The complexities of the modern world can often be a burden on our mental health. The Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 study found that in the past year, 74% of people surveyed have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.
In order to deal with stress and build resilience to stressful situations it’s important to gain an understanding of the proactive ways in which we can build the foundations of positive mental wellbeing. One method cited by the NHS, which could reap positive benefits for many of us, is what is commonly referred to as mindfulness. You may have heard about mindfulness in the news, but what exactly does it mean?
Mindfulness is the process of paying more attention to the present moment, to the world around us, and to our thoughts and feelings, and using this practice to improve our mental wellbeing. It allows us to enjoy the everyday world, gain a better understanding of ourselves and become more in tune to when we may be suffering from stress.
So, how can we become more mindful in practice?
Watch your thoughts
Take a moment to pause and take stock of your thoughts, how you’re feeling and remember that mindfulness isn’t about forcing unwanted, negative thoughts away. Rather it’s about acknowledging these thoughts and watching them as they come and go.
Stop and tune in to the environment around you
Wherever you are, stopping and tuning into your environment can be beneficial. We very easily fall into ‘auto-pilot’, especially when life is particularly busy and stressful, and this is when we don’t recognise when we might need to take positive action. These may seem like small actions, but they’re important in interrupting routines which may be detrimental to our wellbeing. Next time the weather is pleasant, take a moment to enjoy the sunshine and a clear blue sky.
Pause before responding in a conversation
It’s easy to start formulating what you’re going to say in response to people in conversations, rather than really listening and absorbing what they have to say. Taking a moment to give a considered response is a fantastic way of being fully engaged and giving the person talking to you full attention. The give and take of a mindful conversation can help leave both parties feeling enriched.
Walk or cycle instead of driving
Where possible, try walking or cycling all or part of the way to work on a pleasant day. Along with the added exercise benefits, you can break from routine, give yourself some new perspective and allow some time to observe your thoughts. Fresh approaches to kick off the day can also give you a sense of positive satisfaction throughout the rest of the day.
Exercise ties into mindfulness neatly whilst also providing a wealth of physical benefits which support our mental wellbeing. As this article explains, “in the midst of a run, you are likely to be immersed in the present moment, tuned into your bodily state, and conscious of your breath. These are all key aims of mindfulness-based practices.” Physical activity can empower you to feel strong and capable mentally, alongside burning calories and building up fitness. A few simple steps to remember when exercising will help ensure you can add mindfulness into the equation.
- Clarify your aim
- Warm up
- Settle into a steady rhythm
- Push yourself
- Cool down
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