How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Pandemic: by Mary Davis

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These days of the coronavirus pandemic are filled with anxiety and fear unlike anything else we and the world has experienced since World War II. It’s important to stay in tune with yourself and remember it is okay to not feel totally well and to be feeling more anxious. 

Here are some ideas to help your mental health during the pandemic: 

 

Get moving

You’d be surprised what physical activity does for you, both in terms of physical health and mental health! In terms of mental health in particular, it can help decrease anxiety and improve moods. While gyms and studio classes are closed and it is easier than ever to get an effective exercise in with guided tech at home, now is a great time to become familiar with fitness apps. There are many different ones to choose from: you could try the 30 day fitness challenge app for example to get into a new routine and find the perfect guided workouts work for you! Whether its workouts, barre, or even taking the stairs more, try to move as much as you can. 


Try meditating, mindfulness or prayer

Finding stress management techniques that resonate with you is crucial as stress is an inevitable part of life. The ideal time to start up a mindfulness practice is when times are good so that you have established a practice in times of stress, but it can still be incredibly powerful if you are starting out now!

Just remember to be patient with yourself. There are a lot of practices out there, such as meditation, mindfulness, and prayer, so you have options. If you are unsure of where to start, start with daily deep breathing exercises. 


Avoid alcohol 

Avoid or at least monitor alcohol intake in times of high stress in order to protect your mental health. Alcohol is often used to ‘self-medicate’, but while it can release endorphins in your body, it is classified as a depressant. It significantly impacts your central nervous system, and in times of stress you want to be in tune with your body and paying extra care to your nervous system rather than confusing it. 


Seek a therapist and do appointments via Skype or Zoom

Seeking help is a sign of strength! If you need help or need professional support as you work through stress and/or anxiety, seek a therapist. Many therapists do appointments via Skype or Zoom and if you find one in your area, you can transition to in-person appointments when possible. 


Practise self care

Self care looks different for everyone, and finding what makes you feel good and content is so important. Try cooking, at-home facials, taking extra time on your skincare and giving yourself a face massage, baths with Epsom salts, and quality sleep. 

 

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(image: Samantha Carbon)

 

All of these things can contribute to healthy living and can help us get through the pandemic. They are also great habits to incorporate into your lifestyle to continue caring for your body and mind. 

This guest blog was written by freelance writer, Mary Davis.

Mental Health Tips to get you through Coronavirus Lockdown: Guest blog by Chantal Shaw

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(image: Self Care Pursuit)

If you’re stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak and need some tips to help with your mental health, you have come to the right place.

Being on lockdown can make us all feel depressed and more anxious. Self care for ourselves and our families are more important than ever.

Here are some suggestions of things to do to help your mental health and self care at the moment:

– Follow an exercise video- Listen to guided relaxation (I recommend channels ‘Relax for a while’ and ‘Michael Sealey’ on Youtube).

– Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal- this helps to clear your mind.

– Nourish your body with healthy food and stay hydrated, so important to get help with groceries if possible and drink lots of water.

– Have a bath to help relax you and keep you feeling good.

– Watch stand up comedy on Netflix, Amazon Prime or on TV. 

– Do a puzzle, if you enjoy them.

– Play a board or card game.

– Limit your exposure to the news to once a day if you are able to stop anxious thoughts. 

– Bake/ cook – good for being mindful and creating something delicious, with a sense of achievement.

– Read a book and let your mind imagine.

– Go for a walk in nature (responsibly and if your country’s guidelines allow you to!).

– When you get up- make your bed and don’t stay in pyjamas all day, to get you into a good routine and positive mindset.

– Have a phone or zoom chat with positive influences in your life.

– Tidy your home as best you can.

– Play upbeat music (and dance or sing).

– A few drops of pure lavender oil in your bath or a lavender pillow spray to help you fall off to sleep and help reduce anxiety.

– Learn a new skill- many online courses are being offered.

– Break down the tasks that are overwhelming you in to small achievable chunks.

 

If you are having persistent overwhelming negative thoughts or feelings please tell someone- speak to a trusted friend or family member, your GP, the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK- you can also email them if you prefer), a counsellor.

Things can and will get better.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, look after it.

 

Chantal Shaw is a guest writer from the UK and the sister of our founder Eleanor.

