Teen Breathe

So, what is mindfulness, anyway?

Mindfulness is paying attention. Think that’s really easy? Read on…

Who needs to practise paying attention – after all, it’s a breeze, isn’t it? For some, maybe. But for most it’s harder than you might think. You might not realise it, but a lot of time is spent on auto pilot, carrying out tasks and activities and even conversations without a lot of awareness of what you’re doing.

For example, have you ever got to the bottom of a page in a book and realised you haven’t actually read anything you were ‘reading’? Or have you ever said something to someone that you immediately wished you hadn’t?

Everyone experiences those things – it’s part of being human. But mindfulness can help us be better at paying attention, so we don’t make careless mistakes or miss out on important information. When you think about it, the ability to pay attention is probably one of the most important skills we need as human beings.

This is why many of the features and activities in Teen Breathe will involve bringing your awareness to your breath, your feelings, your thoughts or perhaps the sensations in your body. It might seem silly at first to focus so carefully on your breath, but what you are doing is really important – you are practising the crucial skill of paying attention. And the more you do this, the easier it will become.

Be curious

Mindfulness is also about paying attention in a particular way. When we are mindful, we are curious. Instead of thinking we know exactly what is going to happen, we leave open the possibility that things could be entirely different from our expectations.

Can you think of a time when you were talking to a friend and you had the thought, ‘Oh, I know exactly what she’s going to say right now…’? Maybe then you didn’t listen as carefully, because you were certain you knew where the conversation was going.

And maybe you were right – maybe she said exactly what you predicted. But maybe you were wrong… and then you missed out on something important.

There are many amazing things to be experienced when you pay attention with curiosity – gorgeous sunsets, meaningful conversations, yummy desserts, and beautiful music, to name a few. And here’s something special: researchers have found that we are happiest when we are paying attention to what we are doing, regardless of how ‘pleasant’ the thing we are doing is.

So mindfulness doesn’t just help us pay attention, it can also help us enjoy our lives more.

  • Words: Sarah Rudell Beach
  • Illustration: Shutterstock
  • Article originally from issue 1 of Teen Breathe