Mindfulness and mental health

It’s Mental Health Awareness week so a perfect time to start or deepen your Mindfulness practice.  Mindfulness is a way to connect to serenity and a feeling of peacefulness, which is much needed in our fast paced stressful society.  A Mindfulness practice is even more valuable for those suffering from mental health issues – big or small.

The Mindfulness practice of taking slow deep conscious breaths and keeping your focus on your breath coming in and going out, may seem very simplistic yet this trains you to release anxieties and step away from stressful thoughts. You are ‘rewiring your brain’ so as to notice your thoughts and then to refocus your attention on your breath instead of those thoughts.  By ‘rewiring your brain’ I mean that you are over riding your default pattern (e.g. of letting your thoughts rule your mood) to create new neuropathways in your brain and consequently new patterns.  

With regular practice of a Mindfulness meditation you create a habit of connecting to calmness instead of engaging in those thoughts that spiral into feelings of anxiety or depression.  

Slow deep breaths are also an effective way to physically release stress in the body and bring your nervous system back into balance. 

In addition a range of mood enhancing chemicals can be produced when you meditate such as serotonin (‘the happy neurotransmitter’) and endorphins (resulting in the ‘feel good effect’). So yes, you can feel a bit blissed out after a meditation!

As a regular meditator, over time you’ll start to notice changes in your everyday behavior – maybe feeling relaxed when you’re in a traffic jam instead of being angry that these things ‘always happen to you’!  Noticing these changes in yourself is very rewarding and uplifting. Allow time for these changes to start happening – Mindfulness is also about being kind and non-judgmental in our practice. The more you do a Mindfulness practice, the stronger that neurpathway becomes, and the more engrain the pattern becomes of connecting to peacefulness instead of get caught up in anxious thoughts.

So right now … take a slow deep breath in, filling your abdomen with air and slowly exhaling, emptying your abdomen of air. And then another, keeping your full conscious attention on your breath as you do so.  Continue this for a few minutes and enjoy your increased feeling of calm in body and mind.