5 Steps to help your Mental Health, Depression and Anxiety: Sponsored by Core Wellness Maryland

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(Image: Pexels)

Depression and anxiety can feel totally overpowering and overwhelming. It can consume you in ways in which it controls you. Your thought patterns, emotional responses, physical energy, and even your short term memory are all affected by depression and anxiety. And because it can feel so dominating, it is vital that you do not try to deal with it alone. Therapy, counselling and all the help that you can possibly get, should always be your first plan of action.

However, there are small yet effective steps that you can practice to cope and manage the severity of your depression and anxiety. Below I’ve listed 5 actions and activities that you should implement into your life daily, while also sticking to an action plan as explained above.

  1. Do something spontaneous, random and out of your usual routine. Depression can make life feel monotonous and mundane to say the least. You do the same things again and again, every day. Or you literally do nothing at all. Duvet days are no longer a Sunday treat, but a compulsion of the mind as you lack the motivation or energy to even leave the bed. That is why forcing yourself to do something spontaneous and different can feel like a breeze of fresh air. And it absolutely does not need to be a demanding task. Keep it simple, keep it easy, and then slowly build up on it on days you feel slightly better. Some ideas are:
  • A quick walk in the morning around the block.
  • Cooking an easy meal.
  • Tidying up something you’ve been procrastinating on.
  • Playing with your pet.
  • Doing easy home diys or even a bit of gardening.

The choices are endless, so feel free to add your own ideas. But just bare in mind that you should start off by keeping it simple and easy so that it doesn’t burn you out or mentally drain you. The feeling of doing something out of your routine, mixed with the feeling of satisfaction of completing a motive, can be a powerful and revitalising feeling.

 

2. Practice gratitude. Make a list.

Grab a pen and paper and write down all the things you own, love and appreciate. All the good things that you have experienced. All the happy memories. The good nostalgia. Things you find beautiful. Add the weirdest or silliest of things – if they make you smile then they should be on this list! Do this daily, even if you don’t feel like it, or even if you can only think of one thing on some days. Trust me, it all counts when you look back on your list a week later, a month later, 6 months later and so on.

 

3. Hold on to that pen and paper because I want you to play a game.

Write the first word that comes to your mind without thinking about it. Then write another word, and then another. Carry on adding to this list for a minute or two. No matter how random, or weirdly nonsensical the words that pop up in your mind are, just carry on writing it and adding it to your list. Once you’re done, analyse your list. Some might actually have absolutely no meaning or weight to your emotional state, but you will definitely find a good bunch that will shed some light to two things: feelings and thoughts that are hidden in your subconscious mind. Additonally,  feelings that you have been suppressing.

If you try to do this daily, you should begin to notice a pattern. Same words might pop up. Or similar words. Or words that are more negative/positive then the days before. It’s a good and unique way of tracking your thought patterns and emotions, while releasing pent up thoughts and feeling that you might’ve not even realised are there. Plus it’s fun!

 

4. Create a positivity board.

Get yourself a board and pin up things that signify your dreams and goals, things that you love and that make you happy. Photos, newspaper or magazine cut outs – anything and everything that defines you or who you want to be. Keep adding to it, and every time you feel your worst, look at this board and think of each thing you have included on it. And remind yourself why.

 

5. Train yourself to be more aware of your surroundings.

Use your 5 senses to their potential. This is practicing mindfulness. Depression can  numb our senses down. Noise can feel like just noise. When really it could be laughter, trees rustling, birds chirping, baby’s cooing, rain tapping, and so many other beautiful things. Depression tells us it’s noise and chaos.

Be more mindful no matter where you are, and you’ll begin to notice things you otherwise wouldn’t have, you’ll see the beauty and peace where you normally see chaos and mental exhaustion. Listen to the rain, notice the beautifully formed clouds above you, look how the trees sway with the wind, feel the rain on your skin. It’s the little things that are the most impactful. And being mindful can calm the heart and soul.

That’s my 5 steps for you. Remember no one and nothing can define you except yourself. Not even depression, not even anxiety. Celebrate this day, and use these steps to improve the quality of your life, even if you don’t suffer from a mental health disorder. If you have any steps of your own, then comment below! 

