For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re re-launching Debt in Mind, our page dedicated to the link between debt and mental health, as well as information on how to deal with both. This year, our friends at Mental Health Foundation (MHF) will be talking about mindfulness and the various benefits it can have on a person’s life. Visit the re-launched Debt in Mind section from mid-May.
You may have heard about mindfulness. Perhaps you think it means sitting cross-legged on the floor and meditating. Maybe you think it means to simply concentrate on your breathing.
You may have even heard that it means to focus on your bodily sensations. Mindfulness is all of those things, and so much more.
Mindfulness is frequently misinterpreted as ‘a hippy ideal’ because of its association with meditation. While the concept stems from these roots, mindfulness has a strong evidence base for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Based on a ‘what works’ approach it is a practice well worth exploring to see if it can help keep your stress levels in check.
To shed some light on what mindfulness is, how it can be used, and why it’s so beneficial, the Mental Health Foundation has decided to focus on the theme of mindfulness for Mental Health Awareness Week 2015.
Money worries are one of the most common causes of stress. Mindfulness exercises help reduce stress, by training you to pay attention to the present moment. The goal is that when you become more aware of your thoughts, you’re not so overwhelmed by the feelings associated with them, and are better able to manage them.
Try this mindful money worries exercise
Mindfulness embodies a number of lessons that can help you realise and address your money worries. To get started, try the five-minute mindfulness activity below:
- Find a comfortable posture. Close your eyes. Allow your body to be held, supported by the chair. Notice the sensation of your body in contact with the chair.
- Become aware of your breath. Tune into the sensations of breathing, wherever you feel them. No need to change the way you’re breathing, just tune in, wherever you feel it.
- Sometimes you’ll find that your mind wanders. This in itself is not a problem. It’s what the mind does, after all. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, acknowledge it, and then gently return your attention to the breath.
5 tips to being mindful
1. Try not to ‘empty your head of thoughts’
People think that meditation means having an empty mind, or trying to get rid of your thoughts. But that’s not it – in fact, trying to struggle or stop thoughts can just lead to more struggle. Ignoring or distracting yourself from the cause of your anxieties can often increase them. So instead acknowledge your worries.
2. Be aware, not overwhelmed
You may feel like you have a lot going on in your head that you can’t make sense of. Some people even say how amazed they are at the ‘busyness’ of their minds when they stop to listen to it, or feel like there’s more tension in their body than usual. But chances are there isn’t more going on, we’re just becoming more aware.
3. Relaxation isn’t the goal
In mindfulness practices, we aren’t trying to become calm – if relaxation comes, that’s fine, but it isn’t the goal. Instead, mindfulness is about gently observing what is going on right now, rather than becoming fixated on the past or what may be in the future.
4. Leave judgments behind
See if you can cultivate an attitude of there being no ‘good’ and no ‘bad’ thoughts, feelings or sensations when you practice. Just be curious about whatever you experience.
5. Be kind to yourself
Mindfulness is like any other form of learning. It takes time and effort, so don’t be hard on yourself if you feel like you’re not ‘getting it’. Even if your mind wanders away a thousand times, just keep on bringing your mind back to the breath. This is mindfulness practice.
Have you tried mindfulness? Are you feeling calmer as a result? Do you have any tips to share? Tell us all about it in the comments. To find out more about the benefits of mindfulness, visit bemindful.co.uk, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2015.