According to Beyond Blue, it’s estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. From depression to anxiety, to feelings of worthlessness, self-harm and suicide; chances are you or someone close to you has been affected by mental health at one stage.
But building a happier and healthier thought process is something anyone can benefit from. Even on our best days; learning strategies through the act of mindfulness – a mind-body training that helps people to change the way they think and feel – can boost our mental health during the darker days. If you feel like you need a set of flexible skills to support well being and manage mental health, here’s a few tips to get you started.
1. Getting Your Mind around Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a state of being aware of the present moment by observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without getting drawn into the past or future. It’s a place where there’s no judgement; a ‘safe place’ that offers techniques to be more in tune to your thoughts, body sensations and feelings rather than letting them overwhelm you.
Gaining in popularity – not just in psychology circles, but also in pop-culture with many smartphone apps designed to guide people on daily mindfulness exercises, mindfulness is a recommended treatment for people dealing with mental health. With benefits everyone can enjoy, practising the technique daily can give you better insight into emotions and boost attention, concentration and relationships.
As ‘simple’ as the process sounds, allowing yourself to truly live in the moment can be challenging on those dark days. But once you get into the swing of it, it’s a process than can become second nature. And let’s face it – we’d all prefer to have less anxious or worrying thoughts and spend more enjoying life.
2. Dealing with Stress
Stress – just looking at the word seems to aggravate the mind! But it’s there…every day, some good and some absolutely terrifying. Mindfulness is associated with lowering those stress levels by reducing the amount of time you spend worrying about negative events, emotions and helping to eliminate those ‘what ifs’. One of the key factors that contributes to stress, depression and anxiety is rumination; the tendency to repetitively focus on your feelings of distress.
By reducing rumination through the act of mindfulness, you’ll give yourself more breathing space to have better control over your emotional reactions. Using the tools to take a step back from the situation and view it from a third-person perspective allows you define and choose those reactions, without letting it completely take over. Once applied, this can positively boost work situations, relationships and the way you handle stressful situations.
3. Turning Down Your Brain’s Volume Knob
Do you ever wish your brain had a switch so you could just shut it down for a few hours? I know I do! Sometimes you simply don’t have the energy to ‘deal with’ the chaotic mess of thoughts that’s running through your head and if you just had a switch to turn it all down for a little, maybe you can work through it later. Right!? If only it were that easy.
Mindfulness using techniques like breathing, mediation and yoga and it’s these mechanisms that can help you to feel more focused and zen. By slowing down the moment and ‘turning down your brain’s volume knob’, you allow your head to process pain and emotions in a healthier way. After some serious practice – mindfulness can help you see beyond the situation and offer the chance to really get to know your true self and conquer those common ‘blind spots’.
4. Therapy Options
Whilst mindfulness cannot cure mental health matters, it’s a proven tool to help uncover emotions and teach you the right coping mechanisms to ease symptoms and face difficult situations. When combined with other therapy options, the benefits of mindfulness can be boosted to better heights.
By becoming more aware of unhelpful patterns in everyday life, it’s much easier to recognise when they happen and what changes need to be made. Mindfulness Integrated Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MiCBT) is a four-stage therapy model designed to treat mental health and emotional distress. With the help of clinical psychologists, MiCBT can assist in eliminating the negative thought patterns that traps people into depression and aid in mental health therapy options.
5. How Can I Start Building a Happier Brain with Mindfulness at Home?
Mindfulness isn’t just something we can learn over night, but we can start implementing its techniques today. Get into the habit of setting time aside on a daily basis (15-20 minutes is ideal) to connect to your thoughts and the way your body moves when you take deep breaths. Mindful breathing, concentration and body awareness are all positive steps to practising mindfulness.
Start training yourself to observe emotional reactions and how these affect your body and mind. When you start to feel tense, worried and anxious; allow some space to concentrate on breathing. You can practice being aware to your body by doing daily things – whether it be cleaning the house or driving to work. The more mindfulness we can start to bring into our lives, the better equipped we are to deal with the stressful situations life throws at us.
This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Psychological Health Care – a team of qualified clinical psychologists in Perth, WA that can help with mental health therapy options including MiCBT. You can catch her on Google+.