What we do know is that at least 1 in five people in the UK are at this time engaged in some form of mental health illness. Whether it be anxiety, depression, PTSD, an eating disorder, personality disorder or one of a numerous range of addictions, this is an alarmingly high number and to bring it home even more, indicates that someone you know, either in your immediate family or close circle of friends is at this exact time grappling with a mental health illness.
For many of those struggling to deal with mental health issues; calming the mind from the torrent of negativity and cluttered thoughts is often the hardest hurdle they face and yet it is one of the most crucial.
Both meditative practices and the act of being consciously mindful are two of the most powerful means we can use in calming the mind and despite a difference between the two – they do go hand in hand. (add in relaxation in the para?)
Mindfulness is learning to focus your attention on just one thing at a time. Many of us are distracted by our minds and think about and do lots of things at once, feeling overwhelmed by endless tasks and lists which can cause stress and anxiety. We tend to miss the joy and happiness that we already have in life because we are in our heads and worrying about other things and simply aren’t in the moment enough to enjoy it.
It’s useful to think about mindfulness as an umbrella and meditation, relaxation, breathing etc all sits underneath it. You could think of mindfulness as an overall practice or lifestyle where you incorporate different tools and techniques for wellbeing.
When you are practicing mindfulness, you are strengthening a mindful muscle, like an exercise. That’s why people who practice mindfulness find they have better focus and can concentrate more easily.
Just like when you take care of your physical health, you may go to the gym for some more formal exercise, but you would also include less formal elements like eating healthy, sport, walking more, drinking water, reducing toxins etc.
Mindfulness is an approach to keeping the mind healthy and there are elements (tools or techniques) to mindfulness that can help you to do that. There are formal mindfulness practices such as mediation, but meditation is only one element of mindfulness. There are many informal practices, which is what makes the whole approach so powerful, approaches like gratitude, walking, breathing, acceptance and resilience etc and as you start to build these approaches into your daily life you will notice huge benefits and positive changes in how you feel and react. This is what makes mindfulness so accessible because it’s this combination that makes it such a practical approach which helps you to be more in the moment and feel calm and able to switch off. You become more present and grounded.
One of the reasons for this because when you practice mindfulness you are practicing coming out of your head and into your body. It’s like you’re body can become a retreat from your busy mind!
Meditation is an element of mindfulness and is more of a self-observational practice. You may sit quietly and be guided by an audio track and focus on your breathing or your body sensations. You shouldn’t really approach meditation with the outcome to relax but most people find that feeling relaxed and calmer is a nice side effect. There are different types of meditation depending on the outcome you want. Short meditation practices are very effective when practicing mindfulness. These short meditations are practical and accessible if you are wanting to learn to switch off.
You could think of meditation as your trip to the gym – so the formal activity you do – and mindfulness as your whole approach to a healthier mind. It’s useful to practice meditation as something that you do daily, again like having a training or exercise habit.
Deeper meditations, Chanting Meditation and Spiritual Meditation are for deeper practices and great in certain context but not necessary for these more functional practices.
Relaxation; Think of relaxation as doing it for the outcome to be more relaxed. So, you may go for a relaxing massage to relax but you would go for a sports massage to help ease pain. It’s the same with relaxation and meditation. The approaches are slightly different but the results can feel similar. So hypnosis, relaxation, sleep stories should all be done because you want to relax. Use relaxation less habitually and more as a treat or as and when needed for an extra boost.
All of the above three elements, mindfulness approaches, meditation and relaxation can be used as part of positive mind health and wellbeing.
For optimal effect we would recommend you practice a meditation of around 8-10 minutes twice a day, am and pm as a daily habit. For children over 5 years 3-5 minutes twice a day. Then use guided relaxation as and when you want it – to relax or fall asleep.
Mindfulness could be your lifestyle ‘approach’ for positive mental health and you could build in some mindfulness practices into your day. Like gratitude logging and belly breathing.
A collection of practices for positive mental health, these include meditation, gratitude, acceptance and breathing
A formal sitting self-observational practice (usually using a guided audio track) which the basis of is to focus on one thing at a time like your body or your breathing.
An activity like listening to sleep stories or relaxation audios with the purpose to relax or sleep and to be free from tension and anxiety
You can access meditation and relaxation tracks in the happitude app.