Mindfulness and mental health

Practising mindfulness can be a great way to support your mental health. It can reduce stress. It can help you to manage your emotions and improve your sleep. And it can be a useful way to manage some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Learn how using mindfulness can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

What is mindfulness?

Broadly, mindfulness refers to focusing your awareness on the present moment without judgement.

You can pay attention to the present moment by noticing what you're thinking, feeling or experiencing. For instance, you might notice that you’re thinking a lot of negative thoughts. You might notice that these thoughts are making you feel anxious. Perhaps you’re simply paying attention to the sounds or smells around you. Or noticing that you’re hungry or tired.

Once you’ve noticed something, the key is to not judge it. If you notice you’re feeling anxious, mindfulness is not giving yourself a hard time for the way you’re feeling. It's about making space for those thoughts and feelings. Insteading of pushing them away or trying to solve them, you observe them and accept them. Then turn your mind to what you're doing in the present moment.

This can take practise! And it can take time to feel or notice the benefits. If you're experiencing a mental health issue or have past trauma, talk to your health professional. They can help decide if mindfulness is right for you and support you as you get started.

The difference between mindfulness and meditation

Meditation is a common way of practising mindfulness. But it is not the only way.


  • is a way of being
  • can be done anytime, anywhere
  • can be guided or unguided
  • can be practised in ways that don’t involve meditation.


  • is a specific practice (or method, or technique)
  • is only one of many ways to practise mindfulness.

Find mindfulness meditation exercises.

The benefits of mindfulness

You can be mindful no matter what you’re doing, what time it is or where you are. You don’t have to have a reason to try it out. Regular mindfulness practice can help support your mental health in several ways.  

Reduce stress and anxiety

Putting space between a thought and your reaction to it can help reduce any negative affect. By being mindful of negative thoughts from the start, you can act earlier to prevent them from getting worse.

Balance your emotions

Mindfulness practice can help you relax and self-regulate your emotions.

Improve your sleep

Mindfulness exercises can help you achieve good quality sleep and get sleep faster. Quality sleep is a key factor in supporting your mental health and wellbeing.

Highlight positive moments

Mindfulness can help you be present for the positive moments you care about in life. Rather than distracted by unpleasant thoughts about the past and the future. It can also help you avoid getting caught up in judgement or expectation.

Offer perspective

Being more aware of your thoughts and surroundings can help you make better choices about how to act or respond.

Create healthy habits

Changing your habits can be hard.  Being mindful can help you be more aware of what’s working for you and what’s not.

Improve concentration (and productivity)

Being present can help you notice when you become distracted. You can then choose how to address the distraction. Whether you take a break, re-focus on the task or do something else.

Notice warning signs earlier

Being mindful means you're better able to identify challenges to your mental health. The earlier you notice warning signs, the earlier you can respond or seek support to take care of yourself.

Ways to practise mindfulness

There are many exercises, activities and methods that can help you practise mindfulness. It might take a while to find out what works for you, and that’s okay.

Once you’ve found with a way that works for you, try to do it regularly. Having a set time each day to practise can help embed mindfulness into your routine. Just 5 minutes a day can help start to you feel the benefits.

Mindfulness meditation

It’s not the only way, but meditation practise is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Guided meditation exercises are a good way to start. These are led by a guide, whether in-person or through audio or video. The guide can help you focus your attention on your thoughts or feelings.

There are many apps and websites that offer free mindfulness meditation exercises.

Download the free mindfulness app from Smiling Mind

Mindful activities


Guided breathing exercises can help direct where to place your focus. You can do this at any time by paying attention to your breath. Notice the breath going in and out. You don’t need to change your breathing, it’s about being aware of each breath as it is.


Mindful walking is a great way to work mindfulness into your daily routine. Find a nice safe place to walk – like a park or garden – and think about your senses while you’re walking. What can you see, hear, touch, smell or taste?

Learn about mindful walking from the Heart Foundation


When you’re hungry or distracted, you might not pay much attention to what you’re eating. Mindful eating is practising mindfulness when planning and eating food. It can help improve your relationship with food by changing the way you eat.

Learn about mindful eating from Eating Disorders Victoria (PDF)


Mindful listening is applying all your attention to what someone is saying. Sometimes we can get caught up in other noises or thoughts, or in what we’re going to say next. Mindful listening can help you take in more of what is being said. It can also help you to retain important information for longer.

Body scan

Focusing your attention on how your body feels can help ground you in the moment and reduce stress. Scan slowly from head to toe, noticing how every part of your body feels. This can be a calming activity to do before going to sleep.


Mindful yoga applies the principles of mindfulness to the physical practice of yoga. Bringing attention to your movements can turn the experience into a form of meditation.

Find mindfulness activities for children, teenagers and parents – Raising Children


I'll try and get outside and do a couple of minutes. What can you smell? What can you hear? What can you see? …I always feel calmer.

Watch Georgie's story

Mindfulness treatments for anxiety and depression

Mindfulness-based treatments can help you manage anxiety or depression.

They can help you:

  • reduce feelings of anxiety
  • prevent unhelpful behaviours
  • avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

You should undertake these treatments alongside other recovery methods. To get started, speak to your health professional.

Sometimes we need to be cautious about practising mindfulness. For example, if you have a history of trauma or are experiencing symptoms of psychosis. In these cases, it's best to talk to your health professional. They can help you decide if mindfulness is right for you. And support you and make sure you don't become overwhelmed or distressed.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction

This is a mix of mindfulness meditation and mindful yoga. While carried out in a group program, it’s tailored to suit individuals needs.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

MBCT involves mindfulness meditation together with cognitive behaviour therapy.

Find a mental health professional

Learn about treatments for anxiety

Learn about treatments for depression

Share the benefits of mindfulness with others

If you feel that mindfulness could benefit someone you’re worried about, and you’re not sure how to bring it up, we have tips to guide you.

Talk to someone you're worried about

Journey to recovery – personal stories

Three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. Hear from others who have used mindfulness in their recovery to help you imagine your own journey.

Read and watch more personal stories

When depression and alcohol meet – Richard’s story

Richard's alcohol addiction and battle with depression took a massive toll. After battling for years, he took action to turn his life around.

"You can't shock someone like me into sobriety"

Luke Richards gives a candid account of his experience with mental health, alcoholism and the factors that contributed to his recovery.