What is Mindfulness?
16
Jan 2021

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Francessca Wingfield

What is Mindfulness?

Did you know that 1 in 4 suffers from some form of mental health problem every year and that 1 in 6 people report a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression each week? We're making it part of our ethos at LonelyNights to encourage you to put mental health at the top of your agenda.

 

We wanted to put some techniques together for you to take advantage of, sometimes in that moment of despair, you just need direction. The first step is to talk about it, this may sound like the most obvious step to take, but it can actually be one of the hardest. Initially, it doesn't matter who you open up to, just speaking out helps you alleviate that pent up tension that you hold onto when you are suffering from anxiety or depression.

 

If you feel like it's personally all too much, reach out and get professional help this can be a phone call to the charity Mind, the Samaritans, or a visit to see your GP.

 

UK

  • MIND - 0300 123 3393
  • SAMARITANS - 116 123 

 

USA

  • National Alliance for the Mentally ill - 1-800-950-6264
  • National Mental Health Association Information Centre - 1-800-969-6642
  • Beyond Blue (Self Harm) - 1-800-3668-288

 

Canada 

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service - 1-833-456-4566
  • Hope for Wellness Help Line -  1-855-242-3310

 

Australia

  • Lifeline - 13 11 14
  • MindSpot - 1800 61 44 34 
  • Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467

 

Ok, So what is Mindfulness?

 

Mindfulness definition "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic  technique."

 

Mindfulness can be used to combat a stressful day or when struggling with your mental health. It is the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgement. The idea is that you sit peacefully paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensation of your breathing, or parts of the body, then bringing your attention back whenever your mind begins to wonder.

 

Different Types of Mindfulness

 

  • “Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) takes a modern, scientific-based perspective to traditional Buddhist principles of mindfulness and meditation and develops a flexible approach to reducing stress.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Work on MBSR
  • Movement-based meditation is the use of different exercises whilst placing all of your focus or attention on the movement of your body and your breathing, for example, yoga and tai chi.
  • Cultivating positive emotions; Too often we’re so focused on the difficulties and problems in our lives that we forget to even notice the positive things. Making a conscious effort to notice things that are beautiful, helpful, pleasant, and fun helps us generate happiness. 
  • Concentration on a word, thought, sensation, or image. This can be achieved a number of ways but as an example; a breath focused meditation allows you to focus on the sensation of your breathing. Another way of achieving this is by a mantra you can find this in many guided meditations, by repeating something such as “You are worthy.” 
  • Emptying. The idea of emptying is not to truly stop all thoughts but to allow us some time of tranquility. If you take the example of a hurricane as our mind, the thoughts are all swirling around chaotic but at the eye of the storm it is completely serene.

 

As you can see there are many different ways to practice mindfulness but the ultimate goal is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation, by deliberately paying attention to the things around us, to allow the mind to refocus on the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or what ifs?

 

These techniques use your senses to refocus your attention; so light up a scented candle, one that helps give you that wave of calmness, and slip into something more comfortable.

 

Mindfulness Exercises

 

The Five Senses

This exercise is called "The Five Senses". The goal is to calm your mind by using your five senses to focus on your environment instead of your thoughts.

 

Firstly, concentrate on your breathing; inhale, hold for five seconds and exhale. After you have regulated your breathing you can carry out an exercise called "The Five Things"; look around the room and ⁹name 5 items you can see, then four things you can feel, 3 sounds you can hear, 2 scents you can smell and finally take a sip of a drink and think about what that allows you to taste. This exercise helps calm you by making you focus your attention to your environment, on things that you would usually bypass in your chaotic day.

 

Mindful Colouring

Mindful colouring is something that has really taken off in recent years and it's so simple! Grab yourself an adult colouring book and anything to colour with, it allows you to focus on the colouring so it takes your attention from everything that may be playing on your mind. Here are a few of our recommended colouring books:

 

 

CreatopiaVexxEnchantedForrest by Johanna Basford

 

Mindful Eating

 

Mindful eating is a technique that helps you gain control over your eating habits. This technique has been proven to help with weight loss, binge eating and generally helps you feel in control around food.

