Head space exploration

Is Yoga an effective treatment for anxiety? trial finds new evidence

Through the Mindful in May campaign, mental health organisations worldwide promote the benefits of mindfulness for well-being.  

As the research around mindfulness continues to develop and advance, people are looking for ways to incorporate the mental state into their busy lives.

Mindfulness is the most investigated form of meditation and has attracted significant attention from researchers in recent years. A Harvard University study found that those who focus on what they’re sensing and feeling in the moment achieve greater happiness.1 So, to produce positive mental health effects, learning how to focus on the present may be a helpful tool.

“Mindfulness is the simple skill of paying attention to the present moment in a particular way,” said Liv Downing, registered psychologist, meditation teacher, author and member of the Meditation Australia Council.

“Among many other benefits, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress – which at high levels can lead to poor mental health – and anxiety, reduce relapse duration and intensity of major depression and improve sleep and sleep quality, which can lead to better mental health.

“Possibly the most profound impact mindfulness meditation can have on us and our mental health is its capacity to support us to build a deep and honest relationship with both ourselves and others. The longest study on human thriving has concluded that the quality of our relationships is the number one predictor of good mental and physical health.”2

The meditation/mindfulness connection 

The positive effects of meditation are often discussed, but it’s often hard to know where to start.

Meditation invites us to be aware of what’s going on in the present moment,” Ms Downing said.

“It encourages us to step out of autopilot and make a conscious decision to practise whichever meditation technique we’ve chosen. When we practise this awareness daily, it can help us to be more mindful and conscious in our everyday life.”

Regularity is more important than the duration of meditation, she adds.

“It’s no good planning to do a 30-minute meditation and then not being able to find that time,” she said.

“I suggest starting with two minutes and building up from there. The research tells us it’s the regularity of a daily practice that makes a real difference, rather than the duration.”

Incorporating meditation

For retail pharmacy assistants looking to incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine, Ms Downing offers these tips:

Start small. Get out of bed five to 10 minutes earlier and begin your day with a brief meditation. There are many apps available to help you. Smiling Mind is great for mindfulness meditation. Insight Timer offers meditations across all techniques –  mindfulness, mantra, breathwork, yoga nidra, etc.

Get practical. Choose one habitual task each day to pay attention to and then watch the happenings of your mind. Taking a shower or brushing your teeth can be good options. It’s likely you’ll notice a little voice providing a running commentary on either what you’re doing or the million other things going on in your life.

Be really curious and compassionate with this part of you, and remember: the fact that you can observe this voice and these thoughts indicates you’re separate from them.

You might say to yourself, ‘Hmmm … that’s interesting’, or some other non-emotional but curious response, and then gently bring your attention back to the task at hand, feeling the warm water on your skin or the way the bristles of the toothbrush feel on your gums.

This is a great opportunity to get to know yourself and your thinking habits and puts you in a powerful position to choose how you respond to your thoughts in your everyday life.


  1. Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT. ‘A wandering mind is an unhappy mind’. 2010. greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/A_Wandering_Mind_Is_an_Unhappy_Mind.pdf
  2. Harvard Medical School. ‘Harvard study of adult development’. 2015. adultdevelopmentstudy.org

 This feature was originally published in the May issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine.