MENTAL HEALTH TOOLS: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great tool to have as it helps people to cope with high levels of anxiety and stress. Mindfulness, as a mental health tool, was developed in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn who created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. This program draws on Hindu and Buddhist ideas that have been practiced for years and are still taught today.

The aim behind mindfulness, both in the MBSR program and in Buddhist teachings, is to calm the mind and live in the moment, focusing on the sensations of the body at that moment and let go of future worries. This can be useful as most anxiety and stress is caused by the brain being over stimulated, either by thoughts of things that might happen or just over thinking about situations that the person is going through. By stopping the circle and letting the mind restart in a calmer place can reduce anxiety and stress.

There are several books available on the subject of mindfulness which people can work on alone, such as Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams, and programs available with health professionals or though Buddhist centres, such as meditateinsouthampton.org.uk.

However, to get your started I will share a couple of basic practices that I find most useful from the
program. First is the five sensations exercise. When you feel your anxiety and stress being to build
up, close your eyes and focus five things you can hear. Then move on to five things you can smell,
moving through the different senses slowly, allowing your mind to still and relax.

The other exercise I recommend is mindful eating. Pick a piece of food, such as a raisin, look at the item closely, noticing how it looks and the texture as you touch it. Put it in your month and roll it around, noticing how it feels in your month. Chew thoughtfully, making note of how it is feeling between your teeth and the flavour as it comes apart in your mouth. when ready swallow and feel the item go down you throat.

These exercises have helped me come out for a negative cycle and stop panic attacks, however,
there are may exercises out there, so if these don’t suit you I recommend looking around to see if
another is better suited.

Words: Steph Warren

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