new invention but, in recent years, mindfulness has grown more and more popular in the Western media.


Most people associate mindfulness with relaxation; a way of releasing stress and escaping the pressure of our modern life for a moment. And yes, mindfulness can help with that. But it’s not just a relaxation tool and, in fact, it is much less a tool than a skill that can help us improve our mental health profoundly. Let me explain why.

Noticing how we feel

If we are truly present, we can notice how we are feeling physically and mentally. That may sound simple, but this is where we often go wrong. Without being mindful, we don’t notice that we are overloaded, stressed, angry or sad, so we continue using unhelpful ways of coping (e.g. overeating, binge-watching TV, not voicing our needs) without acknowledging our feelings, which just makes us feel worse.

Pausing and becoming aware of how we are feeling is key for making positive steps towards feeling better.

Letting go of worries

If our attention is in the present moment, we learn to let go of worries about the future and thoughts about the past. Too often we are caught up in worries or rumination and our endless thought cycles can easily cause anxiety or low mood. By pausing purposefully and pulling our attention back to the here and now, we are practising letting go of things that we cannot control and that no longer serve us.

Being non-judgemental

When we observe the present moment without judgement – i.e. without labelling our observations as good or bad – we can learn to relate to ourselves in a kinder, more compassionate way. Oftentimes, we have a tendency to see things in black and white (e.g “Either I do this perfectly or I’m a failure”; “If I let people down I’m a bad person”) or we label ourselves as “not good enough”. These labels can easily fuel our anxieties because they can feel as if they are true.

Learning to observe our inner and outer world without making judgements can help us realise that the labels we have been using are neither accurate nor necessary. Instead of thinking in extremes (good-bad; success-failure), we can learn to be OK with something in the middle or even start to question these rigid categories.

These are just a few benefits of mindfulness that I noticed through my work with my clients and my own practice. You can see how each one of those benefits – being more aware of our feelings, letting go of worries and being non-judgemental – can have a profound effect on our mental health and can help us maintain our wellbeing long-term. If you think that mindfulness could be useful to you, then the best way of getting started is to make mindfulness part of your daily life.

You might want to start with observing the “outside” world (e.g. your environment, nature) and practice being present and non-judgemental with these observations. Later you can move on to observing your inner world (e.g. feelings, emotions, thoughts), but remember to not get attached to what you notice, just observe. If you think you could benefit from support, a mindfulness teacher or a therapist using mindfulness-based approaches can help you with this.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London EC2A & N1
Written by Lisa Mueller, Anxiety and Self-esteem Therapist (CBT)
London EC2A & N1

Lisa is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, Coach and Zen Yoga Teacher. She specialises in helping people manage anxiety, stress and low self-esteem using evidence based psychology tools and mindfulness techniques.

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