Project Mindful @ FHS

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing attention on the experience of the current moment, with an attitude of non-judgemental acceptance and curiosity.
Research has shown that by practising mindfulness, learners strengthen areas of the brain that control ‘executive function’ including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, insula and precuneus.
For this reason, mindfulness can lead to better attention, memory, planning, regulation of emotions and self-awareness.
Mindfulness can also be an effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety.

Our Six Mindfulness Pillars


Awareness involves the intentional observation of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensory perceptions in the present moment[1]. Awareness tends to be relatively open in that we are simply noticing what’s showing up in any given moment, and we can be holding more than one thing in awareness. E.g. you can be aware of the room you’re in and the sounds you can hear, simultaneously. Awareness also enables greater attention – which focuses on the object it is directed towards.


We are arguably more distracted than ever before due to the technological advancements and sheer speed of our modern lives. As a result, our attention can be scattered, thereby limiting our ability to engage effectively in tasks and with others. Mindfulness can increase our ability to focus and attend to our lives more consistently and meaningfully[2]. It can also enable us to see things more accurately, as they really are. 


Compassion is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering[3]. It involves a fundamental shift from “I” to “We”, and can be broken down to 3 parts – I understand, I feel for you, I want to help you[4]. It’s a mixture of empathy and support. Self-compassion involves extending this same kindness to ourselves. It involves treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who is having a hard time. The three core elements of self compassion are: self-kindness, common humanity (the recognition that everyone makes mistakes and feels pain), and mindfulness[5]


Gratitude has two key components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, something positive or benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore problems and challenges. But we actively take in the good. The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. The social benefits are especially significant because gratitude is a social emotion. It is considered a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.[6] 


Curiosity, the urge to explore and seek novelty, has been linked with numerous psychological, emotional, social, and even health benefits[7]. Curiosity is associated with higher levels of positive emotions and lower levels of anxiety. Studies also reveal that curiosity leads to more enjoyment and participation in school and higher academic achievement, as well as greater learning, engagement, and performance at work. Curiosity can help strengthen relationships, through increased empathy and richer, more authentic engagement with others.[8] In mindfulness, curiosity is nurtured through the cultivation of a ‘beginners mind’ – dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, and seeing things with an open mind and fresh eyes.   


Human beings have a fundamental need for belonging and connection, and the quality of our relationships is one of the strongest predictors of our mental and physical health. Decades of psychological literature points to relationships as the most important factor of life satisfaction and emotional wellbeing.[9] Relationships are also implicit in a number of our major life goals and one of our greatest sources of meaning (e.g. parent, partner, teacher, leader). High Quality Connections generate vitality, a sense of feeling known or cared about, and of openness – a core attitude of mindfulness. [10]

[1] Dangeli, J. (2015). Exploring the phenomenon of peripheral awareness and its effects on stress and burnout. MSc Research Dissertation.

[2] Chan, D., & Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved?. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(6), 651-658.

[3] Strauss, Clara & Lever Taylor, Billie & Gu, Jenny & Kuyken, Willem & Baer, Ruth & Jones, Fergal & Cavanagh, Kate. (2016). What is Compassion and How Can We Measure it? A Review of Definitions and Measures. Clinical Psychology Review. 47.

[4] Gu J, Cavanagh K, Baer R, Strauss C. An empirical examination of the factor structure of compassion. PLoS One. 2017;12(2).

[5] Neff, K. (2011). Self Compassion: The power of being kind to yourself. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY.

[6] Emmons, R. A. (2007). Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

[7] Cozolino, L. (2013). The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom (The Norton Series on the Social Neuroscience of Education). W. W. Norton & Company.  

[8] Campbell, E. J. (Ph.D). Six Surprising Benefits of Curiosity. Greater Good Magazine, September 24, 2015. 

[9] Reis, H. T., & Gable, S. L. (2003). Toward a positive psychology of relationships. In C. L. M. Keyes, & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 129-159). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

[10] Stephens. J.P., E. Heaphy and J. Dutton. High Quality Connections. In K, Cameron and G. Spreitzer (eds.), Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011