 

This sponsored post was written for you by Core Wellness Maryland CEU, who can be found at https://corewellceu.com/

7 reasons why 30 days of Yoga enhances your lifestyle by Meera Watts

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You are probably fully aware of how beneficial yoga is for your mind and body. When you commit to it for 30 days, you will really begin to feel those benefits.

A practice like this is known as sadhana in Sanskrit, which means “dedicated practice.” You will definitely become more flexible and release tension on a daily basis.

The benefits go much deeper than this though. All aspects of your life will improve. You will mentally feel better about yourself just for the effort of getting on the mat every day. When you feel good about yourself and take action for your own self-care, life will get better for it.

Here are 7 reasons why 30 days of yoga will enhance your lifestyle.

1. You are More Able to Relax

When you’re able to relax, you can enjoy little moments in life far better. Yoga has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol by relaxing the central nervous system. Poses, or asanas, in yoga, will help relax all the tension in your body. You begin to regulate your heartbeat when you do yoga daily. This helps you to deal with stress far better as well.

If you have problems with sleeping because your mind won’t shut down, yoga can be beneficial for this as well. Chronic insomniacs have been able to break the cycle of sleepless nights from starting a daily yoga regime.

It helps to calm the mind and body. You might even want to do a few relaxing poses before going to bed.

2. You Feel Better About Yourself

It’s easier on your body to do yoga for 30 days straight as opposed to weight training or other intense exercises. It might be hard at first but the progress you make in the practice will improve how you feel about yourself.

Whatever your reasons are for going through a 30-day yoga practice, you will get a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose will make you feel good about yourself. Being dedicated to something and sticking to it can create a habit of commitment within you. You will have a greater sense of trust in yourself as well.

It starts with 30 days of yoga but you’ll likely move onto do more yoga or other types of physical activity. Doing something active daily is good for the mind and the body. Once you get into the habit, you’ll always want to improve.

3. Your Body Will Become Stronger

Although yoga wouldn’t be considered a direct way to lose weight, it actually can. You don’t burn a lot of calories but you do gain more muscle. Muscle eats fat so it is an indirect way to improve the body.

Doing yoga for a while 30 days will help your metabolism so you’ll burn fat more easily. Your weight will normalize through yoga because it restores hormonal imbalances. You also become more mentally stable when something arises and you feel stressed.

You’ll hopefully be able to manage the ebbs and flows of life because you’re more centered.

4. Better Posture

As you’ll be doing yoga for 30 days straight, you’ll be able to properly counteract bad posture. This will be a noticeable improvement.

As you stand in Mountain Pose, you’ll be pulling your shoulders back which will probably feel uncomfortable for a few days. As you continue with your practice, you’ll notice that it’s easier to stand with your shoulders back.

You’ll be focusing on your posture and how your body is functioning, which will help you focus on it while you’re off the mat. Many of the poses stretch out the areas of the shoulders and back that are compromised from slouching.

5. Mindfulness Makes You More Conscious

You may not realise all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Most of us just live every day and don’t really think about we have. We think about what we don’t have, what we want, and other things.

Mindfulness is a large part of the full yoga picture. It is where we let go of the ego mind, which is that inner chatter you’re hearing all the time. When you’re present in the moment of now, there can be no depressive or anxious upsets.

This allows you to open up to what is happening for you right now. When you’re more conscious, it’s easy to appreciate moments, you are more easily grateful for what you have. You become happier and more at peace.

Also, you’re not missing out on your life. It’s unravelling in front of you and you are there with it. The conscious thought brings a great deal of fulfillment into your life while eradicating self-critical, worrying thoughts.

6. You’ll Become Better at Breathing

Breathing is important for the health of your physical and mental state. When you get anxious, you will experience a shallow breath. This makes you feel more anxious. If you can learn how to breathe deeply into your lungs, you can calm yourself down instantly.

During yoga, you will probably feel very relaxed so you can safely hone those deep breathing skills. Then in times when you need it, you will be able to automatically breathe into your belly.

7. You’ll Be Able to Focus Better

Yoga sends a lot of oxygen to the brain, which helps to promote mental functioning. In addition, the lack of anxiety allows you to think more clearly. This can help you in your work life with productivity or in running a household.

When you’ve completed your 30 days of yoga, you will know that your life has changed. You have trained the mind and body to work in the most optimal way. You will see the benefits that manifest into your outside life and how it enhances the lifestyle you’re living. You’ll be fit and feel generally happier. Yoga can teach us a lot and you will understand this when you commit to the practice.

