Mental health is now synonymous with Modern health and this is a great relief. Rather than living in the past where mental challenges were dismissed and brushed under the carpet, it is important to bring it to the forefront and rightly assert its validity as something all too familiar for most. In talking about it, we are able to bring about awareness, support and positive steps forward – and in talking about it, the environment around us gradually becomes more and more accommodating and accepting of what we have to say.
Campaigns such as Heads Together and Time to Change aim to end stigma and discrimination associated with mental health and to also bring the subject in to the centre of the national conversation. The hope is to subsequently open minds, build support and affect change.
As we do our best to navigate our work and our lives in a way that suits us best, it helps to have tools that can be just as flexible as we need to be. There are a number of apps created to help us fit in meditation and mindfulness according to our own schedules and priorities. You can access a range of modules across all subjects from transforming anger, easing anxiety and finding focus, right through to skilful compassion, mindful eating and the nurturing of your creativity.
As Headspace explains, ‘Meditation is the training ground for Mindfulness’. In practising meditation we can become more present in the moment for a limited period of time and the more we practice, we ideally become more adept at being mindful always, whenever we need to be. There are a number of techniques that come with mindfulness such as:
- ‘Noting’ your thoughts and letting them pass,
- Taking the time to focus on your breathing, particularly your out breath if you are battling overwhelming emotions such as anger,
- Taking time to self-reflect by asking yourself ‘what are you grateful for’ and listening to your emotional response to the question, not just the rational response and
- Listening to how you talk to yourself and taking steps to be as kind to yourself as you should be to others
Meditation is certainly a buzzword at the moment but if it isn’t for you, there are also other ways to quiet your mind, be present, recognize your habits, bring awareness and strengthen your body. When your brain is turning on you and your internal chatter is overwhelming, it’s important to feel present in the moment. You can do so by participating in activities that give you pleasure and keep you grounded, such as immersing yourself in poetry and literature, going for a walk, spending time in nature, switching off from technology, exercising – the list goes on.
More often than we’d like, we are mentally and physically cluttered and sometimes it is easy to focus on adding more solutions and techniques to our lives. This in turn can add to the mental turmoil we’re experiencing because we are not completing our internal checklists and the list of what we should be doing just keeps growing and growing – as do our expectations of ourselves! However, it can be just as important to de-clutter and instead of adding new fixes, we can see what we can remove from our day-to-day lives. By increasing our mindfulness and being more aware and present, we are able to see more clearly what hinders us or dampens our spirit. That might be a messy cupboard, a cluttered desk or notifications and certain apps on our phones. As Matt Haig said in a recent Stylist article, ‘the hardware of our minds is not quite equipped for the software of the 21st century’, so cutting down on technology in certain ways may not be a bad idea.
When addressing our mental health we have to continue to care for ourselves and often the actions we take to maintain our mental health also hugely benefit our physical health and vice versa such as getting a good night’s sleep, regularly exercising and eating well. We need to kindly and compassionately tend to ourselves, every day. Often the hardest thing is to tell ourselves we are enough as we are, and take it from there, but being present and being kind can go a long way.