How can mindfulness help you de-stress?

Health
14 October 2016
Mindfulness is a way of focusing on the present and it can help reduce stress levels.

Mindfulness is a term you may be hearing a little more frequently when people are discussing matters such as low mood, anxiety and depression. 

While such topics have been considered slightly taboo in the past, things have changed for the better and it is much more accepted for people to be open about mental health issues they may be dealing with. 

Mindfulness is the act of being in the present, whether that is focusing on the activity you are engaged in or simply doing nothing at all. 

Through mindfulness techniques it is possible for some people to improve their mental wellbeing, as these are intended to facilitate a greater enjoyment of life and a higher level of self-understanding. 

The NHS recommends such practices - and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advocates practising these techniques as a means of preventing depression in those who have had three or more bouts of depression in the past.

With this in mind, here are a few pointers on getting to grips with what mindfulness entails. 

Take notice of the everyday

Don't focus on the past, what could have been, any mistakes you might have made or any glories you like to nostalgically indulge in. Equally, don't live in anticipation of any happy times that may lie ahead. Instead, take notice of the everyday. 

Rather than letting your routine become invisible and something you barely notice yourself doing, pay close attention to the sensations of things, the taste of the food you eat and the air moving around your body as you walk. 

This can sound mundane, but it is easy to fall into a kind of autopilot mode - so this is a small step towards breaking that and discovering new perspectives on life. 

Try something new

However, this does not mean you have to passively accept your daily routine and never break it. Trying new things is very important - even if it is something as simple as going somewhere different for your lunch or taking a walk somewhere you have never been before. 

While it might be possible to discover a new perspective on life from being more conscious of your day-to-day activities, you are much more likely to broaden your horizons by opening yourself up to new experiences. 

Be conscious of your thoughts

This is the key to practising mindfulness effectively. You might not always notice it, but lots of different thoughts, anxieties and worries can crowd your mind as soon as you stop what you are doing. 

This is called automatic thinking. By being conscious of these thoughts you can start to take notice of where they come from and what triggers them. By thinking of anxieties like this more consciously, you may find they have no particular basis in reality and you can ease the stress they cause by dismissing them that way. 

Some people find it easier to cope with the troubles brought on by a busy mind by doing gentle, calming exercise such as yoga or walking. 

Be disciplined

Picking a regular time at least once a day to consciously practice mindfulness can be very helpful. A morning walk or a lunchtime break can be good options. 

By regularly training yourself to be more conscious of the sensations created by the world around you, this could start to become the normal way you think.

Is it definitely for you?

Despite how helpful this practice can be, it is not for everyone. While encouraging evidence has been gathered that it has practical applications for mental health, research is still ongoing. 

Approach the practice with an open mind - but if you find you are still struggling to deal with low mood it could be worth visiting your doctor. 

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