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga.

Website:  https://www.siddhiyoga.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/siddhiyogaacademy

Instagram: https://instagram.com/siddhiyogainternational

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/siddhiyogainter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meerawatts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meerawatts

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining

 

Mindfulness and Unplugging: Digital Detox

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(image: Gizmodo)

In my life, I have found that what is truly important is having time away from work, fears, worries, busy-ness in general and unplugging. If I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or like things are too much, I take an hour or two in the week (and sometimes a day at weekends) to really, properly switch off.

I love social media and  I am always checking my email but sometimes its really good not to have to answer emails or mindlessly scroll through feeds. I love Instagram, but it is an excellent distraction from what I probably should be doing too!

Every Saturday in the Jewish world is Shabbat, the sabbath. I have a complete digital detox and find that I am a lot calmer and more present in the world. I go for walks and look at trees and flowers, without the distraction of my phone. I sleep without the radio (normally at night its on). I am not checking each notification, each app for something new.

I feel free for those 25 hours. I often curl up with a book, sleep and just relax. However, any longer and I really would miss the outside digital world- its a fine balance.

For me I want to be more mindful and appreciative and not live life constantly by social media. It is how I promote my work and stay in touch with people. I love that contact but I also like to unplug my mind and rest.

What about you?

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

Guest Post: 10 Ways that Mindfulness Helped me Cope with my Bipolar by Kevin Morley at Satori Mind

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(image: Plum Village)

 

Up and down. Up and Down.

Round and round.

Having Bipolar Disorder can sometimes feel rather like being in a washing machine!

Luckily my illness is now under control. But it has taken a long time to get here, and was not always so. Mindfulness has played a big part in my ongoing wellness, alongside a tweaked medication regime.

This is my list of just how mindfulness has helped me cope with BP over the past few years…

It has levelled out my moods – I was last in hospital in 2014. Mania. Psychosis. Sectioning. The whole lot. Since that time, my moods have at times, fluctuated a lot. But mindfulness has helped me. It has made me a calmer, steadier person all round. A quick 20 minute session before bed does wonders for my mood if I’m feeling down, and can bring me down if I’m feeling a little hyper.  More stability = less episodes. Less time in hospital.

It has helped me to sleep better – As I mentioned above, I tend to meditate before bed. This has the possible negative effect that I sometimes fall asleep while doing it. You may not get the whole benefit then. No matter, just try again the next time. My bed time ritual does help me to establish a routine before going to sleep. This routine helps me sleep.

It has deepened my self-knowledge – “Know Thyself” was written over the Oracle at Delphi in Ancient Greece. The principle being that knowing oneself, self-knowledge, is of prime importance in life. Mindfulness aids that process greatly. Through meditation, and self-observation, you learn to understand your own motivations and reactions to events. With Bipolar, mindfulness helps you learn your triggers for high and low moods much better than by thinking alone.

It has helped me eat better – Odd one this. How it works is that eating mindfully – that is slowly, deliberately, consciously – helps you to taste food better. Rather than scoffing down each mouthful, you instead savour the food, eat slowly, actually taste it. Because of this, you end eating better food, and less of it. I was doing this the other night, just taking 5 minutes to eat it food and really tasting it. It intensified the eating experience tenfold.

It helps me to remind me to take my meds – . Since I meditate before I go to sleep, it reminds me at the same time that I must take my medication. This has helped me to be almost religious about taking my meds, and improved my stability at the same time.

It helps me to pray and connect with God – In the Christian Tradition mindfulness is called “silent prayer” or “contemplation”. It has been used for thousands of years to connect with the Divine and purify the spirit. And in all religions, too. Today’s secular mindfulness derives from Buddhist meditation.  Anyhow, my practice enables me to spend time with God every night, and further my spiritual relationship and growth with him. It’s a healing time. I couldn’t have got through my illness without my faith. Its been invaluable.

It gives me a feeling of achievement – This feeling can be vital when I am between jobs and often have little to give substance to my day. Even if I am feeling low and have achieved very little that day, I can always say I’ve done my 20 minutes quiet time. Just this can give me a boost, and leave me feeling settled whereas before my bad moods will have dragged me down previously.

