Mindfulness: A Path to better mental health
A Mindful Way to Better Mental Health
More and more research is showing that incorporating mindfulness into your life can help you to improve your mental health and overall well-being. Whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, or other mental health conditions learning how to be more mindful can reduce symptoms, difficult emotions, and unpleasant sensations in the body. It can also help reduce negative thinking patterns, overthinking, and general unease.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. With regular practice, you can train the mind to quieten the constant chatter and increase your awareness of the present moment.
A simple way of looking at it is this: Whatever you are doing, you will be fully present in that moment. If you are drinking tea you will be fully engaged with drinking tea, if you are with a friend you will be fully present in that moment with them, if you are walking you will be fully aware of walking. It has been said (and there is controversy over who actually said it):
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.”
Mindfulness is living in the moment.
It sounds simple but in reality, it takes practice and skill to achieve it. We are usually so caught up in a million thoughts and feelings and often have no real awareness of what we are doing. The rise of technology means we have become more disconnected than ever and mindfulness is the thing that can connect us back to ourselves and the world around us.
It is difficult to know for certain how many thoughts we have per day and research studies differ on their findings. However, Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, found that on an average day, we have approximately 60,00 thoughts and 90% of these thoughts are repetitive. This wouldn’t be so bad if all these thoughts were positive ones but unfortunately, 80% of the thoughts passing through our minds are negative. Ruminating on negative thoughts is thought to contribute to many negative mental health conditions and worsen pre-existing conditions.
How Mindfulness Helps
Research has shown that mindfulness helps reduce rumination and negative thinking patterns by encouraging us to not attach our focus to any particular thoughts. The aim is to simply allow them to pass through our minds like clouds floating through the sky.
How To Practice Mindfulness
If you are new to mindfulness practices or meditation in general, it can be useful to listen to guided practices. There are hundreds if not thousands available on YouTube or apps such as Insight Timer (my personal favourite) or Head Space.
Whenever you start a practice, consider your environment. Minimise distractions by switching off your phone, and choose a quiet room or space. Make sure that you are as comfortable as possible, lying down or sitting in a comfortable chair. If you are likely to feel cold, cover yourself with a blanket and make sure that your body is well-supported.
Mindful Breathing Exercise
Get Comfortable – Find a comfortable position that you can maintain for at least 5 – 10 minutes. Either close your eyes or soften your gaze to a spot just in front of you.
Awareness – Bring your awareness to your body, and take several long slow breaths as you relax your body. Now bring all your attention to the breath as it finds its natural rhythm. Find a spot to focus on, either the air around your nostrils or the rise and fall of the breath in the body. Invite your full attention to the gentle flow of the breath. Do not force anything and do not control your breath in any way. Observe your breath and the movement of your breath.
Thoughts – When your mind wanders (and it will), just notice the thoughts and bring your attention back to your breath. Your breath is the anchor. Your thoughts are like little ships passing by, let them go without attaching yourself to them.
Distractions – You might notice sensations in your body that may be uncomfortable, or negative emotions such as sadness, worry, or anxiety. Acknowledge these with compassion and then shift your awareness back to the breath.
Time – Allow yourself time to enjoy the practice and when you are ready to come out of the practice, wiggle the toes and fingers to wake up the body and then stretch out the body as you open your eyes.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
The Cherry Tree Centre offers online courses in mindfulness. We also have counsellors and therapists who are trained in Mindfulness. If you would like further information please reach out by filling in the contact form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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