The best books to introduce you to mindfulness

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Over the past decade, mindfulness has risen in popularity. The term has even become a buzzword that is often misused by the ever-expanding wellness industry to boost sales and as a by-product, it’s also misunderstood or dismissed.

Mindfulness is often confused with meditation, but it’s an important part of the practice and can be used as a helpful tool to train your mind to be more fully present, which as the books listed below will illustrate, is at the core of mindful thinking. Without the usual zen jargon to describe the term, mindfulness is simply “to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”.

Sounds simple, right? Sadly, it’s all too easy to get so caught up in planning for the future or worrying about the past that we fail to notice what’s going on in the moment. While mindfulness does not claim to completely eradicate anxiety, depression and stress, it has been proven to help reduce their potency, so it’s well worth trying.

There’s never been a better time to pick up new habits that can have a positive impact on your life. Here’s a roundup of the best three mindfulness books for beginners, to help you start living more in the present.

Mindfulness. A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Danny Penman, J Mark, G Williams and Mark Williams

If you’re new to mindfulness, start here. This relatively short and extremely accessible guide is the ultimate introduction to the practice and comes with downloadable audio exercises that walk you through meditation, mindful eating and much more. It includes useful and honest anecdotes from people who have tried the exercises which reveal how it has impacted the way they think and view the world, helping to put things into perspective.

Mindfulness. A Practical Guide is co-authored by Dr Mark Williams, who was the Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University and who co-founded Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which has been used clinically to treat depression. In other words, this book knows what it’s talking about.

A Monk’s Guide to Happiness by Gelong Thubten

The title of this wonderful book may make it seem like it’s for experienced meditators and hardcore mindfulness experts, but the reality is far from it. Before the author became a monk, he had never meditated a day in his life. After graduating from University, Thubten lived in New York trying to make it as an actor. His hectic and destructive lifestyle meant that at the age of 21 he suffered from extreme burnout and a life-threatening heart condition so he decided to join a monastery in Scotland, where he only intended to stay a year, but kept on for 25.

Thubten’s book explores what makes us truly happy (spoiler alert: it’s within ourselves), comes with plenty of exercises for beginners and is a very enjoyable read. He also makes a very useful distinction between meditation and mindfulness: “meditation is where we sit down and train our minds, using specific techniques. Mindfulness is how we bring our minds back from distraction during the meditation session, and it also refers to the integration of meditation into daily life… by practising moments of awareness”.

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax

Wax turned to mindfulness to cope with her own mental health issues. Struggling with depression, she knew that for her, learning the ins and outs of how the mind worked would help her to really understand her mental illness. She studied on Dr Williams’s MBCT course at Oxford University and has now turned what she’s learnt into a down-to-earth guide, with practical exercises and a six-week course for becoming “less frazzled”.

With her usual humour and sincerity, Wax combines her teaching with anecdotes and simple language to explain mindfulness to newbies and those just looking to become a bit happier in life.

For the audio book version, Wax reads the book herself.

Happy reading! I’ll leave you with a Bil Keane quote: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.

Francesca Lister-Fell


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