The scientific evidence is in favour of mindfulness for helping Bipolar – A 1995 study in the Biological Study Journal concluded that mindfulness is effective in levelling out Bipolar moods. A landmark 2005 study by esteemed neuroscientists from the University of Massachusetts also discovered that the brains of meditation practitioners had much more thickness, density, and activity within their prefrontal cortex — just like physicist Albert Einstein. The pre-frontal cortex is the area of the brain associated with emotion, and emotional control.

Mindfulness has also made me a more patient person – with others, and with myself. This level of self-patience and self-care has helped me to cope with my Bipolar a lot. Meditation has removed much of the agitation and bad moods that used to plague my everyday life.

Most of all mindfulness has made me more appreciative of the now, and the beauty of living in the present– so much of our lives – Bipolar and mentally well – are spent elsewhere, in our heads, instead of focusing on what we are doing right now. We are typically either ruminating and regretting things in the past, or worrying about the future. Enlightenment, as I understand it, is not withdrawing into some grand philosophical way of life, but a renewed focus on the now. “The Power of Now” as the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle puts it. My recovery from my Bipolar was not so much about grand realisation but an increased awareness of what I was doing, moment by moment – the food I was eating right then. The person I was talking to right then. Everything happens in the now; the rest is just illusion.

This is a guest post written by Kevin Morley. Kevin is a spiritual seeker and runs a meditation and spirituality blog called Satori Mind (www.satorimind.co.uk). He has Bipolar Disorder, but has many other more important character traits too!”

The Power of Meditation: Guest Post by Jimmy Vick

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Meditation is one of the most preferred activities for all, regardless of gender, age or other factors. People have different opinions about meditation and many consider meditation to be similar to prayer. For others, it is an activity that is meant for relaxation and getting away from their daily hectic lives. In general, meditation is the activity of turning your complete concentration to a single point, concentrating on the breath, on bodily feelings, or on a mantra and affirmation. Meditation is about diverting your thoughts and concentrating on the present.

The main goal of meditation is to achieve an inner state of awareness and strengthen personal and spiritual development. In practice, meditation consists of intense concentration on  sounds, images or emotions. Meditation increases awareness of the present moment, lessens stress, encourages relaxation, and improves personal and spiritual development. The various religious and non religious traditions in the world have given rise to an array of meditative practices. The power and benefits of meditation are many.

Here are some of the notable benefits and the power of meditation:

Healing Power

Meditation promotes healing. People who meditate daily can heal many of their illnesses. In meditation, healing takes place because the mind of the person will be calm, alert and completely contented. Meditation  can be very powerful. To accomplish an ideal state of health, one has to be mentally tranquil which can be attained via meditation. Meditation can  assist and promote recovery from ailments from many chronic health issues.

 

No Side Effects

Meditation, when used for treating medical complications, has no side effects. It is the main reason why many people enjoy practising it. It is an activity that people regardless of age and gender can follow. Since meditation does not have any negative side effects, it is suitable and safe alongside medical treatment.

Relaxation

One of the main reasons why most of the people follow meditation in their daily life is for relaxation. We live in a chaotic world where everything is moving very fast. People are really tired and need relaxation in order to get away from their chaotic world. Meditation is a perfect way to assist relaxation in ones daily life. It helps you to stop moving around, working, thinking, talking, seeing, hearing, etc and allow you to rest. Meditation can help you create a cool and calm mind and therefore aids relaxation.

Improve Concentration

If you would like to improve your concentration, meditation can help. Meditation is all about sitting in a calm place and focusing on only one thing at a time. Meditation lets you focus intensely on your daily life. It is a perfect means for you to get away from distractions and direct your attention to what you need to focus on.

Other Benefits of Meditation                                           

  • The relaxation response that you get from meditation allows you to reduce metabolism, lessen blood pressure, and get better heart rate, breathing, and brain function.
  • Meditation gives balance to your overall bodily systems.
  • Meditation is very helpful and can assist us to feel happier.
  • Meditation is a practice that assists us to control our own mind and as a result, our own life and find out more about ourselves.
  • Meditation can aid us to get rid of negative thoughts, worries, nervousness, and everything that can stop us from feeling happy.
  • Meditation can provide us with a calm mind and it gives time free from stress and tension.
  • Meditation is a good method to give clarity of perception. It aids to reduce feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness, and anger.
  • Improvements in communication, flourishing of skills and talents, a powerful inner strength, etc can be achievable through meditation.
  • Meditation offers the capability to unite to an inner source of energy and enhances ones self-awareness.
  • Relaxation, transformation, and quality of life are all natural results of meditating frequently. It helps you promote inner peace and feel more alive.

