Mindfulness is a simple but effective way of managing mental wellness. It can be practised by anyone, at anytime and anywhere.
In conjunction with more traditional psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness can often form part of the treatments prescribed by mental health professionals for a number of common conditions such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders, amongst others. But it can help all of us, even if we are not suffering from a diagnosed mental health condition, particularly as it can be practised easily and by anyone. It’s a valuable technique for us all to learn, as it can benefit both physical health and general well-being by reducing stress levels and the effects that may have on our blood pressure, how well we sleep, how we deal with life’s challenges and ultimately how happy we are.
At the core of mindfulness is the ability to accept and appreciate the present moment, by focusing on the here and now – a kind of re-set button. This can be achieved by formal meditation or by more informal mindfulness practices. There are many techniques for formal meditation, which in essence involve sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, allowing your mind to empty and dismissing any obtrusive thoughts, paying attention to your senses – any sights, sounds and touch.
Informal mindfulness techniques focus on the here and now; by doing one thing at a time and concentrating on this activity fully and not allowing other thoughts to intrude. This can be done by doing the simplest or most mundane of tasks or it can be done by not doing much at all, for example by drinking a cup of tea, stroking the cat, watching a bird in the garden, peeling potatoes, whatever it might be.
The key is to start by focusing on your breathing – in and out slowly – and slowing down whatever it is you are doing. Take notice of each one of your sensations and your thoughts and emotions whilst doing the task. If your mind starts to wander off, bring yourself back to what you are doing and focus once again on your breathing and on your sensations – what you see, hear, smell, touch and taste.
By doing these simple things, you should begin to relax, and sense an increase in your self-awareness, and an increased ability to accept emotions and feelings both positive and negative. Life and its challenges become easier to deal with, reducing any negative thoughts which can come with some mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
With regular use, mindfulness can become an important part of building and maintaining good mental well-being.
Mindfulness is just one of the techniques our psychiatrists advocate and practise in the treatment of some mental health conditions. If you feel you could benefit from their help, please get in touch to make an appointment.