What is mindfulness and how can it help?

Mindfulness is the practice of sitting still and paying attention to your thoughts and your feelings - in the here-and-now, without judgement.  It allows you to take a deep breath, pause ... and just focus on your breathing.  There's no special breathing technique required, no weird and wonderful mantras to recite, just a sense of being at one with yourself.  Instead of doing, or thinking about,1001 things at once, mindfulness allows you to slow down and reflect.  And feel happier and calmer.

It sounds really simple - and it is.  Have a look at the simple mindfulness practice below.  You can do it almost anywhere, anytime, for as much or as little time as you like.  The research evidence is irrefutable for the impact of mindfulness on reducing stress, building resilience, boosting the immune system, reducing anxiety and depression, and increasing effectiveness and productivity at work. Have a look at the paragraph below for a good explanation of the technique.  And an excellent book on mindfulness is, 'Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Prof. Mark Williams & Dr. Danny Penman)': this includes a free CD, too.

The technique is used by the NHS and supported by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).  It's used by large corporations - Deutsche Bank and Google, or example - and in schools - for staff and for pupils.  MRI before-and-after tests on the brains of those regularly practicing mindfulness shows a marked and long-lasting improvement in serotonin (the naturally-occurring substance that makes us feel happier), feeling calmer, performing better in and out of work, and stress resilience.

Headteachers who've been working with me as part of the Performance Resilience & Well-being Programmes will have experienced the mindfulness technique and its lasting benefits.


Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Light a candle. Stop for a while – even 2 minutes will help - sitting in a fairly upright but comfortable position with both feet flat on the floor, hands resting in your lap. Focus on the flame or gently close your eyes.

Bring your attention to your breathing. Just breathe normally. Notice any sensations of the
breathe coming in and going out. If you’re distracted, it might help to say to yourself, ‘Each in breath is a new beginning. Each out breath is a letting go.’ Your mind will inevitably wander – everyone’s does. This is not a failure. It is vital that there is no self-judgement. Remember: there’s nothing to succeed or fail at here. You’re just being rather than doing.

Observe any thoughts and feelings, including physical sensations but without
and judgements or labels. Don’t judge or label yourself either. Just acknowledge the thoughts and feelings. Each time your attention wanders, gently come back to focusing on your breathing.

When you’re ready to finish your practice, take two deeper, slower breaths. Slowly and gently bring small movement into your fingers and toes. If your eyes have been closed, gently open them and be fully present in the here-and-now.

Afterwards, if you choose to, you can note down a couple of things you’re grateful for or glad about. You might also note down any solutions, ways forward or actions that came to you during the mindfulness practice.
It's so good to know that I can get support when I need it - for me and for my staff.
A big 'thank you'! Headteacher