 

Author Bio

I’m Jimmy Vick.  I have been working as a freelance writer  At present, I work for a best essay writing service online and it allows me to deal with different subjects in which I am an expert. I love writing articles for blogs and other online publications.

9 Proven Ways to Help Build Mindfulness and Meditation: Guest post by Jay Pignatiello

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This article is about ways to build Mindfulness for a happy and healthier life, by Jay Pigantiello.

At the age of 25, I began to feel the inevitable tides of change turn as they do, dimming the spark of youth I had grown quite accustomed to and cloaked myself with. I had hardly thought of a future to this point, but the reality finally hit me; the truth of which became a monster of sorts, leading me into a dark period of depression that followed. It wasn’t that I lacked confidence as much as it was simply that I hadn’t the slightest clue of what I wished to do for the rest of my life. The “rest of my life,” seemed daunting. I’m not sure to this day that there’s anything I would like to do for the “rest of my life.” But, through the suggestion of a friend turned mentor, I began to accept these feelings rather than trying to flee from them.

Meditation is an incredible tool. I was under the delusion that in order to be more mindful about things, I had to sit like a guru for two hours a day and eat nothing but kale and lentils. This couldn’t have been further from the truth, as it was suggested to start slow in the beginning. Each morning, for five minutes I would sit up in my bed and allow myself to be present. The coldness of the other pillow, the silky sensation of my sheets, and the warmth of the sunshine creeping over the hills began to be my anchors. Instead of fretting over what I needed to do that day, I allowed myself to be present upon waking. Most people are in such a rush that in the haze of their haste they actually make more mistakes and are less productive than if they were to take a few minutes to let their minds stay still.

Here are 9 proven and effective ways to help yourself become more mindful, and hopefully lead to a meditation practice:

 

  • Allow yourself to feel the feelings. It’s amazing how easily your mind can switch from negative thinking to more positive thinking when you stop fighting what you’re feeling. Humans are supposed to feel other emotions than happy or contentment. Feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling depressed are actually positive experiences because they allow an insight into what needs to be changed.

 

  • Listen to your negative thoughts, and try to translate them. Many times when I’m depressed, I’ll start to see through a lens of darkness over everything in my reality, when the truth is that I’m unhappy because she didn’t text me back, or he didn’t tell me that I did a good job at work today. If I can translate these feelings of sadness into thoughts, I can allow them to pass or I can begin to make the proper changes that are necessary for me to grow.

 

  • Practice makes perfect. For me, there are times where I’ll pick up my guitar after having not played for a while and immediately dismiss myself as awful if I’m not as sharp as I once was. I forget how many hours went into practicing in order for me to reach a point where I was confident in my abilities. When I carry this mindset into other areas of my life, it allows me to accept where I’m at in my skillset and encourages me to practice a little harder. It also allows me to see my strengths and my weaknesses.

 

  • Strengths and weaknesses. This might not help me to become more mindful, but it’s made me a more confident person. In recovery from addiction, I’ve always been careful not to mention it to employers because I’ve thought of it as a weakness. The same could be said for my depression or anything else I suffer from. It wasn’t until I embraced the struggles I had gone through as a strength that I truly started to flourish in all areas of my life. In fact, most people didn’t see it as a weakness, and I’ve gotten several jobs simply because I’m reliable and trustworthy.

 

  • Pick one positive thing you experienced in your day and take time to appreciate it. Whether it’s the fact that your boss bought you coffee, or someone smiled at you, find one moment throughout the day and choose to be present for it. Gratitude is a powerful anti-depressant, and also helps to build mindfulness.

 

  • Pick one negative or uncomfortable experience in your day and take time to appreciate it. There’s a saying that goes something like, “you’ll never know a good day until you’ve had a bad one.” Negative experiences don’t need to define your entire day, but allowing yourself to feel it and be present without resistance can help you to see how many positive experiences there actually are. Discomfort is a catalyst for confidence.

