Mindfulness for Better Mental Health

Mindfulness to treat depression and many others has used the concepts in various forms to treat ailments ranging from chronic pain to borderline personality disorder.

With its emphasis on paying attention in the moment, mindfulness advocates a move away from our usual automatic mode of living. We so often live life on “auto-pilot”, doing things without thinking about them, without experiencing them Mindfulness asks you to come out of auto-pilot and consciously pay more attention to what is going on in the here and now, taking note of what is going on moment by moment.

Then we may ask why mindfulness is so effective in treating such a range of conditions. The idea is that, by paying attention to what is going on now, we cannot dwell on past experiences or hurts, or worry about what is going to happen in the future. With a focus on non-judgmental awareness, mindfulness asks us to acknowledge our current thoughts, feelings, sensations, pain or worries, but not to get caught up with them.

Reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and depression

Any activity can be carried out mindfully. It is possible to do mindful walking, where you focus on and notice what is going on around you, and pay attention to the body’s movements as you walk. We can carry out simple tasks mindfully, such as mindful washing the dishes, or even mindful ironing! All it involves is paying attention to our movements, to that act of filling the washing up bowl or the iron moving over the sheets, to the sounds, the smells, the textures, heat or cold, or anything else we can be aware of in that activity alone. When your mind wanders onto anything else, don’t be critical, but gently bring it back to the here and now.

Mindfulness is certainly reaching a far wider audience than previously, and it looks set to stay around for some time. Mindfulness is a simple concept, but does require a little practice to appreciate its benefits. A ten minute breathing meditation a day over a few weeks is all it takes before a noticeable difference is experienced.

Practicing mindfulness improves mental and physical health for most people. Practiced regularly, it can reduce general stress levels and improve our interactions with others, even in difficult situations. Everyone can benefit from practicing mindfulness.

Mindful Meditation Practice

Sit or lie in a comfortable posture. If sitting, let your shoulders drop, but keep your spine erect.

If you feel comfortable, close your eyes. Bring your attention to your body, noticing the sensations of your body as it makes contact with the chair or whatever you are lying on. Spend a few minutes noticing the sensations in your body.

Bring your attention to your abdomen, noticing as it rises and expands on the in-breath, and recedes on the out-breath.

Keep your focus on the breath, being with each in-breath for its full duration, and with each out-breath for its full duration, as if you were riding on the waves of your own breathing.

Count each breath, counting one on the in breath, and two on the out breath, until you reach a count of ten, and then start back at one again.

Every time you notice your mind has wandered off the breath, notice what it was that took you away, and gently escort your attention back to your breathing.

No matter where your mind wanders to, no matter how many times your mind wanders, it could be a thousand times, simply bring it back to your focus on the breath. Being aware that your mind has wandered and gently bringing it back is as valuable as it is to remain aware of the breath.

Continue this through, counting each breath in and each breath other, reaching ten and starting again, for ten minutes. Take a moment to remain motionless, and then gently return to your day.

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