 

There are some key components to this exercise but it is important to first select one meal a day to begin with to allow yourself to get an understanding of the exercise. Turn off all distractions such as the TV or radio, put your phone down and eat in silence.

 

Again in this exercise you're relying on all of your senses and paying attention to the food in front of you. Initially observe what it looks like the texture, the weight, the colour etc.

 

Then move on to the smell, what can you smell in the food and how does it make you feel.

 

Eventually move on to eating, however do so slowly observing the taste of the food, the texture of the food in your mouth and how it makes you feel.

 

This exercise allows you to live within that moment, by taking your time and eating slowly it also allows your body to recognize when you're full.

 

Mindful eating allows you to build a positive healthy relationship with food.

 

There are a number of other exercises you can use around mindful eating; if this is something you would like to learn more about here are some books on the topic: 

 

 

MindfulEating-Dareon McClainMindfulEating-JanChozenBaysMindfuleating-JudithWilliams

 What is mindfulness

Maintaining Your Mental Health

 

Maintaining Mental Health

 

  1. Keep active - exercise releases endorphins which are natural mood lifters. Exercise has been clinically proven to enhance mood, reduce anxiety and depression by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. 
  2. Eat well - A balanced healthy diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Our mind needs those extra nutrients in order to function well and stay healthy. 
  3. Drink responsibly - many people use alcohol as coping mechanisms when they feel low or lonely and although initially, you may feel great the chemical changes how your brain functions having a negative impact on your mental health -You can read more here: Bupa: Alcohol and Mental Health
  4. Take a break - sometimes we just need a change of scenery or a change of pace to recharge our batteries. It could be something as simple as picking up that book you have been dying to read and taking 20 minutes time out to start it. 
  5. Do something you're good at - do an activity that you enjoy and get satisfaction out of. Enjoying yourself gives you great satisfaction and helps boost self-esteem. 

 

It's important that to maintain a healthy mind you must also look after your body, ensuring your body is well hydrated and has a healthy balanced diet. Here are some of our top tips:

 

  • Eat protein at breakfast. This will keep your blood glucose levels steady.
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine 
  • Select complex carbs that help naturally boost the chemical serotonin. Select whole-grain bread and whole-grain cereals instead of sugary snacks or beverages.

 

Try to limit your caffeine intake, as this can exacerbate anxiety.

 

Depression and stress can cause increased fatigue, so the natural thing to do is reach for that cup of coffee and although initially we get a boost of energy that effect is short lived.

 

coffee inhibits levels of serotonin in the brain, when serotonin levels are suppressed, you can become more depressed and feel irritable thus having the opposite effect to what we are trying to achieve.

 

Alcohol is also something to limit, drinking excessive alcohol although initially makes you feel great, it is well known for being a depressant. Having the occasional drink of wine with your dinner is not likely to affect you but excessive, heavy drinking is likely to have a negative effect on your mood.

 

When you're feeling low in mood or anxious the last thing on your mind is getting some daily exercise. However, regular exercise is proven to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.

 

Exercise is a great way for you to release endorphins which help bring about a natural calming effect, during exercise, we also reduce our cortisol levels which helps reduce stress.

 

Cortisol plays a large role in stress, it is a hormone produced by our body when we perceive a threat, in turn this increases our heart rate and blood pressure and initiates the fight or flight response.

 

The flight or fight response is when our body makes the decision to either fight the problem or run away. By reducing these cortisol levels we can naturally reduce the effects of stress on our body.

 

Further Reading and Resources

 

There are many great books out there to help with guided meditation, mindfulness, and positive mental health; here are a few of our top picks!

 

 

Along side books, many apps exist in helping and guide you through mindfulness meditation..

 

 

LonelyNights is all about encouraging you to take that time out, we supply a scented massage candle, which not only allows you to focus your attention on the aroma of the candle but also how the hot wax feels against your skin, giving you that complete moment of serenity.

 

A book which allows you to fully immerse yourself in another world, which in turn, subconsciously removes all other thoughts.

 

We also provide luxury lingerie which allows you to feel good about yourself, building self esteem and confidence. Allowing you to feel comfortable in your own skin!


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