 

  • Choose a mantra. Mantras can be powerful anchors, helping us to meditate while not traditionally meditating. Sometimes when I’m waiting in line I like to recite, “go with the flow,” which is from a song I like, as well as an appropriate mantra for me to live by. Often times I can be controlling, and so by reciting these words I remind myself that I’m not the most important person in the room, and everyone else had to wait in the same line. Your mantra can be whatever you choose, so find one that works for you.

 

  • Sit with your eyes closed. Sitting with your eyes closed in a more traditional form can truly help you to be more present throughout the rest of your day. Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool to help us to achieve mindfulness, as well as spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical growth. When we allow ourselves to sit without judgement of our thoughts, letting them come and go freely without narrating the story of each, we’re allowing our minds to become tranquil; which in today’s day and age of computers and billboard ads, is a must.

 

  • There’s only one Buddha. I like this saying, because I’m sometimes harsh on myself if I can’t sit for as long as I hoped for. Sitting for five minutes, and gradually building yourself up to sit for longer can help you to form a regular practice. There’s only one Buddha, and so there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, nor is there a right or wrong amount of time to meditate for. Be gentle on yourself, and acknowledge each day when you meditate that you’re taking time to do something positive and helpful for yourself.

 

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, as well as recovering from various addictions. Meditation and mindfulness helped me to change my perspective, which in turn actually helped me to become a more hopeful and positive person. These 9 steps are proven to help you not only become more mindful, but to feel better about yourself and the world around you. We’re all in this life together, and I choose to be a more positive person for the world around me.

 

Jay is a writer and works with Crown View Co-Occurring Institute, a rehab for depression and other co-occurring disorders. He enjoys walking his two dogs, playing music, and being a figure in the recovery community in his freetime.

On Meditation for Relaxation and Healing.

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I write this blog post from a very healing place where a relative of mine lives- the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire in England. It is a place of nature, green fields, hills, farms, animals and I associate its beauty with rest and relaxation. (There are shops and cinemas here too though- I think I would miss that!). The Cotswolds are a great place for me to rest and recharge my batteries. I find that the pace of life is slower and quieter here and when I have been working hard and need a break, I visit here and come back rejuvenated.

So, this blog is about meditation, a form of relaxation and clarity of mind that I have found healing.

I discovered meditation a few years ago but didn’t really start doing it until about a year ago, when I downloaded a free app called Headspace. This allowed me to have 10 free sessions of 15 minute meditations. At the time, I was suffering from work anxiety and related panic attacks. I found that listening to a guided meditation, recorded so I could play it when lying on my bed before sleep,  very helpful and relaxing. It centred me and made me focus less on my anxious thoughts and worries about my career and illness. I just had to breathe and relax for that minute, whatever else was happening outside of it.

Meditation is a guided visualisation, focusing on the breath and slowing down breathing for relaxation and clarity, through inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. It also teaches you how to relax muscles in your body, if you choose a deep muscle relaxation meditation. The person guiding you may tell you to breathe in deeply then out slowly, clench or unclench muscles and focus on the breath and the present mindfully, in order to relax you and sharpen the senses.

Meditation is not about falling asleep, although I often do it before I go to sleep. It is about centring yourself in your present reality, clearing your mind and worries through focusing on deep breathing and /or guided visualisations or affirmations. This eventually relaxes your subconscious and keeps you grounded in the present, linked to mindfulness.

I recently listened to a fantastic meditation which included positive life affirmations ‘You can do it’, ‘You are strong and confident’, whilst breathing in and out. This was by the amazing practitioner Holly Matthews, at the Bossing It Academy. I listened to this twice and did the exercises the night before a job interview. It really works on the subconscious level and helps you feel strong and confident!

I first was introduced to meditation as a healing therapy through regular Day unit relaxation sessions when I came out of hospital. We were taken through a guided visualisation of a relaxed place eg a beach or a starry night and followed our breathing and relaxation of muscles. I then bought CDs of relaxation music to listen to at home. When I was a teenager, I had previously listened to similar relaxation music and I find it can be incredibly healing if suffering from anxiety disorders in particulat as it focuses you and permits relaxation.

Meditation is an ancient Eastern art, practised by Buddhists and others in Asia, which has come to us in the West. It is so unbelievably powerful at managing stress and anxiety and I would thoroughly recommend doing it, with a recording of  professional guiding you through the process or listening to relaxation music. There are even meditation classes out there you can take as well as music on Youtube and other websites!

