Mindfulness for Better Mental Health
Moving onto something which you may not have heard of before or at least never tried and that is Mindfulness.
Originating within Buddhism it has been formalised over the last 40 years into programmes such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. It is used to help people manage their mental health, enhance their well-being and simply gain more enjoyment from life.
In its purest form mindfulness is a form of meditation and it involves making a special effort to give your full attention to what is happening in the present moment.
Mindfulness describes a way of approaching our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them and react differently to them.
The mind is often caught up in worry, fear, anger, regrets and everything else going on inside your head. We are caught up in the past or the future and we are rarely mindful of being here now in the present.
"Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally."
- increase your awareness of your thoughts and feelings
- manage unhelpful thoughts
- develop more helpful responses to difficult feelings and events
- be kinder towards yourself
- feel calmer and able to manage stress better
- manage some physical health problem, like chronic pain
Mindfulness came about for me during my first lot of therapy. I was sceptical at first. I remember being told to breathe really quick with my head between my legs to induce that feeling of panic. At this point I had no idea how to combat against a panic attack and the last thing I wanted to do was go through one during a therapy session. It was difficult enough getting myself out the house and into the room.
Once the feeling of panic was brought on we were told to close our eyes and concentrate on our breathing. Taking deep breaths to the point where you can feel your core pushing out.
Honestly, I thought it was a load of crap at first. I didn't like the idea of inducing a panic attack and on multiple occasions, I was so close to getting up and walking out.
During a panic attack, your mind is so active, there is panic, fear, worry and all of these other feelings present and usually, it spirals out of control until the point it passes. Some twenty minutes later.
At first, concentrating just on your breathing is difficult. The mind is trying to go in a million different directions and it seems impossible to concentrate. I'd get a couple of breaths in and I'd forget what I was doing. The negative thoughts would start to spiral again.
Usually, you will have a therapist or someone speaking, coaching you through what you need to do. Reminding you it is okay for the mind to wonder. You just need to bring it back each time. By concentrating on your breath and following it through your body you will notice your breathing become deeper and slower. You will start to become calmer. Your awareness should be sustained on the breath with no interruptions.
With anxiety, negative thoughts are always present and we believe them to be true. It is difficult to differentiate between what is real and what isn't. Being mindful and concentrating on our breathing you can start to let them go. You can picture them as balloons or whatever works for you and let them go and then bring it back to your breathing each time.
This isn't a guide by any means. There are courses and experts available, free or paid. It is a great tool to have to cope better with Mental illness.
Mindfulness has proven very effective for me during panic attacks and even preventing them before they happen when the anxious symptoms start to worsen. Likewise when my depression has been on the milder scale.
Although very useful for Mental Health illnesses, Mindfulness and meditation benefit anyone for wanting to live a better lifestyle and for a better wellbeing. For a more in-depth post on Mindfulness check out this post that I highly recommend reading.
I found this video on Youtube which is a ten minute guided mindfulness guide and I try and use it daily. There are lots of other options available like the app 'Headspace' also.