So remember to breathe, ground yourself in your present, listen to the sounds around you but bring it back to your breathing and your current reality. I have found meditation helps heal me and I hope it helps you too.

Guest Post by Richie: Dealing with anxiety, Live Your Now

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(image:weheartit.com)

I was honoured to be asked to write a piece on anxiety for this wonderful blog.  I’m Richie, and I’m a mindfulness coach – one who happens to have had anxiety for as long as I can remember.  The thing is, I didn’t always know I had it.  I’ve been researching positive psychology methods etc for many years, but I wasn’t coping so headed to see a counsellor who referred me for a course of CBT after having pointed out – Sir, you have bad anxiety.

Me?

Yes I’d had panic attacks, people would describe me as quite reactive, amongst other things – and after all these years, to discover it was my “fight or flight” mechanism going into overdrive & attaching to situations in had no business being in, well, I was not impressed to say the least! How did I miss this? I felt initially extremely put out by this, I saw myself as a “fighter” – I got on with things, my panic attacks were just “stage fright” (I was in radio/music performance etc), my OCD a quirk of creativity and all that jazz! Right?

Wrong.

This is when I began to understand more fully the stigma associated to “mental health”. A somewhat wishy-washy term to people not familiar, or plain ignorant of the facts (as I myself was), as it’s often attributed to needing to just “chill out” or, “stop being so depressed” etc. At some point in life, many people will experience bouts of some kind of mental illness – after traumas, disappointments, or for some no seeming reason at all! But then, even the most healthy people can catch a cold.  And that’s the issue. Mental Health is a physical issue, that cannot be seen, and therefore for some is like trying to see oxygen.

My advice is simple on this matter; for brevity.

Acceptance & ownership

Firstly, accept it’s a physical thing, and take ownership and understand the physical things in the mind that are taking place. This helps separate you from the thought that you ARE your anxiety/depression etc. This is simply not the case.

If you catch a cold, you don’t say you ARE your cold. CBT helped me understand the mechanics of it, and have useful approaches, but for me (and we’re all different), I find mindfulness to have been the most helpful because it teaches to not identify as “being” depression/anxiety etc. This begins a process of dissociation of identifying as “being” depressed/anxious, and instead acceptance of what it is, how it functions, learning how it feels, and gradually gaining a level of understanding and feeling of when it’s occurring – and how it can shape/affect our feelings/emotions and therefore behaviours/reactions.

Experiment with techniques

Secondly, experiment with ways that can help you day to day – of course, seek professional help, but there’s also much that you can do independently. Breathing exercises (massively effective!), reminding yourself that the depression/anxiety doesn’t make you who you are, try things like mindfulness which teach us to detach from thought.

I also personally use meditations, guided or technological, hypnosis, even things like “EFT” (emotional freedom technique – or tapping), reading positive books, listening to uplifting music, and actively managing thought processes as and when I can.  Using mindfulness to compliment allows for being more in touch then, with which techniques are being more effective for you in the moment.

Is anxiety still there? Oh yes! But the more I practice these techniques (and you will find what works for you) and indeed, share them with others, the more aware I become of “anxiety”.

Reframing

Lastly; I have also reframed my anxiety, because without that fight or flight mechanism, our species would not likely still be here! So it’s important! It’s evolved in our species to protect us – and there are times that flood of adrenaline etc is critical. We certainly would not wish to be without it, but the chances a tiger is going to jump out and eat us are hopefully not too prevalent in your neighbourhood…

My experiences prompted me to begin @LiveYourNow & @Rmindrs on Twitter where I post daily mindfulness reminders, engage, and encourage others to talk – and hopefully create a few laughs too! (Laughter releases great neuro-chemicals!)

Be forgiving of yourself, understand you’re on a journey, and when you find things that help you, share them with others. The more we speak openly, the less stigma is attached, and the more others who may be suffering in silence may feel comforted and confident to speak out and seek assistance.  I have been witness to that now multiple times, and it’s truly a wonderful thing when we accompany each other, in compassion, on our healing journeys.

Thank you for reading! I hope it brings even just one person comfort/hope.

To your greatest life,

Richie – @LiveYourNow